Escaflowne

Alt titles: Vision of Escaflowne

Reviews

VivisQueen's avatar By on Aug 27, 2007

Story

Escaflowne is an excellent example of several good elements coming together to form a fantastic whole. To say the plot is about a girl from Earth being transported to another world where she must help defeat an evil empire is like pointing at the Sistine Chapel ceiling and saying ‘this is a painting'. There really is just much more to it than that. Several deeper ideas are explored here - including the question of whether or not we are slaves to destiny and whether we have the right to re-forge destiny's chains - which add an unexpected tone of sophistication to the story.

In terms of plot structure, this is an elegant show with an effortless intuition for pace and timing; for example, the way the story reveals the true meaning behind ‘the dragon' is perfectly timed for maximum appreciation. In addition, the series displays an uncanny ability to weave together a substantial tapestry of subplots, which not only prove interesting in themselves, but also help give a rich understanding of the milieu. Lastly, Escaflowne attains the kind of epic scope in twenty-six episodes that it takes others such as Full Metal Alchemist fifty or more to achieve, meaning there is a consistent stream of quality with no filler or blind spots.

By the time the final two episodes arrive, enough has been going on throughout the series that it is possible to see a general shape, although the actual events turn out to be both inventive and refreshing. What I enjoy time and time again about the ending is the way in which it can be interpreted emotionally in various ways and, more importantly, the way the story portrays the saving grace of love without resorting to cheesy gimmicks.

In essence, Escaflowne is a deep enough show but admirable especially for its skillfully presented scope. I just never get sick of its classic feel.


Animation

The animation is good considering the series' mid-nineties era, although not groundbreaking in any technical sense. Against newer productions, it is also hopelessly dated. During wide shots of melees and busy towns, the animation becomes static and the use of still frames and repeat frames is common. Moreover, for some reason, the dragons, in contrast to the rest of the show, are CG animated. Their glossy, metallic skin gives them an unearthly look on the one hand, but on the other hand, makes them look terribly misplaced in the frame. Luckily their role is so tiny that they appear only twice.

Still, battles are animated competently throughout, with swords clashing in silver streaks and warriors swerving in smooth motions during close-ups. My favourite scenes are those involving Van in his guymelef, when the animation really conveys the weight of the Escaflowne.

What is noteworthy about the series, though, is the sheer level of beauty and detail of the world concept; from sumptuous cities and the intricate guymelef (mecha) designs to the clear pastel colours and sketchy animation style, everything combines to make a visual feast. As well as being a pretty series, Escaflowne has no problem showing an ugly side - watch out for the splashes of blood, the contorted, shadowed faces of dying mecha pilots, and a couple of the freakier species designs


Sound

Clever, delightful, and varied, Yoko Kanno's score here is still one of the best around; every mood identifiable in the series is captured by the mix of pop, instrumentals, Gregorian chanting, and invigorating choral pieces. Undoubtedly the supreme tune is the epic ‘Dance of Curse' which is used during key Escaflowne battle scenes. Quivering strings and urgent choral punctuations give a sense of immediate peril and generally keep you on the edge of your seat. ‘Zaibach,' often played in conjunction with Dilandau's appearance, is another favourite because it matches his maniacal personality so very well. Unfortunately, there is one bad egg in the basket, namely the ending theme, ‘Mystic Eyes,' which sounds like it was concocted on a Casio keyboard and doesn't fit the series at all.

Both the English and the Japanese dub are solid. Allen gives the best English performance because, whether passionate in rage or passionate in love, his tone is always spot on. Van's voice is also surprisingly convincing as a stoic royal because it is so unlike the usual American jock voice used for teenage heroes. The Japanese voices are less distinctive - at times I find it difficult to distinguish between Allen and Van - but because they are far better paced, the dramatic scenes have a stronger impact.


Characters

Like most fantasy epics, Escaflowne has a fairly large cast, some of which are of the typical bishounen stock. For example, there is the suave knight, the stoic warrior, the beautiful psycho, and the fallen angel. Unsurprisingly, most of the characters are not complex in any outstanding sense, which is to say this is not Cowboy Bebop.

Possibly the most disappointing of the characters is Hitomi because, whilst the people around her drive the plot forward, she remains a largely passive observer. For example, she uses her fortune-telling to help develop plans but never comes up with any fresh ideas herself, and she acts proactively only on two occasions. What is interesting is that, unlike so many other teenage female protagonists who adopt Annie-style attitudes towards end-of-the-world problems, Hitomi realistically gets overwhelmed by it all. Sure, she is thus difficult to love outright but her role is nonetheless highly suited to the plot.

Importantly, though, whilst not superbly complex, the characters are also far from cardboard thin. All the important characters, including the antagonists, have interesting stories to tell, the conclusions of which are always surprising, mature and slightly open. For example, although a minor protagonist, Princess Millerna's part in the adventure is surprisingly touching - surprising because on the face of it she looks predictable. Despite being trapped between her conniving royal father, a cynical merchant who wants to marry her, and an unresponsive Allen Schezar whom she loves, she avoids becoming another annoying female victim by taking a brave step to change her lot.


Overall

With merely decent characters and a dated look, what makes Escaflowne stand out is the excellent plotting, the way it tells an exciting and meaningful story without losing attention to detail. For those in need of something exciting, well-paced and epic, this romantic fantasy action-adventure is a safe bet.

8.5/10 story
7/10 animation
9/10 sound
7/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
roriconfan's avatar By on Apr 30, 2012

TEASER:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJZATeQvwpo&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSlNHi6wgQQ

Ah, now this is a show I loved from the very fist episode. It clearly has a lot more than an average show of its kind… In fact it is more than one kind. In fact, it is something that blends various formulas successfully. 

THE STAFF 
- Made by Bandai, back when it was still a major player and people didn’t mind much their mediocrities. 
- Directed by Akane Kazuki, a man with a most impressive roster, if not in terms of quality then definitely in terms of style (Noein, Birdy the Mighty, that Code Geass spin-off).The overall is I must say exceptional for its time and themes. 

SCRIPT 
[A Japanese high school girl transfers to a magical world… Not even the tip of the iceberg, pal!] 

Imagine the best of what epic fantasy, romance, mystery, sci-fi and philosophy have to offer, being mixed in a wonderful blend within a single series. It is not an original story; not by a long shot. You can find dozens of series with a similar premise. Yet, it is so well presented that you totally ignore all the pitfalls of each genre separately, as every genre hole seems to be filled with the positive points of another genre. This is one of those series that scream, “I appear to be mundane but I am not”. I have seen hundreds of series, where the scriptwriters mix a dozen genres just to make an impression with the rearrangement of the stereotypes. Sadly, most of the times, they are just out-of-order and misplaced elements, which give you the feeling that it’s not one uniform series but a dozen different ones, with scrambled scenes of one another (i.e. Elfen Lied, Kannazuki no Miko, School Days). This series is amongst the few exceptions, where the blend worked in a positive way. It used the clichés of each genre and elevates them by adding different features to THE SAME elements, instead of throwing elements that overlap previous ones and make you think you are watching a different series in each scene. 

The story moves faster than a speeding bullet; the reason being that the initial 39 episodes had to be zipped down to 26 because of funding problems. Thus, each episode packs in fact one and a half worth of plot; so don’t be surprised if there are far too many revelations within the same episode or if an episode ends in a normal moment, instead of a cliffhanger that took place 5 minutes ago. It may feel erratic at first but I came to love the unpredictability of the whole fuss. Because I couldn’t just say “Nah, they will stall the battle and end in a cliffhanger”. There was no time for stalling! It sure beats all those boring series that take half the series just to reveal something totally mundane. Heck, there hardly is any filler scene in the entire series. Fillers are a must in anime and yet are totally absent here. I double-loved it just for this.

Usually, side stories are dressings for the main story or a funky way to stall time. In this case, not only everyone has a side story, but also every side story eventually mixes with everyone else’s AND has a central point in the story. Wow, all those stories created an interactive web of scenarios that is hard to grasp without taking notes. Amazing!

It is fantasy and that pretty much self-excuses any “weird stuff” in the story. It also adds a lot of scientific explanations that somewhat reason all the queer happenings around Fate and Love. Yet, even that didn’t prevent the series from feeling sometimes out of order, as various events seem to be open to interpretation or left vague and incomplete in the conclusion. Even the romantic relations to one another feel too far-fetched. It is nothing serious; in fact compared to all other similar titles it is not even much to bother with. It just leaves you with the feeling that the series ends in a forced way that conveniently offers a catharsis to each problem that simply under normal situations wouldn’t be so easily overcome. Still, if you don’t think too much about it, the series explains itself nicely and ends in a satisfactory way.

CAST 
[Why are your wings black, oh brother?] 

Although the characters have a very realistic body language that expresses their emotions, it would be a lie to say they were original. Hitomi is the typical Japanese shool girl that falls in love with every hunk she meets. Van is the typical red-colored hothead. Allen is the typical chivalrous knight. Merle is the typical perky/cute cat-girl. Folkien is the typical evil elder brother. And so on, and so on… 

Yet, these archetypes anyone can find in every shonen or shojo are developed to hights unparallel. Especially the main ones become different people in your eyes, after their pasts are revealed. Not only that, they also doubt the very ideals they begin with, instead of sticking to them like glue, as it is usually the case with anime casts and their blindly-followed high ideals. Also, development comes through self-realization of a given situation and not because someone defeated the hero in battle and caused a sudden mental and physical power-up. How cool is that? Wait, there is more. Although the series appears to have villains, in reality it has none. For even the cruelest of them are like that for a good reason and become humane and likable as the story unfolds. If a villain exists, that would be human selfishness, which cannot be defeated with a super beam, fired by an ultra mecha, empowered by love and compassion. Word!

Not only everyone has a story to tell, but that said story eventually intertwines with everyone else’s. Nice!

As I stated in the Script Section, the ending does feel forced in a way, as most characters have their worries resolved in an almost fairy-tale fashion.

ART 
[Hehe, that mecha wears a cape. How ridiculous… Hey, it disappeared!] 

The environments are drawn quite average in all; but their combination… GTFO! How did they mix all these stuff and still managed to make them look great? I am stunned; I really am. Modern Tokyo AND medieval fantasy AND sci-fi mecha that seem to FIT ALL THE TIME?! I salute the guys who managed to pull it through. The cosmology of the series is a blend of everything we already know of, and yet it is unique with all the anachronisms that actually DON’T feel irrelevant to one another. A truly great fairy tale that takes place in several time periods at the same time. 

NOSES! … Yes, they are long but it is a grave mistake to drop the series because of them. I for one believe that it made the cast to be more unique than the ones from other anime. Beyond that, all the main characters have a unique look on them that goes well with their general personality (Allen looks charming, Merle looks perky, etc). I found nothing wrong to see knights side to side with eastern monks and cat-girls, as the series is after all fantasy and the final feeling was quite fit with everything that went on. Even the mecha look special with that steampunk way they work. Ok, having their energy cores and the cockpit in defenseless places was kinda target practice for the enemy but then again the mecha were supposed to be far superior in the past than they are now. Beyond that, their weaponry is awesome! Cloaks that really cloak a building-tall mecha??? Dragon transformations ??? Fate Alteration Device ??? COOL !!! 

Like any romance that respects its viewers, it has a huge amount of feathers and roses and lightning that reflects the character’s mood. You really feel what the characters feel through the visual effects. I LOVE watching cinematics that are not there just for the explosions and the laser beams. Hands down; there are great!

The only thing that is not great in the series is the smoothness in motion. It is better than average (just watch the mecha fight) but just ain’t as great as in OVA or movie format.

SOUND 
[EEE-eee-EEE-scaaa-FLO-ow-NEEE!] 

How can I deduct points if everyone always talks the way he should be talking? Every character has its personality mirrored perfectly through his/her tone of voice (even Merle’s annoying pinch was fitting) and since they describe themselves in various moments and flashbacks, their monologues actually are meaningful to pay attention to. Marvelous voice acting!

I love chorus music! It makes a series feel more epic. This series happens to actually BE epic in its story, so the religious hymns were exceptional and fitting. Even the sugarcoated intro is not a run-of-the-mill pop song. A marvelous soundtrack that you hardly come by in anime (the only other anime with a real chorus I know of is Advent Children ). 

Just like the visual effects, they bring out the feelings of one’s state and held the viewer identify or sympathy him. Very theatrical! 

LEGACY 
[Energist is pure gold.] 

I need to make clear that it is the only series I know of (and I know most of them) that is equally appealing to both males and females. Girly romance goes hand to hand with fighting mecha and it doesn’t feel alienating at all. It is a truly unisex series that nobody can suggest not viewing because of someone’s genre. It is also both serious and light-hearted so even immature teenagers and sophisticated adults can like different aspects in it. Definitely above most series that have a specific target audience and with a multi-layered story that is character-driven, this anime is a jewel that outshines all others of its kind. 

To be honest, I know several people who didn’t like it one bit. I tend to believe it is because they paid too much attention to some elements and not to the whole of the series. Heck, I myself found famous fantasy series like Guardian of the Sacred Spirit and the 12 Kingdoms to be boring, because their plot was slow as hell and quickly lost interest, despite the supremacy in graphics and character development. If nothing new occurs in 15 minutes, I start to yawn; thus novel adaptations are not my cup of tea. This series, despite not being so well planned, left no time for me to be bored. It was so fast that I was always with my eyes wide-open. 

SUGGESTION LIST 
The 12 Kingdoms
Guardian of the Sacred Spirit
Inu Yasha
Brigadoon Marin to Melan
Fushigi Yûgi
Maze – The Mega-burst Space
Magical Knight Rayearth

And now for some excused scorings.

ART SECTION: 9/10 
General Artwork 2/2 (very fantasy-like)
Character Figures 2/2 (memorable)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of cinematics) 

SOUND SECTION: 10/10 
Voice Acting 3/3 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 4/4 (amazing) 
Sound Effects 3/3 (fitting)

STORY SECTION: 8/10 
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 2/2 (very good)
Complexity 2/2 (lots of stuff going on)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)

CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10 
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (everybody gets some)
Development 2/2 (strong)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)

VALUE SECTION: 8/10 
Historical Value 2/3: Still very famous despite its age.
Rewatchability 2/3: If you liked it, it is sustain you will watch it again in the future (four times for me, and still counting). It is complex enough to make you watch it at least once more just to get the full picture. Since it has no dead time, no episodes are going to be skipped, although some weak scenes can be easily disregarded.
Memorability 4/4: Unlike anything else in its mix of genres.

ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10 
Art 1/1 (looks very fantasy-like) 
Sound 2/2 (sounds amazing)
Story 2/3 (has some pacing issues but overall it’s great)
Characters 3/4 (they are good, although pass a bit generic for some)

VERDICT: 8.5/10 
Both jury and judge bow in respect. The accuser is sentenced to a thousand years of hard labor.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
8/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
Roksi's avatar By on Sep 12, 2014

Escaflowne is old and hasn't aged particularly well. I'm sure it would've compared better at the time of it's release, but there isn't much I can do about that now. Oh well...

The story starts out quite well, even though a bit overpaced. It completely turns on its head after Atlantis is brought up, and ends up making close to no sense in the end, thanks to the really weak foundation: the characters. This show generally has really lame characters written into it. The writers seemed to want to reuse every cliche they thought would sell, just creating one of the stiffest messes of a story I've seen. The generic characters lack personality, and its just a harem of good looking dudes for the MC - The damsel in distress - Hitomi to agonize over. The animation gets some leeway because of the age, on top of being a shoujo show. It's not easy to look at, especially the pinocchio noses, but its not all that bad. The mecha designs were good. Both music and voiceacting is overdramatized, but a plus for not using music to foreshadow everything.

4/10 story
6/10 animation
6/10 sound
3/10 characters
4/10 overall
PhdInCartoons's avatar By on Mar 4, 2013

Story

The premise is hardly original. What makes this anime score so highly is how well it merges elements of lots of different genres together. This anime is a very good stepping stone if you are going from more action-based story to more relationship-based story or the other way.  

 

Animation

Outdated. If you haven't watched any older anime at all the older style may throw you slightly. I am, by no means calling it bad but even for its age it can only be called O.K.

 

Sound

Mostly, the music fits very well. It is, like the story, a mix of two differeent styles. This mix of classical and pop music works well throughout and plays on the merging of the, seemingly at odds, anime types. The voices work well with the characters and help to reinforce theri humanity.

 

Characters

Some interesting, some disappointing. There is some nice touches. In particular the show's handling of some of the female characters. Some side characters are not the pushovers that you expect and the lead isn't as unfazed as other leads in other shows. The gravity of her situation sways her in a way that makes it a lot easier to relate to.

 

Overall

A little bit old feeling, but still very good. Very few people will not enjoy this

8/10 story
6/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.3/10 overall
hectic3006's avatar By on Sep 1, 2014

Big massive sword wielding mecha armorsuits - How can this be so dull?

As a story it's a generic person in strange world but with a twist: a whiny girl as the main, well shit this is such a drag BUT annoyance of her is just the beginning as all the whine gets extra saucy when other characters are introduced. It was 1996 when this sit got drawn and it hasn't aged well, looking all washed out and old. This was such a good 26 episodes to clean my apartment with all the story dragging on and on with all the bla bla bla.. this shit was so boring that I only remember few scenes and none of the characters. Just press play and go do some dishes because that's what I did.

1/10 story
3/10 animation
3/10 sound
1/10 characters
2/10 overall