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The Vision of Escaflowne – Anime Review

The Vision of Escaflowne – Anime Review
Book Name: The Vision of Escaflowne
Author: Directed by Kazuki Akane
Publisher(s): Sunrise
Formatt: DVD
Genre(s): Fantasy / Adventure / Romance
Release Date: April 2, 1996 - September 24, 1996

Hitomi Kanzaki is a Japanese high school student who reads the tarot and practices athletics. Hopelessly in love with her team’s captain, she decides to confess her love in a somewhat curious fashion: she asks for him to join her in the athletics track and, should she break her previous record, to give her her first kiss.

Things don’t come out as expected, however: when Hitomi is halfway through the race, a pillar of light appears in front of her, followed by a young man and an enormous dragon. After a long fight, the mysterious young man manages to slay the dragon, ripping out its heart.

Before Hitomi can recover from the shock, the pillar of light appears again, taking her and the young man to Gaia, a strange world from which both the Earth and moon can be clearly seen. The man presents himself as Van Fanel, prince of the kingdom of Fanelia. In order to become king, tradition demands he kills a dragon and uses its heart to give energy to the guymelef (giant robot) that has been associated to his family since time immemorial: Escaflowne.

So it is that one of the greatest classics of fantasy anime, The Vision of Escaflowne, begins. Its twenty six episodes aired between April and September of 1996, but despite its age it’s far from antiquated.

The first element that draws the attention is the emphasis put on the character’s emotions: from Hitomi, caught between the love she feels for two men and the longing for her home and her friends, to Van, king of Fanelia, torn between getting revenge of those who devastated his kingdom and ensuring peace for his suffering subjects. The series spends a long time pondering about these and other emotional issues, which might come as a bit of a shock for those expecting a show of nothing but action and war, with a little romance thrown in just for flavour. In the long term, however, it pays to follow the characters’ evolution closely, for the final conflict isn’t one that can be solved just by slaughtering all who oppose the heroes, and the way they feel and act becomes as capital for their success as a strong arm.

Other interesting element in the series refers to the mechs’ solid design. In harmony with Gaia’s nature as a medieval fantasy world, they look like giant-sized suits of armor, rather than truly technological constructs. In contrast, the mechs that come from the tyrannical and hyper-technologized empire of Zaibach are very similar to the robots we all know from other anime series.

There’s only one aspect of the series in which its age truly shows, and that’s its animation: even though it’s very good and fluid for its time, it can’t be compared with that of modern anime series.

Those who have read some of my other reviews might have noticed how important the way female characters are treated is for me. One of Escaflowne’s most glaring flaws is in this aspect. Allow me to explain:

At first sight, it might look like female characters receive a fairly egalitarian treatment. After all, the main character is a young girl, and the presence of two very capable female soldiers later in the series seems to indicate that they are not treated merely as damsels in distress.

Despite these two points being true, all the women of the series suffer from what I like to call the “Éowyn Syndrome”. No matter how capable they are of taking care of themselves, or how much of the story revolves around them, the whole point of their existence seems to be getting the affection of a man, like Éowyn in the Lord of the Rings who, despite vanquishing one of the most powerful evils in middle earth, ends up as little more than a glorified housewife. Even in the case of the two soldier women, their only desire is to fulfill their master’s wishes. While romance is an excellent addition to many anime series, it becomes really annoying when it’s a character’s only motivation, turning them into cardboard parodies.

Despite this flaw, The Vision of Escaflowne is very well worth watching. It makes a very interesting mix between the usual elements of shonen anime (war, revenge, giant robots) and those of shojo (stylized characters, great attention to the characters’ feelings and emotions, and romance) without either of them becoming boring or tedious.

I imagine that among Fantasy-Faction’s audience there are at least a few men or women who might like to introduce people of the opposite sex into their hobbies. Escaflowne is especially recommended for them.

Reviewer’s Note: This is a translation based on a review I wrote for the Spanish magazine nosolofreak.


One Comment

  1. Anne Lyle says:

    Great review, Juan! Escaflowne is one of my all-time favourite anime series (along with Cowboy Bebop and basically anything with a Yoko Kanno soundtrack) – it’s a crazy mashup of shounen (boys’) and shoujo (girls’) tropes that somehow manages to hang together coherently 🙂

    TBH the “Eowyn syndrome” didn’t bother me too much, because I kind of expect teen drama to be all about the romance. Also, a friend and I worked out that the three princesses (Marlene, Eries and Millerna) bear remarkable parallels to the three sisters in Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”, down to their initials!

    Definitely worth looking for on DVD, especially if you’ve only ever seen the cut-down version (read, most of the romance scenes deleted and some images edited for gore!) that was broadcast on Fox Kids.

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