a.k.a. Escaflowne: The Movie
Hitomi is not your average student. She is tired of life and just wants everyone to go away. A dark figure appears to her one day and summons her to his world, a planet called Gaea. There she learns that she may just very well be the God of the Wings and also the planet’s savior… or the catalyst for its destruction. With Van, Merle, Alan and the gang by her side, Hitomi sets out to prevent the dark figure that summoned her from bringing death to her new world.
summary by Kain
Highs: Classic soundtrack; darker version of Vision of Escaflowne
Lows: Disappearing characters; floating story doesn’t root itself
Allow me to get this off my chest before we proceed: this is not Vision of Escaflowne. In fact, it is so not Vision of Escaflowne that upon first viewing I was extremely disappointed because of that very fact. After pondering over it for a while, however, I realized that A Girl in Gaea should be looked at as an alternate telling of the same story, and thus I would be doing both this movie and the television series a great disservice had I continued with any comparisons. So I stopped comparing. Well, guess what? I still don’t like this movie.
Most people’s problem with this movie is the fact that the characters are, well, out of character from the series. On the contrary, I think this was the only suitable course of action to take; the television series began, ran and ended magnificently. To try to continue the same story with the same characters would have accomplished nothing except to demean everything *cough Love Hina Again *cough* Rurouni Kenshin: Seisouhen cough*. Instead, A Girl in Gaea is a much darker, more melancholic telling. It works in that context, but in that context alone.
Where this anime fails is that, despite all efforts, it just can’t seem to separate itself entirely from Vision of Escaflowne. There are three main characters (Hitomi, Van and Folken). The rest of the cast are just window dressing and serve no discernible purpose. What is otherwise a good anime is marred by characters that enter stage right and exit stage left just as quickly, thereby making the movie feel fragmented and the aforementioned secondary characters empty. The soundtrack was done by Kanno Yoko, so I suppose that is reason enough to see it.
Highs: Slick animation; elaborate choreography; dramatic ending
Lows: Rushed and condensed; repulsive character design; false advertising
There are two ways to see this movie, but both lead to utter disappointment; if one has never experienced Vision of Escaflowne before, the lack of information on characters and Gaea will be bewildering and lead to boredom. If one has seen the series, however, it is the way A Girl in Gaea rewrites its precursor’s storyline and characters that will make this forgettable. I feel an anime should not be judged by what it’s not but what it is, yet this interpretation seems to have been made to leech off the success of its derivation with a plot that could have easily been used for an original anime instead.
Animation pays compensation to some extent. This high-budget film holds nothing back in that department, which was especially shown off during the greatly choreographed battles. A lot of work also went in the detailed backgrounds, but the unattractive, new character design makes them hard to watch. Furthermore, the music did not stick out at all. The instrumental pieces were beautiful to some extent, but this is definitely not the Kanno Yoko I know. The one I remember keeps surpassing herself with original and passionate music instead of slightly altering her previous works.
Even if I ignore how A Girl in Gaea makes no sense in comparison with the series and that its characters are way out of character, the precipitated unfolding and inconsequential characters still tested my patience. This movie basically feels like a video game anime since everyone from the series had to be included, changing and simplifying their personalities to save time. Thank heavens for the theatrical ending, though. It elevates this movie’s storyline high above that of a bad game-based OVA. Not that this is saying much; A Girl in Gaea was still a huge letdown and should especially be avoided by fans of the series.
Highs: Powerful conclusion; great animation, action and soundtrack
Lows: A major disappointment for fans; weak characters and plot
When A Girl in Gaea first came out, it was harshly criticized by fans of the original series for making radical changes to the characters they had grown to know and love. It’s easy to understand their discontent because the personalities are totally different from their television counterparts. However, even after putting aside one’s disappointment with the changes, this is still little more than a mediocre fantasy flick.
This film’s biggest problem comes as a result of its lack of character development. In many movies based on television series, the creators can get away with skimping on character development because it is assumed that the audience is at least somewhat familiar with the characters. However, this doesn’t apply in this case because A Girl in Gaea is so different from the original. The majority of the characters just feel like wooden templates with no real substance. There is no reason to care about any of them, which makes all of the action feel pretty pointless. The plot also suffers from cameo-itis; just about every character from the series shows up over the course of this movie, but only five or so have any impact on the story. All the time wasted on pointless appearances just drags this film down.
While the plot and characters are a disappointment, there are a few things that this anime does well. For one, the final scene is perfect, managing to breathe life and drama into otherwise shallow characters. In fact, the ending is probably the only area in which A Girl in Gaea manages to surpass the original. The animation looks great, and the action scenes are intense and extremely well choreographed. And, as always, Kanno Yoko created a beautiful soundtrack.
A Girl in Gaea isn’t all bad, just a major disappointment for anyone hoping for something similar. The plot and characters fall short of the mark, but the action, soundtrack and ending help to somewhat redeem this movie. It’s too bad, because it could have been an excellent, darker retelling of Escaflowne if there was more focus on character development with fewer cameos.