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Escaflowne is a sprawling adventure saga that infuses sword-and-sorcery and mecha elements into the popular "magical girl" anime genre. The girl is Hitomi Kanzaki (voice by Kelly Sheridan), a withdrawn teenager who wishes she could just leave everything behind and vanish. When she's magically transported to the alternate world of Gaia, she gets her wish--in spades. The dashing Van (Kirby Morrow) of the White Dragon Clan is pitted against his twisted brother Folken (Paul Dobson), the leader of the Black Dragon Clan, in a succession war that threatens the very existence of Gaia. Hitomi is hailed as the long-awaited "Wing Goddess," and her power over the invincible dragon-mecha suit Escaflowne confirms her status. Although the tangled story line has been pared down, the feature remains a reworking of the 26-part TV series "The Vision of Escaflowne", which aired briefly on Fox Kids and is available on DVD. Fans of the television series will find that many of the familiar characters have been redesigned and reduced to minor roles, among them Allen, Princess Millerna, Dryden, Merle, Naria, and Eriya. Some of the story's more outer elements have been dropped, but there are still more prophecies, conflicts, and relationships than the filmmakers can resolve satisfactorily in 96 minutes, despite a pat happy ending. "Escaflowne" boasts some impressive action sequences, which Kazuki Akane directs with panache. The film opens with a spectacular sword fight, as Van single-handedly dispatches the guards on an enemy airship to capture Escaflowne. MPAA rating: PG-13. Contains considerable violence. "--Charles Solomon"
The "Extras" disc includes brief interviews with director Kazuki Akane, composer Yoko Kanno, voice actress/singer Maaya Sakamoto, English voice actress Kelly Sheridan (Hitomi), and three of the film's producers. Most of the subjects limit their remarks to "we tried to do our best, we hope you like the film." But one really spontaneous moment occurs when Kanno turns to Akane and tells the interviewer, "He's an inarticulate person; he puts into the project whatever he does not say face-to-face in real life." The footage of the first U.S. screening at the 2000 Anime Expo in Anaheim, California, and of a Korean/Japanese preview in Fukoka is awkwardly shot. On the CD of Kanno's eclectic score, the Carmina Burana-esque theme song from the TV series occurs near the end as "Dance of Curse II." This nicely packaged set is for hard-core Escaflowne fans, rather than general viewers. --Charles Solomon
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