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Well, I just finished watching Visions of Escaflowne, and I was impressed
say the least. Sure, I'm a guy who was expecting something different, but
have absolutely no complaints with what I just saw, and I felt that, coming
right off of watching the final episode, now would be a great time to pen
thoughts on the series and generally wax over this series.
When it was first recommended to me, I was told that it was an anime following political strife while big robots fought. Granted, I was never really a fan of "mech" series' (Gundam, Robotech, etc), but it came highly recommended by some friends. Therefore, I thought "what they hey, it's all for entertainment, right?" and agreed to send the money (for those of you who aren't familiar, I have a few friends in Japan who enjoy sending me shows they liked in exchange for money or other requested items). For those of you familiar with Escaflowne, you'll be laughing at that description - granted, the series does have those, but the focus of the series is far different. After watching the first few episodes, I immediately realized this, and was a little unhappy at my new "purchase".
Now, for those of you who haven't seen Escaflowne yet, the premise is fairly simple: schoolgirl Hitomi is known to her friends by her track aspirations and, more importantly (to them), her rather distinct ability with Tarot Cards. Due to circumstance and a little bit of fate, she ends up being sent to the magical planet of Gaea, where fate is a powerful tool - so much so that her Tarot abilities become so acute, she is considered a psychic. ...of course, not even THAT is an accurate description. That is merely another foil for which the series plays off of. Hitomi is befriended by several inhabitants of the planet, including the young king of Fanelia, Van, and Allen, a skilled knight who has left his kingdom to stop the wars. Hitomi is quickly swept up in their plans and attempts to stop the fighting, partially by fate, partially by a genuine desire to stop the fighting, and partially because she cares for everyone.
So we have a series that's about a young prophetic schoolgirl whom aids people in their plight against the ever-present war on their planet. That doesn't sound so bad, even for the "I prefer action and comedy" kind of guys like me. However, this plot is very quickly intertwined with a much more emotional one - that of love. Hitomi loves everyone, there's no doubt about that. From her old friends (and track coach) on Earth to her new ones on Gaea, she does whatever she can to aid them and stop their suffering - whatever that pain may be. Truly, by the end the series this combined plot reaches extremely high and, in my opinion, succeeds.
Hitomi's transformation throughout the series is easily apparent, starting off as a simple schoolgirl whom wishes to make the track team while struggling with her feelings for Amano, the star athlete whom may be leaving soon. Upon reaching Gaea, she is understandably confused as to where she is and the situations she has been thrown into, reacting the way one would expect. She frequently encounters new trials and experiences strange concepts, somehow digesting it all while attempting to sort her own feelings. She is truly the anchor of the series, always providing the viewer with someone to relate to. Of course, she IS from "The Mystic Moon", our Earth (which hangs ominously above Gaea, perpetually seen but never reached), so it would make sense for us to relate to our brethren. Her feelings about her life, the life of others, and her feelings for everyone around her are easily followed while still retaining a natural feel. This sort of quality character-development is a scant find in TV nowadays, which is why I deeply enjoyed it.
Of course, Hitomi is HARDLY the only person to be developed this well. As the story progresses, we discover more and more about everyone we meet, either through flashbacks, character interaction, their reactions to their surroundings, or good ol' fashioned monologues. Even the significantly odder of characters, such as Merle, become 3-dimensional figures whom you could find believable despite their general appearance (Merle, by the way, is a humanoid Cat person). These supporting characters, whom could generally be used for comedic relief at times, also help create some of the more emotional scenes in the series - Merle once again being a prime example (but I won't spoil THAT one, kiddies!).
Now, character portrayal can often be just as important as the writing presented for each character. Once again, I felt the series shined through. Finding fault in the series' actors, in retrospect, is quite difficult...everyone did their jobs admirably, breathing life into every nook and cranny of their characters. Upon first watching it, I had some serious problems with certain voice actors - however, as the storyline progressed I found that there was a REASON these problems existed and their portrayal was the way it was; they were intentional, and actually added to the plot (once discovered). Looking back, I found that there was no fault in the quality of the voices.
Since we're talking about audio quality, this would be as good a time as any to discuss the soundtrack. I put a lot of stock in TV series and movie soundtracks, since the different between a normal scene and one that brings forth a wealth of emotion can be as simple as the wrong song. The right music, as well as the right style and/or quality of writing, can enhance every little bit of a show. Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi have blended together some truly striking classical pieces, capturing the various emotions throughout the entire series, and I feel did their job(s) wonderfully. Their breadth of combined musical knowledge shines clearly with memorable pieces throughout the series. Not to sound like a ranting fanboy or anything (I AM quite the fan of Kanno's work), but I have scarcely heard orchestral music of this quality before. To be honest, you simply have to hear it to believe it (I suggest listening to "Dance of the Curse" for a good example). The wonderful combination of elements with traditional orchestral glory (such as Gregorian chants) are wonderful. As per my reaction to Cowboy Bebop, and I am now in earnest pursuit of the soundtracks for this series; hopefully (upon hearing this music) you'll be able to relate.
All in all, the most powerful item throughout the series is the finished product. The acting, the writing, the music - it all forms an emotional story of love and war on the foreign planet of Gaea. I found every moment enjoyable, and highly suggest watching it if you have a few hours to kill. However, be forewarned - it is one of those series' that constantly leads from one episode to the next. Unlike some series (like Cowboy Bebop or Hokuto no Ken) where most episodes will be one-shot storylines, Escaflowne does little recapping and flows right from one episode to the next. Therefore, it feels as if it's often hard to stop watching - you simply HAVE to see the next episode to find out what happens next!
Well, chummers, I enjoyed the series greatly, and would consider myself a definite fan. I don't really know why I sat and wrote this, aside from a desire to express myself on the matter...and I figured this would be the forum to do so. Sorry if I sound longwinded, that's just my nature at times. The more I say, the more information I can give; and this, in turn, helps you to understand my feelings on the matter. Now, all I have to do is wait for my tape of Escaflowne's movie to arrive... (::begins itching nervously::)
Having just read all of the comments for Escaflowne, it's difficult to add
anything to that. But as a true Escaflowne fan, I have to have my say,
if I'm just repeting everyone else.
I started watching Escaflowne a few years ago, on the English FOX channel.
Any viewers out there having only seen this version: BUY THE DVDs! These
"edited" (more like butchered) episodes do not even classify as Escaflowne
in my head. As well as editing out all of the blood and gore (which,
be glad to know, there isn't an overwhelming amount of), FOX went on to
replace most of the original soundtrack to replace it with their own.
move. The original soundtrack contains some of the most fantastic pieces
ever to grace ours (or any other) planet. From heart-stopping dramatics
as "Dance of Curse" to soft and gentle songs like "Memory of Fanelia",
soundtrack has everything. Hats off to Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi,
did a wonderful job.
But the soundtrack would be nothing (well, that's a little exaggerated,
you catch my drift) without being accompanied by the brilliance of the
itself. Not only does this series present us with a tale of conflict
the peoples of a planet, we also get to see conflicts within characters,
one of the greatest plot twists ever. (I'm nice, I won't spoil it for
you!)And whoever dreamt up Dilandau and Van needs an award, never have I
seen such well developed, and brilliantly interesting characters.
If you haven't seen it already, I suggest you do so, because it'll be the
greatest few hours you'll ever spend in front of the TV.
A classic anime that will take it's place in the hearts of many forever. *School bell rings and so I switch off the Escaflowne soundtrack I'm listening to*
The director and script writer of Escaflowne, Shoji Kawamori, was a big part of the original Macross anime (nee Robotech, as it was called in the USA). Macross/Robotech was widely recognized as a pivotal moment for animation in the USA; definitely one of the best filmed entertainment ever. Now, imagine if Shoji Kawamori spent fifteen years after working on Macross carefully refining his technique, practicing and perfecting his storytelling abilities. Imagine if the greatest living musician on the face of the Earth, Yoko Kanno, was then contracted to produce a four-cd soundtrack for Kawamori's next production. That, then, is what Escaflowne is; the greatest work of some of the greatest artists ever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For lovers of full-blooded sci-fi fantasy drama, THE VISION OF
ESCAFLOWNE is a must-see. Produced in 1996, this 26-episode series
begins in modern-day Japan where we are introduced to Hitomi Kanzaki,
an insecure, lovestruck student who has a special gift for telling
fortunes using cards. She has eyes for the handsome captain of the
boy's track team, but before she can confess her feelings, Hitomi finds
herself magically whisked away to a far-off planet known as Gaea. This
strange new place is filled with luscious forests and kingdoms that
look as though they could have been drawn from 18th Century France, and
are inhabited not only by humans, but by talking humanoid animal
creatures as well! Two young men--Van, a brash, hot-headed young
prince, and Allen, a charismatically charming knight--vie for Hitomi's
affections while their girlfriends, sassy cat-girl Merle and lovely
Princess Millerna, become jealous of her. As if this isn't troublesome
enough, the entire world of Gaea is at war with the Zaibach Empire, led
by the brooding Chief Strategos Folken, sadistically bloodthirsty
commander Dilandau, and the shadowy Emperor Dornkirk. What follows is
an epic drama that unfolds gradually as Hitomi deals with her feelings
for Van and Allen and the kingdoms of Gaea band together to defeat the
It's no wonder that this ambitious Japanese Anime series has been highly acclaimed by both reviewers and fans. For a television-made serial, production values are spectacular. The colors are rich and vibrant with imagination, and there are even some impressive, but subtle use of computer generated effects in various episodes.
What makes ESCAFLOWNE compelling as a series, though, is its labyrinthine storyline. Every episode built my interests, inspiring me to keep on watching, even when it sometimes slows down to concentrate on character development. Speaking of which, the folks who inhabit this tale are psychologically complex, showcasing positive traits as well as inner demons. Hitomi is a very confused, sometimes fickle young woman who is attracted to many people yet cannot seem to decide who she truly loves. Van is a socially washed-up young man who has suffered traumatic experiences in childhood and as such maintains an aggressive exterior. Allen, meanwhile, is handsome, dashing, and instantly wins the hearts of every women around. While Van and Allen seem to respect each other at the forefront, their feelings for Hitomi threatens to cause tragic tension. Equally interesting are the scenes involving Folken and Dilandau. The former is calm and placid, while the latter is ever-ready to display aggressiveness.
The action sequences are skillfully choreographed, namely the ones where the titular mechanical giant--Escaflowne--an impressively customized suit of armor, squares off against similar mechas. Also worthy of note is Yoko Kanno's music, an ingeniously rich mixture of John Williams, classical music, and ethnic choral chanting. If anything, it was this soundtrack that captured my interests just as much as the characters and artistry. Kanno truly is a talented musician, and her works can easily hold their own against Joe Hisaishi's scores for Miyazaki's features.
All this, plus a whole lot more, makes ESCAFLOWNE an intriguing, creative series not only ideal for teenagers, but for a more mature audience as well. (Plus, it doesn't delve too much into excessive violence or mindnumbingly misplaced filler dreck, either.) ESCAFLOWNE was first brought to the U.S. by the Fox Kids Network, and unfortunately it suffered from a series of cuts and drastic changes--notably the replacement of Kanno's masterful score with techno(!). Thankfully, the DVD release by BANDAI (which, by the way, has some interesting extras--namely the interviews with the Japanese staff) offers the entire series uncut and unaltered, and the Fox-produced changes have NOT been ported over to the DVD's English language track, so no problems there.
That said, some folks have issues with the dub, produced by Canada-based Ocean Studios; while it has its share of problems, notably occasional scripting mistakes in the TV series (Folken calling Van "brother" at a time when he's not supposed to, for one), and Andrew Francis' jarring portrayal of Dilandau (he plays him more like a spoiled brat rather than a maniac), this English track does benefit from some generally good voices. In particular, Kirby Morrow and Brian Drummond are superb as Van and Allen, Paul Dobson does an excellent job as Folken, but Jocelyn Loewyn takes the cake for the best performance overall as Merle; mainly because she reminded me of Angora Deb's delightfully sassy Leaf in the LODOSS WAR TV series (and I like these kind of voices, too). Kelly Sheridan, meanwhile, makes a decent Hitomi, although there are some times when she doesn't emote as strongly as she should. But even after hearing bits and pieces of the (higher-caliber) Japanese language track, I don't consider this dub to be too unaffordable for folks who can't stand subtitles.
Either way, chances are that you will find yourself absorbed in the dramatic power, twisting plot, and imaginative sceneries of ESCAFLOWNE from the moment you first lay your eyes on the dazzling opening sequences.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are MINOR SPOILERS in this review.
I can't state enough how much I adore this TV series.
Escaflowne is an extremely moving fantasy series with very deep, complex characters and an emphasis on emotion. The production values were first rate. At the time this was made, this had the highest quality animation of any TV anime made to date. The music, by Yoko Kanno (with some additional stuff done by her husband Hajime Mizoguchi), is amazing, and on par with most Oscar nominated film scores. Yoko Kanno is one of the top three or so film and television composers in Japan, and this is one of her best work. The orchestral pieces were even recorded using the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.
The story involves a girl named Hitomi in modern day Japan who gets sucked into another universe, the world of Gaea, after which she quickly gets caught up in the intrigue of an ever expanding empire and the kingdoms that are still resisting being conquered, and falls into a love triangle. It sounds like a collection of clichés, but its pulled off so beautifully that they're hardly noticeable as clichés.
That being said its not all perfect. The ending is kind of rushed; Some of the character designs are a bit bizarre. Unfortunately this includes the lead, Hitomi; The ending theme, "Mystic Eyes" by Wada Hiroki, is horrible and is everything that was wrong with J-Pop at the time (although thankfully not used in the final episode). The younger cat-girl character, Merle, can be kind of annoying.
Still, this is a tremendously moving TV show with broad appeal that deserved much better than the butchering Fox Kids gave to it. It is not particularly appropriate for kids. There's little in the way of sex (although one of the cat twins jokingly makes a pass at her sister), a fair amount of violence (much of it involving giant medieval robots called guymelefs, but also several scenes of mass battlefield death, including a stunning sequence involving something similar to a nuclear bomb, that is treated with appropriate gravitas), and other things that will either bore some kids (romantic tension and love triangles), or go right over their heads (i.e. a brainwashed character who also occasionally switches between genders; the use of "luck" as a changeable force of nature instead of a matter of fixed mathematical probability). Unfortunately, despite the fact that Fox Kids only aired 9 episodes of the series before canceling it, they had acquired the U.S. television rights for five years, and they only recently became available again. The fact that Saban replaced most of Yoko Kanno's score so they could use music from their own crappy music department and charge Fox for doing so, is despicable. Hopefully Cartoon Network will pick it up now and put it on its Adult Swim programming block, where it'd be done justice.
I know this review/commentary is about the TV series, but I'd like to dispel some misconceptions about the movie. It is not a sequel to the TV series. Escaflowne The Movie is a 're-imagining' of the TV series, in a way that Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is a "re-imagining" of the original movie. While beautifully animated, with improved character designs and all-around awesome production values, the movie is nearly incomprehensible if you haven't seen the TV series, and is hard to decipher at times even if you have, which is a rather unfortunate trait for a piece of art that is supposed to be able to stand on its own.
This review is just for the original, subtitled version. Supposedly the dub as a whole is so-so, but I've seen too little of the dubbed version to really comment on it.
Anyway, I highly, highly recommend this series, as its just an amazing piece of art, that deserves much wider exposure than its gotten in the U.S. (or the rest of the English speaking world for that matter). It's hard to really reduce something like this to a numerical rating, but I'd say it's about a 9.5/10.
The story is about a schoolgirl named Hitomi, who gets unexpectedly transported to a fantasy world called Gaea after encountering a young man named Van. Once she is there, she begins having powerful clear visions of the future which she can't explain. Gaea is threatened by war and Hitomi gets caught up in the conflict, alongside Van. Hitomi becomes essential to deciding the planet's fate... Escaflowne is without a doubt one of the best anime series I have ever had the pleasure to see. Just about everything about is well done, and satisfying: from the music to the characters to the mech designs. It's also very appealing to a wide audience, featuring exciting action sequences (some serious gore in the unedited version, to warn younger viewers), romance, comedy, drama and some very surprising plot twists. The animation is fluid and motion-picture quality, with a very unique style. And the musical score, (composed by Yoko Kanno, famous for Cowboy Bebop and Brain Powered, among others) is just as impressive as any to come out of Hollywood. The dub isn't the worst I've ever seen, but it really does the series no justice. See it sub-titled version if possible. In short, Escaflowne is a top notch series that is definitely worth seeing.
Wow! I'm amazed at how incredible this series is! It's one of those rare anime titles where all the elements come together: great story, great characters, great music (courtesy of the incredibly talented Yoko Kano) and some of the most beautiful animation I've ever seen. Anyone who's even remotely interested in anime has to watch this series. It's the best example of anime I've seen since "Macross Plus."
"The Vision of Escaflowne" is by far, one of the best anime series I've
ever seen, and in my heart I still feel the many, many emotions it
awoke on me.
Kanzaki Hitomi is a cheerful and athletic girl who is about to confess his love for his "sempai" - word used in japan to describe someone superior - Amano, Captain of the race team. But that day she receives visions about a young man who's preparing to fight a dragon in order to become king.
It is easy to see where this goes: the usual story about a girl sent to another world. However Escaflowne is far better than what someone would expect. And this superiority lay upon it's characters.
Van Fanel, the young prince, is a guy with a troubled fate, who in order to become king must kill an earth dragon, a hunt rite that his elder brother failed to accomplish.
Allen Schezzar is a Caeli Knight of Asturia, a powerful country, who values chivalry and honor, even when he's labeled as a traitor for his own country...
Folken, a mysterious and cold strategist of Zaibach a nation determined to conquer other countries, has a dark and mysterious past, but his actions are guided but what he believes is best for others Dilandau Albatou, is a twisted general of Zaibach, consumed by madness and blood lust...
I could go on, the series is full of great characters, even if they just walk by.
And the feeling I got while watching it, was that of an infinite sadness, maybe because of the story, too real and sincere about human nature, or maybe because of Yoko Kanno's magical and haunting soundtrack. But I know it was mainly because I knew there were only 26 episodes, and the series was bound to end too soon.
A must see, it was Beautiful, tears rolled down my face...
One of the few series where the animation only gets better as the show goes on. Yoko Kanno's music is absolutely perfect, truly heart wrenching. It really adds the the very professional feel of the entire series. It may be your classic good versus evil plot (in a way) but there are so many other elements that make the whole escaflowne world come to life. A truly well done series. The only animated TV series i know of that feels like i'm watching a movie.
This is IT! If you ever see one complete anime series, make this one it. Escaflowne is hands down THE BEST story presented in film. The scope is amazing, the plotline intense, the dialogue is brilliant, the animation is unmatched, the soundtrack is amazing....I just can't say enough. Not since Star Wars has a series come along that is worth watching all at once in succession. Needless to say, I was hooked from episode 1, and the rest is history. This even beats out the much fabled "Ghost in the Shell" and "Record of Lodoss War". If Disney is so bent on being the best at animation, then they need to watch this film, and learn from the masters.
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