Time for a bit of nostalgia;‘The Vision of Escaflowne’. Based on two different manga adaptations the series is set under the genres of adventure, fantasy, mecha and romance with even a hint of the magical girl genre thrown in for good measure.
Title: The Vision of Escaflowne
Release date: April 2nd 1996
Director: Kazuki Akane
The series focuses on the life of high school girl named Hitomi Kanzaki who from the beginning we are told has special powers and psychic abilities. Her adventures begin when she is ripped from her own world (Earth) to the planet of Gaea where she appears in front of a mysterious boy named Van battling a dragon. Gaea, a planet where the Earth and its moon can be seen in the sky. It is known as the “Mystic Moon”. Hitomi quickly becomes entangled in the conflict taking place as the Zaibach Empire attempts to take over control of Gaea.
The Empire has cast it’s focus on the country of Fenalia where Van is the new king and now he must stand and fight against the Zaibach Empire commanding the mystical mech and with the aid of many citizens of Gaea including that of Allen a knight of Asturia. Hitomi soon realises that her specials powers have begun to grow and blossom while she has been in Gaea and soon she is revealed as the secret to unlocking the true power of Escaflowne and in foiling the plans of the evil Zaibach Empire.
Throughout the series characters pasts are revealed and the true history and secrets of Gaea are also unravelled. The focus on developing these people is strong and as result, the characters and the bonds they form and share (mostly with the heroine Hitomi), feel very real. There are many more characters that are important to the plot but don’t merit a mention in this case as their own development is stinted so that the focus is more set on the main three (Hitomi, Van, Allen) mentioned.
Hitomi Kanzaki before Gaea was like any other teenage girl, she attended high school and even had a crush but with the added strain of having special psychic powers. She is portrayed as a very grounded and realistic personality; she is caring, gracious but with a temper driven by stubbornness. A trait that can (and does) throughout the series become dull and repetitive but slightly made up for in her random comical displays of affection and her psychic abilities. She could almost because of her special abilities be classed as a magical girl within her adventure (just without a big fancy transformation scene). Quite different to her portrayal in the film adaptation. She is seen as a depressed young soul who even contemplates her own death and committing suicide.
Van Fanel, the King of Fanelia is initially portrayed as a spoilt and arrogant young man who puts himself above others. His own development in the series is positive as his way of life is shaken to it’s core and he grows as a man and as a king. This is predominately because of his connection with Hitomi as they help each other to grow and become stronger with every obstacle they overcome. Vans character is a self-sacrificing type where he would literally fight to his death then let others either fight for him or fight in general. His portrayal in the film is much the same as in the series but much wilder and more determined to achieve his goals.
Lastly Allen Schezar, a knight of Asturia. Allen is every archetype of a knight all rolled into one. He is chivalrous, kind and brave. This makes him as boring as sin. There isn’t a move he could make that we couldn’t predict; even when he is supposed to be angry and so pent full of rage that he should explode he doesn’t. Surprisingly though this doesn’t drag down the series his personality is acts as a contrast to Van’s and as a result only highlight the Kings faults and failings.. His portrayal in the film is very much the same (but thankfully not as boring as in the series.).
The animation in this series does need a mention; it is glorious. The world of Gaea is made out beautifully in a more artistic water colour technique where it seems almost like a piece of artwork. Alongside this the character design for each and every character is impeccable and they managed to match the design perfectly for how each character is represented, capturing their essence and painting it perfectly. The places, buildings, fields and forests are as much a part of the series and receive a lot of attention, in cutaway scenes, reflecting the mood and atmosphere of the time.
The series does however have one major flaw though.
Repetition repetition repetition.
Certain sequences are used in nearly each and every episode; mainly in the scenes where Hitomi is using her special abilities. Over and over again we’ll be forced to recount and rewatch these sequences, Escaflowne seems intent on not letting us forget a thing and constantly has to remind us of what just happened or what was just said over and over again.
All of that aside though, The Vision of Escaflowne manages to pull together, it’s an odd combination of fantasy, science-fiction, war, mechs and romance but it’s almost perfectly blended together. It has some memorable characters and an unforgettable story.
So if you have it, then dust off your copy and if you don’t then you need to check it out today!
[easyreview title=”The Arcade Verdict” cat1title=”Story” cat1detail=”A very compelling story with good strong characters” cat1rating=”8″ cat2title=”Animation” cat2detail=”Beautiful and gigantic imagery only let down by repetitive sequencing” cat2rating=”6″ cat3title=”Music” cat3detail=”Emotional and beautiful but it is often lost in what’s happening on screen” cat3rating=”7″ overall=”true”]
A final mention to anyone who would like to experience a more grown up and shorter version of the series the film adaptation is a lot darker – both the series and film are well worth their unique experiences.
[Words, Ceire Ní Dalaigh]