Prince of Fanelia, pilot of Escaflowne, Van Fanel suddenly appears on Earth one day, fighting a Dragon. His life narrowly saved by Hitomi, a schoolgirl caught up in the battle, Van returns to his kingdom only for it to be torched to the ground a few days later. Van vows revenge on the perpetrators - the Zaibach Empire - even when he finds that Folken, his supposedly dead elder-brother, is working for them. With Hitomi's help, Van hones his fighting abilities and begins to predict his opponent's moves, giving him the upper hand: he is however, deeply effected by his blood-pact with Escaflowne, which requires that he shares the bodily damage it suffers in battle.
He also slowly falls in love with Hitomi, though his love isn't immediately and entirely reciprocated.
Van Fanel is the young half-Draconian king of Fanelia who must learn to cope with drastic changes in his life after Fanelia is destroyed by Zaibach. He pilots Escaflowne, a Guymelef made by the mysterious Ispano tribe which can transform into a flying dragon. He earns his right to pilot Escaflowne through a blood pact which connects his body and soul to Escaflowne. Due to the blood pact and Hitomi's influence, Van becomes injured when the Escaflowne is damaged, and these wounds will not close until Escaflowne is repaired. Consequently, if Escaflowne is destroyed, Van will die.
His destiny and Hitomi's are linked, and he is initially dependent on Hitomi's clairvoyant abilities, which save his life more than once. He also holds a grudge against Folken for leaving his native kingdom of Fanelia for Zaibach and Dornkirk for his grand ambitions. Due to being half-Draconian, Van is able to manifest a pair of feathered wings which enable him to fly.