The Vision of Escaflowne
It's been awhile since I've seen a good, epic fantasy anime, and was actually miffed that anime like Record of Lodoss War were small in number. However, after watching The Vision of Escaflowne, a new standard has been set.
As of writing this, this epic series is my all-time favorite anime. Everything about it, from the down-to-earth characters, the exciting action, to the extensive story line, Escaflowne does it *right*. Nothing feels contrived, nothing is out-of-place, nothing goes wrong. And it's been awhile since I've seen an anime like this.
The story line, while not the best I've seen, is still a good piece of fantasy fiction. Hitomi is just your average high-school student, trying to excel on the track team. However, one night while she is practicing running the 100-meter dash, a mysterious portal opens, and young knight named Van appears before her. Hitomi is then taken with Van into the mysterious world of Gaea, which is only the beginning of her epic adventure. There's a good balance between plot and action, with some episodes focusing on developing the characters, and others simply depicting epic battles. A lot of mystery regarding Gaea and the evil forces of Zaibach is developed early on, and there are quite a few plot elements which don't get fully resolved until the end. This certainly helped in holding my interest throughout the entire series. And I must say, the ending was one of the better and more fulfilling endings I've seen in an anime.
While the story is good, the characters really make this series come alive. Hitomi is so incredibly unlike anyone else in the series that she truly feels like she was plucked from Earth and placed in the magical world of Gaea. Van, the young king of Fanelia, is driven by anger and revenge, and he makes a truly fearsome pilot of Escaflowne. Allen is a more typical medieval fantasy character, fulfilling the role of the gallant knight. Merle is the utterly adorable cat-girl, who provides the comic relief. If I had a list of cutest anime characters, she'd easily make the top five. The villains are truly excellent, as well. Dilandau and Folken are the two main adversaries, and both are as different as night and day. Dilandau is a bloodthirsty psycho with a hidden past, while Folken is quite somber, cold and calculating. Of course, there are many other characters as well, and all are fully developed and believable.
And you if you happen to think things like plot and character development are secondary to white-knuckle action, don't worry. Escaflowne has plenty of exciting, adrenaline-filled battles to satisfy you. The action combines standard medieval warfare, giant mecha duels, and even a few aerial ballets. The battle choreography is quite good, and the attention to mechanical details on the mecha made them seem almost real.
Even though this is a TV series, it has some very impressive production qualities. The artwork is superb, the animation top-notch, and some nifty computer effects are seamlessly blended in. Even better than the visuals is the wonderful music. I can honestly say that Escaflowne has one of the best soundtracks I've heard in an anime, ranging from light J-pop to thundering orchestral battle themes.
Unless you have a complete aversion for fantasy, then you've no reason not to check out this incredible series. The Vision of Escaflowne is currently the best fantasy anime available, and should not be missed.
The Verdict: * * * * * (excellent)
|last modified: 05-26-03||The Anime Critic and associated content © 1999-2003 Pete Harcoff. All rights reserved.|