Reviewed by: Jonathan D'Souza
Based on a popular television series entitled in Japan as “The Vision of Escafowne” or know commonly worldwide as just “Escaflowne”, this film version is an alternate story to the series rather than a continuation or prequel. The story revolves around a young girl who feels fed up with her life, becomes depressed and isolates herself from her friends and school activities. She just wants to disappear. This wish is mysteriously granted and she finds herself transported to a strange new world called “Gaia” which is caught up in war. Here the inhabitants believe her to be the “wing goddess,” someone who is believed to either aid the planet’s people or destroy their world using a giant robot armour called the Escaflowne. While in Gaia she meets a young man named Van who is a king without a country as it was destroyed by his older brother (who is the main villain). Together they try to fight back against his brother’s growing military might until ultimately whomever controls the Escaflowne and wing goddess can ultimately decide upon the planet’s fate. Hitomi must come to terms with herself and also sort out her feelings for Van and the heavy burden she carries because it is her heart that will play the largest part for the people of this world.
Christians should be aware of some things portrayed in this movie. Firstly, “Escaflowne” bears an apocalyptic theme, but since the story doesn’t take place on Earth (but another world in another dimension) then I suppose it can be dismissed. This movie is strictly fantasy with the likes of knights and chivalry. But like fantasy movies, it also contains magic which some Christians will not like. A few of the characters (including three of the main ones) possess telekinetic or psychic abilities, mostly used to fight each other. Some examples of sorcery are also in play here. Some of the characters are half man and beast.
The main male character, Van, has retractable wings which are characteristic of angels. This movie is very violent as most of the fighting is with swords, so there is a lot of blood present. Some examples of other violence include an exploding horse and a torture scene where one character’s fingers are broken. There is some foul language such as “damn” and “bastard”, but such elements are not used excessively (perhaps 3 or 4 times). There is no nudity or sex or any hints of it other than teasing among the characters. One potentially objectionable scene includes a scantily clad half cat and woman singing at a local pub.
On other positive notes, the lead male and female character’s feelings do grow for each other, but their relationship is moral and kept appropriate. The main female character (Hitomi) is never dressed inappropriately or one who uses bad language. The main male character may actually seem to enjoy fighting and killing people but it is revealed later on that he really isn’t fond of it and is just a lost child. Some people might get the idea that some of the songs are actually magic chanting. They are not—just songs in Japanese. There aren’t any anti-christian themes or anything really closely tied to Christianity (aside from the character’s wings) or hell or any of that. The setting, however, is a dark one.
Although the movie doesn’t compare to the immense story and plot or lighter atmosphere of the series, it is still a favorite of mine. There are lots of humorous moments in the film and by the end the main characters attempt to resolve it peacefully, although it doesn’t tend to turn out so. Be prepared for a rather sad ending. This movie is NOT for children due to the violence and some scary imagery. It is best for those 17 and up. The plot isn’t as complex as the series, kept relatively simple (which some people may dislike) but a good entertaining story is present.
If some of the aforementioned elements sounds offensive to you, then you may want to avoid this film (especially for those squeamish to violence). But since this is an animation, the gore factor is quite low. There’s still a fair amount of blood though. If you enjoy the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre mixed with Japanese anime, “Escaflowne” is a beautifully drawn “better than Disney in both story and art” work.