Wed, 12 Oct 2005
Was it a dream? Or a vision?
Hitomi Kanzaki is a high-school student and a member of the school athletics team. Once when she has been trying to beat her record at 50m run, she has seen a strange man fighting a dragon. Her visions then continued, and she was taken to the strange land named Gaea, where medieval-style kingdoms were just about to start the war. Hitomi, who has always been interested in questions about fatality and predestination, finds out that she can occasionally forecast the near future using her pendant or the tarot cards. She joins Van (the guy who has fought the dragon) in his land, called Fanelia, where Van starts to learn fighting using a huge armored robot Escaflowne.
The series Tenkuu no Escaflowne (Vision of Escaflowne) is the story about Hitomi and her allies, who are fighting to survive the attacks of the Zaibach empire, and, eventually, to defeat the emperor.
Being one of the most popular anime series ever, Escaflowne of course brings many expectations. However, I must say I was a bit disappointed. While I can fully understand why it is so popular, it had serious flaws which lowered the enjoyment from this series even to the point I thought I would quit watching it.
When I think about it, the single biggest problem in this series can be named "unlikable characters". I did not like the character design with unusually big noses, and I did not like the main characters themselves: Hitomi is just a hysterical girl who is not able to decide whether her heart is with Van, with Allen, or even with Amano. Van is just a hot-headed guy who can be confused by his first defeat. And Allen? Is he a noble knight and an excellent swordsman, or a playboy trying to get every female person he meets? Even the "why is the Escaflowne so special and why only Van can pilot it" part of the story is not much interesting (especially when compared to the similar story of Eva 01 in NGE :-). When one watch the story about characters he does not like, even the best stories can get boring.
On the positive side, the "big picture" (or a background story) is pretty interesting, and I liked it. The politics behind the Zaibach empire, and the genesis of the war in Gaea where deep and well described. Also, while I did not like the main characters (maybe with the exception of a funny cat-girl Merle), the "dark side" was quite interesting and believable. This includes all the main villains - Folken, Dilandau, and especially Isaac. The background music by Yoko Kano (Cowboy Bebop, X TV, amongst others) adds also few positive points to the series, as it helps to emphasize the atmosphere of many scenes. The opening and ending songs were nothing special, though. The fighting scenes are well done, as is the animation in the other parts of Escaflowne. The "mecha" genre now for once means the robots are mechanical, not some living biotech as in Eva or RahXephon.
Overall, I think Escaflowne tries to mix too many genres - mecha action, historical settings, romance, drama, and mystery into one story. This means that action fans will get bored during the drama scenes, and those who enjoy the unfolding the psychological background of the characters will bet bored during the action scenes. Add the unlikable characters to the mix, and the result cannot be enjoying. My recommendaton: try to watch the first few episodes yourself, maybe you will not find the leading characters as annoying as I did.
- The Escaflowne Compendium - the most comprehensive fan-site about the Escaflowne world.
- Escaflowne at AniDB
- Escaflowne at AnimeNFO
- Review at Manga.CZ (in Czech)