The Vision of Escaflowne
Kanzaki Hitomi always thought she was just an ordinary high school girl. Her hobbies involved running track for her high school team, fortunetelling, and boys -- just like everyone else, right?
One night, though, her life irrevocably changes for the stranger. A mind-blowing series of events lands her on a planet called Gaea, where both the moon and the Earth are visible in the sky. Hitomi suddenly finds herself as one of the pivotal elements in a global struggle for power with the entire fate of Gaea in the balance. But here on Gaea, even fate is just another factor to be manipulated in the overall equation, especially with Hitomi's latent mystic abilities. The future of the world depends on the choices Hitomi will make as she braves the perils of war, battle, and love.
What was it that first drew you to anime? Was it the striking, stylized artwork and high-quality animation? Was it the awesome action sequences you had always craved in animation but could never find on Saturday mornings? Was it the maturity in storylines that didn't insult your intelligence or talk down to you, but instead kept you eagerly guessing until the end? Was it the realistic and compelling inter-character relationships that made you believe you really knew these characters?
Anime fans everywhere: The Vision of Escaflowne offers all of the above, and in stellar quality as well. A more complete embodiment of anime as a whole you won't find.
Consider this -- nearly every genre of anime is incorporated in the 26 episodes of Escaflowne (excluding hentai, of course), and it's all done well, without resorting to the tried-and-true cliches of each. Normally conflicting styles and philosophies mesh and harmonize in a way never achieved before. The mecha design is both unique and familiar at the same time, giving a hearty nod to the "knights and swords" mythology Western audiences are familiar with. The soundtrack is an excellent hybrid of moody orchestral swells and lilting Japanese pop. In fact, the anime itself is the perfect marriage of "boy-type" shonen (action-oriented) and "girl-type" shojo (relationship oriented) anime. Both sides of the coin lend their greatest strengths to this title: shonen contributing well-choreographed action scenes and shojo lending fleshed-out, believable characters.
The characterization in Escaflowne is particularly well-done, especially in the treatment of its main heroine, Hitomi. Yes, Hitomi is a uniformed high-school girl, but beyond the stereotypical fuku is a confused, awkward teenager you'll swear you sat next to in history class. And for that matter, all the characters are fully dimensional and interesting, even seemingly minor characters that only show up for two or three episodes. The 26 episodes end up going by frighteningly quick, and the storyline itself is full of delightful surprises to keep you hungering for more at the end of each episode.
From the very beginning, Escaflowne achieves the feeling of escaping to fantastic world with large heaping spoonfuls of pure atmosphere. Nice touches such as Hitomi earnestly asking the viewer if she's still dreaming at the beginning of the first few episodes help intensify the other-worldliness of the adventure. Gaea is a gorgeous place, and Escaflowne is ready to give you a full visual and aural tour.
At the risk of repeating myself, there is very little to dislike about Escaflowne. It's a pure treat from the mysterious, enigmatic beginning to the poignant, satisfying end. Make sure you see some of it if you can.
Recommended Audience: As an action adventure, Escaflowne is fairly straightforward in terms of content. There is a decent amount of graphic violence in the action sequences which will keep the youngest audiences from seeing this title. There is also a very high dosage of occultism (tarot cards, dowsing, etc.) in the first half of the series as well, which may offend some parents, and one catgirl's incredibly skimpy outfit brings this ever so slightly into the "risque" spectrum.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (26/26)
The Vision of Escaflowne © 1996 Sunrise / TX
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