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With: (voices) Kelly Sheridan, Kirby Morrow
Written by: Kazuki Akane, based on the series created by Shoji Kawamori
Directed by: Kazuki Akane
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong animated violence
Running Time: 98
Date: 03/18/2013

Escaflowne (2002)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dragon Tale

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The "Escaflowne" of the title is a kind of dragon armor that must be operated by a human before it can "become" a dragon. At times it seems to spin out of control, and at other times it disappears into thin air without warning. But in the end, it helps the good guys win and the bad guys lose. The new anime Escaflowne, which opens today at the Galaxy, follows the path taken by many anime before it. It's about the end of the world, and. of course, there are a lot of battles and giant creatures and magic powers, and many, many different characters -- some who seem to flip back and forth between good and evil. It's not uncommon for the viewer to be completely lost. In other words, anime fans will be right at home. On the other hand, I, who has seen maybe half-a-dozen anime, found Escaflowne fairly run-of-the-mill.

Hitomi (voiced by Kelly Sheridan) is a troubled teenage girl who's lost her way in life. She's quit the track team, considered suicide, and just wants to "fade away." Fortunately for her, she's suddenly swept to another world called Gaia, where everyone tells her that she's the Wing Goddess. She meets Van (voiced by Kirby Morrow), a man who would have been king had the evil Black Dragon Clan not destroyed his land and people. Van's quest is to hunt down and kill his own brother. Though it doesn't make much sense to me, Van's brother is apparently the one who destroyed his village and people. If they're brothers, wouldn't they have both been part of the same people? Maybe I missed something... In any case, all the characters want to get their hands on Escaflowne, and use it either to destroy, or save, the world.

I remember being occasionally confused while watching other, better anime like Akira, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Metropolis. Now I realize that the chaos is part of the package. The point is that we're dazzled, taken completely away to some bizarre new place, and confusion is just a natural side-effect. Nevertheless, earlier movies have escalated the genre to a point where Escaflowne seems like a regrettable step backward.

On the plus side, I enjoyed relating to Hitomi's character. I haven't seen enough anime to know whether or not girl heroes are the exception or the rule, but it was nice to see her. (One thing I couldn't figure out, though -- if she's the Wing Goddess, why is Van the one who always grows huge, white wings every time they need to escape?)

Director Kazuki Akane adapted the film from Shoji Kawamori's TV series "The Visions of Escaflowne," which is available on American DVD. The movie, however, is a story that stands on its own, and it features some fantastic, memorable moments developed for a big-screen effect. In one scene where Hitomi experiences a vision, everything is drenched in white light, and Akane drops back to unfinished, shaggy pencil sketches. The effect underlines the dreaminess of the scene. Viewers already enmeshed in amine will get the proper bang for their buck in Escaflowne, but first-timers might consider another title for their initiation into this beautiful and ever-growing film genre.

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