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Escaflowne: The Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 18, 2009 by  



“The 2000 Japanese anime film ‘Escaflowne: The Movie’ receives its first High Definition treatment via Blu-ray.  Featuring vibrant visuals and an immersive Japanese and English lossless Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, this version is the definitive version of the film to own.  Definitely recommended!”

Images courtesy of  © 2000-2001 Sunrise-Bandai Visual.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Escaflowne: The Movie

DURATION: 120 Minutes

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p (Main Feature), 480i (Bonus Materials), English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1

 

RATED: PG-13 (Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13)

 

COMPANY: Bandai Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2009

 

Original Concept by Hajime Yatate, Shoji Kawamori

Directed by Kazuki Akane

Screenplay by Ryota Yamaguchi, Kazuki Akane

Character Designs/Animation Director: Nobuteru Yuki

Mechanical Design: Kimitoshi Yamane

Armor Design Consultant: Yutaka Izubichi

Music by Yoko Kanno, Hajime Mizoguchi

Executive Producer: Ken Iyadomi

Produced by Sunrise

A Production of Sunrise, Bandai Visual

 

 

Starring:

Jouji Nakata/Paul Dobson as Dune/Folken

Maaya Sakamoto/Kelly Sheridan as Hitomi Kanzaki

Tomokazu Seki/Kirby Morrow as Van of Adom

Chafurin/Terry Klassen as Mole Man

Aki Takeda/Venus Terzo as Millerna

Ikue Ohtani/Jocelyne Loewen as Merle

Juurouta Kosugi/Michael Dobson as Dryden

Mayumi Iizuka/Sylvia Zaradic as Sora

Minami Takayama/Andrew Francis as Dilandau

Shinichiro Miki/Brian Drummond as Allen

Hitomi Kanzaki, who is tired of life. Depressed and despondent, she wishes that she could just fade away, to make the pain of living stop hurting. Her pain resonates with another on the world of Gaia, and when her wish is granted, she finds herself in a strange land. She is greeted as the legendary Wing Goddess, with the power to summon the legendary Escaflowne. Hitomi’s fate is intertwined with the brash young warrior king Van, who also feels that life has lost its meaning. By summoning Escaflowne, the Wing Goddess will choose a path for Gaia’s future. But will it be salvation…or destruction?

 

The 2000 Japanese animation film ‘Escaflowne: The Movie’ receives its first High Definition treatment.  Featuring vibrant visuals and an immersive Japanese and English lossless Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, fans of the film will definitely want this definitive version of the film.

In 1996, the Sunrise Studios anime television series “The Vision of Escaflowne” aired on television and although not a tremendous hit in Japan, when the series was released on DVD in America, it became a big hit. Not just in the US but worldwide.

Despite being released on Saturday morning television on Fox Kids (albeit heavily edited), the series would receive appreciation and a lot of love by fans for the Escaflowne’s characters,  it’s beautiful artwork and character designs, its story but most of all, it’s enchanting music.

With the fanfare strong worldwide, in 2000, Sunrise and Studio BONES began on a reimagining the television series through a 95-minute film titled “Escaflowne: The Movie”.  The film version is very different from the television series as the film is much more darker and the protagonist, the happy and chirpy Hitomi is anything but that.  In fact, she’s a person who is depressed and contemplates suicide. While the character of Van, is more reserved and willing to slash and kill anyone in his way.

Needless to say, the film is quite different as it focuses on these two main characters but most importantly, the film is for those who are and aren’t familiar with the television series and can enjoy it in the theaters.  The film received mixed reviews with diehard fans who had a hard time seeing a different version of their characters and of course, knowing that there is only so much story from the 26-episode anime series that is going to get covered in a 95 minute film.

The film begins with Hitomi, sad and depressed, you learn that she is a person who wants to kill herself and is prepared to say goodbye to her best friend via a letter.  Fortunately, her friend discovers her and the letter and tries to convince her that suicide is not a good way to go.  But no matter how much she tries to cheer up Hitomi, Hitomi is resigned with herself and with life.

The film then switches to the character of Van.  We see Van, who is violently slashing through many soldiers in order to find the behemoth known as Escaflowne and the Winged Goddess which he wants to use towards defeating his brother Lord Folken and his army.

Meanwhile, while Hitomi is alone and wanting to end her life, she sees an image of Lord Folken who calls her the Winged Goddess and wants her to join him.  Confused and not sure what is going on, blackness starts to envelop the area and  Hitomi is immediately sucked up into darkness and  not knowing what is happening, by the time Hitomi awakes, she emerges out of Escaflowne and encounters Prince Van.

Van believes her to be the Winged Goddess but immediately Escaflowne disappears and then believes that she may be a spy and a fake.  Because of her more modern school girl clothing, many of Van’s friends believe she is the true Winged Goddess despite Van not believing in her and almost wanting to kill her.

On the other side of the battle, we learn that Lord Folken and the Black Dragons are preparing their attack Van’s crew and capture Hitomi for his goal to use the power of the Winged Goddess to destroy the world.

Because of the increased attacks and attempts to capture Hitomi, Van is ordered to protect Hitomi at all costs.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Escaflowne: The Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  It’s important to note that the film was created in late 1999 and then released in theaters in 2000.  Also, the film was produced by Sunrise but animated by Studio BONES and for the most part, a few talented animators took part in the action sequences as well as new character designs for the film.  With that being said, when I first reviewed this film when it was first released on DVD, I commented on how gorgeous the film looked.  It’s very detailed backgrounds but also the film’s awesome animation.

Here we are in 2009 and the film now making its HD debut and I still stand by that.  The film looks great and although it may not look as digital and clean like today’s modern anime, the film still looks incredible for an anime film nearly a decade old.  But what is the primary difference between the picture quality from the DVD versus the Blu-ray?  There are several segments in the film that I tested out and that was the outdoor sequence (50-54 minutes into the film) and on Blu-ray, the first thing you will notice is how vibrant the outdoor scenes look.  The green and blues just pop out, especially during sunset with the red of the sun also popping out.  Needless to say, the film looks quite vibrant during the outdoor scenes.

The print is not 100% clear of dust which I think I may have seen a few specs but overall, I didn’t see a whole lot, nor did I see any major compression problems throughout the film.  Blacks are nice and dark and there is grain present.  Again, I’m a person who supports film grain and not supportive of excessive DNR (Digital Noise Reduction), so overall…I was pretty pleased with the picture quality for a film nearly 10 years old.

As for the audio, this is where “Escaflowne: The Movie” shines.  One thing that I noticed quickly is how immersive the soundtrack was in utilizing the soundscape of each channel.  The film’s dialogue is front and center channel driven but sound effects from the whisping as Van flies in the air, the clanging of the swords during battle, the blasts that are being shot and the destruction in the city is well-captured on your surround channels, especially via LFE.  I definitely enjoy when anime uses the subwoofer quite a bit, so it was great to hear that LFE usage. And of course, one thing that the film is noted for is the music and the music comes out nice and clear through your system.

I did notice one thing with the audio though.  The Japanese lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sounds awesome but the English DolbyTrue HD 5.1 soundtrack seems a tad lower with the English dialogue.  In fact, through the beginning of the film while watching it with the English lossless soundtrack, I felt that I had to increase the volume a little in order to hear the dialogue clearly and when I switched to the Japanese soundtrack, the dialogue was consistent and much louder.  By no means are the two lossless soundtracks like night and day (like FUNimation Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of “Origin”) but overall, sound effects seem to be consistent on both soundtracks.  But overall, “Escaflowne: The Movie” does have a wonderful and immersive soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English only.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Escaflowne: The Movie” comes with the following special features (in 480i Standard Definition):

  • Trailers: The Girl Who Leaped Through Time and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society
  • Staff Interviews: (23:00) Featuring staff interviews which include: Director Kazuki Akane/Composer Yoko Anno, Kazuki Akane and Kelly Sheridan (Voice actress for Hitomi), Masahiko Minami (Producer/BONES), Maaya Sakamoto (Voice Actress/Singer), Masuo Ueda (Producer/Sunrise) and a performance by Yoko Kanno, Maaya Sakamoto, Kim Su Jin perform “The Ring”(Escaflowne Ending Song, Special Duet Version).
  • Original 2000 Premiere: (7:20) Featuring the following segments: The line at Anime Expo 2000 in Anaheim, CA for the screening of “Escaflowne: The Movie”, Minoru Takanashi (Producer/Bandai Visual) speaking to the audience before the movie and the Post-Movie Panel Highlights at Anime Expo 2000.

When it comes to “Escaflowne: The Movie”, the film has received different results from fans when it first came out.  Diehard fans who were not used to the change, of course, complained.  And for those who treated the movie separately from the anime TV series found the film to be enjoyable, creative and musically wonderful.  Needless to say, I’m part of the latter.  The fact is that many anime series that get a theatrical treatment usually has a story that is not part of the TV series timeline.  And there have been quite a few anime films that have been released that either try to take parts from a long series and condense it down to two hours or try to come up with something different.

With “Escaflowne: The Movie”, you get something different and it’s a reimagining that I was open to and at the time, I was very impressed with the results.  The animation was stellar and the music, Yoko Kanno’s music and the ending theme by Maaya Sakamoto was just fantastic.

So, needless to say… I was excited to hear that “Escaflowne: The Movie: was receiving its HD treatment and for the most part, I was more curious to see how a film that was created in the late 90’s would look on Blu-ray.  Already, Bandai Entertainment has proved to us that they can make it happen as evident with the release of “Akira” earlier this year.  So, I had no doubt in my mind that Bandai Entertainment was going to release a solid product.  What I was more concerned about was the lossless soundtrack.  And fortunately, the soundtrack for the most part was immersive and great to hear via lossless.

If you are a fan who owns the Ultimate Edition of the DVD, you may be wondering if it’s worth the double dip?  Well, for one, you don’t want to get rid of that “Ultimate Edition” because you get the awesome CD soundtrack and also there are special features such as the galleries that are not included on the Blu-ray.  But to answer the question, yes…it’s worth the double dip.  This is the best looking and sounding version of the film yet.  So, if you loved the film, you will definitely want to pick up this Blu-ray.

Overall, “Escaflowne: The Movie” is a solid Blu-ray release and for those who want to add to their anime on Blu-ray collection, this title is definitely recommended!

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