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Beginner's Guide to the Vision of Escaflowne

A handy helper for new viewers unfamiliar with this sweeping saga.

I first watched THE VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE (pronounced ess-kah-floh-nay) back when I was 12 or 13 - - back in the days of VHS tapes. It was my first foray into long-form anime and, twelve years later, it still stands out as one of the best shows I’ve ever watched - - from anywhere! ESCAFLOWNE’S real genius lies in how it bridges a lot of the usual gaps that exist between genres and audiences. Fantasy and science-fiction fans, boys and girls, shojo and shonen, casual viewer and hardcore fan - - this show really does offer something for everybody.

The Story

High school track runner Hitomi Kanzaki entertains her friends with surprisingly-accurate Tarot-divined predictions about their lives, but she’s having a little trouble getting the attention of her own “King of Cups.” In a bid to impress her crush, another runner, she tries to pull off a 100-meter off in 13 seconds. But, wouldn’t you know, her dash gets interrupted by a ferocious bout of dragon slaying. With a flash of light, prince Van Fanel and a dragon suddenly appear on the track, locked in the heat of battle. After Van kills the beast, the same light dragoons him and Hitomi to Gaea, a fantastical “hidden planet” where both Earth and the Moon hang in the sky. 

Before anybody can even begin to get their bearings, Hitomi’s tagging along for Van’s coronation at his home, the kingdom of Fanelia. She gets a catty welcome from Merle, a feline courtesan who’s very protective of her prince. After presenting the slain dragon’s heart as proof of his completing the regal rite of passage, Van is pronounced king, but his ceremony’s cut short by a treacherous attack. The enemy Zaibach empire has sent the pyromaniac Dilandau Albatou and his outfit of vicious guymelef pilots to lay siege to Fanelia.  These "guymelefs" are giant armors best described as magic-powered mecha. 

Van fetches his own guymelef, the legendary Escaflowne, but despite his valiant efforts, he can’t save his kingdom from being sacked. Once again, a flash of light whisks him and Hitomi away, and they wind up in different parts of the neighboring kingdom, Asturia.  Hitomi’s saved by Allen Schezar, a dashing knight who bears an uncanny resemblance to her track team crush. As anybody would guess, this girl swoons over him.

Trouble follows these hapless youths, however - - like a wolf with a scent. Dilandau and his raiders attack the castle Allen’s guarding and quickly burn it to the groud. After reappearing with Escaflowne, Van lures Dialandu’s crew away so Hitomi and Allen can flee to Asturia’s capital. Van’s efforts bring him face to face with Folken, his disgraced older brother, who’s shockingly fallen in liege with Dilandau and Zaibach.
 
The series runs at a breakneck pace and everything that's just been described only takes up six episodes. Hitomi gets swept in a worldwide conflict full of heroic battles, daring escapes and shocking surprises.

Characters

This epic series has an impressive ensemble of characters. Not only are there two armies in opposition, there are also numerous factions who stand on their own points between the “Good and Evil” poles. Actually, these characters are all well fleshed-out  - - there aren’t just pure-heart goodies and truly heartless baddies, but heroes with tragic flaws and villains with noble intentions. In the interest of conciseness, I’ll only list the “top five” here…  
 

HITOMI KANZAKI 
A bright, sporty track girl who had a simple life before all this madness.  She has a pendant and a Tarot card deck that she's used for simple fortune-telling but, after she gets Shanghaied to Gaea, she finds her parlor tricks amplified into world-altering, fate-shaping powers. Among other abilities, her pendant allows her to sense cloaked guymelefs which are invisible to the human eye.
 
 

VAN FANEL

Hot blood runs in this one. A highly-strung, impulsive hero whose kingship's rare in a genre packed with princes - -  although that'd carry more weight if his kingdom were still around. With Fanelia destroyed, he’s on the warpath against the Zaibach empire. Arthur has Excalibur and Luke Skywalker had his father’s lightsaber - - this lad’s family weapon is the Escaflowne armor.  
 
 
ALLEN SCHEZAR
Just call this guy “Prince Charming.” A chivalrous knight of of the Asturia kingdom, he charms not only Hitomi but also Asturia's fair princess. Of course, tragedy and indiscretion lurks beneath all the smoothness.  He's got an illegitimate son running around and his kid sister was kidnapped and imprisoned by Zaibach years ago. 

 
 
 

FOLKEN FANEL

Van’s big brother gone bad.  The eldest son of Fanelia, he had a crisis of conscience during his ceremonial dragon duel and was subsequently maimed. Comparison to Darth Vader are apt, for not only does this melancholy swordsman have cybernetic limbs, he's also parted from the side of angels and allied with Zaibach's enigmatic Emperor Dornkirk.  

 

DILANDAU ALBATOU

Plain and simple, this is a bug-eyed psycho on wheels (or wings, to be precise.) Dilandau leads the Zaibach elite guymelef force and, while Folken's reluctant to battle, Dilandau absolutely revels in carnage. If you’re confused over why this guy looks so much like a chick, believe me, you’re not far off and the secret concerns tragic connection to Allen.  

 
MERLE
You just have to mention this feline courtesan, even at the expense of Emporer Dornkirk - - she’s too darn cute! She’s fiercely protective of Van and, since she's got a crush on him, too,  she doesn’t like Hitomi at all.


 
 

What Can This Be Compared To?

Of all the anime series I've watched, this is probably the most accessible for new viewers. If you’ve been a fan of any of the sweeping heroic fantasy trilogies that have dominated the international box office over the past decade, then you’re going to love this show. The “elevator pitch” for ESCAFLOWNE is that it's THE WIZARD OF OZ meets STAR WARS by way of LORD OF THE RINGS with a dash of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.  Gaea's a high-fantasy setting with many allusions to medieval times and the renaissance, but the tech is decidedly futuristic. I liken Hitomi to Dorothy, because the larger plot of this series follows the archetypal girl's fantasy story (she's even the center of a love triangle!) Be certain that this show has plenty of testosterone-fueled action and mecha battles, though.

What Should You Watch?

Like I said, I first watched this show subbed on a 8-tape box set for the VHS (and it's still available online!)  I haven’t minded watching dubbed versions of other series, but I’d really recommend sticking to subbed versions of this as you’ll run the risk of getting a lemon. There was a dubbed version of this show that aired on American that was heavily censored and edited, even going as far as to make Hitomi a secondary character! As for DVD, there's the SUPER LEGENDS BOX SET, which is available for only $30 on Amazon - - and that really is a steal. I haven't seen the feature length ESCAFLOWNE movie that came out in 2000, but all the fans I've talked to didn't dig it. It's tough to boil down a multi-hour series into a 90 minute feature while still adequately retaining what was so fun about the show. 

Dream moderator on June 18, 2010 at 9:48 a.m.
Ah, someone brought up the heavily edited version that Fox Kids aired back in the early 2000s. That thing flopped as the network's attempt to make something as popular as the Digimon anime airing on the network at the time with the show canned after only half of its run and even skipping the first episode since the show was trying to make Van into the only key character, much like the heavily edited Cardcaptors Nelvana dub trying to make Syaoran the lead character and reducing Sakura into a secondary role.
 
As for the TV series, definitely a great watch with a couple well-known figures in anime taking part in it. It was one of the first anime that popular composer Yoko Kanno led her music creating talents for and was one of the first anime for seiyuu/ J-Pop singer Maaya Sakamoto to take part in voicing Hitomi and singing the anime's opening song. Both would later be well-known for collaborating together as Yoko would compose the music used for Maaya's J-Pop songs. 
Catolfon June 18, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.
Oh man, i first say this way back when it was aired on fox kids, i liked the look of it but I saw one episode and it was gone, i have a few of the DVD's (random that I found) and i need to have a sit down and watch them.
Crono11on June 18, 2010 at 11:48 a.m.
I watched an episode of this on YTV when I was about 7 and had the song where they say "Escaflowne" in my head for years and I couldn't remember what it was from. 
 
Well not to long ago I finally found out what it was and watched the whole series. And I have to say, I quite liked it. It had some weird parts but then again what anime isn't?
 
Oh and yeah I have to agree that the movie is not so good.
Lyaloveon June 18, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.
Okay first off I have to say I love, love, love you for this guide because Escaflowne is one of the all time best anime I have watched. It is a classic and everyone needs to see it. 
 
Besides that however, I must admit  I didn't find the dub all that terrible. It has the roughness of a late 90s, early 2000 dub but it isn't that bad. However I never saw the version of the dub you're talking about. The uncut dub is actually pretty decent, but once again it's more of a thing of preference so either way you go it will still be excellent.
FoxxFireArt moderator on June 18, 2010 at 1:32 p.m.
This is a series that I've heard of frequently, but just never bothered to watch.
Kuma_From_Argentinaon June 18, 2010 at 3:38 p.m.
 It's epic.... 
Just Epic.... 
Escaflowne is awesome, the music is flawless Dance of the Cursed or Black Escaflowne are two of the best OST music in the whole anime history  
 
The real hero is good ol' Pimpin Folken... 
He is unresistable... 
No_name_here staff on June 18, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.
@Dream:  Ack! How could I forget the music! I'll probably update this later and add a section about that.
constanzadellarosaon June 18, 2010 at 6:07 p.m.
Tom, don't waste your time on the movie. It is terribly bad indeed. They made too many changes and crammed too much in the more or less 90 minutes it lasts.
 
The Escaflowne soundtrack is EPIC. Perfect in every sense.
MercuryCrusaderon June 19, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.

Does this show need a guide? I mean, it doesn't have the kind of history or popular culture significance that franchises such as Mazinger Z, Mobile Suit Gundam, Macross, or even (don't wanna say it) Neon Genesis Evangelion have.  It's like having a guide for Gad Guard or something.  I mean it's well done, but it was literally just one TV series and a movie, not exactly a lot to absorb.

MyNiceIceLifeon June 19, 2010 at 9:44 p.m.
My friend absolutely loves this series.  She tried to show it to me at one point, but it didn't help that we were playing cards at the time.  I've been meaning to pick it up since like was pointed out it is only $30 and that's hard to pass up, but I just always pass it up.  Most likely cause I've never been a big fan of Mecha series, but I've started to get into them so next time I see it I'll probably pick it up after reading this.
SilverZeoon June 19, 2010 at 11:17 p.m.
I remember the commercials for this back when there was a FoxKids... but I didn't came to it till they made the abridged series. "HEYYY, FOLKEN! Found the dragon yet?"
hitsusatsu11on June 20, 2010 at 7:03 p.m.
Good series, mostly because of the dub 
gla55jAwon June 21, 2010 at 8:51 p.m.
I remember watching this when it was on FOX and then one week it wasn't on anymore. Years later I found the whole series on dvd at a local gamestop (along with trigun), I'd come in and pick them up 3 at a time with their buy 2 get 1 free. I still have them and love this series!
Chromaon June 21, 2010 at 11:06 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt: Same here, although I have been meaning to. Looks epic. 
jewl122on June 22, 2010 at 2:06 p.m.

i have seen only one episode but, I geuss it's all rIght.

Shibumion July 27, 2010 at 4:37 a.m.
One of the first non gundam Anime series I ever saw... and it was done by Sunrise. 
 
I enjoyed the series much more than the rather strange Movie, which i still have lying around here somewhere.
KyleRaymaginion Aug. 24, 2010 at 5:32 a.m.
The uncut dub is my preference, but does anybody know where I could watch the edited dub online?
TimothyDonohooon Aug. 26, 2010 at 7:33 p.m.
@MercuryCrusader:

what exactly is a lemon? it was in the guide, so what does it mean?

Dig Deeper into The Vision of Escaflowne

Hitomi,a young high school girl, is transported away from her everyday life to the "mystic moon". She finds herself caught up in a feudal fantasy world on the brink of all out war.

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