Time for another early review. This time we have the Escaflowne movie, now having over half a dozen American releases.
Having had over a dozen releases, and the Ultimate Edition from day one still being the preferred version, is Escaflowne on Blu-ray a great release? Or should it go in the pile of disks that few want, next to Escaflowne on UMD and Bandai’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence Blu-ray.
Now, to start this review off, there won’t be any screencaps. Due to issues (motherboard go boom) I’m not working on my normal computer. Normally when I review I go back and forth between TV and PC, and check things through as I’m writing the review. This time I laid back, watched the movie, and just tried to keep track of anything specific. Once my computer is back up I will go through the film and add a screencap gallery, but for now… nadda. [edit- I'm back on my normal machine, and the screencap gallery and paragraph about the caps have been added in the normal places.]
Starting with the packaging, Escaflowne comes in a normal Blu-ray case. Nothing special here either good or bad. Interestingly the art on the front cover is traditionally used for the ‘normal’ versions of the film, instead of the art generally used for more special versions. It’s an interesting choice, although I would have preferred the nicer image of Hitomi with feathers around her, which was the one used in the original Ultimate Edition (although perhaps that they used this cover is a small wink from the company that perhaps Escaflowne the Movie will return yet again.) The back cover uses an image of Van traditionally used on posters for the film. A few screenshots are around him, along with a nicely detailed description of the film. The technical details of the film given are all correct minus one issue. It lists the extras being 480i, while they appear to actually be encoded as 480p. Overall a few better images could have been used, but there is nothing wrong with what is here.
The menu for Escaflowne is an offset crosshatch over video clips. It’s a nice clean menu, that looks very classy. When playing the film, if you call up the pop-up menu, this crosshatch appears exactly in the same position it does on the main film. In both menus there is a feather motif for highlighting. It leads to the feeling of a well thought out menu. I could only find two issues with the menu even going through them in detail. Bandai Previews are labeled ‘Trailers’, possibly leading one to believe there is a collection of trailers for Escaflowne. The other issue is that subtitles has it’s own submenu under Set Up. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but with just On/Off it seems like it could have been put on the main part of the setup menu. It’s also possible this was an aesthetic choice to keep things clean in the crosshatch design. I found the menu to be very well done, and hope future Bandai releases will have menus that are as clean and classy.
Where to start on describing the film… Escaflowne is a re-telling of the story of the TV series. But rather than a straight retelling, it’s more using characters the audience may know to tell a slightly different story (fans of Eureka 7, think of it as the same thing done with the recent Eureka 7 film.) It’s a good film, and I enjoyed sitting though it again, but it misses the mark on being great. Many characters are closer to extended cameos so fans can see their favorite characters, and many interpersonal relationships jump around far to much: Van and Hitomi meet, Van swears undying loyalty to Hitomi, ten seconds later Van tries to kill Hitomi. It’s very jumpy, but there is something inherent in the film that you just want to enjoy. At the very least it enjoys a fair chance, even if you weren’t the biggest fan of the television series.
The video on Escaflowne is the first thing I noticed when the movie started. Watching it makes you feel like you are watching the movie in a small theater with a good quality film reel. The picture is soft when it should be soft, sharp when it should be sharp. It has a layer of film grain that isn’t subtle, and may drive fans used to modern digital clarity insane, but I found it yanking me into the film like when I saw it in theaters nearly a decade ago (Escaflowne was the first… or second… don’t remember, anime film I saw in a ‘real’ movie theater. This small little theater where you had to go down a few really long escalators because it was actually underground.) It’s one of the few times putting in a disc I felt myself drawn back to where I originally saw a movie, with that same feeling I always had as a kid when going to a movie was exciting and a treat. I’m not sure I can ask for more from a Blu-ray.
The audio is a little less punchy than the video. Both the original Japanese audio and the English dub track get Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless tracks. Both are quite good and give a good depth of clarity. Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi’s score comes through as well as it ever has (and I find myself humming the theme again as I used to.) There is one audio issue, but that has to do with extras, and doesn’t change the audio quality of the film itself. It should also be mentioned the subtitles are done very well on this release. The soft subtitles are done in a soft pasty yellow color with a very thin grey border. It reminds me of watching a subtitled film print in a theater. The subtitles stand out from the picture very well, but also look very natural over the picture. Much like the very nice menu, I hope to see subtitles of this quality from Bandai again on future Blu-rays.
The dub is a standard dub from the Ocean Group using the television cast. This is from the period where Ocean Group was being used quite a bit, but before the dubbing quality of their work seemed to get a bit more generic. For those who like the show dubbed, they’ll enjoy the movie, although I’m guessing most people will stick with the Japanese track outside of a quick look-see.
Extras are where this release of Escaflowne is a bit of a mixed bag. The Anime Expo American Premiere video is still here, as is the 24 minutes of interviews with various cast and crew members. Everything else is gone though. The isolated music track is gone, as is the storyboard collection covering the entire film, which would seem to be an obvious thing to add to this release. The one I feel that is missed the most though is the production art gallery is completely gone. An absolutely massive gallery of production art, that would have, if done properly, looked far superior to the gallery as it exists on the Ultimate Edition DVD. It appears they took out any extra that didn’t have a connection to the USA (the Anime Expo premiere obviously being the American premiere of the film, and the staff interviews including an English cast member.) While I only mentioned a few of the missing extras, the Blu-ray missing them makes me wonder if we aren’t due for a double dip.
Escaflowne the Movie is a good movie, it’s easy to see how people could think it’s great. A few character issues, and the generally short run time keep me from thinking it’s great, but it’s a very enjoyable movie that sucks you in very well. Everything about this disk is done very well, minus the extras.
Looking around on the disc I could not find disc specific credits. Due to the appearance of the Honneamise logo on the disc (but not the cast), it’s possible this Blu-ray was done in Japan for its American release (as was done with Honneamise releases.) I’m unsure of this specific detail, and in the end it may not matter, but I felt it was worth a mention for those who may care.
Movie: B (A good film with a few basic flaws that keep it from being great.)
Packaging: B (A normal Blu-ray case using art normally used for normal editions of the film.)
Video Quality: A (Fantastic video. While I’m not sure I’d say it is perfect, it brings back the feeling of sitting in a movie theater enjoying the film.)
Audio Quality: A- (Great audio. Doesn’t bring out that special feeling the video does, but both audio tracks are great lossless tracks.)
Extras: C+ (Many extras are missing. having over half an hour of video extras keeps the grade from going to low, but not having the numerous extras of the Ultimate Edition hurt this release.)
Overall (not an average): A- (A great Blu-ray of an enjoyable movie. The only reason it’s not spot on is that so many extras are missing.)
This article has been modified since originally put up.
But… if you have your Ultimate Edition handy and choose to put this Blu-ray in a case with them, then the lack of extras may mean nothing to you.
Gallery under ads. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more.
Added screencap gallery.
Escaflowne – © 2000-2001 Sunrise – Bandai Visual. Licensed by Bandai Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.