Vision of Escaflowne
Genre: Action/Adventure, Mecha, Magic Girl, Fantasy
Episodes: 26 episodes
Notes: There is 1 movie in addition to the series. The manga came after the series and the characters look quite different.
Hitomi is a 15 year old high school student who can tell fortunes with her tarot cards. She is also on the school track team. One day while trying to beat her personal record to impress a boy she likes, she encounters Van, a prince from another world. Van has somehow been transported to Earth from Gaia and is on a quest to slay a dragon (which follows him to Hitomi's world). Hitomi is then transported with Van to Gaia and their adventures begin. Emperor Dornkirk has sent his Dragonslayers (mecha soldiers) to capture Escaflowne, Van's special Guymelef (term for mecha in this series), and destroy Van's kingdom. Hitomi and Van escape to find allies. They unravel the mystery of Gaia's relationship with Earth (also called the Mystic Moon) and the fate of Atlantis. Meanwhile Emperor Dornkirk wages war and tries to change the fate of the world.
The animation is very good overall, but the character designs are a little strange. All the characters have Pinnocchio noses, weird hair halos, and sometimes weird lines on their faces. The different countries of Gaia are well defined, each with their own culture and style of dress. The score is excellent especially with the Escaflowne Gregorian type chanting during action scenes. The voices are all appropriate with extra kudos to the voice actor for Allen Schezar who has to walk a fine line between affectation and manliness.
The story and characters are involving. It's basically a fantasy series with no filler episodes. It's exciting from the first episode to the last, like one long 9 hour movie, not episodic. Some of the plot twists are a bit soap operish - you can see a couple coming from a mile away. The only real problem is some of the attempts at humor are pretty weak. Merle, the cat-girl is very annoying and not funny, but luckily she's a minor character. Allen Schezar, a playboy Knight of Asturia, has some funny moments, but some guys may find his costume too effeminate. The whole idea behind the destiny prognosticator (machine the emperor tries to use to change fate) can be a bit confusing as well as the ending. Although they fight with mecha, this is not a mecha anime. There are love triangles, questions about fate and destiny, mysteries to solve and complicated characters. Van is a prince who is forced to fight although his innate character is against it. Allen, despite his confidence in his abilities with the sword and with women, has a tragic past. Hitomi is torn between her feelings for Van, Alan, and Amano (the boy she left behind). She must also confront her part in the shaping of Gaia's fate and that of her companions'. The villains (Emperor Dunkirk, Dilandau, and Folken), none is what he appears to be.
Overall, an excellent exciting series with lots of action, romance, adventure and even politics. This show is recommended to everyone but a there are a few scenes with blood. Be advised to watch the sub. As usual the dub voices are not nearly as good.
Escaflowne The Movie (Grade B)
Basically the same story as the series, but character designs got an overhaul (not necessarily for the better, the noses are now too short). Hitomi is no longer a take-action type, but a depressed girl who has contemplated suicide. The animation was even better, but the story just wasn't as interesting despite having even more intense battle scenes. The plot and characters are no longer as complicated. Emperor Dornkirk is gone and Folken becomes the main villain. Still a decent movie, but watch the series instead.