High school student Hitomi is transported from Earth to the magical world of Gaea, where she meets boy prince Van Fanel, and is caught up in his quest to unite the countries of Gaea against the ominous Zaibach empire. On the way, she discovers a hidden ability and strives to unravel layers of mystery surrounding Van, his past, and the giant machine known as Escaflowne.
When you take an idea that by itself is nothing new in the medium of entertainment it can be challenge to build on that idea in a way to make a quality show and not just be run of the mill. While the basic premise of Escaflowne a high school girl being sent to another world is not new by any stretch of the imagination, it does show that by putting in the effort to develop on the basic idea and adding in some different genre concepts without doing it half assed you can have an excellent series that is enjoyable to watch.
So what makes Escaflowne so enjoyable? Well there are lots of things that make Escaflowne as enjoyable as a series. The first one is the cast of the series. These are not just two dimensional stock characters that have standard motives, no the cast members feel like real people and by the end of the series you can feel for all of them. The show does give off the “these are going to be standard characters” vibe early on but with some very strong character development through the series but the end they characters become more than they are when we first meet them. The one aspect of the character development that needs to be mentioned is the strength of the female characters in the show. Instead of just existing to provide fanservice for the viewers or just be stuck to stereotypical roles the females characters are in fact quite strong as characters. In fact I am going to go out in a limb here and say that the fact that we have a strong female lead character and the few females supporting characters are also so strong is that if the writer of the show made these females weak, the whole show itself would have been ruined completely by this.
The other great aspect that makes Escaflowne so enjoyable is how it is able to mix several different genres and make it work smoothly instead of just coming off as a shoe horned idea or something that come out of left field. The genres that are mixed provide a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy. There are mechs, there fantasy that includes magic. There is a good old adventure and there is some romance added to the mix. I do have to comment on the romance as it executed nicely. Love triangles are tricky to do correct without being clichéd or done poorly (an example of a poorly done love triangle is the one in Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory). Escaflowne does a great job with showing how you can pull of a love triangle correctly and also do it in a mature way and non-childish way.
Visually the show has aged nicely. Yes it does not have the bright colors or flashiness of today’s anime but for series created in 1996 it still looks good. The character designs while retro by today’s standards still standout and are still good to look at. None of the characters are generic looking and all the characters that are supposed to be good looking are. The mecha not like traditional anime mecha designs are giving a more Western feel to them. Their designs is more of a European knight look then say a generic or futuristic design that we usually see in anime. This adds to the Western feel that Gaea already has. The action scenes are well animated and are exciting to watch, this is especially true for the mecha battles. Praise must be given to the creation of the world of Gaea. The world of Gaea is a well-developed world and care was taken to show the different regions of the world and each nation is different from others. In this world of magic we have the Zaibach Empire which clearly represents a highly advanced Western nation, to the nation of Freid which has a more Eastern flair to it.
The music is great all around the series. From the OP to the music in the series and the ED while has a dance feel to it, is still enjoyable to listen to.
So for all I am praising about the series you must be asking “OtakuAnthony there must be some negative aspects to the series?” While Escaflowne does a lot right to make it such a great series, there are some stumbles along the way. The biggest stumble that Escaflowne has is the ending. The series was supposed to be thirty nine episodes, however when production began the series was cut down to twenty six episodes and this shows in the last few episodes in the show. The whole last few episodes of the series feel rushed and things occur without any type of explanation what so ever. The last episode gets into some talk about fate but it seems as though the writers did not know exactly what to do with it when they got to it. The other problem deals with a specific casting choice for the English dub. While the dub itself is not a terrible dub there was a miscast for one of the character. Dilandau is voiced in English by Andrew Francis who sounds too whiny compared to Dialandau’s Japanese seiyū Minami Takayama who does a much better job.
The English dub produced by everybody’s favorite Canadian dubbing studio The Ocean Group does with the exception listed above the English VA’s do a good job with their respective roles. The English script stays close to the Japanese script with a few changes here and there that do not take away from the overall show, however there is one change that I am not sure if it was done to match the lip flaps or done for a different reason but it changes one scene in a large way. The scene itself has to deal with Hitomi making a jump from a ship to another ship. In the Japanese subtitle script Hitomi thinks to herself that the jump is about five to six meters (or for us metric hating Americans that is 16.4 ft to 19.7 ft). In the English dub it becomes eight to nine feet. Both dubs are fine to listen to, however which one you should watch the series in will depend on your tastes.
So in the end is Escaflowne an anime classic? In one word yes. Escaflowne has everything one could ask for in a quality series. Even with an ending that could be better and simple miscast for the English dub, it does not take away from how great a series this is. If you are new to the anime fandom or if you are grizzly seasoned veteran you should watch this series, you will not be disappointed.
Pros: Everything with the exception of the cons listed below
Cons: The last few episodes, Dilandau’s English VA.