Escaflowne-Volume 1: Dragons and Destiny (2000)

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Released 24-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternative Version-Creditless Opening
Music Video-Friend, Blue Eyes, Into The Light
Gallery-Production Sketches (24)
Trailer-Battle Doll:Angelic Layer; Heat Guy J;.hack//Sign; Initial D
Trailer-Martian Successor: Nadesico - The Prince Of Darkness
Trailer-Voices Of A Distant Star; Volcano High; Avalon
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 92:57 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kazuki Akane
Studio
Distributor
Sunrise, Inc.
Madman Entertainment
Starring Maaya Sakamoto
Kelly Sheridan
Tomokazu Seki
Kirby Morrow
Shinichiro Miki
Brian Drummond
Ikue Otani
Jocelyne Loewen
Minami Takayama
Andrew Francis
Joji Nakata
Paul Dobson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Yoko Kanno
Hajime Mizoguchi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode teaser after closing credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

The first volume of a new anime series always interesting, and usually fun, trying to work out what the series is about. The Vision of Escaflowne (or Escaflowne, for short) is no exception.

In a nutshell, this is an epic. Oh, you want a somewhat bigger nutshell? Fair enough. Let's see what I can tell you without spoiling things too much.

Our heroine is Hitomi Kanzaki. Hitomi is a high school student, and something of an athlete she's on the school's track team, although one might well suspect that she has ulterior motives for being on the track team, given the crush she has on her sempai Amano. Hitomi's best friend, Yukari, teases her gently about her crush, referring to Amano as her "objet de drool" (I suspect that the subtitler may have taken a slight liberty there...). Hitomi reads tarot card fortunes for her friends as a bit of fun, but she seems to have some real psychic powers she gets visions of what may happen.

Hitomi's life is disturbed when a vision she had of a young man with a large sword suddenly appears in front of her. Worse, it is turned completely upside down when she finds herself drawn into a beam of white light with him and transported to another world.

This is the world Gaea, from which it is possible to see both the Earth and our Moon (despite the fact that we cannot see Gaea from Earth) they refer to Earth as "The Mystic Moon". Gaea seems to be in the city-state stage of civilization, with walled cities in competition with one another, and a few larger countries. They ride horses, and use swords, spears, bows, and siege weapons (catapults and arbalests, for example), but they have other very strange technologies. The two most obvious are guymelefs and a variety of flying vessels. The oddest part is their apparent lack of chemically powered projectile weapons (no guns, no cannons).

What's a guymelef? It's a giant armoured self-powered fighting suit a classic anime mecha, but somewhat out of place in an essentially mediaeval society. Try not to worry about it. It is not clear what powers the guymelefs it's certainly a far more potent power source than any that was available on Earth at a comparable period of history (or even now!). It's odd to see giant armoured fighting suits fighting with swords.

We meet a great many characters in these first few episodes, but I'll only list a limited number of them. In Gaea, Hitomi meets:

And what is Escaflowne? We don't learn the whole truth for quite a while, but it is a special guymelef, the historical property of the kings of Falenia. Van activates it (one gathers after a long period of inactivity) using a drag energist he obtained from a dragon. One thing we learn early, though, is that the name is pronounced "Eska flow nay".

The episodes on this disc are:

1 Fateful Confession Hitomi's life is turned upside down as she is transported to Gaea
2 The Girl from the Mystic Moon Fanelia is attacked, and Van activates Escaflowne
3 The Gallant Swordsman Hitomi meets Allen, mistaking him for Amano at first
4 The Diabolical Adonis Dilandau launches a vicious unprovoked attack

After watching the first disc, what do I think? To be honest, I'm not sure a lot happens, and I'm sure it's all leading somewhere, but I'll have to see another disc to make a real decision. Still, it's no pain to make that choice, because the animation is fairly attractive (although oddly stylised, and with strange noses), the music is excellent, and the voice acting is fine (no outrageous choices of voice). So far, it looks very promising, and there are a lot of episodes to go this series is 26 episodes long, and the R1 set runs to eight DVDs (yes, that means several discs with three episodes...), so there's plenty of time for the plot-lines to develop. I've received hints that there are some major developments to come. Be careful what you read on-line about this series, because there are some big spoilers out there.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. That's how this show appeared on television, so there is nothing to complain about there.

The image is sharp in close-ups, but a bit soft in medium and long shots. It's clear enough to watch, but looks better on a smaller screen. There is no film grain, and only very occasional low-level noise.

Colour is rather good. There are a great many scenes that use a predominance of one or two colours, but overall there's quite a decent palette on display, and it seems to be rendered quite well. There are no colour-related artefacts.

There are no film artefacts of any significance.

There's a lot of mild to medium aliasing, basically on any moving black line. And there's interleaving that's really noticeable when you pause on any shot with significant movement in it it looks like this show was converted from NTSC to PAL using a less-than-perfect transfer (the R1 transfer, perhaps), and without enough care. It's not as bad as it might be, though, because this style of animation can withstand a fair level of interleaving. If you don't know what to look for, it doesn't look too bad when playing at normal speed, but pause and single-step look awful. It makes the closing credit roll hard to read, though. The opening credits are much easier to read because they fade in and out rather than rolling.

There's only one set of subtitles, in English. As usual for anime, they don't match the English language dub, but one might assume that they are a more literal translation of the Japanese. In this case, I think they may be a more liberal translation, because they use quite a lot of informal language I really don't understand how they managed to translate "sempai" as "captain", though.

The disc is single-sided (with a nice picture label) and dual layered, but apparently not RSDL. The layer change is placed between episodes 2 and 3, and there's a bit of a pause as the player seeks, but it is on a black screen between episodes, so it's not disturbing.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, both in Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at 224 kbps. I watched all the episodes in both languages. The Japanese soundtrack sounds a bit richer (and a touch louder) than the English. Given my general preference for English dubs, this is quite an admission.

The English dialogue is clear and easily understood. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear, but I really can't assess comprehensibility. Neither dub is perfectly matched to the animated mouth movements, which is a disappointment.

The score is provided by Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi. I generally like Yoko Kanno's work, and this is no exception. There's some use of mediaeval chants, which I like. The opening song is sung by the Japanese voice actress for Hitomi.

These are pure 2.0 stereo soundtracks, with decent stereo imaging. The English soundtrack makes no use of the surrounds, even with surround decoding active. The Japanese soundtrack manages to dredge up some surround sound, but it's nothing special. Neither soundtrack uses the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

The menus are animated with music. The menus are easy to navigate.

Credit-less Opening (1:32)

This is the usual thing: the opening sequence, but without the credits over the top. It's a nice extra, once (please, not on every disc in the series!).

Music Videos (11:31)

Three songs from the show (not that they have necessarily appeared on this disc). Be careful watching these, because one of them contains a spoiler you probably do not want to see before it appears in the series. The songs are:

Production Sketches

24 pages of sketches of characters from the show. Interesting.

Trailers: Madman Propaganda (10:58)

Eight trailers, but presented one after another, rather than individually selectable in normal Madman fashion.

Note that the last two are live-action films from AV Channel's new line called Eastern Eye.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 version that I have is part of a limited edition box set, with eight DVDs in a flip-top box (quite an attractive box); the limited edition also includes an exclusive Escaflowne figurine. The first disc of the box set contains the same episodes as this R4 one. I don't like the R1 cover slick, partly because it contains a major spoiler; the Region 4 slick is rather more attractive, although it looks like it may have been drawn by a different artist at least the R1 slick is in keeping with the show. Interestingly, the R1 slick uses the one-word title EscaFlowne, while the R4 says The Vision of Escaflowne; both have the volume title of Dragons and Destiny.

The Region 4 disc is missing:

The Region 1 disc is missing:

If you read the feature list for the R1, you might think that it lacks the credit-less opening. In fact, this is present, at the start of the music video segment. It has different trailers (for Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop, Haunted Junction, and Blue Submarine #6), but that's not important.

The Region 1 transfer does not show interleaving like the Region 4, but it shows at least as much aliasing. At normal speed, the two are roughly equivalent to the eye, but I think the R1 is a little cleaner.

All up, I find it hard to choose which is "better". I'm going to call it pretty much even.

Summary

The first four episodes of an epic adventure in anime. Things are just starting, so it's hard to judge what it will be like.

The video quality is adequate, but flawed by aliasing and interleaving.

The audio quality is very good. This is one time when the Japanese track is slightly preferable.

The extras are decent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, November 24, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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