Escaflowne is one of the greatest anime of all time.

I'm not kidding*.

With a beautiful soundtrack provided by Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi, excellent character design and animation (typical of most Sunrise releases), and a beautiful story, Escaflowne has quickly become my favorite series, topping even Cowboy Bebop.

Created in 1996, the story follows the journey of Hitomi after she is taken to Gaea following an encounter with Van Fanel and his journey to slay a Dragon.

The show itself is an interesting combination of the Shounen and Shoujo genres, blending wondefully drawn action sequences with a touching story detailing the characters emotional interaction.

Bandai's original USA release occurred in 1997/98, on VHS in a boxed set. They later got the show licensed by Fox, whom were given the show with the dub, music, sfx, and the total show. Fox then promptly hacked it to death. As of late, the show has been canceled from Fox, and Bandai has ceased to distribute the Fox hacked version. Fox's version, to say the very least, is a travesty.

Bandai subsequently began releasing the DVDs quickly after the show was found not to be doing well, in an 8 disc release format (4/4/3/3/3/3/3/3). Correcting many issues people had with the VHS release (no one really liked the covers), Bandai redesigned them. Additionally, on discs 2 and up, Bandai included an extra, "Club Escaflowne," which was included on the Japanese video release. Featuring interviews with the Japanese cast and crew members, it provides wonderful (and very funny) look into the behind the scenes.

While Bandai did acquire new masters for the DVD release, the new masters did not include some footage that was later added by Bandai Visual to the home release.


The following is a (nearly) complete list of all of the episodes, by disc (R1 Bandai Release), of Escaflowne.

Format:
Disc # - Disc Title
#) English Title - Japanese Title (romaji) - Tarot Card

Disc 1 - Dragons and Destiny

1) Fateful Confession - 運命の告白 (Unmei no Kokuhaku) - La Torre
2) The Girl From the Mystic Moon - 幻の月の少女 (Maboroshi no Tsuki no Shoujo) - Il Fusco/La Luce
3) The Gallant Swordsman - 華麗なる剣士 (Karei naru Kenshi) - La Morte
4) The Diabolical Adonis - 魔性の美少年 (Mashou no Bishounen) - L'Impiccato

Disc 2 - Betrayal and Trust

5) The Seal of the Brothers - 兄弟の刻印 (Kyoudai no Kokuin) - Il Giudizio
6) City of Intrigue - 策謀の都 (Sakubou no To) - La Giustiza
7) Unexpected Partings - 予期せぬ別れ (Yokisenu Wakare) - La Carrozza
8) The Day the Angel Flew - 天使の舞う日 (Tenshi no Mau Hi) La Temperanza

Disc 3 - Angels and Demons

9) Memories of a Feather - 羽根の記憶 (Hane Ne no Kioku) - L'Aria/La Vita
10) The Blue-Eyed Prince - 青き瞳の王子 (Aoki Hitomi no Ouji) - La Ambizione
11) Prophecy of Death - 死の予言 (Shi no Hanegoto) - Il Diavolo

Disc 4 - Past and Present

12) The Secret Door - 秘密の扉 (Himitsu no Tobira) - Il Papessa
13) Red Destiny - 赤い運命 (Akai Unmei) - L'Imperatore
14) Dangerous Wounds - 危険な傷跡 (Kiken na Kizuato) - Il Veggente

Disc 5 - Paradise and Pain

15) Lost Paradise - 失われた楽園 (Ushina wareta Rakuen) - La Stella
16) The Guided Ones - 導かれし者 (Michibika reshi Mono) - La Luota
17) The Edge of the World - この世の果て (Kono Se no Hate) - L'Imperatrce

Disc 6 - Fate and Fortune

18) The Gravity of Destiny - 運命の引力 (Unmei no Inryoku) - Il Monde
19) Operation Golden Rule of Love - 恋の黄金律作戦 (Koi no Ougon Ritsu Sakusen) - Il Pazzo
20) False Vows - 偽りの契り (Itsuwari no Chigiri) - La Luna

Disc 7 - Light and Shadow

21) Reaction of Fortune - 幸運の反作用 (Kouun no Hanchiyou) - Il Papa
22) The Black-Winged Angel - 黒き翼の天使 (Kuroki Tsubasa no Tenshi) - Il Sole
23) Storm Premonition - 嵐の予感 (Arashi no Yokan) - La Terra/La Legge

Disc 8 - Forever and Ever

24) Fateful Decision - 運命の選択 (Unmei no Sentaku) - L'Elemita
25) Zone of Absolute Fortune - 絶対幸運圏 (Zettai Kouun Ken) - La Forza
26) Eternal Love - 永遠の想い (Eien no Omoi) - L'Amore


*Seriously. I paid near full retail for the entire series. I NEVER do that!

Vision of Escaflowne, or Escaflowne, is a TV series and a movie produced by Bandai and Sunrise. And, it is, truly, one of the best animes ever created.

The TV show

The TV story starts off in Japan, where Hitomi Kanzaki is running time trials for her school's track team. Then the hallucinations start. She sees a boy about her age dressed in funny clothes and armor, with a long sword. Later, while trying to win over her "object d' drool" the strange boy and a land dragon are transported via strange beam of light to Earth. When the dragon is killed, the boy, Van Fanel, and Hitomi are both transported back to Van's home world via beam of light. Gaea. Once there, Hitomi is a guest in the kingdom of Fanelia, of which Van is just about to be crowned King. Then an invisable enemy attacks, Fanelia is destroyed, Van, Hitomi, and Van's Guymelef (a mecha) called Escaflowne are all transported to the wilds of Asturia, where they meet Allen Schezar. Allen takes them to the capital of Asturia and they are reunited with Merle, a cat-girl who hangs onto Van as if they were newly weds. As the story progresses we learn that an evil empire, Zaibach, is attempting to control all of Gaea using the "Atlantis Machine" which can control fate. Zaibach is trying to revive Atlantis to create a peaceful world; through war. Things happen, stuff goes on, big giant war, everyone goes mental, love is professed, the end.

What? complaining about the lack of detail in my plot summary? Well, it's near impossible to explain *just* the basic plot of Escaflwone. There are at least six back stories that get explained within the series, and many more that do not. These aren't just your ordinary run of the mill one episode dedicated to that back story either. They're richly detailed back stories that really f up the 'simple' divided-by-love plot. I can't really tell you much about anything with out ruining the truly visionary story that is Escaflowne. Plus a lot of the plot will be explained in the Character section, so just be patient.

Episodes

  1. Fateful Confession
  2. The Girl From the Mystic Moon
  3. The Gallant Swordsman
  4. The Diabolical Adonis
  5. The Seal of the Brothers
  6. City of Intrigue
  7. Unexpected Partings
  8. The Day the Angel Flew
  9. Memories of a Feather
  10. The Blue-Eyed Prince
  11. Prophecy of Death
  12. The Secret Door
  13. Red Destiny
  14. Dangerous Wounds
  15. Lost Paradise
  16. The Guided Ones
  17. The Edge of the World
  18. The Gravity of Destiny
  19. Operation Golden Rule of Love
  20. False Vows
  21. Reaction of Fortune
  22. The Black-Winged Angel
  23. Storm Premonition
  24. Fateful Decision
  25. Zone of Absolute Fortune
  26. Eternal Love

Characters

Hitomi - the girl from the Mystic Moon. She's the main character of the series. She has a typical case of female teen angst and is consequently torn between her feelings for Allen and Van. On Earth, she was very good at reading Tarot Cards, but in Gaea, her fortune telling *always* comes true. She has a seemingly magical pendant that ends up, as it is, contains the secret of Atlantis.

Van - King of Fanelia, pilot of the Ispano Guymelef called Escaflowne, and a stubborn bastard. He learns how to imitate Hitomi's ability to see the invisible Zaibach Guymelefs (they have invisibility cloaks) and because of that, and his blood union with Escaflowne, he goes mental. He's in love with Hitomi, but he doesn't realize it.

Allen - Knight of Asturia, playboy extraordinaire, blonde bombshell; as far as animated men go anyway. He falls in love with almost all the female characters in the series, and even some that are dead. For the longest time it seems that Allen is nothing but a character merely thrown in the show to create tension between Van and Hitomi and cause problems with their relationship. You're thinking that throughout the whole series but then... oh, no... wait, yea that's his only purpose.

Folken - Van's older brother. He was 'killed'/'ran away' during the Dragon-slaying-ritual-to-become-king and ended up becoming Zaibach's Strategist and one of the Empire's premiere Sorcerers. He has been destined to die, but wants to create a perfect, peaceful world before he does.

Merle - cat girl! Complete with tail, ears, skirt that doesnt cover anything, and a lack of underwear! She hangs onto Van as if she was a permanent attachment to his clothing. Early on she senses that Hitomi and Van have... chemistry, so she becomes Hitomi's rival, of sorts, but still seeks comfort from her.

Dilandau - look kids! It's everyone's favorite schizophrenic transgender psychopathic blood thirsty villain!

Dornkirk - the emperor of Zaibach. He is a mysterious and very very old man. He built and operates the Atlantis Machine, which includes a Fate Alternator and something along the lines of a Destiny Predictor. He's trying to use the two to bring peace to Geae with war.

Millerna - A princess of Asturia, she is in love with Allen, but is arranged to marry the merchant named Dryden. She is not the stereotypical princess. She does laundry.

Dryden - The wealthiest merchant on Gaea, he is in love with Millerna. He sits in as king of Asturia for some reason, and aides Van in paying for some massive repairs for Escaflowne.


Opinions

Ooooooooooooooooooh my god it's Escaflowne. Beautiful. I kiss you Escaflowne. I kiss you. All my base are belong to you. Your animation is beautiful, your story is deep, and your music is the bestest ever. Your voice actors fit their roles perfectly. mmmm... Escaflowne. Everyone should watch and enjoy you. You're a classic. If anyone is even remotely interested in watching anime they should see you first. But not in English. I spit on your English voice actors and scripters. pa-too.

IF YOU WATCH THIS ANIME IN ENGLISH I WILL PERSONALLY GOUGE YOUR EYES OUT AND EAT YOUR EARS.

Ah, Escaflwone, you're wonderful. If only they scripted the English parts better... and fixed those inconsistencies. Damn those inconsistancies. One minute Hitomi doesn't have her gym bag, and the next she has Yukari's (best friend) gym bag with Hitomi's stuff in it! And don't get me started on Van's shirt... Or Hitomi's inexplicable clothes changing in between two episodes. Seriously Escaflowne, your bloopers rival cheap American cartoons... But I love you anyway.





THE MANGA

So the Vision of Escaflowne manga has just been released in the United States by TokyoPop. Well. One of the manga series. There are two, apparently.

TokyoPop has a decently lengthy (half a page; shut up, I think it's long) explination as to the origin of Escaflowne. It's the brain child of Hajime Yatate and Shoji Kawamori. They developed the anime first. Then, two manga artists, Yuzuru Yashiro and Katsu Aki took the ideas for the anime and created two series of novels with the Escaflowne name. One shoujo, one shonen; one for girls, one for boys, respectively. The one currently being released by TokyoPop is the Aki's shonen manga. Which is much more lengthy in volumes (aka, not a total of two, like the shoujo).

Since sappy romance (no matter how many angst ridden transvestites piloting giant robots you have) doesn't really sell to boys, the shonen manga is much more... chauvinistic...


Take everything you know about Escaflwone from the anime series. Everything. Ok. Now chuck it out the window. Just forget about it. The shonen manga is nothing like that beyond character names, general plot, and... yea that's about it. Hitomi is a shy nerd girl with HUGE glasses, Van is a complete ass. and the artwork is much more rough and not cutesy-wutesy.

Oh, and Hitomi ends up transforming into a hot randomly-naked blonde chick. Regularly.

Continuing on with character differences, Allen doesn't change. He's still the really good looking blonde swordsman. Same personality too.

As mentioned before Van's a total ass. He's angry, spiteful, and not even half as "good" looking as he was in the anime. Imagine a hair-do out of Ranma 1/2 with Inuyasha's immature angsty attitude in a suit of armor, that just happens to co-pilot a giant robot with an uptight chick that keeps transforming into a randomly-naked blonde chick. Van is much funnier in the manga than in the anime. And I quote, from the scene just after Allen pounds Van's guymelef into the ground (first meeting)...

Hitomi: Cut it OUT, Van! We should try talking to this guy.
Van: Talking's for pussies! And he started it.
Hitomi: You have some serious issues with anger management.
Van: I'll, uh, anger manage your face.... yeah...

So he's an immature ass. A funny one, but one nonetheless. Oh, he's also -really- short.

The only other character change so far is Dilandau. He's no longer the pschotic bishonen of the anime. He's actually smart, thoughtful, and looks more like a girl than he does a guy. So far, he's the main bad guy, no one but him has been presented just yet.

One other fundamental difference is the artwork. Clearly, since it's a different artist. But still. It's different. It's much more... filled with testosterone. And blood. Much more to my personal liking than the anime. Maybe because I have a penis. Maybe. The guymelef designs aren't radically different, but they are fundamentally different.

The ones in the manga look cooler.

The only remaining difference is the fundamental plot. Based off of the first four episodes of the anime, you can't really get a sense of where the plot leads, except that the anime is A. a romance above all else, and B. There is definitely a bad guy that may or may not get his ass whopped on. Based on the first volume of manga, you can tell A. HEY! Van's mother has been kidnapped!! (mother complex? I think so); and B. There is going to be serious ass kicking later on.

There are other minor differences. Like how Hitomi has to be in the cockpit of Escaflowne for it to work; since she's the Energist that powers it (and therefore feels its pain also). Escaflowne also turns out to be Fanelia's "Gaurdian Diety." A god, to its people. Go figure. At the end of the manga, it is made clear that there will be many many side quests and volumes of manga before the final volume where Van saves the day. Much different from the direct route of the anime.

So there you have it. The fundamental differences between the anime and the shonen manga. It's not even close to comparable. So forget what you know about the anime when you read it.

Vision of Escaflowne is unique in that it is one of the few anime series that manages to deviate from the typical "good guy kills bad guy, bad guy dies" plot and yet does not degenerate into rambling poetic chaos. Its plot roughly follows a "good guy fights bad guy, bad guy turns to good guy" storyline. Oh, that's in addition to the beautiful animation and backdrops too.

The mecha design is excellent work - outlandish enough to constantly remind you that this is most definitely not Earth, yet sylish enough to make you hungry for another mecha fighting scene. In-between the fights, the sub-plots keep you glued to your seat. You don't find yourself asking "so, what happened next?", simply because they flow so well. You hardly have enough time to digest what you've just seen before scene smoothly transitions into the next sub-plot, or another fight scene.

The story is driven by lots of philosophy. Hitomi dabbles in tarot readings while Donkirk drivels on about Destiny. Alan and Van never stop wondering what their purpose in life is. Nothing as deep as Serial Experiments Lain, but it's enough to get you thinking about the characters, so you don't sit through the entire series with a blank look on your face. the poetry isn't in the storyline; it's in the dream sequences. Enjoy them while they last

The characters are human. Not in the I'm-too-weak-too-help-myself way reminiscent of the children of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but in the I'm not just some cute guy/girl-with-personality-quirks way. Alan is a big flirt, and he hates his father. Hitomi is inherently selfish and hesitant. Van is inexperienced and arrogant. The way these faults play themselves out lend lots of credibility to the characters (their actions never feel unnatural to me), and to the overall experience that is Escaflowne.

The bad guys are not for comic relief, and neither are they there for the hating. Folken, the anti-hero, is hardly hateable. He has his own side of his story, and *surprise* it's not one of those I was once good but something happened and now I'm full of hatred stories. He was misguided, and after he realises his mistake he is truly regretful. In some ways I liked him more than I liked Van, and I really felt it when he died near the end of the series. Dilandau may seem like another psychotic maniac, but there's good reason for that. His character is not as thoroughly explored as the other main characters, but he has the distinction of being the most surprising twist in the series. Donkirk is hard to like, but you will admit that he has good reason to do what he does. He's a scientist at heart, and a rather cruel one at that. Even he, the most mysterious character in the series, has his story, and short backstory that is explained in the series. This fact alone is testament to the depth of character development evident thrughout the series.

The only part of this series that lets it down is the ending. Everyone I know who has watched the series asks the same question right at the end: That's it? This series deserves a more cathartic ending (but sadly does not get it, even in the subsequent OVA, A Girl In Gaea). However, it does not detract from the whole Escaflowne experience - it's just a minor detail that could have been done much better.

As mentioned in bishopred1's w/u, the storyline suffers from minor inconstitencies. Again, these do not kill the series, but they are irritating. Try not to notice them. And no matter what your circumstance, never settle for the English version. The horrible voice acting will completely put you off and give you a really bad impression of the series, even before the real thing has a chance to impress. Do yourself a favour and get the Japanese version. Most of them will have English subtitles (which are somewhat poorly translated, but they'll do). Enjoy.

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