I encountered the fantasy genre fairly late considering how often I'd steeped myself in fiction during my young life. Escaflowne appeared as the first fantasy anime to flash onto my television. It forged a powerful introduction: quick-moving action, blatant tension, and giant mechs I'd never seen on typical Saturday-Morning cartoons. Two emotive impressions I recieved from my early encounter are anticiption and disappointment: the prior from conclusion of one episode and the latter from the show's cancellation. With these two feelings I returned to Escaflowne years later.
The story remains altogether interesting because of the unique world, various characters, and steady usage of sturdy plot devices. My complaint with the category: many portions of the story feel convoluted. Much of the romance fizzles and starts hindering the plot while many eccentricities of the fiction take a "just because" mentality; such responses don't agitate many viewers but its distracting for me to view fantasy fiction that doesn't create its own context. All the characters support the world sufficiently, but spread the wealth over too many potential distractions. After watching the movie, which destroys the majority for three or four characters, I understand the potential depth and the sacrifice made in each.
The animation looks and feels old, but harbors an archaic originality that fits the world perfectly; I only wish a full series with the movie's animation could exist. The sound is fantastic. The voice overs don't distract and the music stands atop the mountain of anime soundtracks. Vaan's angry-emo-kid voice, the Georgian chants, and operatic scores alone were enough to win me over.
If you're interested in fantasy--especially fantasy anime--give Escaflowne a chance. Though I have qualms with portions of the narrative I don't regret watching the series. Remember to view with normal expectations and an open mind.
Note: There are catgirls in this series.
In one dimension she is a regular school girl, in the other she battles with the protagonst to save the planet and avenge a wrongdoing…no this isnt Inuyasha, its Vaan, a prince who has lost his kingdom, and fights to save the world, but what mystery's does he and the battle armor escaflowne have. a good upbeat series, aimed at anime fans that like a less noir style serious show
Though it has been some time since watching Escaflowne, I remember going into it expecting something decent, and being dissapointed. However I must say that once the initial sadness of it being a worthwhile anime wore off, I quickly began enjoying the anime as a comedy, laughing at the cliche riddled storyline, hilariously bad characters(not all of them persay), and the constant weird trips that come on suddenly throughout the series.
Escaflowne is not by any means a painful anime, unless you came into it looking for a ground-breaking epic. It just boasts everything you can come to expect from a standard anime like it. High school girl ending up in another world where she plays a signifigant role(whatsup Inuyasha). Powerful suits used in war, the good guy having the initially most impressive, owning everything he sneezes at, and then coming across challenges with it later in the series. The broodingly dark Zaibach empire that is antagonizing the rest of the free world that is largely unexplored and un named is reminiscent of any other anime where a single colony is against the world, you know what I'm talking about. Theres a tragic hero bad guy brother(think along the Itachi/G gundam lines) which your familiar with, not to mention the poorly motivated villains lineup, to give you an idea: " Bwahahaha I am so evil, I kill because it's what I do and because you hurt me I will make it my lifes work to kill and kill until I kill you" yeah, one of those and, " From my lofty position I will bend even fate!" ect. Obviously not exact quotes just poking fun at the cliches. Are there much worse animes to watch? Oh yes! But if you want anything that could be viewed as new, fresh, exciting, or not cliche you will want to go elsewhere. If you've watched any gundam or something of the like and enough cliche anime, this show will do little for you than perhaps get some laughs.
As far as animation sound ect. it is just good, and would have sufficed if not for the lack of... Well anything substantial. No it's no 5 centimeters per second so the animation won't have you blown away to the point of it pulling you through it's lack of substance. It is still one of the funnest anime to laugh at though.
To put it quite simply Escaflowne is about a girl named Hitomi who leads a somewhat normal live of Earth, but then one day she gets transported to another world that is falling under the shadow of an evil empire and she now discovers that she has the ability to see the future of what will happen in that world. So it is up to her to as to whether she will use her abilities to help Vaan the young king who just happens to have brought Hitomi to this other world. What follows is a story of mecha battles, fantasy, romance, and destiny told in such a manner that few series can ever actually achieve and those that do tend to take at the very least twice as long as Escaflowne. Remembering that this series came out sometime in the 90's it does look a bit aged by today's standards though in all honesty I'm not quite sure that the aged look takes anything away from the series. Actually in all honesty I actually have a harder time imagining the series with a whole bunch of fancy CGI and whatnot. I don't the older look of the animation just kind of fits the series. If that makes any sense. Anyways moving onto the audio which quite really amazingly done. I feel in love with the opening the first time I ever heard it and the rest of the soundtrack is about as nice as they come. Though that being said the ending is probably the only real problem in the sound department. Overall Escaflowne is one those series that gets it right where it actually counts which is the plot and storytelling. For anyone who needs a fantasy romance series they'll be hard pressed to find one that does those things as good as Escaflowne does.
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.
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
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.
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.