Older animes fans harken to the time when anime was hand-drawn versus computer-generated anime.
This brings me to today’s topic Escaflowne an old anime from the ’90s that is the definition of a hand-drawn anime.
Escaflowne came into my life during the Fox Kids days.
It was one of many anime they were airing.
Imagine being your childhood, you have been watching the epicness that is Digimon. You think that is the best anime has to offer, then it happens, during the commercials you see an ad for a show called Escaflowne.
You layback further in your chair in excitement and listen to the famous line that Lord Delinadu says…
This was my fondest childhood memory of Escaflowne
I make it a tradition to re-watch this show every year.
The most recent viewing has not changed my view of this class.
My goal is to discuss this anime and convince you that it is worth your time to check it out. Much like other Get the Run Downs the review will dive into all the elements of the show.
This review will contain general things from the show.
Expect all spoilers from the first five episodes only. Nothing spoiled from those episodes will ruin the watching experience.
There are Many People to Thank for Escaflowne’s Creation
- Porco Rosso,
- Macros Plus,
and would later compose music for:
- Cowboy Bebop,
- Wolf’s Rain,
composed the music for Escaflowne. (Drazen 291)
Escaflowne is unique in that it had four different iterations
There was no defined demographic for Escaflowne. As a result, two versions came out.
One version had Hitomi as a girl with long hair, glasses, and a very feminine body.
The other had Hitomi as a thin girl with short hair and a runner.
The anime based its version on the second take on Hitomi.
Akane was in charge of the creation of the second version of the manga (Drazen 292).
There is a movie called A Girl in Gaea which is a different telling of Escaflowne.
More Facts about the show
Escaflowne was originally going to 39 episodes in length but was later shortened to 26 episodes. Also on Fox Kids, there was an English dubbed version airing. This was a typical anime for kids dubbed anime. It contained heavy flashbacks and a terrible replacement soundtrack for the current one. Thankfully the show’s ratings were so bad that Fox Kids canceled it after nine episodes.
Escaflowne’s main genre is a shojo because it follows the journey of a young girl. What made Escaflowne unique is that it also has mech battles and action sequences. These aspects also make it for boys. It would not be inaccurate to call Escaflowne a crossover show.
The Visions of Escaflowne debuted in 1996.
Now that you know some brief history of Escaflowne, let’s discuss the show
The Story So far
Hitomi a 15-year-old junior high school student has two passions running and fortune-telling. She has a crush on another track athlete name Amano. While in the nurses’ office Hitomi shows the audience and Amano a pendant that swings in one-second increments.
Hitomi requests that Amano test her speed before he leaves with the stakes being a kiss if she can do it.
During Hitomi’s run, a light from the heavens appears in front of her. A boy with traditional medieval armor and weapons and dragon appear from the light. Von who is the boy kills the dragon and takes its heart. The light reappeared and this time both Von and Hitomi traveled back to wherever Von came from.
Hitomi learns that she is in the land of Gaea. In the land of Gaea, she discovers that her fortune-telling powers are stronger. The Zaibach empire seeks to conquer all of Gaea to fulfill Dornkirk’s plan. Hitomi now has to figure out how to get home and stop the Zaibach empire.
The story takes place in two locations modern japan on earth and in the world of Gaea. Gaea world takes place in an alternate version of the medieval period. It contains medieval versions of modern equipment. It’s basically a steampunk or medieval punk (a friend came up with that name).
There are also anthropomorphic creatures that live Gaea such as Merle who is a cat and Von’s companion.
The Protagonist(s) and Antagonist(s)
Allen Schezar is the lone knight from Austria and a lady killer. He is a pilot of the Guymelef called Scherazade and commands the flying ship known as the Crusade and her crew.
Von Fanelia is the new king of Fanelia and pilot of the Escaflowne. He seeks revenge for his kingdom’s destruction at the hands of the Zaibach army. Despite his desire to fight, Von is a good person at heart.
Hitomi Kanzaki is a junior high school student who is a member of the track team and an amateur fortune teller.
In Gaea Hitomi is able to accurately predict the future through tarot cards and visions. She assists Von in combat by pointing out where the invisible Guymelefs are and teaches Von to do the same.
Hitomi narrates the story through her experiences.
Folken the treacherous brother of Von and servant to Lord Dornkirk.
Dilandau Albatou who is a bloodthirsty general of Lord Dornkirk. He commands an army of Guymelef users. His Guymelef is crimson red-colored while the other Guymelefs are dark grey.
Lord Dornkik is the leader of the Zaibach empire the strongest in Gaea. He wants the dragon known as Escaflowne because its existence will impact the world’s future. He uses his servants including Folken and Dilandau to chase after it.
The Major Conflicts
The major conflict is the Zaibach’s threat throughout all of Gaia.
Every nation has decided to fight or make a treaty with Zaibach. The leader of each land makes the false assumption that Zaibach will honor their treaty.
Zaibach “values” these treaties by having their Guymelef turn invisible so the illusion of peace remains intact.
The characters always need to be on alert
There is also tension when Hitomi, Von, and Allen travel to a new place. The leaders give the impression that they could sell them out to Zaibach.
Plus Dornkirk’s Guymelefs are never too far so any peaceful moment can urn into a all-out blood bath.
The last major conflict is the love triangles in the romance part of the story. Merle is overprotective and loves Von and considers Hitomi a threat. Hitomi likes Allen but so does Millerna who is family friends with Allen. The battle between who Hitomi ends up causes many awkward moments.
Art and Sound
Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack is great and makes the epic scenes something straight from an opera. The background choir enhances so many epic moments.
Dance of the curse is the main song used in Escaflowne during the epic action sequences. It might be as famous as the show itself and is an excellent piece of music.
The opening song is from Maaya Sakamoto debut song “Yakusoku wa Iranai”. Also, Maaya Sakamoto voices Hitomi in the show.
The Guymelefs are an excellent component of what makes the art in this anime so good. Guymelefs are giant versions of armor that knights wore during the medieval times. All of the different countries have unique Guymelefs which adds another level of world-building to the series. These differences can range from colors, weapons, design, etc.
In episode two Von gets inside Escaflowne and the audience sees how the Guymelefs work. It responds to the users movements so if you moving your arm moves the Guymelef’s arm. Most conventional mechs use buttons and screens which makes this a nice change of pace. The artists did a great job of showing how these Guymelef’s work.
Guymelefs are large in size when compated to a normal human. You immediately are made aware of this with Escaflowne’s first step. Hitomi barely reaches the ankle of this behemoth of a machine.
When the Guymelefs fight in this show the movements are slower than two people fighting. This is a subtle and another great aspect of the art which makes sense because larger machines would move slower. It adds another element of tension to the Guymelef’s fights because each blow has a delay to it.
Steampunk in Medieval Times
This universe takes place during medieval times but has medieval versions of modern advances. These include space crafts, wheelchairs, flying fortresses, etc. The impressive part is that even though these types of things did not exist back then they do not seem out of place.
Whats so Great about Escaflowne
The show explores the concepts of War, fate, and Romance.
The opening theme has great imagery that presents the themes, characters, and concepts in the show.
Escaflowne uses the exact same intro fro all 26 episodes. Despite that the intro was always great to watch and from episode one to through 26.
Escaflowne is a short anime but it takes place in different kingdoms including Fanelia, Austria and Zaibach.
Each kingdom is very uniquely designed with great attention to detail. The reason is to make the viewer understand that each kingdom is different from the previous one.
This anime has great action scenes with the various Guymelefs. The battles take place in unique locations ranging from mountains, the middle of a market place, the royal palace, etc.
The majority of the time it’s the Escaflowne versus multiple Zaibach Guymelefs which adds tension to the fight.
Whats Not so Great about Escaflowne
The downsizing from 39 to 26 episodes which means the show can sometimes feel rushed. While there are satisfying resoltuions to the plot there will a couple that are not.
Also, there are various incidents that happen in the show that are never discussed again which was frustrating.
The ending is not terrible but it did a feel little open-ended. While I do not share the opinion that Hitomi is not a good character, she can sometimes be annoying. Many times it involves her stating the obvious.
Also, for some reason, the only Guymelefs that can defeat Zaibach’s are only Von’s and Allen’s. This makes me wonder what is the point of other countries even having Guymelefs.
Later on, the shows revealed new technological advances from Zaibach that make no sense. The technology is way beyond the medieval period. You basically have to turn your brain off and go along with it.
If you want to watch some good anime that are also 90’s and medieval settings then I recommend Slayers and Record of Lodoss War.
For Mecha shows I recommend: Code Geass, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Pat Labor, GunBuster, Fullmetal Panic, and Rahxphelion.
For other great Shojo’s I recommend Nana, Fushigi Yuugi, Ouran High School Host Club, Fruits Basket, Sailor Moon, and His and Her circumstances.
No matter how many times I come back to Escaflowne there is always something new that impresses me. I wonder if the series could be redone with the original plan of having 39 episodes instead of 26 episodes.
I have even though of combining both manga versions together into one story. Seasoned anime fan or someone just starting out should give this a show a watch.
If you still have doubts here is a quote from anime YouTuber Mothers Basement.
“While watching Escaflowne I was struck how long it’s really been since I have seen an anime that is new to me that looks like it and considering it’s my job to literally watch all the anime that says something”
Lets Here from you
Did you also enjoy Escaflowne? If you haven't watch Escaflowne will you give a watch? Leave your comments and until next time take care.
Drazen, Patrick. Anime Explosion. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 2003.
Images take from the following episodes:
1 at 12:13, 3:14,
2 at 17:30, 17:01
4 at 00:40, 18:44
6 at 6:04, 11:33, 7:44
7 at 13:20, 19:40
8 at 19:20
13 at 12:11
14 at 15:03
16 at 21:03
18 at 08:23, 17:56, 20:07
26 at 09:56
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