It’s time to look at a recent anime that I saw. This one’s an old school action fantasy romance (Wait…what’s romance doing here?) with lots of danger and dragons. It’s a pretty solid show that may have an annoying main character and a lackluster ending, but hits most of the right notes with the plot and action scenes. The animation has aged pretty well and the music is very memorable. The most important part though is that I can add this title to my mecha list alongside Heroic Age, IGPX, and Transformers. (Probably another one or two somewhere in there)
The plot follows a girl named Hitomi who is on a search for true love, but only finds rebound guys and people who want to use her powers to save their kingdom. So…Hitomi runs. She runs and runs and ultimately becomes one of the best track and field athletes at her school. The main guy from school decides to move away so Hitomi confronts him and wants to prove that she can run really fast. Her big moment is interrupted when a giant laser shows up from the sky and brings her to another world along with a kid named Van. They slay a dragon and Hitomi realizes that she is now on another planet.
Van’s kingdom was exterminated by the Zaibach empire and so he is now the King by default. He intends to exact his revenge, but it’ll be tough since their technology is centuries ahead of the other kingdoms. While people from the hero side still fight with sticks and stones (With a few low tech robots as well) Zaibach has electronic assassins, people with shape shifting abilities, and robots that can burn whole cities to the ground. Luckily, Van finds a robot named Escaflowne. This robot is the strongest robot in history and it is the one thing that can tip the scales of this one sided war. Together with Hitomi’s ability to see the future (Wait, when’d this happen?) they will save the world!
Hitomi may have just been an ordinary runner at first, but travelling to the other world strengthened her pre cog abilities. She was already good at reading fortunes, but now she was the real deal. Hitomi can sense dangers before they occur and her predictions are 100% accurate. They can be changed of course, if she uses this knowledge to warn people ahead of time. Her very existence also works to nullify fate alteration weapons and if she becomes strong enough, she can heavily influence destiny as well. After all, any future that she sees will be in jeopardy since Hitomi can change it if she wants. If she were a strong main character, this ability could have really helped the heroes even more.
Unfortunately, being strong willed is not one of Hitomi’s abilities. She consistently makes the wrong decisions and is certainly one of the weaker characters in the show. For starters, she is really the symbol of the rebound character. She starts off liking one guy, then goes to a second, and finally a third. She goes back and forth between these guys throughout the whole show and simply cannot make up her mind. By the very end of the show, she finally makes a choice and everyone else made theirs anyway, but it was hard to sympathize with her plight. She also lied to one of her friends, which doomed that person to a failed marriage. Hitomi only deserves half of the blame since nobody should ever leave their marriage up to a fortune reading though.
The worst strike against her is that Hitomi ultimately decides not to use her powers to help everyone. She doesn’t want to see the terrible visions and would prefer the armies to just destroy each other than to end the war quickly. The joke’s on her since the visions come true regardless and will keep on popping up, but Hitomi does help to increase the body count dramatically. Yeah, I definitely didn’t like Hitomi and it felt like she just kept making things worse. A pet peeve of mine is that when she returns to the past…Hitomi decides to do everything in the same exact way. It defeats the purpose of getting a second chance if you’re not going to do anything about it right? It’s like if I could go back in time to my first Super Smash tournament. You can bet that I’d wreck everyone since I’d be ready for the attacks that they’d throw out.
Moving on, Van is a pretty good hero. For a while there, he was losing to Allen but ended up passing him due to a whole host of reasons. Van’s your typical action hero. He’s pretty head strong and is always ready for a fight. He craves battle even more than some leads since the whole matter is pretty personal. Once he unlocks the true power of Escaflowne, he really reigns down chaos on all of the villains. He becomes so powerful that they simply can’t hold a candle to him anymore. While the romance isn’t really handled all that well, it doesn’t become much of a factor for most of the series. For the most part, Van is just focused on taking everyone down. Even with the emotions machine making everyone a little more upset, it was odd to see Van and Allen go all out in the final episode. It was a good fight though and Van was definitely doing well. I didn’t care for Van too much in the first half as he was just mean for no reason and was surprisingly weak considering all of his tough talk. Gradually, Van did prove that he was a nice guy when out of his shell though and he became a good fighter. He’s definitely the best character in the series by the end.
Allen’s a good rival and for a wile there he was easily the best character in the show. Unfortunately, his character took a bit of a nosedive by the end as the show had to prove that Van was the only acceptable answer. For starters, Allen couldn’t make up his mind on whether or not he actually liked Hitomi or not. Once he decided, Allen was very heavy handed about the whole thing and seemed to just treat the whole thing as a contest where he could one up Van. He never seemed all that serious and since he would still be flirting around Millerna and had another affair in the past…it’s sort of hard to like him by the end. He never turns evil or anything so there’s always that.
Folken is one of the big villains who has one of the most unbelievable turnarounds out there. He’s behind the wheel, destroying all cities and villages to try and get to the goal. His own homeland is one of the first to go and he never looks back. See, Folken’s a pacifist who didn’t like that his village forced you to destroy a dragon at one point so he decided to become a mass murderer to end war. You know, it’s the classic “Take over the world and murder all the leaders so they can never start a war again” train of thought. It ultimately won’t work and will just make a lot more conflicts in the mean time and Folken eventually sees this. So….he becomes a good guy who is all about peace. Lets just say that this doesn’t end well for him, but he 180 turnaround was extremely sudden and I can see why Van wasn’t very accepting of this. Hitomi was way too accepting of this if you ask me as she instantly jumped on his side. I can’t say that I ever liked Folken, he was constantly using everyone so I can’t believe the turn around.
Dilandau was easily the more interesting villain. He likes to cause carnage and picks fights everywhere. He does get an identity/gender crisis by the end which is really weird and out of left field. I can’t say that I was thrilled about the twist at all. It was a little humorous with how sudden it was, but did nothing for the character and just felt unnecessary. Side stepping that land mine, Dilandau worked perfectly as the main rival for Van. He got completely outclassed once Van learned of Escaflowne’s true power and never put up a good fight again, but he had a solid run. I guess you can say that he’s like Allen as they both started out very strong and ended on a whimper. He’s still the best villain in the series though.
Finally, we have Zaibach’s leader, Dornkirk. He’s a really old man who can’t move anymore so he just sits down and looks at everyone through a telescope. He has McDonalds Wifi so the connection is always very distorted and blurry. No matter, he wants to build a Utopia where everyone is in a dream and living in harmony. He’s mad at the fact that Hitomi’s existence makes this just about impossible. The way that he goes out is definitely laughable as it’s how I picture The One Above All getting wrecked in a fight. It was rather clever to make sure that he met his end at the site of the reverse fate manipulation weapon though since that means that his death is flipped around. It was ultimately pointless though since he stayed in a ghost like state though. There’s nothing really interesting about Dornkirk, but he’s probably the funniest villain of the bunch since he literally cannot move. It’s hard to take a villain like that seriously. Especially considering that Dornkirk panics at least once an episode since fate cannot see through love and this is a romance series so that happens a lot.
Millerna was a decent supporting character. She’s a princess who is also a little confused in matters of the heart. She goes for the rebound character because everyone expects her to do so and naturally it leads to one of the quickest divorces in anime. That part definitely made her look bad since she was just lying to herself the whole time, but at least she’s not the one who broke it all off. Then again…maybe it would have been better if she had made the decision. She can’t really fight since Van and Allen are the only ones with mechs, but she’s always around to encourage Hitomi. Merle is another heroine who is always around and she’s a cat creature who’s very loyal to Van. She makes sure to insult Hitomi all of the time and is one of the main comic relief characters of the series. She’s not all that bad although her “romance” with Van doesn’t really add anything to her show. All of Merle’s scenes are basically filler although at least she called the guards when Hitomi was kidnapped for the 4th or 5th time.
Eriya and Nariya were two villains who showed up towards the second half of the series. They’re skilled generals who work for Folken. Their mechs are pretty speedy and they make for good opponents. They only got to battle Van in a fair fight once, but that round didn’t go well for them at all. Choosing to fight a rage mode Van is definitely not the best call. Their luck enhancements were seriously powerful and made them the toughest threats of all, but in the end the weaknesses of it were a little too grand. They were good villains, but mainly because of their mechs. Their roles were a little too small to do much other than that. They do beat a lot of the other villains like Folken though.
Dryden is a prince who shows up to get married and remind the characters that having a lot of money is handy in this series. He’s pretty annoying and while the show tries to present him as a likable guy by the end, I wasn’t buying it. He definitely doesn’t seem genuine and maybe I just don’t trust rich salesmen in these kinds of things all that much. I mean, who doesn’t remember the happy salesman from Majora’s Mask? There’s also a Mole Man who is very annoying throughout the series. He breaks into people’s rooms, steals things, and is generally just a bad guy. Despite this, the heroes never do anything about him because they just figure that he could never do anything too terrible. They don’t take him seriously, but if you ask me, he should still be brought to justice. The guy gets away with wayyyy too much. I do like the fact that none of the characters ever bothered to ask his name though. He literally doesn’t have a name, which is fitting.
The screenshots here don’t really do the animation justice. It’s definitely held up really well and the fight scenes are excellent. The colors stand out and you can feel the blows. There aren’t many energy blasts or weapons to be found here, but Escaflowne’s energy jewel stands out. The character designs are all solid and while I haven’t actually seen the movie, I can already tell you that the designs here are many times better. The best design is probably Allen’s robot, it always looked very regal and majestic.
The music makes sure to keep up as well. I can still remember most of the soundtrack clearly, which is something that I can’t say for other shows. The themes were also very good. We had an epic opera theme, a really good villain theme, a good thinking theme, and a whole bunch of others. The overall soundtrack is definitely a lot better than I had been anticipating. It has an old feel compared to most of my favorite soundtracks, like the techno Cardfight Vanguard, but it works really well with the show. It’s old, but it’s not boring and that’s an important distinction to make.
Escaflowne’s fight scenes are definitely pretty good. We get a few hand to hand battles, but most of the action scenes are with the mechs. Any battle with Dilandau is sure to be entertaining and I also liked Allen’s fight style. Since he is a great sword fighter outside of the mech, it makes sense that it would translate well to the robot. It’s a shame that his robot couldn’t fly or use any projectiles though. That would have helped him a lot. As it stands, he was still beating Van most of the times that they fought. Right now, Van would easily defeat Allen thanks to the fact that his robot is 100x better, but Allen still has the better fundamental skills.
Escaflowne is also pretty unique with how long it takes for the heroes to do anything. The first 3-4 villages that they go to are all destroyed by Zaibach. Each time, Van and Hitomi try to warn the locals, but they don’t listen and as a result, they’re all destroyed. This happens to them over and over and over again. Finally, they are able to make a counter offensive by the end. The whole dynamic goes from the situation being hopeless for the heroes to them being overpowered by the end. Without Van’s robot, there is definitely no way that they can win. The villains are more prepared in every area and also have the large advantage in numbers. By the end, Van’s so powerful that he can basically take on the whole army on his own, but all of his teammates are still in trouble.
That’s why the villains could have easily won so many times had they not made the mistake of listening to their old leader. They were winning drastically, but he told them not to make a move. Well, it cost him since one of the heroes decided to fire a nuke. The scene was super unexpected, but also pretty interesting. Once again, it was just not something that an anime would typically do. Usually, you have the heroes win the big final battle or something, but the main heroes didn’t actually do much this time around. They actually would have been overwhelmed if not for the nuke, although it was a rather sour ending to the alliance and got everyone fighting again. The ending showed everyone’s true colors after the dust was settled.
Escaflowne’s one weakness is definitely the romance. It plays a rather large role in the show, but none of the characters even know what they want. Hitomi chases after several guys, but loses them all. Millerna goes after one, but winds up with another. Allen goes after one, but it doesn’t end well so he leads on a second while he tries for a third and eventually comes away with none. Van tries for one, but loses her in the end. Two villains aim for one, but they lose their lives first. One guy gets his girl, but then breaks it off because he’s not ready for this. It goes on and on with these guys and none of the romances really matter in the end. Everyone just keeps on spinning their wheels and hurting the others emotionally while also getting hurt by someone else. It feels like the romance is just a distraction and should be treated as such instead of being the main plot for a while. Trust me, it does become the main plot as the main villain’s plan involves pairing up Hitomi with her second choice as it will let him take over the world. His plan was too vague to work anyway, but the fact that he has to help encourage a romance is also rather strange.
There’s no need to talk about the ending much since it’s hard to discuss without spoilers. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with it. It would work if someone had pulled the friend zone card before leaving, but since the character made the opposite move…it makes no sense. It’s one of those head scratchers where you just have to wonder what the writers were thinking. I certainly thought that it was a bad ending at any rate. One more thing you will question during the film is why the friends and the Mom don’t care about Hitomi being missing for months as much as they should? Hitomi gets one text/fax from the guy she was trying to impress and that’s it. Maybe they tried to send more and they didn’t get through the dimensional firewalls, but since one did I have to believe that others could. The Mom’s only reaction is that she’s sure Hitomi will be fine. That’s not the best reaction. There’s a plot twist about Hitomi’s grand mother which may have helped to bring this reaction out, but it was still rather unrealistic.
Overall, The Vision of Escaflowne is a solid anime. In its 26 episodes, the show managed to cover a great deal. We had several big villains, one shot villains, etc. The heroes got to visit a lot of different landscapes and even went into a portal where they met vague high above beings who built Escaflowne. It has a good amount of action and the plot is solid as well. While the cast may not seem all that great from the character profiles, they can hold the show with ease. Most of them may be unlikable individually, but at least they’re interesting. Boring characters are worse for a show than unlikable ones and while Dunkirk may have not been threatening in the slightest, he was a memorable main villain. (For all the wrong reasons) The show even got to try out several tones as we had a few dark and intense episodes, but also several light hearted ones. The pacing was always nice and fast and you could never tell when the next tragedy would occur. Be prepared for a lot of it though as the villains leave no stone unturned. They make sure to get to everyone by the end. I definitely recommend this anime and don’t let the romance scare you off. It’s definitely the weakest part of the show and it’s omission would have made the whole thing better, but it doesn’t drag it down all that much. Now you can safely compare it to titles like Transformers and Gundam. Winning that battle is another story though!