Critic's Log - Earthdate: March 22, 2013. Review #42: The Vision of Escaflowne.
Sometimes there are things in life that fortune will smile upon, but is it wise to toy with fate? There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. We have the power to change the future. With that said, let's explore the world of Gaea with... The Vision of Escaflowne
High school student Hitomi Kanzaki is a freshman and is talented in Track and Field. She somehow transported from Earth to the magical world of Gaea, where she meets a young prince named Van Fanel, and is caught up in his quest to unite the countries of Gaea against the ominous Zaibach empire. On the way, she discovers an hidden secret and strives to unravel layers of mystery surrounding Van, his past, and the giant machine known as Escaflowne.
To be technical, this is a Sunrise production and this anime is proof that the animation in this show has aged very well. Some poeple don't like some of the character designs in this show because they always point out that the "noses" looked a little odd or something. This didn't bother me too much. The show does look like your typical 90's anime but there was a bit of a game changer regarding the animation because from what I've heard, This anime had not only hand-painted animation cels, but it also had computer-generated special effects which was brand new for an anime to pull something like this off. That was one thing that intrigued me concerning the animation. If the opening wasn't enough, there's more good stuff when it comes to this factor of an anime. The animation is gorgeous.
When it comes to music, Escaflowne was composed by two musicians. One of them was Hajime Mizoguchi and the other is Yoko Kanno (who would later be well-known for her music scores for animes such as Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. This was probably her first major hit of a music score. The score involves orchestra and trust me... This soundtrack was epic. You won't be disappointed. However...Get used to hearing that name "Escaflowne" more often in the entire soundtrack, it's a running motif.
When it comes to the voice acting, The Japanese cast is superb and terrific from start to finish. Hitomi just so happens to be Maaya Sakamoto's debut role and she really makes a first impression for her voice acting talent and she would later become a big name in Japanese voice acting up to the present time. Tomokazu Seki is also pretty good as Van. Shinichiro Miki plays a great Allen. Ikue Ohtani is pretty good as Merle. Jouji Nakata is terrific as Folken, and Minami Takayama sounds like he had way too much fun as Dilandau. The standout extras in the subbed version include Juurouta Kosugi as Dryden, Mayumi Iizuka as Millerna, and the late Masato Yamanouchi as Dornkirk.
Now Before I get to talking about the dub, let's get inside the TARDIS and travel back in time to the year 2000. Escaflowne first aired in the U.S. back in 2000, but it was short-lived.
This would be commonly dubbed the "Fox Kids" version because there were numerous edits to each episode, it had its own exclusive opening which I don't really think suits the show much. The main character focus was switched from Hitomi to Van to make the show appeal to young boys. It was cancelled because of low ratings and trust me when I say this... you're better off with the show in it's complete uncut form. The English dub in the FOX Kids Version was also not very good. I wish the dub could have been better when they actually dubbed the whole series because the Dub of Escaflowne has some of the worst voice acting out there and I tried really hard to get used to this dub but I couldn't. The tones didn't fit most of the time, some vocal tones were placed right but not acted the way it could've been and it was bad right from the first minute, it didn't sound like they were trying hard enough and I immediately went to subs right after the first minute, it really was that bad of a dub, but allow me to say this. Kelly Sheridan is much better as Sango than Hitomi, Kirby Morrow is better as Miroku than Van, Brian Drummond was actually decent as Allen, Jocelyn Loewen was not that good as Merle. Paul Dobson (yes, the voice of Naraku from InuYasha) is actually decent as Folken. The lowpoint of the dub has to be Andrew Francis as Dilandau. You know what, he has had better roles since Dilandau and he is now doing the voice of Shining Armor from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
My apologies for bringing up this show, but admit it... It has become a popular show, I just so happen to like it because the humor isn't stupid like I'm seeing in other American animated shows these days.
Back on topic, If you are planning on watching this anime dubbed, just go right to the subs on this one, you're better off watching it subtitled than watching it dubbed. I hope someday this anime gets a re-dub, but I'm guessing that's asking too much.
When it comes to characters, they aren't really too perfect when it comes to development but this is redeemable as the show progresses. Hitomi is your average high-school girl who has a crush on pretty much anyone that looks really attractive. Understandable, she does appear to just stand in the sidelines as the conflicts are taking place (Sometimes...) But there are times where she does get involved to confront the issues that would take place. Hitomi is a not the typical "Damsel in distress" She is actually wriitten pretty well in an above average level. There will be a point in the series where she'll realize what she is really doing and I'll let you figure out the rest. Van and Allen are also interesting characters. I like some of the dynamics between Van and Allen. Folken was an interesting case as the show progressed and Dilandau was a bit delightful if you like characters that are insane. Merle is simply the sidekick for the show and I guess she was alright too. The only issue with the characters is that the main cast is developed well but some of the minor characters weren't.
What makes The Vision of Escaflowne remarkable is the story. It starts off pretty decently, but as the story progresses, it gets a bit complex and it even starts being a little thought-provoking too. I was hooked after I finished watching the 14th episode of this show and I wanted to know how the show would end because it was really getting good. It did get more interesting around the second half and it did not disappoint...too much. Escaflowne was on a perfect track record until the show was on its last 3 episodes. If I heard right, Escaflowne was supposed to have a second season but the studio or whoever was behind it told the staff to end the show instead. Apparently that was the case. This all led to Escaflowne having a rushed ending. It was a good ending but the rushed pace is pretty obvious. Does that really hurt the chances of people liking the show after it's done? No, it really is a fantastic series. Fantasy buffs (kinda like me) will very much enjoy the show for how much effort that was put into Escaflowne. Kazuki Akane directed this terrificly for the most part. If you haven't seen The Vision of Escaflowne, then what are you doing, looking at my review? Sit down and give this show a try because I don't say this lightly... It is really an anime classic that truly deserves a viewing.
The Vision of Escaflowne was available from Bandai Entertainment, you know what that means... It's sadly out of print. The manga by Katsu Aki was available by Tokyopop and it is out of print, Another manga named "Messiah Knight - The Vision of Escaflowne" never was released stateside. a third manga named "Energist's Memories" also never made it stateside, The light novel series was also never released stateside. The Escaflowne movie was available by Bandai Entertainment, like the show, it too is out of print.
*March 2016 Update* The Vision of Escaflowne has been rescued by Funimation for some time and will be re-dubbed by Funimation.
With all that said, The Vision of Escaflowne is a true work of art because it wastes no second of it's timeframe. The animation is gorgeous even if some people find the character designs a little odd, it has epic music, it has some memorable characters, an interesting story and pretty much anything a Fantasy buff would want to see in a classic anime. It isn't perfect but it does have a very good track record.
I give The Vision of Escaflowne a 9.7 out of 10, it is EXCELLENT!
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