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Escaflowne, The Vision of Review

Genres: Mecha Fantasy Romance All
Series' Year of Release: 1996
Number of Episodes: 26
Review Date: 17-6-2009
Review Language: Dub
Review DVD Region: R4 Available in Australia
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

The story of Escaflowne is the story of Hitomi’s journey through the conflict building in the world of Gaea. She finds herself transported there after Van, king of Fanelia, appears in her world fighting a dragon. Soon after arriving in Van’s kingdom it’s overrun by forces of the Zaibach Empire, despite the efforts of Van himself piloting his mecha the Escaflowne. The trouble is Hitomi foresaw this terrifying event in a vision; the first of many. Her prophetic ability will be key to the outcome of the coming conflict.

escaflowne001The Vision of Escaflowne or Escaflowne for short is a combination of fantasy based mecha and shoujo. It’s mecha told from the perspective of the girl and not the pilot. So it has a strong focus on relationships but still has plenty of action. The series was originally intended to run for 39 episodes but was unfortunately cut to 26.

escaflowne044In addition to the central characters of Hitomi and Van there’s also Alan and the supporting cast of Merle (a cat girl) and Millerna (third princess of Asturia) to name a few. Alan is a knight, mecha (known as Guymelefs) pilot, of the kingdom of Asturia and shelters Van and Hitomi after the Zaibach raid. He’s also a love interest for Hitomi competing with Van. Princess Millerna loves Alan as well so you can see the Shoujo influences coming through in spades. That’s not half the story though as Alan has quite the scandalous past. And Van’s got a tragic past all of his own. These character threads are interwoven with the war against Zaibach. It works brilliantly for the most part hitting its stride when it gets into Alan’s history.

escaflowne051Hitomo’s role in things is repetitious to begin with, she’s always rushing in at the last moment saving someone from certain death. She’s also almost exclusively interested in character relationships (“Does Alan hate me now?”) ignoring the conflict going on around her. Things change when her prophetic ability becomes central to the storyline. The start of this series is decidedly rough because of this and the characters don’t come across as all that likeable. No one seems to care how or why someone from Earth (the Mystic Moon) ends up on Gaea and Hitomi doesn’t query the presence of animal people which populate the land. The series isn’t helped by the paltry three episodes per volume but it picks up quickly.

escaflowne049The show’s story revolves around themes of fate and love. Thankfully unlike the protagonist in Macross Frontier Hitomi does make a choice between her love interests in the end. On the topic of the ending it happens quickly and lacks sufficient explanation. Some of what was said by the villain of the story seemed to contradict his aims through the series and other events I just didn’t agree with. No one experiencing war would wish for it to continue. Another episode would have straightened everything out and given us more information about what happened to the characters after the war. Hitomi’s decision (not her love interest choice) certainly needed better explanation.

escaflowne052The animation despite being drawn in 1996 hasn’t dated too badly. The backgrounds are still high quality and the mech fights are all hand drawn rather than the sometimes terrible CG we’re stuck with these days. Mechs fighting with swords is something that should happen more often. Some of the character designs remind me of another classic anime – Trigun. Escaflowne’s music is outstanding and well befitting a classic show such as this. It’s a powerful orchestrated sound complete with a chanted(“Esca..flowne” repeated) theme song. The OP song No Need to Promise by Maaya Sakamoto combines amazingly well with the animation to produce one of the most beautiful openings ever. The elegant mech fight occurring in the distance is a standout moment. The ED, Mystic Eyes by Hiroki Wada, on the other doesn’t leave nearly the same impression simply panning over character shots.

Escaflowne starts out roughly, none of the characters come across as that likeable, but it soon comes good. The series hits its stride when the character’s pasts are explored and Hitomi’s ability becomes central to the storyline. The fusion of shoujo elements with fantasy mecha certainly works in the long run although it's irritating when Hitomi focuses so much on relationships. In short the Vision of Escaflowne is remembered as a classic series for a reason.