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The Vision Of Escaflowne (TV) Anime Review

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The Vision Of Escaflowne (TV Series)

Genre: Shoujo Mecha Fantasy Action
Director: Kazuki Akane
Distributor: Bandai Entertainment
Duration: 25 minutes approx per episode with 26 episodes total
Production Creation: 1996

Plot Synopsis

Hitomi Kanzaki, is your regular girl next door. She goes to college, she’s a member of the college track running team but she also has an odd hobby of giving tarot card readings to her friends. One fateful night, when running her college track to impress a boy she has a crush on, a knight mysteriously appears in front of her and engages in a brutal fight with a dragon that emerges soon after! Once the dragon is slain, Hitomi finds herself caught in a ray of light and is soon transported to place she neither knows nor recognises, yet the knight she saw is stood right beside her.

What is the purpose of Hitomi’s teleportation to this world known as Gaia, and more importantly, just what is Escaflowne?

The Review

When watching anime, you usually get a handful of productions that really stand out and make you think you’re watching something exceptional. In that echelon of the anime elite such as Cowboy Bebop, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Neon Genesis Evangelion, each of those productions are awesome pieces of work, nay, labours of love. Each of them is an anime so good, that you just simply have to finish the series the day you received it, or re-watch the movie so many times that you can near enough mesmerise the script. The Vision Of Escaflowne is such an anime, an anime where everything just clicks, the feeling you get that everything is just *right*.

As you can no doubt tell from the genre description, The Vision Of Escaflowne augments and melds together a fair few genres. Rather than being just a mish mash of romance, fantasy, mecha combat and other genres, the strength of this series lies in how seamlessly it combines elements of practically every genre. Never do you feel that the creators have segregated the various elements of different genres into separate sections, like ‘Well that’s the romance done with, now let’s have some mecha!’. You never get the feeling that you watching ‘just’ a mecha battle or ‘just’ a romantic scene as each of the genres are intertwined. And as such The Vision Of Escaflowne stands by itself as an anime production that can have elements of many genres, running seamlessly and concurrently throughout it’s duration, which aren’t at all detrimental to it’s overall quality.

The real strength of The Vision Of Escaflowne however, lies not in it’s consummate combination of genres, but instead in it’s tremendous depth of characterisation. Never in an anime, save for Neon Genesis Evangelion (which is practically a character study itself), have I seen such well developed and multi-faceted characters. Not one charcater can be described as truly good or truly evil as they each have hidden pasts and multi-dimensional personalities. Practically everybody from the valiant knight Allen Shezar, to the murderous, bloodthirsty psychopath Dilandau all have ‘exceptions’ in their personalities that, at times, juxtapose with their chosen ‘vocation’ or alignment. Even Hitomi, the most down-to-earth character, continually questions herself and her actions and as such is desperate to find herself in the confusion that surrounds her. In doing so, she makes many mistakes and misconceptions, but that’s what so refreshing – Hitomi could conceivably be that girl walking across the street from you, since she is so utterly believable as a human being.

Plot wise too, The Vision Of Escaflowne does not disappoint. Whilst not as the deep as the characters contained therein, the plot is able to enthrall and manages to provide enough twists, turns and revelations to keep anybody hooked. Sometimes the plot may seem predictable, and at times it does, but you still keep watching because you’re thinking to yourself ‘I can’t wait to see how Dilandau reacts to his or how Van reacts to that’, and again it’s that superb level of characterisation that really puts Escaflowne in a class of it’s own.

In regards to the art and animation, I must be honest and say that when I first began watching The Vision Of Escaflowne, it didn’t quite strike me with the same impact or have the same ‘wow’ factor of say, Cowboy Bebop or other such stylised anime productions. That feeling left me soon after the first episode when I began to appreciate just how detailed the art and animation really was. The art, whilst not immediately striking, does make you appreciate the somewhat attractive characters as well as the huge amount of time and effort that has gone into creating the otherworldly locales that featured so prominently in The Vision Of Escaflowne.

Everything from castles and forests, to mines and great cities are illustrated with due aplomb and great detail. The animation thankfully, is also afforded the same level of care and attention. Besides the movement of the characters being technically decent, the real showcase of Escaflowne’s animation, lies with it’s stunning mecha battles. Designed by Shoji Kawamori (Mechanical Designer for Macross, Gundam 0080 and a whole heap of other anime) the mecha of The Vision Of Escaflowne, or the ‘Gimelith’s’ as they are referred to, exude a grace and an almost knightly posture when they engage in their epic clashes. The almost medieval design of these Gimeliths, makes a refreshing change from the more conventional, and some might say ulitiarian mecha seen in other anime such as Garasaki and Orguss.

Even the music of Escaflowne is superb. So it should be considering it’s composed by Yoko Kanno of Macross Plus and Arjuna fame. Every song, suits the situation that it accompanies. Whether it’s a tense battle melody, a playful light hearted tune or a more somber tune, Escaflowne has it all. Of particular note though, is the Arabic influences that the Yoko Kanno has worked into certain sections of the soundtrack. Whilst such influences may seem at odds with other sections of the soundtrack, I feel that they lend a certain quality of individuality to the Escaflowne soundtrack that further distances it from whatever peers it may have.

Ultimately though, it almost seems like that as accomplished as the many technical aspects of Escaflowne are, such as it’s art, animation, and music, they can appear to be almost superfluous when compared to the tremendous depth of characterisation that The Vision Of Escaflowne possesses. I know I keep going on about the characters and how much depth they have, but really, the great characterisation on show here does really put Escaflowne in a class all of it’s own.

It will be a long time before another anime arrives that combines so many genres and has such a strong and well developed storyline and cast of characters.

Truly exceptional and certainly unmissable.

Ratings Summary

Animation: B+
Art: A
Music: A
Content: A+

Overall: A

Review by: John-Paul Jones

Suitability for children

While there is no profanity, nudity or other adult situations to be found in Escaflowne, there is however a generous smattering of blood that would mean that Escaflowne is only suitable viewing for those who are aged 12+.

If you liked this why not try…

Record of Lodoss War – Central Park Media
Fushigi Yuugi – Pioneer Entertainment

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Written by bitsnark

August 25, 2008 at 5:48 pm

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