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.
Oh Escaflowne, I do love thee. This is my favorite series to date and is likely to stay that way, but what makes it so appealing?
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.
So I've been patiently watching the series mainly because I have nothing else to do, and tbh I quite enjoyed the first half of the series. And then they lost me. I mean it's a fantasy anime, so a fair bit of leeway has to be given to the plot. I can make my peace with the hidden power of fate that the MC uses. I can deal with the mana-mechanical transformer-bots in a medieval setting. Hell, I can even swallow the uber ridiculous goal of the antagonist to control fate, and in corollary, control the world. Classic Villain. Pretty easy to swallow.
Then it got weird.
There are a bunch of reasons I pretty much hated the series.
1. The antagonists are a fucking joke. First there's Dornkirk who is our classic villain in the shadows, pulling the strings, laughing his evil laugh, who not surprisingly at all started out helping people. His goal is to create a world without war. Now thats very ambitious. More ambitious is his chosen method of accomplishing this goal i.e. controlling fate. You would think that he would take some kind of care in choosing his generals and inner circle.
Which brings me to Folken. Seriously dude? You joined his Hitler-esque cause because you didn't want to kill a dragon? Yeah I know, thats not what happened, but take a moment to think about his actual motivation for joining up with Dornkirk. There really isn't any. I mean I get why the fortune twins fell for Folken, they were half cat so it makes sense for them to unconditionally love the person who saved them. Folken's origin story makes me believe his Draconian mother had intimate relations with a fucking cocker spaniel, because in the end he's basically a rescue.
AND WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THIS DILANDAU CHARACTER? I mean seriously. His only motivation to do anything is "I have a boo boo on my cheek and I must destroy the one who did it and anyone in the way of accomplishing my boo boo revenge". Really man? Is that all there is to you considering how many fucking times you battled the MC?
2. Which brings me to my second point. I don't like to be masturbated without the pleasure of a climax. Van has a hard-on for murdering every minor baddie, but for whatever reason when it comes to Dilandau his sword needs Viagra to function. Not to mention Hitomi's nagging also starts ONLY when Dilandau's close to death. Why? Why is this barely one dimensional character still alive in the 3rd act of the series? Even the final plot twist with this character...WHY? And more importantly HOW? His condition just resolves itself because….profit? This character gave me the biggest murder boner simply because the writers wouldn't kill the little bitch off and kept teasing till the very end.
And after all that "cold as ice" acting , Folken's heart suddenly melts? Because his two pussy cats died? Why? Did I miss something? What was your motivation to join Dornkirk ? What was your motivation in leaving him? Were you sleeping while he slaughtered the first few million people, or did it really take your pussy dying for you to regain your empathy? WTF? THIS, if any of the characters from the antagonists should have been the final conflict. Instead, the writers pussy out and turn him into a good guy at the end. Its pathetic. I bet a nun could jerk me off better than this piece of shit anime.
3. Then there’s… Luck enhanced soldiers made by transfusing synthetic blood created from splicing the genes of the luckiest people…….
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!? WHY NOT A FUCKING SPELL? ITS A MAGICAL WORLD!!! A SPELL WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE BELIEVABLE!!!
Unless you’re as nit picky as me, you probably won't notice, but the mythology and the world design is in a clash in this anime. Much of it is ok, since we waste most of our time with the bland and often interchangeable characters, but for the most part...ehhh...the world isn't believable as either fantasy or science fiction.
4. The two main characters finally fall in love. This love is strong. Its history is epic. It will become a tale retold in many forms. It had the power to overcome fate. There was nothing in the way of the two lovers making a life together. Theirs was a perfect ending. “Well, I have go back to Earth for absolutely no reason at all and pine for my lover for the rest of my life” - Hitomi.
In conclusion, I’ve definitely seen animes with worse characters, story mechanics, mythology and plot. Credit where credit’s due. It isnt the worst thing out there, but make sure you don't watch this anime when you actually have the time to watch it. Watch it while you study for a test or something like that. Keep it in the background so you don't notice the flaws, and you only see the magical transformer robots and furries. At least that way you won't pull your hair out from the frustrating stupidity that is Escaflowne.
Escaflowne is renowned for its soundtrack scored by Yoko Kanno, an epic orchestral voyage to a fantasy land that remains original even today in an era overrun by music for fantasy films and anime, all vaguely familiar with their typical motifs and themes.
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.
Escaflowne is an anime is about a high school girl Hitomi, who is one of the best runners in her school. She also has a gift in fortunetelling and she has a vision of having a weird encounter with a mysterious knight. Then one fateful day this vision becomes a reality when she has a deadly encounter with that knight. If things weren’t strange enough, Hitomi and the knight were suddenly transported back to his world.
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.
It had all the ingredients of a good anime – and yet it failed to please me. I had to force myself to finish it, since I do think that it is worth finishing. After all, the first time I watched it was almost 9 years ago, and I didn’t think it was that bad when I first saw it. I wasn’t able to finish it then so I decided to finish it now.
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.
Escaflowne is in the same generation as other venerated anime titles often fondly reminisced upon by fans, kenshin, trigun, cowboy bebop, and fushigi yugi. Where those titles all had specific target audiences, Escaflowne goes broader, not by distinguishing itself from any set Anime genre, but mixing the staples, or cliché’s of several genres together. Nothing about Escaflowne is very impressive at first. The juxtaposition of a Shoujo cast of main characters and mecha/fantasy war at its bloodiest is novel, but neither individual elements are even close to out of the ordinary. Hitomi, the main character is an understandably reluctant heroin who
also has, as high school kids often do, a romantic interest that is easily piqued. The 2 male protagonists are opposites. 1 is a smooth player, the other a brash but innocent young man. There is a rather typical demented and obsessive villain, who is kept in check by another level headed villain. The characters are certainly not unique, but to be fair in this regard, how many anime characters are? Evengelion aside, I can’t think of another vaguely popular anime of a similar genre that could boast of a cast that is much fresher.
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.
Vision of Escaflowne has something of a name for itself in anime history for being an an attempt to appeal to both shonen and shoujo demographics at the same time. Featuring mechas, swordfights, explosions, stuff burning etc. alongside bishonen male protagonists in a love triangle with the regular everyday girl from another world seems to be a lot of its selling point, and as a result, it's often fondly remembered as a true anime classic of the 90s.
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.
-- Please do not read if you have not watched this and/or do not like any spoilers. Thank you --
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.
I'll keep this one short, based on the most notable points.
For about the first 2/3 of the series:
The anime seems like an action fantasy adventure with romantic potential.
Building the world and demonstrating the power structure progresses.
Character development and relationship building are weak, but present.
For about the last 1/3 of the series:
It's unrealistically anti-war- considering the story.
Things happen pretty close to randomly.
The anime becomes a melodramatic soap opera.
At the end:
The conflict element (& resolution) is severely downplayed
Other dumb, unexplained shit happens.
The shipping... is not satisfying.
It's tough to pinpoint without spoiling, but this is one of those stories where events are strung together, plot points are forced,
and everyone is pretty stupid, so they can choose to move the plot forward.
I had hope from the beginning- No, I actually enjoyed it for a bit-- but I'm glad it's done now.
Hitomi (the female protagonist) is notable as one of the relatively rare, non-sexualized female leads of the time. Unfortunately, they still make her fickle, selfish and shrieky- so she doesn't really do well as a 'hero' or role model- and the ending is just an unexplained illogical, 'pat' ending.
I don't recommend it unless you're a hardcore fantasy fan, can look past large plot holes, and don't mind stupid characters.
For lovers of full-blooded sci-fi fantasy drama, Escaflowne is a must-see. Produced in 1996, this 26-episode series begins in modern-day Japan where we are introduced to Hitomi Kanzaki, an insecure, lovestruck student who has a special gift for telling fortunes using cards. She has eyes for the handsome captain of the boy's track team, but before she can confess her feelings, Hitomi finds herself magically whisked away to a far-off planet known as Gaea. This strange new place is filled with luscious forests and kingdoms that look as though they could have been drawn from 18th Century France, and are inhabited not only by humans,
but by talking humanoid animal creatures as well! Two young men--Van, a brash, hot-headed young prince, and Allen, a charismatically charming knight--vie for Hitomi's affections while their girlfriends, sassy cat-girl Merle and lovely Princess Millerna, become jealous of her. As if this isn't troublesome enough, the entire world of Gaea is at war with the Zaibach Empire, led by the brooding Chief Strategos Folken, sadistically bloodthirsty commander Dilandau, and the shadowy Emperor Dornkirk. What follows is an epic drama that unfolds gradually as Hitomi deals with her feelings for both Van and Allen and the kingdoms of Gaea band together to defeat the opposing Zaibachs.
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.
Escaflowne is an anime in the shoujo genre. Do not let that be a deterrent from watching it though. A massive studio is behind the helm in Sunrise (Gundam), but an unknown director by the name of Kazuki Akane as well. Already, that is two out of three categories that are generally not very popular. Again, do not let those be a deterrent from this gorgeous fantasy-mech anime.
One day, high school girl and track athlete Hitome Kanzaki is transported to a fantasy world where she meets a couple princes, battles with falling in love, and must survive an ongoing war waged on by the Zaibach
Empire. It is during this struggle when Hitomi discovers she has a latent ability within her where she slowly unravels that mystery, as well as Prince Van Fanel and his connection to the giant mech called Escaflowne.
A couple things to note besides the amazing fantasy setting is the art used for the environment, mechs, and character designs. All are done extremely well, a higher standard for the time and amazingly still holds up. The characters designs are very different from the norm, but that just sets a setting in itself to how well everything is made in The Vision of Escaflowne.
Not to mention that this anime has one of, if not, the best music a fan will ever hear. The large orchestral number involved in every battle, every romantic moment, and every minute of Escaflowne are so top-notch, the writing here just can’t do it justice.
The story was clearly written for a much longer series, but after five years of development, being scrapped, then brought back with elements being changed such as: toning down the shonen elements, increasing the shoujo, making the male characters more bishonen, and even remaking the main character; Escaflowne in the end became a wonderful fantasy story that stands out as a top must watch anime.
Unfortunately, the series was cut from 34 episodes to 26 making the ending rushed and leaves a bitter taste once it is all said and done. Luckily, Tenkuu no Escaflowne is so good overall from beginning to almost the end, no other fantasy anime in recent memory stands close to this one.
A few days ago I remembered an anime I used to watch when I was a kid (9 or 10 years old), "Vision of Escaflowne". My memory of it was hazy to say the least. What I did remember were those characters with the long noses, the pretty guy with long blond hair, and a very memorable soundtrack. So I had a strong urge to re-watch it, and I did, unfortunately the result was, my memories of this fairy-tale like anime were shattered.
Escaflowne starts promising (girl travels through worlds, meets knights and royalty, can use magic, some interesting adventures) but
the more episodes you watch the more plot holes appear. Things often made no sense, or they simply ignored important details, added or just changed rules for convenience (to get out of a tricky situation for example). Don't even get me started on the lazy, repetitive dialoges, or how many times a character yells out another ones name to make things 'dramatic'.
Most characters were annoying, mainly because they were walking stereotypes. The antagonist role wasn't really explored, his past, his plans, his purpose (except he wants to destroy the world as we know it and mess with faith), just what was going on in his head? Van's brother suddenly became a good guy and all was forgiven (this could have worked out better if they didn't rush his development, it only took one episode for him to do a 360).
Many elements just got smashed together here; fortune-telling, robots and all kinds of machines (whose origin never was explained), luck enhanced soldiers that defied logic (lack of logic in general), magicians, atlantis, faith everywhere, shoujo romance, and the climax - utter disappointment.
Let's talk about the romance. Three (or more) failed love-triangles, which had ineffective build ups and were executed poorly (I just didn't care anymore at one point, it was too much). The main characters never even showed they really liked each other until we were reaching the end, which was a mistake if that couple was supposed to be the main selling point of this anime, it wasn't believable and I couldn't root for them. And then once Hitomi realizes who she loves (and it was all faith), she leaves his world forever because...? They don't explain that part either, so much for true romance.
Art? Well it's an anime from 1996, so I can't complain, it's actually a pretty good production. The world the director created looks beautiful, that's the one thing my memory hadn't failed me at. As well as the epic soundtrack, it might be the best thing about Escaflowne (later found out it was done by Yoko Kanno) - but nothing can save an anime that has so many inconsequent story lines such as this one, and it's sad because it had potential.
This anime was awesome!
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!
The Vision of Escaflowne is a lesson in a fine art. Taking you through this lesson, is a man by the name of Allen Schezar. Allen Schezar is a certified hunk, gold medalist, PhD in hunkology. This guy knows how to be a hunk and in The Vision of Escaflowne, he takes you through all the important steps on how you at home can be your very own hunk.
Now while at surface level, it may seem that being a hunk is all about good looks. That’s obviously the first step, and it’s not a step that Allen skips out on. This is entry level
stuff of course, but just because it’s entry level, doesn’t mean you’ll get it perfect. In fact, it’s a common rookie mistake to assume that chicks will dig long, tan and handsome. This is not the case. Allen has discovered through years of various flings with princesses that what chicks dig the most is, in fact, 6 foot tall guys with luscious blond locks and a knighthood. They like a little danger, but not too much. They also like a little financial security, but again, not too much.
Now throughout Escaflowne, we see Allen putting a good deal of his skills to the test in an attempt to woo a high-schooler from a foreign planet and a princess on the side just in case, through some enormous miscalculation, he cannot win the heart of the girl easily 10 years younger than him. Near the start of the series, Allen slips in a little cover for her (forgot to mention the high-school girl’s name is Hitomi, not that it’s important, but for distinction) presence at his outpost that she’s a girlfriend of his and things get a little hot under the collar. Now, this is a very important scene to note, as this is Allen showing just how adept he is at capitalising on rare situations to plant the seed in the head of the girl that perhaps, he’s just the right hunk for her. This is just one of many examples where Allen flexes his astute adlib abilities, but more on that later.
Unfortunately for Hitomi, Allen is not the only hunk competing behind the scenes in the great hunk-royale that is Escaflowne. When she is abducted/transported to the planet Gaea in the presence of our intermediate level hunk (also referred to interchangeably as a jack-hunk or a learner-hunk), Van Fanel, who we’ll talk a little more about after this, she leaves behind another hunk whom she was about to make her personal hunk before her untimely departure. So, already Allen is having to compete unbeknownst with this other hunk in a psychological battle right from the beginning, which is nothing to sneeze at for even the most advanced ace-hunk like Allen. But at the same time, Allen must also do battle with Van Fanel, who takes on the role of Hitomi’s side-hunk.
Van takes an interesting approach to hunking, though he may not look it, he certainly knows how to hold his own against Allen. For a start, Van is a king, so Allen’s in some pretty big trouble. Even though he may not be as good a sword-fighter as Allen, he’s getting there, which is almost as interesting for chicks as actually being top trump. Van also has black hair, which you know means he’s incredibly gifted and is passionate about his cause. He’s also within age range, which adds an interesting flavour aaaaaaaaaaand he has a catgirl with pink hair clinging on. Now while the catgirl might not initially appear to have anything to do with it, you’ve got to realise that it adds a sense of game to it for Hitomi, if she wants this hunk, she’s gotta work for him.
BUT WAIT! It may look like Allen’s out of the game at this point, but not to worry as we’re introduced to his side-chick, Millerna and she’s not a catgirl, no, even better: she’s a princess. That’s like, top-tier competition for a schoolgirl.
While it may appear that there’s a story, themes and a plethora of other characters running through Escaflowne, it’s important to note that it’s all just a cover for the hunk-royale. There are several other hunks that make for an interesting clash of the hunks that appear throughout the story such as Dryden and Folken, but how do they fit into the hunk-off? Well, I’ve got to leave some surprises right, just like I’m not going to reveal who wins the hunk-off at the end, but just know it’s a close one!
Overall, I think Allen Schezar is a man who knows his art. For the entirety of the show, he is smooth af and he knows how to slip in and score a couple of extra points when nobody’s paying attention. I recommend this show to anyone who is further interesting in the study of hunkology, or is aspiring to be a hunk themselves. I think Escaflowne is even a good watch for those who are already ace-hunks or king-hunks because I think Allen has a lot to offer to help sharpen your skills.
You'll notice a marked pacifist tone in many of the anime of the 80s and 90s. The horrors of war fresh in the national psyche, anime became a medium of expression for the postwar Japanese artists. Escaflowne is part of the 90s legacy. This 26-episode series was hand drawn from start to finish - even the visceral mecha battles. Though the frames-per-second ratio is a little sparce, the visuals hold up to this day.
Escaflowne is a masterful mix of opposite elements, telling a realistic but fantastical story set in a medieval milieu with sci-fi technology. Though the narrative focuses heavily on emotions, as is common
for shoujo anime, the series boasts enough plot and action to satisfy varied audiences. In fact, the story develops so fast that the 20 minutes per episode feels just barely enough. Every aspect of Escaflowne; plot, characters, soundtrack, themes, visuals, is so tight that the story feels like it expands beyond its boundaries.
Though there's no actual gore, Escaflowne admittedly tilts to the maturer side due to its violence. For instance, the mechas here don't shoot lasers, but wield swords and "liquified metal" which slice through armor and flesh. In this show people die, nations burn, and though the many battle scenes look cool, the violence feels far from glorified. It's actually rather harrowing to watch, even when it's the bad guys who are bleeding.
The cast of characters deserves an honorable mention. The variance is great and you'll find yourself liking many of the personalities, even the chubby moleman to the left. Hitomi is among the most realistic female protagonists you'll find in anime. Also, as a male viewer of shoujo anime, I deeply appreciate it when the creators write male characters that don't just please the target audience, but are also relatable to me.
Escaflowne is an old anime, so your best bet is to download it from a torrent site or Youtube. Another option is scouring internet retailers for used DVDs.
Escaflowne is a mecha, action, romance anime (the best kind) which centers around Kanzaki Hitomi, a high school girl who is magically transported via a beam of light to a fictional planet called Gaea. She meets Van the King of a country named Fanelia who pilots a mysterious mecha called Escaflowne. He is possibly one of the hottest anime guys out there (for reals). She also meets Allen, a knight of a country called Asuturia. There she struggles with her emotions, wishes and the implications they have on the people around her and on Gaea.
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!
I think a lot of you rabid Escaflowne fans are gonna hate me for giving out this rating, which I can understand, but in my book, an 85 out of 100 isn't a bad rating. It doesn't mean I hate the anime. In fact, I really enjoyed Escaflowne. Heck, if I have the money, I can order the box set online and show it to a lot of my friends, as I think they'll really like this kind of anime. I don't deny that I can see why Escaflowne is so revered. It's one of the first anime to throw in both shoujo and shounen
elements into one show. Heck, back in it's heyday, it outsold Gundam of all shows on VHS tape here in the US, and fansubbers jumped on it during the 1990s VHS fansub era, so a lot of people agree that this anime is definitely a classic that should be remembered for all time. Unfortunately...while I do acknowledge it's classic status, I don't agree that it's that great of a show. No no! Don't get me wrong. I still enjoyed it to quite an extent. I'm just going to have to explain myself in this review.
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?!
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.
Story/Characters (8.5/10): Adventure, Fantasy, Mecha, Romance, Divining Powers. This anime used all of these themes beautifully. The plot has many twists and turns with a splash of mythology mixed into it to create a wonderful story. Each of the characters (heroes and villains) have their own detailed back stories that help justify their actions (some more so than others). Their actions were realistic and relatable.
Pacing: The story was very deep/complex but due to the pacing/number of episodes, it could have been better if it was longer. The story moved at a slightly fast paced due to financial reasons and 1/3 of the full series (of
39 episodes) had to be crammed into all 26 episodes. This was most notable in the ending as the entire thing should have been stretched to at least 2 episodes. In addition, the series has minor plot holes placed throughout its entirety.
However, there is a plus side to this. Because everything was crammed into 2 seasons, there is no filler episodes. Every episode is loaded with plot related info. Or, at the very least, its cliffhangers do.
Art/Animation (8/10): The art/animation looks old (when compared to more modern anime) and is very reminiscent of other 90's anime.
Sound/Music (9.5/10): Yoko Kanno, need I say more?
Dub or Sub?: Both. I seen this dubbed and the person who voiced Dilandau portrayed his role very well. For international fans of the show, the German dub cast deserves a huge amount of praise because everyone was perfect. Also, the Latin-American dub was pretty good too, especially Van's voice actor.
Enjoyment (8/10): I enjoyed it, even though it was a re-cut dub. Would I re-watch it? I have no choice, I saw the re-cut Fox Kids English Dub. Knowing that I have to re-watch it in order to fully appreciate the series.
Who Would Enjoy it?: Because of its fast pace, I recommend this to teenages and older. Kids might get lost if they can't keep up with the plot or absorb the amount of info in the plot quick enough.
Summary/Overall (8/10): The series is good. It has minor inconveniences but those can be overlooked. I hoped that the movie was a continuation of the show in order to work out the plot holes but alas it was a simple revision of the series.