It’s about time an Escaflowne post appeared on this blog. I first watched it a couple years ago and talked about it with a collab with other bloggers considering that one blogger was watching it around the same time. You can read this on Lita’s blog here. Still, it never made an appearance here yet. You know, despite the fact that I fell for the show during that watch along. Here I am after another rewatch of the show and I can’t help but love it yet again. There is just something about it’s all encompassing nature of genres and it’s large, fantastic cast that just works in Esaflowne’s favor. One could easily call this show an isekai story with some romance in it. it is, but Escaflowne is also a lot more then that. It’s a piece of fiction that you can’t find in a lot of places. Pieces of media that are similar to it do exist, but they are never Escaflowne.
For all of that talk, Escaflowne starts off rather simply. Hitomi Kanzaki is high school running student who has visions of a guy in another world. She also has a crush on runner by the name of Amano who is about to move away soon. Knowing that’s going to happen, she makes a bet with Amano that if she runs her sprint in less then ten seconds, they will both get their kiss. A bet that he takes up. Using her pendant that mysteriously keeps time like a stop watch, she does her sprint. Unfortunately, she never completes her sprint because the boy from her vision and a dragon appear on the high school track. Who is that appear? Prince Van of Fanaelia who is out for his dragon hunt before officially becoming the king. The ancient Fanaelia right of passage. After Hitomi saves Van’s life and helps him kill the dragon, the two go back to the mysterious Land of Gaea that Van came from. From there, all hell breaks loose when Van gains the capability to control the great mecha, Escaflowne known to the enemies as the dragon.
The Vision of Escaflowne is a twenty six episode series which splits easily into two halves. The first half is classic fantasy material with Hitomi’s growing power and presence in the mix changing things up. It involves an evil, mysterious empire called Zaibach destroying Fanelia and constantly getting in the way of our protagonist group as often as they can. Destroying Fanelia was the most blatant thing they’ve done considering that there is a balancing of minds on the attack first. The mysterious Folken is a much more subtle bad guy who finds his own way into worming their way into the different kingdoms of Gaea without much effort. On the other hand, there is Lord Dilandau who just wants to attack, attack, attack with his invisible mecha groups. It’s that balance which causes more and more trouble as things continue for our protagonists and the villains themselves.
Escaflowne’s pacing is incredibly fast in it’s first half, but yet everything feels complete and whole somehow. How that works in my mind is by using relationships between characters to establish each person and make them grow. Escaflowne is famous for it’s love triangle, right? I can easily say that there is much more to this love triangle then it just being a love triangle. In fact, there is two love triangles where that Hitomi is the only person connecting the two. In the beginning when She and Van are making their way while being followed on the Escaflowne, there is also Van’s childhood friend Merle who wants to protect Van and his secrets at all costs. Then as the three move around and Hitomi is saved by an older knight by the name of Alan who has his own crew of knights, there is also a slightly older then Hitomi princess by the name of Milerna that also loves Alan. It’s those sort of love triangle relationships that develop these characters as they go on.
That’s not where those relationships end because there are more complications here.. For one thing, Van and Alan are two sides of the same coin. Van is a young knight that immediately wants revenge on Zaibach for the death of his kingdom and who can blame him for that. Of course, he’s also hot blooded and completely inexperienced in actual combat, but he tries to use ever weapon to his advantage like the Escaflowne and Hitomi’s fortunes. On the other hand is Alan, an older and more mature knight who used to be a bit of a playboy and is much more relaxed and experienced in terms of combat. He’s a guy who know who he is so he knows where his weaknesses are. Also, he’s a bit of a chauvanist in the beginning when he meets Hitomi too. Plus, Minerva has her own love triangle when a brilliant and ruggedly attractive merchant she’s engaged by the name of Drydan
Can we just give Hitomi Kanzaki a lot of credit for being such a great protagonist? Hitomi isn’t the type of person who stays quiet and listens to what Alan had to say. No, the important part of the plot is her standing up for herself and proving she can do other things then just being the quiet one in the corner. With her growing mystical capabilities in the land of Gaea, she could find Zaibach units when they are invisible which becomes a great help in combat, can predict future events, and find where people are with her ability. That’s not all she can do that. In the second half, we learn the larger stakes of the series as a whole as her ability grows. She could have never had any of these abilities if she never stood up for herself and made her abilities and usefulness clear in the greater scheme of things. Her only weaknesses are not being able to pilot mecha, having a hard time choosing who to love, and her own sense of humanity for the chaos she created. If Hitomi could do those things, she would be unstoppable. That’s why she is so compelling.
With all of that, let’s talk about the second half. This second portion of The Vision of Escaflowne is where everything becomes much more science fiction in nature. Alongside Hitomi’s growing power is the power of Atlantist that was set up in the first half, Zaibach’s production of the Fate Desolation engine which hampers our protagonists even further, and the motivation of Zaibach from their emperor Dornkirk to split up Van and Hitomi for them to see the future. Yeah, the show ships the two and the villains ship Alan and Hitomi instead for their plots. If you support Alan and Hitomi, you are supporting the enemy. I said it, what you are going to do about it? Plus, there is a little element of peace instead of war that makes it head into Escaflowne in the second half of the second half. It’s a lot to ask for when it comes to plot development and character arcs, but Escaflowne is able to put all of those elements together in a mostly completely package. If anything, the character relationships and arcs do come to a conclusion along with an end to the conflicts at hand so everything is mostly successful in the end.
I have to be honest when I say that I never completely understood people’s dislike or criticisms for a lot of the plot elements and character things which happened in the second half of The Vision of Escaflowne. In terms of pacing, it’s just as fast as the snappy paced first half. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the world is not as developed as it could be because it didn’t spend as much time developing everything as it could have? Not a fault for the series really because that would have dragged the show down. Still, there are many aspects of Gaea were still left unexplored in the end which is fine because it makes the world feel more realistic and breathable. The only major complaints that I have is a revelation toward the end which came completely out of nowhere and maybe the ending itself which makes sense but doesn’t at the same time? The plot revelation did just come out of nowhere with not a lot of development into why and the ending itself was disappointing considering it has to do with romance after all. I mean, that was an important theme of the show. Doesn’t stop Hitomi’s wonderful arc from concluding in a beautiful way. Almost made me cry
In order for a fast paced series to work, it’s going to need larger amount of beautiful visuals to accompany it and I think they more then do that here. Despite the large noses that everyone has, I really love the character designs in Escaflowne. They are all classic shoujo fantasy designs with characters with male characters with longer hair and very prince like designs and most female characters wearing flowy dresses. Then there is Hitomi who shows up in her school girl and gym outfits with short, running hair and Van who has short, black hair and wears a red t-shirt and khakis despite him being a king. I kind of love that fact because it makes the two fit because of their outside nature. I also love the lord of the rings sort of feel where the protagonists have very classical medieval cities and structures while Zaibach capital looks like a city from Blade Runner and is full of gross technology. Add in some good, distinctive animation like how ships fly or Hitomi’s constant track running and you have something special.
As this is a mecha series, I do have to talk about those and the mechanical design in the first place. The mecha in this series are called guymelefs. SOME OF THEM HAVE CAPES! cheers violently But anyway, just like the cities in each country’s locations, I really do love how the ships and mecha from each nation easily fit into their country’s mystique. Zaibach’s floating ships look like cities and the technological aspects go into their mecha because who look like their floating ships when flying and having their own fun designs otherwise. Them turning invisible and using liquid metal is pretty cool too and shows how far ahead they are technologically. Heroes having to use magic to be equal only makes sense. I also love the medieval look of friendly and allied Gymelefs all look like giant knights. Like, the Escaflowne and Alan’s mecha do look similar because of that aspect besides the color. The difference is that the Escaflowne is white and can turn transform into a dragon form to fly. I know that Shoji Kawamori is behind the mecha designs, but extra points for making the Escaflowne special in its transformed state. All the mecha action in this show is just fire.
The Vision of Escaflowne is a special anime for me in a lot of ways. I never expected to like it as much when I bought the blu-ray on a whim a while ago, but it is just stuck in the back of my mind almost all the time. It really is a good combination of multiple genres that I like, but the relationships and romance behind the story is that cherry or bow on top that connects everything together into a complete package. Is it flawless? No. Nothing is. I think the speed of the show still takes away a lot of elements from the world of Gaea and I don’t think that anything could change my mind with that aspect. Still, the result ends up with more gains then losses. The Vision of Escaflowne is an romantic isekai classic that everyone should watch at least once in their life. Being a fan of older anime doesn’t color all of my tastes toward anime as a whole, but I think that Escaflowne really does effect how I see modern isekai anime that are just fantasy stories. That’s not all modern isekai, but definitely more then a few of them. Absolutely solid show.