Synonyms: Tenkuu no Escaflowne, The Vision of Escaflowne
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Apr 2, 1996 to Sep 24, 1996
Duration: 24 min. per episode
Rating: PG-13 - Teens 13 or olderL represents licensing company
Score: 7.851 (scored by 30559 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top anime page.
Popular Tagsaction adventure fantasy mecha romance
Oct 5, 2008
Manga, Anime: There are three different manga for this anime, and the two that were released around the same time as the anime are worlds apart. In order to understand this, you need to know a little something about the production.
Escaflowne was in development for about five years. Shoji Kawamori (famous for his work on the Macross series and Eureka Seven) came up with the initial idea for the series after a trip to Nepal, and hashed out the basics of the series with Minoru Takanashi at Bandai, with Hitomi originally as a curvy, long-haired, air-headed girl with glasses, and a decidedly more shonen bent to the series. Sunrise (famous for their work on the Gundam series and Cowboy Bebop) was originally selected to do the series, which was then planned at 39 episodes, and Noboteru Yuki worked with Kawamori, with the director at the time being Yasuhiro Imagawa. The director stuck around long enough to coin the phrase Escaflowne, and then left before production actually started, and the project was shelved. Two years later, Sunrise picked it back up and bought on Kazuki Akane (famous for his work on Noein -To Your Other Self- and the Birdy the Mighty 2008 remake), who then gave the series a complete makeover, bringing in shoujo elements to balance out the shonen, notably, making the men a bit more into bishonen and remaking Hitomi as the girl we know in the series.
The first of the manga titles to come out shared the anime's name, and was based on the original production ideas, which gave it far more of a shonen bent. This manga was done by Katsu Aki, and ran in Kadokawa Shoten's Shonen Ace magazine from October 24th, 1994 to November 26th, 1997. It was licensed Stateside by Tokyopop, and the eighth and final volume was released on September 14th, 2004. The second manga title, titled Messaiah Knight - The Vision of Escaflowne, later retitled Hitomi - The Vision of Escaflowne, was released around the same time as the anime, and was a shoujo adaptation based more on the final version of the anime. Yuzuru Yashiro did this adaptation, and it ran in Kadokawa Shoten's Asuka Fantasy DX magazine from April 8th, 1996 to January 18th, 1997, and has yet to be licensed Stateside. The final manga title is called Energist's Memories, which is an anthology of several stories from the Escaflowne universe done by several manga authors. It was released in January of 1997, and also has yet to be licensed Stateside.
Escaflowne is a twenty-six episode series (yes, you'll notice it was cut down from the 39 episodes originally planned) that was produced by Sunrise and Bandai Visual, and directed by Kazuki Akane. It ran on Japanese TV from April 2nd, 1996 till September 24th, 1996. It was licensed Stateside by Bandai Entertainment, and the latest full boxset was released on April 11th, 2006 as part of the Anime Legends collection.
Story: High school track runner Hitomi Kanzaki has a talent for stunningly accurate tarot readings. One day, she has a vision of a young man slaying a dragon, and, later that night, the same young man is transported to her world in a pillar of light, along with the dragon, and he slays it. As soon as the young man, named Van Fanel, has harvested the energist stone that lies in the dragon, the pillar of light returns him back to his world, Gaea, where both the moon and Earth (known as the Mystic Moon) hang in the sky - only Hitomi is taken back with him. As Hitomi tries to find a way home, her latent psychic powers are awakened, which in turn awakens Farnelia's mech (known as Escaflowne), and she becomes caught up in the politics and conflict between Asturia, Farnelia, and the Zaibach Empires.
You can tell that the story was originally meant for a longer series, but the decision to trim it down to twenty-six episodes came through just when the series came in just as production was beginning, and the director didn't want to sacrifice any of the characters or plot lines. So, instead, the already elaborately planned plotlines and character development was made to fit into a twenty-six episode series. And, admittedly, while the story and development is a bit jerky, slow at first but then speeding up in others, it still manages to completely and coherently wrap things up in its length, not to mention give the fairly extensive cast of characters good development.
And speaking of characters, I have so much respect for how they developed them. The characters all start out as fairly common shoujo tropes, but are developed into real people and incredibly engaging ones at that. Hitomi especially; she could've been this horrible Mary-Sue, but instead she is developed and even grows up a little as she makes her way through Gaea and reacts pretty realistically to her situation. Relationships between all of them are slowly developed, and you aren't hit over the head with it as they are; when they are finally bought to light or out and out pointed out, you realize, "Oh, that explains it!"
For those of you who are mech fans, you'll be happy to hear that the mech fights are paid as much attention to as the the story and character development; there's at least one major fight every other episode. And especially appropriate is how they developed the mechs to match the level of technology that's found in Gaea.
Gaea is general is built extremely well as a world; just about every aspect you could think of is given thought and explained in ways that don't make you feel like you're being hit over the head with the exposition hammer all that much.
The downside of all this is that you feel like you're getting bombarded with information, and there are a few minor characters that are mostly running gags and who they seem to forget exist for a few episodes here and there and then are bought back into the story to remind the audience, "Hey! They're still here!"
So, overall, while there is quite an overload on information, and a few gag characters are forgotten here and there, Escaflowne's story is still pretty good, and all elements of it are given equal loving attention.
Art: Compared to other shows that were airing roughly around this time (Ruroni Kenshin, Martian Successor Nadesico, Ghost in the Shell), Escaflowne's art is pretty damn good, if not gorgeous. Character designs are given the perfect amount of detail, not to mention as are all the different races on Gaea, mech designs, backgrounds, just everything is absolutely beautiful in this. There are some very strong lines used in this, like what we saw in Ouran High School Host Club. And overall, the quality of the art has aged quite well.
The style of the art has not aged well, though. Facial features are extremely exaggerated, notably with a few noses that could conceivably be used as swords with how pointy they are. Also, CG use in this is fairly obvious, which is a bit understandable, but it's still a bit painful to watch at times.
Music: The music for this is absolutely spectacular. Yoko Kanno did the work on this, and it's not the typical jazz soundtrack that I've seen from her in Darker than Black and Cowboy Bebop. Instead, here, we get EPIC orchestral scores, with beautiful string work and special emphasis on the cello (used to be a cellist, so it's always great for me to hear the instrument used so well) and excellent choral arrangements.
The OP is sung by Maaya Sakamoto, Hitomi's seiyuu, and is just a lovely ballad (well, waltz, actually, it is in 3/4 time) in general. It's always a good thing when I don't skip through the OP, and it's even better when I sing along to it; I did this every episode. The ED is a more stereotypical upbeat JPop number done by a guy instead of a girl, and was very easily skippable.
Seiyuu: This series is chock full of good seiyuu. Hitomi was Maaya Sakamoto's (famous for her work as Haruhi in Ouran High School Host Club and Aeris Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children) debut role, and her singing of the OP was her first work singing. Besides Ms. Sakamoto, Jouji Nakata (famous for his roles as the Count in Gankutsuou and Alucard in Hellsing) appears as Folken, and Juurouta Kosugi (famous for his roles as Akio in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Fernand d'Morcerf in Gankutsuou) appears as Dryden.
As for the other seiyuu, the voices fit well, and were acted well, which is all I ask for.
Length: Twenty-six episodes makes the series feel a bit pushed for time. Having the full run of 39 episodes probably would have helped this in the long run, and especially given it some time to breathe. Any shorter, though, and it just wouldn't have worked.
Overall: Escaflowne has an excellent story and characters, a well-built and animated world, excellent seiyuu and beautiful music. It has a few flaws, mainly from the compressed schedule it was given to air in, and the occasional forgetting of characters but, nonetheless, is a very solid series. It's not a ZOMG favorite series for me, but I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a good series.
Overall: 41/50; 82% (B) read more
Nov 18, 2007
The first thing about this series that earned it a point in my favor was the wholeness and realness of the characters. Hitomi, the protagonist, in particular earned my approval because she, unlike most anime females, seems very realistic. She's not the stereotypical "cutesy" girl (God, but I do hate those), nor is she overly self-sacrificing; she's not one of those violence prone angry chicks, nor is she the tough loner, she's not a goober who's always eating, nor is she a femme fatale; she's just a high school girl growing up in stages with a strong moral code. She's someone I can imagine meeting if I walk down the street, which, after being innundated with the above stereotypical anime females, is very refreshing. Granted, there are many people who dislike Hitomi greatly, but I feel that she's a strong character and that many of her actions, if you take the time to really imagine yourself in her situation, are reasonable, or at the least, understandable.
Aside form Hitomi, there are many other chracters involved in the story, each having their own personalities and unique stories. You've got Allen, the valiet bishounen knight, who is a bit strung up on the old ways of chivalry, Dilandau, the bloodthirsty psychopathic young general, Van, the moody and quiet crown prince, and a variety of other characters. The characters are so well done that it's easy to fall in love with even the minor ones such as Gaddes, Allen's right hand man.
The art style is very good given it's time period. It is a bit older though, so don't expect graphics like those of today found in animes such as Full Metal Alchemist and Air. The colors are a bit duller, but that only serves to enhance the overall rustic feeling of the anime.
The musical score for the series is fantastic. The emotions of a scene are captured superbly based solely on the ochestra rhythms. The openning theme is one of my favorites. The ending is a bit odd, but it grows on you. The ending also seems somewhat out of place as it has a sort of slowish techno-pop feel to it.
The main genres are romance and fantasy, but there is also a splash of the mecha realm thrown in. Unlike most mecha animes, the mechs in this are powered by the fantastical powers of dragon heart stones, hydrolics, and mechanical sytems. Their subesquent design is unique and intruiging. While seemingly low tech (the world in which Hitomi falls is not really technologically advanced and has a middle ages feel to it), the mechs are actually impressive bits of machinary. The floating fortresses and air ships, powered by magical stones, are also of interest.
There is not much humor to be found. Given that the story takes place in a world in the thros of war, this is understanable. It is not overwhelmingly, depressingly serious though. They do not make a point of expressing the darkest vices of human nature like Beserk or Elfen Lied. However, the anime does examine the destructiveness of greed, cowardess, hatred, and the problems associated with pursuing science for the sake of science. So, if you're a fan of the overly goofy or light-hearted series, this one is likely not for you. It is also not likely for you if you're an action fiend that requires an explosion or hand-to-hand fight every ten seconds. This one is mainly for fantasy/romance (but not the teenaged angst romance or the ten girls single guy romance) types.
One of the main themes of the anime is the conflict of fate versus free will. It makes some very intersting conclusions about how one's free will affects not only one's self but all of those around one.
I adored the bizarre twists presented at the end and highly recommend this. At least watch the first three or four episodes to give it a try. The only thing that will disappoint you is the fact that there's not more of it. read more
Sep 6, 2009
The strength of Escaflowne, and the greatest reason why this is one of my all time favorite anime’s despite how I may have more praises for other titles on paper, is the story. Escaflowne’s story is masterfully paced, rivaled (but definitely not surpassed) only by full metal alchemist in this regard in 13+ episode series’. The number of fillers are often a measure of the tightness in a story, but in Escaflowne’s case, it’d be hard enough to find a filler scene, let alone a filler episode. The story keeps you engrossed in the central plot at all times, never taking a break from it in favor of developing a character’s past with flash backs or developing a relationship with a side plot. There are flashbacks, and there is plenty of relationship development, but it’s always directly related to the events of the story. The plot cleverly weaves the situations of all the characters, heroes and villains together in a way that when we learn of the past of one character, it always ties into at least one other character, and the bigger picture. The imposing empire has a weapon that doesn’t quite control, but can affect fate, which results basically in altered luck. Because our heroin has the unique ability to predict the future, which fixes fate, her mental state is directly related to the effectiveness of the empire’s military. Psychological warfare of all sorts, including romance, is employed against her so that she can’t, or won’t use her ability. Her relationships are therefore always in the center of the story, thus the 2 contradictory elements of its concept, a shoujo cast dealing with love triangles and teenage angst, combines seamlessly with the war setting. Escaflowne plays like a very long movie, and you can easily lose track of how many episodes you have watched in one sitting, but individual episodes retain endings, save for 1 or 2 exceptions, that break at logical points in the story, where there is some resolution along with the cliffhangers. How the story could be so perfectly structured, fluid yet broken into 26 pieces, is beyond me.
The relationships in this series develop so many nuances that the characters transcend how emotionally effective their archetypes may be in any other series’. While the main characters have personalities that are indistinguishable from their mirrors in the same genre, the genuine way they express certain emotions make them uniquely effective despite their clichés. The jealousy expressed is as it is in reality, bitter and painful, where the love and the hate for one person creates utter confusion in the characters’ minds. Love and romance is also distinguished finely, where one is affection pure and sweet, the other is a mélange of one liners, swooning, and loads of baggage. While the central theme of the nature of fate, and mankind’s destiny of bloodshed is vaguely interesting, what truly inspires reflection is how real the relationships between some of these characters feel.
Hitomi is also my favorite shoujo/josei oriented protagonist. They are so often resolved simpletons with near unbreakable wills, but where’s the drama in that? Hitomi is the exact opposite, she is a little moody, indecisive, and usually feint of heart. It’s obvious which mirrors a real high school girl more closely, but that aside, her character gives rise to all kinds of conflicts and makes those instances where she manages to collect herself more inspiring as the accomplishment and the courage is truly highlighted next to her usual, very human cowardice and reluctance. For a main character in a story that centers around villains trying to break her will, a weak, flawed character is perfect.
The orchestral score is with good reason one of the most admired sound tracks in Anime. It is absolutely riveting, feature film level in its quality and variety. Instead of many plays on a couple of melodies that most soundtracks use, all the tracks in Escaflowne are unique, ranging from warm unaccompanied strings to a chorus belting menacing tunes that bring to mind apocalyptic images. Soundtracks as comprehensive and expansive as Escaflowne’s no longer exist in TV series’. The opening and endings don’t get nearly as much love, but they are excellent fits for the series. Each reflects the essence of a character and highlights the themes of the series so fittingly that by the end, listening to it will conjure up the emotionally impacting scenes of its climax once again. What more can you ask for in an opening or ending?
The character designs take a few episodes to get used to, but a more objective look at the animation quality in terms of fluidity will show Escaflowne as an above average, bordering on excellent title, and animation quality always ages well. Raw production value that yields more detailed, human looking animations and more frames will result in smoother, prettier animation. Advancements in technology don’t significantly change that fact. Just look at the scene where snow white dances with the dwarves in the classic Disney movie. A newer movie like Mulan can’t come close to its humanness in any scene. The color scheme of escaflowne is not as neon-y bright as many modern titles, but there are no fair standards of evaluation in that department since that is as subjective as color preference.
Escaflowne is one of my favorite pieces of entertainment, up there with some of my most beloved movies and books. The telling of this story is truly artistic, and nothing since has measured up, but its overall excellence is also due to the raw emotional value of the complex relationships these characters build and some of their true-to-life expressions of emotions that are rarely seen in Anime. read more
Jan 14, 2008
I know what most anime fans are wondering, hasn’t this whole other world thing been done before, but this sort of has an original feel to it. Yet another romantic, fantasy, mecha, anime but with a medieval theme, which really hasn’t been done before (or hasn’t been done this well). The story basically follows and the knight’s (known as Van) adventure. A lot of intense and shocking stuff happens before this, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. During these adventures Hitomi’s and Van’s relationship slowly develops, however the main focus of the show is usually taken away from them and that helps to make it less obvious. The story flows well right to the end, thanks to the well thought out plot and definitely has plenty of action and suspense to spice things up.
This is a mecha anime so the predominant amount of mecha combat is an issue. Even though the mechas (known as Guymelef’s) design was different than usual, with no modern technology but purely age old magic and mechanism, it somehow worked well with the medieval theme. The way the mechas moved and fought was unique, which made the combat fluid and superb to watch, most of the time.
The characters were interesting and as the story went by more secrets were revealed. Although the characters were good, the dialogue sometimes wasn’t. It felt unoriginal and at times it made the characters, mostly the girls, very annoying to listen to.
Even though Escaflowne is sort of an old anime, the animation was great and I felt as though the animators put a lot of effort into it. The audio was both good and bad. What made it really good was the excellently composed soundtrack, which blended well with the theme and situations. On the other hand, what made it bad was the terrible sound quality, maybe it was the version I got, but it made the dialogue even worse.
To summarize, this was an interesting anime to watch, with a well thought out plot and good storyline. It started of as an empty jigsaw but as the story went on, it revealed interesting pieces to fill in the jigsaw and at a pace I was satisfied with. Although 2 / 3rd into the show, it starts to lose its pace as it starts to randomly add in new issues like fate, destiny, luck, etc. At this point the episodes slowly started to become less exciting to watch and more of a chore. However this didn’t stop it from having a great ending with the inevitable battle and confession. I recommend this to anyone who’s interested in their mecha, romance or is a snuff maniac and likes to see a lot of people die.
^_^ read more
Jun 28, 2007
The story is actually good. Another teenager sucked into an entirely new world. Teenager wants to go home, but somehow forgets about that when she realizes she needs to help out the people of the new world she’s in. It’s cliché, I know, but Escaflowne’s story line is way more developed and well thought of than other series with a similar storyline. It is way more complicated than that, in fact, it was too complicated for me that sometimes, I don’t understand it all. Maybe I wasn’t listening well enough, but since this has happened before, I’m just gonna say I’m slow when it comes to some anime.
I like the theme of fate and destiny, and how you can direct it to go your way. This principle is actually applicable to life, isn’t it? Then we look into the ugly side of people – how selfish some of us can be, and how war ruins the way life goes. Makes for a good story, but I wasn’t that impressed. It’s mostly because it was a bit too serious for me. You don’t see Hitomi or Van going chibi not even once. There were some funny and cutesy parts, but not enough for me to say that the series is good at least for a few laughs.
The pacing was good, though. It wasn’t unnecessarily long, and that may be the only good side of being a no nonsense anime for me. Thank goodness it wasn’t longer than 26 episodes, as I’ve said it was almost like a drag to finish it. I wouldn’t have finished it if it were 120-episodes long.
The character design wasn’t bad. I like almost everyone, and when I say almost everyone, I meant I like everyone except Hitomi. I know she’s the main character, but she didn’t interest me at all. She’s so bland looking, and a bit annoying. Maybe it’s the terrible voice acting (I watched the one with the English dub) but I can’t say I like her. I do like Allen and Van, especially Allen. Allen is so handsome. Of course he is a bishonen, but he isn’t feminine or narcissistic at all, which makes me like him more. Van is a bit more boyish, but he isn’t that bad looking either. Speaking of Allen and Van, why the heck are they fighting over Hitomi anyway? She’s not that pretty at all! I can understand if Van liked Hitomi, since they’re in the same age group but with Allen? I don’t think so.
In general, it was a well drawn anime, considering it was made in the mid – 90s. I would like to think of it as medieval Gundam. I like how the scenes were designed, there were really good landscapes. The clothes were kinda weird, but then again, weird clothes aren’t a rare occurrence in anime world. There were times when the characters would morph, but it’s just a teensy – weensy problem that can be overlooked.
The best thing I liked about this anime is the music. Yoko Kanno did a really good job, and most of the time when the scenes got dull and I would almost fall asleep, her fantastic music comes up and I’m back to watching it seriously again. I didn’t know who Yoko Kanno was before watching this anime, and I would always wonder why people talk about her work a lot. Now I know.
Over all, I would say that this is an excellent anime. Even though I didn’t like it that much, it still had the makings of a really good anime. It was just not for me – since I am not a big fan of mecha anyway. read more
Apr 4, 2009
Escaflowne’s animation, at least for the remastered DVDs should also be praised, as well as the direction by Kazuki Akane. It’s dynamic, artistic and looks gorgeous; a vivid world brought to life by an excellent production staff.
Escaflowne’s story takes a dump on all of this, squatting on its nonexistent bent knees, its jeans wrapped around its feet awkwardly, while it looks around without any shame whatsoever, even with an air of arrogance about it, staring at you as if to say “Yeah? So what?”
A schoolgirl, Hitomi, gets transported to another world which is on the brink of war thanks to an empire ruled by a beardy man with plans to change fate to his whim. There is a supporting cast of kings, princes and princesses, random animal-folk, jousting mecha and an obligatory secondary antagonist who is bug-eyed, sounds like a little girl when in pain and generally annoys the hell out of you, much like when you see someone taking a dump in public with no shame.
The writer, the aforementioned dump-taker, takes the concept of fate and rapes it to a bloody pulp with deus ex machina after deus ex machina. What we see is not so much the consequences of toying with fate, as the big baddie attempts to do, but the consequences of a lousy writer using fate as an excuse to take shortcuts in the screenplay because he's too lazy and incompetent to tell a tale properly.
Escaflowne has a pretty simple, and almost childish, story structure of groups of people being chased from one action scene to another, complimented by a love triangle, which all builds up into a perfect storm of plot contrivances, holes, twists and gaps of logic, all meaningless, un-earned and insulting.
The writer plays so fast and loose with Hitomi's powers that anything can happen at any time and there's nothing you can do about it, the writer just doesn’t care about any rules of screenwriting, he throws everything at the screen and the viewer has to accept it or not, no matter how baffling and unexplained it is.
People getting transported via columns of light into specific landscapes very conveniently, people having their flashbacks played for others, people getting hurt or healed conveniently, in fact it may as well have been called the Convenient Vision of Escaflowne, because Hitomi sure as hell gets many during the series, all perfectly timed to diffuse the story of any sense of mystery, suspense and development.
Every single dramatic action scene of importance is foreshadowed and foreseen by the protagonist, and thus the viewer. To have a 26 episode series constantly use this method is staggering in its ineptitude, and almost irresponsible behaviour that any writer worth his salt would balk at.
This 'character' of Hitomi feels and sees EVERYTHING that happens in the story, all to the writer's convenience. She's not so much a 'god' as she is the writer's pen masturbating over your eyeballs.
Nearly every rule, whether it be mythological or narrative-based, set up in the story is either broken, molested or outright ignored just to give maximum dramatic impact, but that impact itself is robbed of any power because it’s so insulting watching a story be so inconsistent.
Lazy writing. This, as you can guess by now, was the main problem of the series. Characters acting out of character, revelations with no meaning or coherence about them, it’s a mess. A mess strung together by an extremely competent crew, the writer notwithstanding. A brilliantly directed and animated mess with a gorgeous soundtrack.
Yoko Kanno’s 4 CD soundtrack is a classic of the anime medium. An amazingly sumptuous memorable epic filled with orchestral bombast, vocal choirs scaring the crap out of you with chants of ‘ESCAFLOWNE’, beautiful violin and piano-led melodies that indicate a winding journey of heroism and love. Basically her soundtrack doesn’t belong on such a flawed story, and as a result it elevates the anime to another level. It keeps you watching even though the story irritates you with its constant missteps, the music is too beautiful to ignore.
There are memorable moments in Escaflowne, thanks to the music, art and direction, making it worth a watch but not essential. Listening to the soundtrack is a must however. Having visuals as a context may enhance your experience with Kanno’s genius, but she is so skilled that you don’t need the images of this anime to be affected by her music.
If you want to watch a tale with the same template but done better, then watch Juuni Kokuki. read more
Jul 16, 2009
Ok, maybe all that FMP watchin' made me want to revisit another tortured love story chock-full of action and beautifully drawn characters, so I cracked open the Special Edition box set of "Vision of Escaflowne." I hadn't seen this series since I was going to UCLA (and I only mention the school bit so that when I admit about my blubbering later, it won't seem too pathetic).
I wasn't sure I would ever want to see this again since my first impression of the series went from indifference to impressed to infatuated with a finale of utter disappointment! I had never cried so hard, not from sadness, but because I was that horrified that any story could build up such a fantastic love story only to part the couple by the greatest of distances. (I'll get into this later but I did want to address the good first.)
Like all good anime, there is a combination of burgeoning romance, love triangles, surrounded by action, good vs. evil, and surprises. High school track runner Hitomi Kanzaki is mysteriously transported to another world called Gaea where she is torn between her feelings for Allen Schezer and the feelings she didn't realize she has for Van Fanel.
Initially, I couldn't get past the character designs based on the overly elongated and pointy noses. Once I got used to it, the rest was easy. As a fan of mecha and medieval knights, Escaflowne does a fantastic job with their Guymelef designs: essentially, they are over-sized suits of armor that have a Da Vinci-esque design of mechanisms ala mechas from Macross, etc.
I love the look of blending medieval and organic materials with modern/sci-fi technology and the designs here don't disappoint. Escaflowne transform into a flying dragon which fits in naturally in Gaea where the Samurai are knights of their respective realms, dragons are slain as a rite of passage, and transportation is via horses and ships (but ships that fly, natch).
Even if the series was rushed and unfairly edited down into their 26 eps (from an original 39, I'd read), they did a wonderful job of introducing us to these various characters who grow and develop over each episode. And here's the rub, for me: the relationship between Hitomi and Van seems platonic enough upon meeting. They are thrown together by fate and no other reason. She is immediately infatuated with Allen because of his chivalry and his looks (since he reminds her of her upper classmate Amano, who she has a crush on). Van is just this young king who is rash, stubborn, and immature in more ways than one. And because of these differences, it's rewarding to see Van gain experience and maturity over the series and to see how much he and Hitomi are always making sure the other is alright. They realize way after the fact that each is in love with the other - it's tender and sweet.
One of my favorite heartbreaking scenes is Van having gone to find Hitomi in the rain, only to see her in Allen's arms (above). This love triangle has some of the best subtle moments of jealousy as evidenced by the characters facial expressions (which says a lot for an animated show), such as when Van extends his hand to Hitomi to jump aboard Escaflowne only to look slightly hurt when Allen picks her up and hops over with her. Hitomi also briefly goes back to Earth only to return to Gaea when she and Van simultaneously realize they want to see each other again.
I prattle on about this because all these great moments are completely annihilated by the ending of the series. The conflicts of war and violence on Gaea have been resolved and the kingdom of Fanelia is in a peaceful era of Reconstruction. Hitomi tells Van she would like to stay on Gaea with him. Van says that's just fine with him, but that they could see each other any time anyway. So Hitomi says goodbye to Van and begins to levitate upwards in the magical light column. Everyone on Gaea is also sending Hitomi their farewells too.
Now, I could live with this kind of vagueness since the very end shows Hitomi back on Earth where Van visits her (whether it be only a vision or a quick light column visit, I can't quite tell but!) and she tells him she is doing fine. What KILLS me is that as she was leaving Van, she tells him that she will never forget him, even when she becomes old - all of which implies she won't be with him ever again! This still upsets me now because it totally ruins (for me) the idea that maybe they will be together again one day, maybe after she's out of school. But to say that you'll never forget someone is to say that you'll never be or see someone again. So WTF is going on there?
I read one post on a message board saying s/he felt they'd be together again once she is done with high school, and I want to believe such a happy ending myself. But if they'd only cut out the "I'll never forget you" crap, I'd feel more optimistic. I can't really explain why this stupid ending upsets me so. I mean, it's a frickin' animated show with a vague enough ending that I really could force myself to believe whatever I want. So why am I still angry? *sigh* I wish I knew. I guess I feel such a beautifully well done story is thrown away when it can't be wrapped up as well as it was unfurled in the beginning. But, there's something about the Japanese (or most Asian) cultures that can't seem to shake the disappointing and unfulfilled love stories. read more
Jun 22, 2008
Escaflowne is an enchanting, fun, and refreshing mixture of shoujo and shounen elements - for about 13 episodes. Perhaps the writer and director got bored, or didn't plan things out correctly from the start, but whatever the reason, halfway through, Escaflowne all-around plummets and never rises again. Our journey through the series begins with Hitomi, an average high-school track star living her average shoujo-anime life when suddenly, as she is potentially seconds away from receiving her first kiss before seeing her lover off as he leaves the country, a boy wearing medieval armor and wielding a long sword appears. Along with him comes a land dragon which which he proceeds to do awesome battle before he and Hitomi are mysteriously teleported back to his world - one where the Earth can be seen in the sky. By the second episode, we see the boy, who's name we learn is Van, become king of the land of Fanelia minutes before it is attacked and razed to the ground. And so, King Van's quest for revenge begins with Hitomi in tow. Soon we meet the dazzling knight-in-shining armor Allen Schizard, who pilots his ship with his band of merry men and for 8 or so episodes we are delighted to partake in non-stop action, adventure, thrill, and some of the most well-animated fight scenes I've ever seen. There's also Dilandau, my personal all-time favorite villain. Right around episode 10, a war breaks out between the allies of Van and Allen and the evil empire with all the epic drama you might expect from a Lord of the Rings movie.
Things have gotten good. Which is why it becomes a problem when piles of crap begin to materialize and fling themselves against the fan during the mid teen episodes. It all begins in episode 15, after some very heavy drama and the disappearance of Dilandau, who doesn't return until episode 21 or 22. Pacing immediately becomes awkward, with random, short battles that seem to have been thrown in for the sheer sake of having battles as opposed to not. Episodes 17 and 18 are a sudden, massive dump of plot exposition using the cheapest tricks possible; such as a dream sequences to explain the motivations of the main characters in one episode, followed up by one where the good guys proceed to break into the enemy base, calmly listen to the main bad guy's entire back-story, and them promptly escape from said base.
Personally, I hadn't gotten to bothered by this portion of the show during watching, because the earlier episodes had been so good and I was sure that with the plot now out of the way, things could go back to normal. However, instead, things become very awkward very fast. For the next arc, there is little to no exploration, and the characters all spend more time dilly-dallying than staying focused on the plot. The addition of several new characters, complete with episode-drinking back-story, also serve to muck up the pace. My biggest gripe with this part of the show, though, is with the way all of the characters become annoying jackasses. It would be difficult to describe how this happens without spoiling anything, but Van, Hitomi, and Allen all manage to thoroughly earn my disrespect and none redeem themselves by the end of the series. Other characters continue to be explored, though the only really interesting one dies only 2 episodes after becoming important. Things do start to pick up again when Dilandau returns, but at this point the show has fallen too far to lift itself back up. The last few episodes are very rushed as well, making what would have been an excellent ending feel mediocre and needing.
Like it's story, Escaflowne's animation takes a major blow about halfway through the show. Beautifully animated and directed mech and sword battles are the most noteworthy quality of the earlier episodes, so when the battles become poorly directed, poorly animated, and infrequent, the show looses most of it's visual draw. Certain episodes wear their budget issues on their sleeves, and sadly, no battle scene past episode 13 lives up to anything before it, even in the final episode. Even so, the show has definitely aged well, and except for a couple misfit episodes, it carries the look of a high-budget production.
If you enjoy the sort of symphonic epics one might find in a Final Fantasy game, you'll probably enjoy Escaflowne's soundtrack. Not being into this kind of music, I wasn't really paying attention to it, but I thought it was nice enough to be deemed noteworthy to fans of the genre. The opening theme is quite catchy.
Like most fantasy stories, Escaflowne has a fairly large cast full of unmemorable characters who are given generic personalities for the sake of plot progression. Ignoring them, though, there are 3 characters who I'd consider important enough to be called "the main characters." First, Van, the King of Fanel who quests for vengeance in the name of his kingdom. Second, Allen Schezard, the chivalrous knight with a mysterious past. Finally, Hitomi, a girl from Earth who's really freakishly good at predicting the future. Though Hitomi and Allen are pretty much your average shoujo lead and love interest, they are fun to watch, and Allen is the kind of badass you can't help but love. Van is interesting for being one of the most concentrated and kind-hearted male leads around, making him easily likable. My favorite, though, is the psycho villain Dilandau - a completely bloodthirsty madman with a childlike, insecure mind who constantly bitch-slaps his compatriots. Unfortunately, as mentioned in the story portion, Dilandau disappears for a wile, and in the period of his absence everyone else becomes so annoying that upon his triumphant return (alongside awesome and seriously under-developed sidekick Jajuba) I found myself rooting for him to hurry up and kill all the other bastards. Even Dilandau has a dramatic character alteration near the end that is totally out-of-place and quite stupid. Despite that, I quite enjoyed it, because it happened to cater to a personal preference of mine, but I consider it a guilty pleasure. Oh, and the main bad guy is boring and unthreatening, literally sitting in one place throughout the entire series.
Escaflowne was a major disappointment; the first half was so incredible that I had been excited about each proceeding episode,more than ready to sing high praise for it, only to find myself wishing it had been different. read more
Apr 23, 2010
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Ah, now this is a show I loved from the very fist episode. It clearly has a lot more than an average show of its kind… In fact it is more than one kind. In fact, it is something that blends various formulas successfully.
STORY SECTION: 8/10 [A Japanese high school girl transfers to a magical world… Not even the tip of the iceberg, pal!]
General Scenario 2/2: Imagine the best of what epic fantasy, romance, mystery, sci-fi and philosophy have to offer, being mixed in a wonderful blend within a single series. It is not an original story; not by a long shot. You can find dozens of series with a similar premise. Yet, it is so well presented that you totally ignore all the pitfalls of each genre separately, as every genre hole seems to be filled with the positive points of another genre. This is one of those series that scream, “I appear to be mundane but I am not”. I have seen hundreds of series, where the scriptwriters mix a dozen genres just to make an impression with the rearrangement of the stereotypes. Sadly, most of the times, they are just out-of-order and misplaced elements, which give you the feeling that it’s not one uniform series but a dozen different ones, with scrambled scenes of one another (i.e. Elfen Lied, Kannazuki no Miko, School Days). This series is amongst the few exceptions, where the blend worked in a positive way. It used the clichés of each genre and elevates them by adding different features to THE SAME elements, instead of throwing elements that overlap previous ones and make you think you are watching a different series in each scene.
Form of Development/ Pace of Plot 2/2: The story moves faster than a speeding bullet; the reason being that the initial 39 episodes had to be zipped down to 26 because of funding problems. Thus, each episode packs in fact one and a half worth of plot; so don’t be surprised if there are far too many revelations within the same episode or if an episode ends in a normal moment, instead of a cliffhanger that took place 5 minutes ago. It may feel erratic at first but I came to love the unpredictability of the whole fuss. Because I couldn’t just say “Nah, they will stall the battle and end in a cliffhanger”. There was no time for stalling! It sure beats all those boring series that take half the series just to reveal something totally mundane. Heck, there hardly is any filler scene in the entire series. Fillers are a must in anime and yet are totally absent here. I double-loved it just for this.
Side Stories/Extra Spices 2/2: Usually, side stories are dressings for the main story or a funky way to stall time. In this case, not only everyone has a side story, but also every side story eventually mixes with everyone else’s AND has a central point in the story. Wow, all those stories created an interactive web of scenarios that is hard to grasp without taking notes. Amazing!
Believability/Reasoning/Realism & Conclusion 2/4: Well, yes, it is fantasy and that pretty much self-excuses any “weird stuff” in the story. It also adds a lot of scientific explanations that somewhat reason all the queer happenings around Fate and Love. Yet, even that didn’t prevent the series from feeling sometimes out of order, as various events seem to be open to interpretation or left vague and incomplete in the conclusion. Even the romantic relations to one another feel too far-fetched. It is nothing serious; in fact compared to all other similar titles it is not even much to bother with. It just leaves you with the feeling that the series ends in a forced way that conveniently offers a catharsis to each problem that simply under normal situations wouldn’t be so easily overcome. Still, if you don’t think too much about it, the series explains itself nicely and ends in a satisfactory way.
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10 [Why are your wings black, oh brother?]
Presence & Personality 3/4: Although the characters have a very realistic body language that expresses their emotions, it would be a lie to say they were original. Hitomi is the typical Japanese shool girl that falls in love with every hunk she meets. Van is the typical red-colored hothead. Allen is the typical chivalrous knight. Merle is the typical perky/cute cat-girl. Folkien is the typical evil elder brother. And so on, and so on…
Development 2/2: Yet, these archetypes anyone can find in every shonen or shojo are developed to hights unparallel. Especially the main ones become different people in your eyes, after their pasts are revealed. Not only that, they also doubt the very ideals they begin with, instead of sticking to them like glue, as it is usually the case with anime casts and their blindly-followed high ideals. Also, development comes through self-realization of a given situation and not because someone defeated the hero in battle and caused a sudden mental and physical power-up. How cool is that? Wait, there is more. Although the series appears to have villains, in reality it has none. For even the cruelest of them are like that for a good reason and become humane and likable as the story unfolds. If a villain exists, that would be human selfishness, which cannot be defeated with a super beam, fired by an ultra mecha, empowered by love and compassion. Word!
Backdrop 2/2: Not only everyone has a story to tell, but that said story eventually intertwines with everyone else’s. Nice!
Catharsis 1/2: As I stated in the Story Section, the ending does feel forced in a way, as most characters have their worries resolved in an almost fairy-tale fashion.
ART SECTION: 9/10 [Hehe, that mecha wears a cape. How ridiculous… Hey, it disappeared!]
General Artwork 2/2 & Backgrounds 2/2: The environments are drawn quite average in all; but their combination… GTFO! How did they mix all these stuff and still managed to make them look great? I am stunned; I really am. Modern Tokyo AND medieval fantasy AND sci-fi mecha that seem to FIT ALL THE TIME?! I salute the guys who managed to pull it through. The cosmology of the series is a blend of everything we already know of, and yet it is unique with all the anachronisms that actually DON’T feel irrelevant to one another. A truly great fairy tale that takes place in several time periods at the same time.
Character Figures 2/2: First of all … NOSES! … Yes, they are long but it is a grave mistake to drop the series because of them. I for one believe that it made the cast to be more unique than the ones from other anime. Beyond that, all the main characters have a unique look on them that goes well with their general personality (Allen looks charming, Merle looks perky, etc). I found nothing wrong to see knights side to side with eastern monks and cat-girls, as the series is after all fantasy and the final feeling was quite fit with everything that went on. Even the mecha look special with that steampunk way they work. Ok, having their energy cores and the cockpit in defenseless places was kinda target practice for the enemy but then again the mecha were supposed to be far superior in the past than they are now. Beyond that, their weaponry is awesome! Cloaks that really cloak a building-tall mecha??? Dragon transformations ??? Fate Alteration Device ??? COOL !!!
Visual Effects 2/2: Not just different angles. Like any romance that respects its viewers, it has a huge amount of feathers and roses and lightning that reflects the character’s mood. You really feel what the characters feel through the visual effects. I LOVE watching cinematics that are not there just for the explosions and the laser beams. Hands down; there are great!
Animation 1/2: The only thing that is not great in the series is the smoothness in motion. It is better than average (just watch the mecha fight) but just ain’t as great as in OVA or movie format.
SOUND SECTION: 10/10 [EEE-eee-EEE-scaaa-FLO-ow-NEEE!]
Voice Acting 3/3: How can I deduct points if everyone always talks the way he should be talking? Every character has its personality mirrored perfectly through his/her tone of voice (even Merle’s annoying pinch was fitting) and since they describe themselves in various moments and flashbacks, their monologues actually are meaningful to pay attention to. Marvelous voice acting!
Music Themes 4/4: I love chorus music! It makes a series feel more epic. This series happens to actually BE epic in its story, so the religious hymns were exceptional and fitting. Even the sugarcoated intro is not a run-of-the-mill pop song. A marvelous soundtrack that you hardly come by in anime (the only other anime with a real chorus I know of is Advent Children ).
Sound Effects 3/3: Just like the visual effects, they bring out the feelings of one’s state and held the viewer identify or sympathy him. Very theatrical!
VALUE SECTION: 10/10 [Energist is pure gold.]
Historical Value 3/3: Famous as hell.
Rewatchability 3/3: If you liked it, it is sustain you will watch it again in the future (four times for me, and still counting). It is complex enough to make you watch it at least once more just to get the full picture. Since it has no dead time, no episodes are going to be skipped.
Memorability 4/4: Unlike anything else in its mix of genres.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 9 [What did I miss? I only looked the other way for a second!]
I need to make clear that it is the only series I know of (and I know most of them) that is equally appealing to both males and females. Girly romance goes hand to hand with fighting mecha and it doesn’t feel alienating at all. It is a truly unisex series that nobody can suggest not viewing because of someone’s genre. It is also both serious and light-hearted so even immature teenagers and sophisticated adults can like different aspects in it. Definitely above most series that have a specific target audience and with a multi-layered story that is character-driven, this anime is a jewel that outshines all others of its kind.
To be honest, I know several people who didn’t like it one bit. I tend to believe it is because they paid too much attention to some elements and not to the whole of the series. Heck, I myself found famous fantasy series like Guardian of the Sacred Spirit and the 12 Kingdoms to be boring, because their plot was slow as hell and quickly lost interest, despite the supremacy in graphics and character development. If nothing new occurs in 15 minutes, I start to yawn; thus novel adaptations are not my cup of tea. This series, despite not being so well planned, left no time for me to be bored. It was so fast that I was always with my eyes wide-open.
Both jury and judge bow in respect. The accuser is sentenced to a thousand years of hard labor.
The 12 Kingdoms
Guardian of the Sacred Spirit
Brigadoon Marin to Melan
Maze – The Mega-burst Space
Magical Knight Rayearth read more
Jul 21, 2008
It's no wonder that this ambitious Japanese Anime series has been highly acclaimed by both reviewers and fans. For a television-made serial, production values are spectacular. The colors are rich and vibrant with imagination, and there are even some impressive, but subtle use of computer generated effects in various episodes.
What makes Escaflowne compelling as a series, though, is its labyrinthine storyline. Every episode built my interests, inspiring me to keep on watching, even when it sometimes slows down to concentrate on character development. Speaking of which, the folks who inhabit this tale are psychologically complex, showcasing positive traits as well as inner demons. Hitomi is a very confused, sometimes fickle young woman who is attracted to many people yet cannot seem to decide who she truly loves. Van is a socially washed-up young man who has suffered traumatic experiences in childhood and as such maintains an aggressive exterior. Allen, meanwhile, is handsome, dashing, and instantly wins the hearts of every women around (although it turns out that he too has an unfortunate past involving his father). While Van and Allen seem to respect each other at the forefront, their feelings for Hitomi threatens to cause tragic tension. Equally interesting are the scenes involving Folken and Dilandau. The former is calm and placid, while the latter is ever-ready to display aggressiveness.
The action sequences are skillfully choreographed, namely the ones where the titular mechanical giant--Escaflowne--an impressively customized suit of armor, squares off against similar mechas. Also worthy of note is Yoko Kanno's music, an ingeniously rich mixture of John Williams, classical music, and ethnic choral chanting. If anything, it was this soundtrack that captured my interests just as much as the characters and artistry. Kanno truly is a talented musician, and her works can easily hold their own against Joe Hisaishi's scores for Miyazaki's features.
All this, plus a whole lot more, makes Escaflowne an intriguing, creative series not only ideal for teenagers, but for a more mature audience as well. (Plus, it doesn't delve too much into excessive violence or mindnumbingly misplaced filler dreck, either.)
Escaflowne was first brought to the U.S. by the Fox Kids Network, and unfortunately it suffered from a series of cuts and drastic changes--notably the replacement of Kanno's masterful score with techno(!). Thankfully, the DVD release by BANDAI (which, by the way, has some interesting extras--namely the interviews with the Japanese staff) offers the entire series uncut and unaltered, and the Fox-produced changes have NOT been ported over to the DVD's English language track, so no problems there.
That said, some folks have issues with the dub, produced by Canada-based Ocean Studios; while it has its share of problems, notably occasional scripting mistakes in the TV series (Folken calling Van "brother" at a time when he's not supposed to, for one), and Andrew Francis' jarring portrayal of Dilandau (he plays him more like a spoiled brat rather than a maniac), this English track does benefit from some generally good voices. In particular, Kirby Morrow and Brian Drummond are superb as Van and Allen, Paul Dobson does an excellent job as Folken, but Jocelyn Loewyn takes the cake for the best performance overall as Merle; mainly because she reminded me of Angora Deb's delightfully sassy Leaf in the Lodoss War TV series (and I like these kind of voices, too). Kelly Sheridan, meanwhile, makes a decent Hitomi, although there are some times when she doesn't emote as strongly as she should. But even after hearing bits and pieces of the (higher-caliber) Japanese language track, I don't consider this dub to be too unaffordable for folks who can't stand subtitles.
Either way, chances are that you will find yourself absorbed in the dramatic power, twisting plot, and imaginative sceneries of Escaflowne from the moment you first lay your eyes on the dazzling opening sequences. read more
Apr 10, 2011
Escaflowne revolves around a teenage girl named Hitomi Kanzaki, an everyday ordinary girl who happens to like reading tarot cards. Or so that was the extent of it, until one day, she ended up being whisked away to the mysterious world of Gaia with a dragon-slaying teenage boy who was returning. As it turns out, Hitomi has ended up in the midst of a world about to break into full-blown war, as a result of the strange actions of the nation of Zaibach.
The first, and most obvious problem, as you may have already guessed from the synopsis, is our main character Hitomi. She is basically just what you would expect from what has been said... a bland, overly moral cliché, existing mainly for the female side of the audience to project themselves onto, as she is paired up with both of our handsome bishonen leads. And unfortunately, they aren't anything impressive either. Van Fanel is an angsty prince who sees his kingdom destroyed at the start of the series, and if you just noticed the clichés rack up, you're not the only one. He also happens to be the one that Hitomi will obviously get paired with by the end of the series. He is balanced out by Allen, who happens to be a charming, charismatic ladykiller who excels in basically every field he participates in. He had the most potential of the three, but by the end of it he's honestly not all that interesting. Throw into this a number of annoying supporting characters (along with one who happens to be pretty awesome), and you have a relatively poor set of protagonists.
However, this is mostly where the bad in Escaflowne ends. The plot in Escaflowne manages to be very solid, enough so to balance out the poor leading cast. The directing is even better, building some excellent scenes with solid action, mostly revolving around the mechas (referred to as Guymelefs). When talking of Escaflowne, you will probably end up hearing a fair bit about the Guymelefs, and with good reason. The steampunk design that they use makes them an excellent contribution to the mecha genre. In fact, the steampunk vibe in general is probably one of the most solid things about Escaflowne.
On top of this, while the protagonists are rather underwhelming, the antagonists certainly fare better. Dornkirk, Folken, and Dillandau are a far better trio than Hitomi, Van and Allen, with the latter being quite firmly the most memorable character in the series due to being batshit insane. Folken is Van's brother, and has more than a handful of similarities to a certain Star Wars character (I won't say who, but you can probably guess) and I mean that as a compliment. And Dornkirk, the Big Bad, does sit back for most of the series, but can be rather menacing when he is directly involved, and provides some very interesting motives.
From a production angle of things, Escaflowne was excellent for its time, and in technical terms it's still very solid, but unfortunately the art and animation have aged quite a lot. Most notably in the case of the infamous CG dragons. The character designs are clearly the thing that have aged the worst, though. Saucer-like eyes and misshapen noses are everywhere in them. The soundtrack is by Yoko Kanno, so odds are I don't really need to say anything else because it's freaking Yoko Kanno. The voice acting in the original Japanese is also excellent, with Maaya Sakamoto providing her debut role as Hitomi, and Minami Takayama gives a standout performance as Dilandau. Unfortunately, the dub does not even come close to shaping up. None of the actors involved really seem to grasp the concept of "acting", nor do any of them sound remotely convincing in their given roles.
Overall, Escaflowne is definitely an enjoyable run, but I really can't see where it gets its status as a classic from. It's far too flawed to be deserving of a 16-year legacy, nor has it really contributed anything good to anime as a medium. Nonetheless, it's still quite a solid story if you can get past the main characters.
Final words: Overrated, but still quite good.
English Dub: 2/10
Overall: 7/10 read more
May 6, 2011
Story (8/10): The story itself is very creative. I always commend a mecha series that can combine epic battles with heroism and of course romance. Though it is not a common theme with mecha, this story takes place in an alternate setting, involving time travel of some sort and the ever present high school age heroine. The supporting cast with a few strong characters including Dryden, Delandeau, Millerna and Folken add to the dynamics and emotion that is heavily entwined with this plot.
Sound (10/10): The original soundtrack is the strongest part of the series making up for what was lacking in art. The background music in every fight scene and pivitol moment in the series added immense atmosphere to the battles and interactions. It was truly spectacular.
Character (9/10): The characters in this show did not dissapoint. All of them were very three dimensional including cast with limited air time like Naria and Eriya. Hitomi as a heroine was great in that she lacked what obnoxious shoujo heroines commonly have: ditziness and unrelenting surrealism - to an extent. Hitomi was fickle in her decisions and I really did get annoyed with her repetitive name yelling and wanting every situation to go her way. Van, however, is one of the more astounding male protagonists I've come across. Paired with an excellent voice actor, the audience can really feel Van's pain. He wasn't a bitch like many characters with traumatic pasts (cough Sasuke cough) but did what every man with a giant mecha should do: go into battle and mess people up. Overall I was very pleased with the characters in Escaflowne.
Enjoyment (9/10): Overall I loved the flow of the show and how cliff-hangers were strategically placed to get me to want to watch episodes back to back to find out what happened next. The unique mecha setting holds a strong allure for this show and the music is really the icing on the cake. You should watch this show if you enjoy fabulous seiyuus and an OST on par with that of Tsubasa Chronicles (the best sound track to date imo).
This show is also worth the lulz for all of Hitomi's teenage angsty moments and for Van's perfectly-timed obliviousness. Allen kind of creeps me out but he's worth making fun of too. Haha. WATCH IT! read more
Jun 7, 2013
Sometimes there are things in life that fortune will smile upon, but is it wise to toy with fate? There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. We have the power to change the future. With that said, let's explore the world of Gaea with... The Vision of Escaflowne
High school student Hitomi Kanzaki is a freshman and is talented in Track and Field. She somehow transported from Earth to the magical world of Gaea, where she meets a young prince named Van Fanel, and is caught up in his quest to unite the countries of Gaea against the ominous Zaibach empire. On the way, she discovers an hidden secret and strives to unravel layers of mystery surrounding Van, his past, and the giant machine known as Escaflowne.
To be technical, this is a Sunrise production and this anime is proof that the animation in this show has aged very well. Some poeple don't like some of the character designs in this show because they always point out that the "noses" looked a little odd or something. This didn't bother me too much. The show does look like your typical 90's anime but there was a bit of a game changer regarding the animation because from what I've heard, This anime had not only hand-painted animation cels, but it also had computer-generated special effects which was brand new for an anime to pull something like this off. That was one thing that intrigued me concerning the animation. If the opening wasn't enough, there's more good stuff when it comes to this factor of an anime. The animation is gorgeous.
When it comes to music, Escaflowne was composed by two musicians. One of them was Hajime Mizoguchi and the other is Yoko Kanno (who would later be well-known for her music scores for animes such as Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. This was probably her first major hit of a music score. The score involves orchestra and trust me... This soundtrack was epic. You won't be disappointed. However...Get used to hearing that name "Escaflowne" more often in the entire soundtrack, it's a running motif.
When it comes to the voice acting, The Japanese cast is superb and terrific from start to finish. Hitomi just so happens to be Maaya Sakamoto's debut role and she really makes a first impression for her voice acting talent and she would later become a big name in Japanese voice acting up to the present time. Tomokazu Seki is also pretty good as Van. Shinichiro Miki plays a great Allen. Ikue Ohtani is pretty good as Merle. Jouji Nakata is terrific as Folken, and Minami Takayama sounds like he had way too much fun as Dilandau. The standout extras in the subbed version include Juurouta Kosugi as Dryden, Mayumi Iizuka as Millerna, and the late Masato Yamanouchi as Dornkirk.
Now Before I get to talking about the dub, let's get inside the TARDIS and travel back in time to the year 2000. Escaflowne first aired in the U.S. back in 2000, but it was short-lived.
This would be commonly dubbed the "Fox Kids" version because there were numerous edits to each episode, it had its own exclusive opening which I don't really think suits the show much. The main character focus was switched from Hitomi to Van to make the show appeal to young boys. It was cancelled because of low ratings and trust me when I say this... you're better off with the show in it's complete uncut form. The English dub in the FOX Kids Version was also not very good. I wish the dub could have been better when they actually dubbed the whole series because the Dub of Escaflowne has some of the worst voice acting out there and I tried really hard to get used to this dub but I couldn't. The tones didn't fit most of the time, some vocal tones were placed right but not acted the way it could've been and it was bad right from the first minute, it didn't sound like they were trying hard enough and I immediately went to subs right after the first minute, it really was that bad of a dub, but allow me to say this. Kelly Sheridan is much better as Sango than Hitomi, Kirby Morrow is better as Miroku than Van, Brian Drummond was actually decent as Allen, Jocelyn Loewen was not that good as Merle. Paul Dobson (yes, the voice of Naraku from InuYasha) is actually decent as Folken. The lowpoint of the dub has to be Andrew Francis as Dilandau. You know what, he has had better roles since Dilandau and he is now doing the voice of Shining Armor from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
My apologies for bringing up this show, but admit it... It has become a popular show, I just so happen to like it because the humor isn't stupid like I'm seeing in other American animated shows these days.
Back on topic, If you are planning on watching this anime dubbed, just go right to the subs on this one, you're better off watching it subtitled than watching it dubbed. I hope someday this anime gets a re-dub, but I'm guessing that's asking too much.
When it comes to characters, they aren't really too perfect when it comes to development but this is redeemable as the show progresses. Hitomi is your average high-school girl who has a crush on pretty much anyone that looks really attractive. Understandable, she does appear to just stand in the sidelines as the conflicts are taking place (Sometimes...) But there are times where she does get involved to confront the issues that would take place. Hitomi is a not the typical "Damsel in distress" She is actually wriitten pretty well in an above average level. There will be a point in the series where she'll realize what she is really doing and I'll let you figure out the rest. Van and Allen are also interesting characters. I like some of the dynamics between Van and Allen. Folken was an interesting case as the show progressed and Dilandau was a bit delightful if you like characters that are insane. Merle is simply the sidekick for the show and I guess she was alright too. The only issue with the characters is that the main cast is developed well but some of the minor characters weren't.
What makes The Vision of Escaflowne remarkable is the story. It starts off pretty decently, but as the story progresses, it gets a bit complex and it even starts being a little thought-provoking too. I was hooked after I finished watching the 14th episode of this show and I wanted to know how the show would end because it was really getting good. It did get more interesting around the second half and it did not disappoint...too much. Escaflowne was on a perfect track record until the show was on its last 3 episodes. If I heard right, Escaflowne was supposed to have a second season but the studio or whoever was behind it told the staff to end the show instead. Apparently that was the case. This all led to Escaflowne having a rushed ending. It was a good ending but the rushed pace is pretty obvious. Does that really hurt the chances of people liking the show after it's done? No, it really is a fantastic series. Fantasy buffs (kinda like me) will very much enjoy the show for how much effort that was put into Escaflowne. Kazuki Akane directed this terrificly for the most part. If you haven't seen The Vision of Escaflowne, then what are you doing, looking at my review? Sit down and give this show a try because I don't say this lightly... It is really an anime classic that truly deserves a viewing.
The Vision of Escaflowne was available from Bandai Entertainment, you know what that means... It's sadly out of print. The manga by Katsu Aki was available by Tokyopop and it is out of print, Another manga named "Messiah Knight - The Vision of Escaflowne" never was released stateside. a third manga named "Energist's Memories" also never made it stateside, The light novel series was also never released stateside. The Escaflowne movie was available by Bandai Entertainment, like the show, it too is out of print.
With all that said, The Vision of Escaflowne is a true work of art because it wastes no second of it's timeframe. The animation is gorgeous even if some people find the character designs a little odd, it has epic music, it has some memorable characters, an interesting story and pretty much anything a Fantasy buff would want to see in a classic anime. It isn't perfect but it does have a very good track record.
I give The Vision of Escaflowne a 9.7 out of 10, it is EXCELLENT!
Feel free to leave a comment read more
Feb 18, 2007
I was swept in by the amazing story. It gave a whole new meaning to fantasy and love. The characters all had different personalities and it made them enjoyable. Some may have changed while others stay the same. I don't think I would have been able to watch this if the characters stayed the same. The Guymelefs were an interesting object to add, way better then just swords. The whole point that Guymelefs depended on the user's body was amazing. It was great how, if the Guymelef was slashed, the user would be injured as well. It made it more interesting then just the clanging of swords on metal. The battles would never end! If the user swung his arm, the Guymelef would swing his arm. How cool is that?! I would definitely recommend this anime. It's my personal favorite! read more
Dec 2, 2012
For the beginning of the series you see the main character as a believable person, good head on her shoulders, but as the series progresses I found her to be contradictory and in general her personality was all over the place. Happy one minute, sad the next, angry five seconds later. The romance aspect isn't very romantic. It seemed like a sad after thought with love triangles overlapping love triangles. The characters would suddenly fawn over each other for no real given reason, then creating tension in the group because two people like the same person.
Character wise I don't feel like I actually 'cared' for anyone. They could have killed anyone off and I would have shrugged my shoulders without really a care in the world. People would be introduced and then vanish the next episode, only to reappear three episodes later. The main 'group' kept splitting up and the whole time frame of the story was confusing. Two people would leave for battle 'far away' in another city, then another character would have a bad feeling and would decide to join them and arrive far too quickly considering they were in separate countries.
The mech fighting was cool but had a lot of random angst scenes thrown into it, slightly killing the mood. One thing that did bother me was the main characters abilities. They were pretty fascinating at first until it got out of hand and her 'bad thoughts' created 'negative' futures. It just seemed very unnecessary.
The biggest problem was the complete drop off in plot. The end was unsatisfying, anticlimactic, and in my personal opinion....horribly written. I had so many hopes for this anime, but it just fell so far short. Perhaps they will reboot the series and give it time to actually develop the story and not cut out important dialogues and character growth.
I still liked the series for the concept and creativity but there are a lot of holes that need stitched up. read more
Aug 15, 2009
This was an anime that I had watched in my childhood that had stuck with me till now even in my late teens. I have long since re-watched it and the impact it's had on me hasn't lessened one bit. There is certainly a time in every girls life where she wished to be whisked away to another world, and poor Hitomi has just that happen to her though entirely against her will. This story appeals especially to girls with the appearance of may bishounen throughout the series, however the mecha-like fighters and bloody scenes also appeal to male audiences. While the art may be a bit outdated (it was made in the early 90s afterall) it is some of the prettiest of that time I've seen. The attention to detail is exquisite, especially in regards to the scenery. Surprisingly the dub for this anime is tastefully done, so don't hesitate to go subless for once and try for the English version. Escaflowne is certainly an anime that I wouldn't mind watching for a third or fourth time. read more
Oct 3, 2010
Firstly, I have to say that the pacing of this series is by far the best I have ever seen in any anime period. This is a no-filler anime folks, I can guarantee you that. Every scene and every character interaction adds to the tale. This phenomenal pacing really made me want to keep watching, and it also made me shocked when an episode ended, because to me it felt like I had only been watching for five minutes. The writers really did a great job, and I especially appreciate this when so many animes that I've tried watching are stuffed with filler.
I actually thoroughly enjoyed the art style, particularly the character and mecha designs. Yes, the show was made in 1996 so it's a little dated, but I've always been a bit of a softy for the old-school design. All of the characters were very distinctive, and even the different nations throughout Gaea have a different aesthetic feel to them. For example, Asturia had a European feel to it while Freid had more of an Asian feel. It really helped to give the impression that Gaea really was its own world.
What makes this story a hit are most definitely the characters. At first glance the characters appear to be of the fantasy genre archetypes: the young and stubborn new king, the perfect knight, the confused and boy-crazy schoolgirl... but let me tell you this show really builds these characters into something more than that. A lot of the focus is on character interactions, and I grew to very much like and care for the characters.
Oh, and I can't forget the soundtrack! The music is my Yoko Kanno, and it is a real treat. Gorgeous orchestral and piano sounds are to be heard (I'm a sucker for a great orchestra), and the opening theme feels very majestic, coupled with nice vocals.
It's been a long time since I've so thoroughly enjoyed an anime; I strongly recommend this. It has a broad appeal- it's mecha action, romance, a war story, and an epic fantasy adventure. Be sure to check it out! read more
Nov 3, 2012
I'm not going to tell about the plot because everybody and his freaking DOG knows that this kind of plot is as old as dirt. The characters are old as dirt, and it's ending is kind of old as dirt. I've seen a lot of people praise Escaflowne for it's awesomeness, and I do agree it is definitely awesome, but people are saying that it's a perfect balance of shounen and shoujo tropes, and how it's the greatest thing ever. Unfortunately, I have to disagree. Escaflowne is NOT a masterpiece. Why? Well, as I watched the show, I'm kind of surprised by not what people mention, but what they DO NOT mention, and Escaflowne has some pretty jarring flaws, a lot of which so many people actually overlook. What flaws? Well, if I could compare Escaflowne to something, it would be to a bullet train and an automatic machine gun that shoots bullets every second. It's pacing is so fast it's unbelievable! I feel like Escaflowne just throws stuff at you and expects you to take it all in without any question whatsoever. Basically, the show just DOESN'T CALM THE HECK DOWN! It's like it really really wants to show you this amazing, epic story so they throw it in your face and shove it down your throat without giving you time to swallow it. There are hardly any quiet moments in the show (except for the first episode and some parts in others), and the ones that are there don't last long unless stated otherwise! Not only that, there's little to no proper transition from scene to scene, and even from episode to episode! I watch an episode, then another episode pops up and doesn't even reference what happened in the last one and goes on like it expects you to go along with it without question! Everything just explodes at you and leaves a bunch of scars. Well, I can kind of see why it's execution and pacing are so chaotic. This was originally planned to be 39 episodes, but apparently due to time constraint issues and funding problems, they had to cut it down to 26, and even then the animators came up with too much animated material, so they had to cut quite a few scenes out before broadcast, and, really, IT SHOWS!! Maybe the episode extension would have rectified this problem. Well, a lot of people say this is a good thing because there's no filler. I can understand why they think this is great, and I agree. Every little frame of the show focuses on it's story and it is dead set on telling it, without any pointlessness (and I should also mention that the animators were strictly told not to give Hitomi any underwear shots. THANK GOD FOR THAT!!!) or extraneous material, so that I can praise...but maybe a little quiet, soothing, turn-off-your-brain-and-relax kind of filler wouldn't hurt.
Now I must speak of the animation. Honestly, when it can be, it can be wicked awesome, especially in that part of the opening sequence when you see Escaflowne sword fighting with another guymelef (is that one supposed to be Dilandau's? They never say)! But yes, since this was made in 1996, it IS pretty outdated, but it's definitely aged a heck of a lot more gracefully than other shows in the nineties. Another thing I notice about the animation is that it's very distinct. It's different from other anime of it's time, and it shows. The noses are kind of big, but this never bothered me because I always thought noses were supposed to look like that in real life too. Not only that, every single character has their own look. No character looks exactly the same, unlike vice versa, which is becoming more and more apparent. Facial expressions are very distinct, but at times they can be very exaggerated, in the case of one character I'll mention later on. I love the way Gaea looks, as it's very European and Indian-based. According to some sources, Shoji Kawamori was inspired to make this after a trip to Nepal. You can really see the effort that the animators and art directors put into the setting, the art, the castle designs, everything. Heck, the empire of Zaibach just SCREAMS industrial revolution, and considering it's backstory, the whole industrial revolution thing going for it really fits it to a T. But at times the animation can be a bit static, and there are quite a few still frames, but hey! This was the nineties! Those were standard back in the day! The character movement is pretty good for it's time, too.
The music...oh sweet magna carta, I simply MUST sing all kinds of praises for the music! Remember how I said once that I thought 07-Ghost had one of the most Godly, non Kajiura music in all of anime? Well, Escaflowne's soundtrack blows it out of the water here! Seriously, this was one of Yoko Kanno's first soundtracks for any anime (her actual first being Please Save My Earth). It's so hard to believe that even back then, Kanno had such an awesome knack for music, especially in terms of booming, classical, 1940s-esque orchestras and choirs, and I LOVE big, booming classical orchestras and choirs. Yoko Kanno pretty much fulfilled my musical wishes here, as every single piece of music fits every scene in show wonderfully. The epic choirs really bring out the epic in various fight scenes, though sometimes I do think some BGMs play in the wrong places, but that only happens once or twice throughout the series. I kept on wondering why everybody liked Yoko Kanno so much. Now I see the reason why, and I happily agree with them! This is a soundtrack I seriously MUST OWN!!
There's been a lot of debate about the characters lately, especially on places like TV Tropes. I'm just going to tell my personal opinions about the characters. To be honest, as much as I liked a majority of the characters, I really didn't connect to them personally. For me, in order for me to truly love an anime and put it in my top lists, I'd have to connect with the characters on a personal level, particularly a majority of them, whether it's because I relate to their personality or the problems they face or feel sympathy for them, it all has to come down to whether I connect or identify with them or not. I didn't feel that with most of the characters for Escaflowne. Now don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean I hate them. If there's one thing I love about the characters in Escaflowne, it's the fact that every single one of them is flawed. Nobody's perfect. Even the characters who even look and act perfect have secret flaws they don't want others to see out of fear that they'd be hated for it. That's what made me really like them, and I think the staff behind the show knew this. Unfortunately, despite this, I didn't find most of the main characters very interesting. Oh God, I seriously hated that Mole Man. I don't see why he's in the show! However, I do like Hitomi. Not very many people like her, but I find her to be very realistic. She's not some overly perfect Mary Sue character, a violence prone angry chick, a big-boobed bimbo who throws her privates in a guy's face, a clumsy thick-headed ditz, or other dumb female stereotypes. I think she's a strong character and if you really take the time to imagine yourself in her situation, you have to admit her actions in the show are pretty reasonable and even plausible and understandable, though I can see why people don't like her much. I mean, seriously, she's a heck of a lot better than Miaka from Fushigi Yugi, right? I also really like Folken, one of the villains. Why? Watch the show and see!
However...there is ONE character that I not only connected with on a very personal level for very weird reasons, but I actually identified with to the point where I almost relived my childhood memories from 4th grade when I still had my childish crush on a Yu-Gi-Oh character. I really like this character, and apparently so do a lot of other people! This character alone made me persist in continuing with this series despite the show's very jarring and obvious flaws. Who is this character, you ask? It is...Dilandau. Yeah, I'm a sophomore in college, yet I somehow not only strongly connected and identified with a completely psycho pyromaniac who likes abusing his compadres on a regular basis and setting things on fire and blowing stuff up for the fun of it, but am actually developing a fangirl crush on him! I know it sounds stupid, but it's true! Heck, other people had crushes on him in the 90s when the show aired! Yeah, I know, Dilandau's obnoxious, cocky, cruel, homicidal, completely off the ball, and acts like a spoiled brat throughout 90% of the show, and is basically everything that I HATE in a person, yet...once you learn about him and see him suffer horribly (even if it's for a little bit. The show doesn't go into too much detail about it for some reason), you feel your heartstrings get yanked and you want to save him once you realize he's no different from any other disturbed, lonely, scared teenager who just wants a friend, especially considering how young he is! He's basically the best and most developed anime villain that ever graced the silver screen. He's a villain, yet he's so relatable and in a way so human that you can't help but identify with him! He makes you laugh, makes you cry, scares the living crap out of you, he does it all! Why can't more anime villains be like him?!...if only his English dub voice were better! Seriously, I made the mistake of watching the English dub first and...oh my God, Dilandau's English voice is UNGODLY HIGH AND SQUEAKY!!! He sounds like he hasn't even reached puberty yet, and his voice actor was 15 back when the dub was made! How can a 15 year old still have that high a voice?! He sounds so chirpy! I mean, his actor does a great job at capturing his brattiness, arrogance, and his craziness in his really scary moments, and in other scenes the voice increases his cuteness (if he has any) in some areas, but I just CANNOT take Dilandau seriously with that BABY VOICE, especially in the creepy moments ("Cheek...cheek...cheek...")! Wanna know the freakiest thing of all? Dilandau's voice actor does the voices of Shining Armor and Braeburn from My Little Pony, both of whom have deep voices! I can never look at them or listen to them the same way ever again!!! Seriously, Dilandau's Japanese and German voices are waaaaay better!...though the German dub actually ADDs to his creepiness and brings it up to so many disturbing levels it's not even funny...AND I LOVE IT!!! I need to rewatch this show in German sometime, even though I know NO German whatsoever.
Okay, enough of all that random babbling. I already talked about this show's flaws so I see no need to go through them...though I do admit the ending is a little weird. But I've seen worse anime endings so I can give it a pass, that and it's not nearly as jarring as the rest of the show's problems. Escaflowne in itself deals with a lot of mature and heavy themes like magic, war, missing and illegitimate children, love triangles, and the concept of fate and playing with it. Unfortunately because the show is so compressed, I wasn't able to comprehend a lot of it. I do, however, definitely give Escaflowne credit for being a fun, epic, thrilling adventure show with a lot to love (I still can't get that soundtrack and Dilandau out of my head! Also, Prince Chid and his dub voice are SOOOO CUTE!!!) and it definitely deserves it's place as a classic. I just don't agree with a lot of people on WHY it should be a classic. Do I think it has perfect pacing? No. It's way too fast for me to fully comprehend. Do I think it's perfectly balanced? No, it needs more quiet moments, more polishing, and more development. Do I think it has great characters? Well, while some definitely stand out (Dilandau and Folken for me), the rest of them don't strike a chord with me. Do I think it looks good? Yes, definitely. Do I think it's groundbreaking? For it's time, yes. Do I think it has a great soundtrack? YES.
While in my eyes it's not perfect, this is definitely an anime that should not be missed by anyone, and...come on! Who else agrees Dilandau is the best anime villain ever?! read more
Jun 14, 2010
Mar 8, 2013
A psychic high school girl named Hitomi gets pulled onto the mysterious planet of Gaia where the earth and moon are visible in the night sky and anthropomorphic animals exist. Gaia seems to be in it's Mideaval period with monarchy still in effect, but has very different technology than Earth. There are no computers, phones, or cars, but there are airships and giant mobile suits. The mechs, called Gymelofs, are amazingly designed. They look like a knight's suit of armor and move with gears and steam. They're completely believable in the swords and dragons setting. The "magic" in Escaflowne is really more "mysticism" and has definite rules.
Personally, I really like Escaflowne's art work. The style is very different than most anime with the characters having long, prominent noses, and round rather than spiky hair. The series is unique and the art reflects that, though it did take some getting used to. It's drawn very consistently, which usually seems to be a problem in 90's anime. The colors can sometimes feel a little murky, but mostly it works for that "Dark Ages" feel. The animation was above average for it's time.
The sound is FANTASTIC. Yoko Kanno did the music, so really, what else do you need to know? She beautifully blends Japanese lyrics and Olde Worlde European ballads that sound like they're played on harp and hammer dolcemer. The more modern sounding poppier songs are never out of place, and there are Gregorian monks chanting "Esca! flow! ne!" The original Japanese voice cast is very, very good, and the dub is surprisingly watchable with the standout roles being the villains. Dub!Hitomi's and Allan's voices may take some warming up to, but over all I recommend the sub and dub equally.
Escaflowne has a large cast of richly detailed characters and as more is revealed about their back stories, their actions become more understandable and relate-able. Even the villains are given this same treatment and care. Van, our main male hero, starts out brash and seemingly apathetic, but we learn that he is actually trying desperately and has an inordinate amount to prove. Hitomi is a real asset in battle. She's smart, an athlete, and rarely needs to be saved. She's a tough, interesting girl, and she will tell you what she thinks of things. Like any shoujo heroine, she's prone to the occasional romantic flights of fancy, but they fit the story and are endearing. Millerna is a princess studying to get a medical degree and doesn't mind leaving her castle to travel with our rag tag group of protagonist. The final standout is the utterly psychotic villain Dilandou.
Usually, character driven shows are my favorites, but where Escaflowne really shines is the plot. There are more twists than you would ever innitially imagine. The writers managed to weave in mythology like Atlantis and even include Isaac Newton while keeping things completely believable. The pacing is good (no filler!) and the storytelling really makes you think and figure things out. The ending is bittersweet in a really effecting way and all the story elements fit together like puzzle pieces--the proof of good plotting.
The world, Gaia, is also a fantastic part of the show. The world building is immense and immersive. Gaia has it's own histories, various races, political structures, belief systems and customs that are unique but logical.
Escaflowne is one of my favorite shows for it's sheer brilliance and originality. It really takes you inside the characters' heads and we are asked to deal with their experiences in this war as it brings more of their pasts back to confront them.
Watch Escaflowne if you like mechs. Watch Escaflowne if you like your shoujo romance with a healthy dose of action. Watch Escaflowne if you want an epic fantasy. Watch Escaflowne if you want a complex, intelligent plot.
Really, you should just watch Escaflowne. read more