My first experience with The Vision of EscaFlowne, which shall hereafter just be called Escaflowne, was as a kid in… junior high, I think. Several episodes aired on Saturday mornings on Fox Kids. I knew from the start that I was missing something, because the supposed first episode began with a summary of the real first episode. Still, it was interesting, had action and tragedy and mystery and such, and the mechanical armor of the knights was a nice touch. I could still tell some censoring was going on, even if I didn’t entirely understand what censoring was at the time. After a few weeks, though, it stopped airing, and my interest in the ending was in vain.
Then, a number of years later, I happened to get my hands on a DVD with the last few episodes of the series, and it was great! Awhile after that, I eventually got my hands on the entire series, and finally got to see the entire show, unedited, from beginning to end!
My first observation there is that whoever decided to put this in front of little kids was obviously suffering from the misunderstanding that all cartoons were meant and made for kids. So, not that aware of anime, then. It’s not like there was any single huge thing, but that might be what the people at Fox Kids thought it was, just one huge thing that can be censored out. Rather, it’s a number of things, large and small, which Western audiences would look askance at the idea of exposing their children to at a young age. Slaying a dragon and carving out its crystalline heart; a young man convulsing as he’s strangled to death by a creature who sucks souls, and who is smothered and crushed in turn; a vision of a rain of blood; a mentally disturbed youth nearly eating a snail; the… ah, intimate nature of a girl teasing her sister about their shared crush; the massive destruction of an army beneath the heel of this fantasy world’s version of a nuke; the violent, bloody deaths of some pivotal figures; the part where a girl was forcibly turned into a boy and reverted back and forth between them before finally staying as a girl.
No, Escaflowne is not what parents would call child-friendly.
That, however, is not a bad thing. It simply… is.
My second observation, when I saw the entire show from start to finish, is that they never really explain the destruction of Atlantis or why people still hate the winged, angel-like Draconians. There’s a scene at the climax of the show which made more sense before I saw the entire show. It has the villain exulting in how he has just made it so everyone’s dreams and wishes will come true and they’ll all be happy. Hitomi, the heroine, tells him, “That’s what destroyed Atlantis!” And it made perfect sense to me at the time, and, on its own, it still does, a’la how everyone was suddenly consumed by what they wanted and were fighting everyone around them for it. But they never really explained that previously, so how did she know? Seriously, I spent the entire series waiting for the big moment where she learned about this, and it never happened. Slightly frustrating, that was.
Then there’s Hitomi’s origin. She is originally just a high school girl, and somehow she gets swept into the fantasy world of Gaea, where the Earth and the moon both hang in the sky above. She has adventures, she falls in love, and then she goes back home. …like, really, that’s basically it. For the role she serves, I didn’t see any purpose to her being from Earth. For all that she comes to love Gaea and the people in it, and they come to love her, the show ends on the bittersweet note of her departure from it. … but why? She could have been happy there, and if she’d been from there, there would be no reason to leave it forever, so why? It was just another complication, an annoyance, and something to make things a little more dramatic. I personally would not have at all minded if she’d never been from Earth in the first place. Then she could just live happily ever after among these people, and that would be that.
Of course, as you may have guessed, I only care about it at all because, like all good stories, Escaflowne makes us care about the characters and what happens to them. Though Hitomi’s little crush at first is misplaced, I do generally like her, and Van, and Allen, and Merle, and all the rest. I like how they treated the villains as well, giving a form of humanity to the actions of Falken, his servants, even the insane Dilandau, and the emperor who tried to control the power of fate. Though I didn’t much appreciate all the romantic relationships, especially when seen against the backdrop of the entire story, I still liked how these people behaved in response to their feelings. They made mistakes, but they tackled those mistakes with a certain level-headed maturity. Things never magically worked out the way anyone wanted, but they did still conclude in a mostly satisfying way.
In every technical aspect, Escaflowne is quite well-crafted. The fights are usually well-done and the action is smooth. The animation is appealing and the backgrounds are pleasant to look at. The technology is interesting and unique to look at, as there aren’t that many medieval mechs even in anime. The story is well-paced, the narrative driven by the characters, and the overriding theme of man’s struggle against predetermined fate is delivered in compelling ways. The dubbing is great, and the music is absolutely beautiful!
The Vision of EscaFlowne is simply a very well-told story, albeit not a flawless one, with interesting characters, a riveting plot, and exciting adventures. I love it.
(all except that ending theme, that was just weird)
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.