The Series (4/5)
The 90's was the era where I was first exposed to anime. It was also where I was first exposed to the Vision of Escaflowne. Though I did not see the full anime at the time through some friends I saw a handful of episodes on VHS during high school in the late 90's and was intrigued by its mecha in a fantasy setting premise (unlike many mecha series of the era who chose a more traditional sci-fi setting). I would later learn that this was a trademark of the studio that produced the series Sunrise, but at the time I found it quite intriguing and was hungry for more of it. It ended up being years before I would see the full series, and movie that retold the epic Escaflowne tale (albeit in a darker light). Now, those fine folks at Funimation have gone back and restored the series and its cinematic counterpart to Blu-ray with a newly created English dub.
The story of Vision of Escaflowne follows Hitomi, a young woman who is transported from her high school track practice to the planet of Gaea. Gaea has the Earth and its moon visible in its night sky much like we have the moon in our ours. It is a planet that is war torn, and she soon finds herself in the company of a former King named Van and Allen, a knight. They use a mech named Escaflowne in an effort to stop the Zaibach Empire from taking over the planet.
The series run 26 episodes and aired in the early 90's. The movie is 90 minutes long and came out in 2001. The synopsis is intentionally vague, as the narrative is tightly packed, and already contains a few spoilers from the first few episodes within. Anymore than that and I am beginning to reveal the twist and turns of a show you want to go into blind if you have not seen it before, and if you have seen it then I am just telling you what you know.
The series and film are still as brilliant today as the first time I saw them almost 20 years ago. The show even after decades of mecha anime is still conceptually interesting and narratively intriguing. The show admittedly does start off a bit slow, but finds its footing after only a handful of episodes and then begins to move at a brisk, but compelling pace through to the end. With the 26 episode series I found myself rarely bored, and usually watched more than a handful of episodes in one sitting, even though I had seen the series prior. The animation and world design holds up quite well, and is still as gorgeous today as it was in both the mid-1990's and early 2000's. The show due to it's setting and animation manages to create a somewhat magical atmosphere that last from first episode to last.
Funimation absolutely delivers with both the Blu-ray remastered Escaflowne: The Movie and the complete Vision of Escaflowne TV series. Both are 1080p in AVC encodes while the TV show is 1:33:1 the movie is 1:85:1. Both look absolutely fantastic with excellent color, detail, and blacks. It obviously isn't going to look modern, but coming from the perspective of an older fan this was quite the revelation. There are some instances of damage from the source material, but it's minor and rarely a distraction.
The audio is presented in 5.1, English tracks (both the original and new dub) and also a 5.1 Japanese track. All 3 tracks are worthy, and sound quite decent with dialogue and score come through crisp and clear.
The extras include a special thanks to Kickstarter contributors, an inside look into the series, a roundtable discussion, a music video, also a clean opening and closing, trailers, promos, and more.
Visions of Escaflowne/Escaflowne: The Movie combined are an excellent and memorable fantasy/mecha anime. The Blu-ray looks and sounds wonderful and has a moderate, but decent slate of extras. RECOMMENDED.