[EVA] _Protoculture Addicts_ 43: "Vision of Escaflowne: Overview"

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 18 14:17:19 EDT 2010


This article isn't terribly Eva related - the references are fairly
throw-away - but I found it interesting enough to type up anyway. From
the writing style I assume it's Miyako Graham. It's really interesting
to read through it and reflect how Eva continues to go strong, but the
last VOF material listed in Wikipedia was a 2006 boxset, and VOF does
not seem to've made any linger impact in anime fandom like some series
did. At the very least, I think time has shown that VOF was not 'an
even better show' than NGE and that the inconsistent word/tech was a
bug & not a feature.


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"Vision of Escaflowne: Overview"

'1996 had promised to be a year of great animations. To our great
pleasure, it proved so. First came SHIN KIDO SENKI GUNDAM WING (NEW
MOBILE WAR CHRONICLE GUNDAM WING), then the truly extraordinary NEON
GENESIS EVANGELION, a new SLAYERS TV series (SLAYERS NEXT, which
received rave reviews) and another LAMUNE & 40 (titled LAMUNE & 40
FIRE). Of course, the movie circuit was thrilled by the apparition of
GHOST IN THE SHELL and the very much awaited "X" movie (which will be
the subject of a near future article in PA). However, the end of
EVANGELION's TV run (two movies are on the way) left animation fans in
fear that it could never be equaled. Not so!! As soon as EVA finished,
it was replaced by an even better show! Titled TENKU NO ESCAFLOWNE
(THE VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE - The literal Japanese/English translation
is ESCAFLOWNE OF THE SKY. However, the eye catch shows THE VISION OF
ESCAFLOWNE in Romaji. Go figure!), it has, since its apparition,
revolutionized the concept of techno-fantasy anime.

The reasons for ESCAFLOWNE's success are many. However, two of them
stand out. The first one is the story. Although definitely part of the
mecha-paladin genre, it has the advantage of also including a large
dose of romanticism, with love triangles (its [sic] rather a square in
the case of the main characters!), tragic love stories and betrayals,
etc., making it very attractive to both male and female audiences
(guys often try to show no interest for romantic stories, but are
enthralled by them all the same). Second, the designs of both
characters and mecha. The character designs, by Nobuteru Yuuki (RECORD
OF LODOSS WAR, FIVE STAR STORIES, WEATHERING CONTINENT), seem to be
inspired by shojo manga and this fact seems to have had an influence
on the ratings with female audiences. As for the mecha, their
uniqueness and "knight in shining armor" feel made them quite
acceptable to female viewers. EVANGELION had started the trend of the
mecha show that could please both male and female viewers and
ESCAFLOWNE simply followed the trend, refining the concept and, in the
process, giving us a series hard to forget.

The story of ESCAFLOWNE takes place on Gaea, a kind of alternative
Earth on which the inhabitants of Atlantis found refuge when their
continent was destroyed. Fifteen year-old college student Hitomi
Kanzaki, was taken there by accident when a Gaean boy of her own age,
Van Fanel, was warped to Earth, then taken back to his world via the
power of Hitomi's mysterious pendant. Once on Gaea, Hitomi uses the
precognitive powers that have been in her family for generations to
help Van (who reveals himself to be the king of the small kingdom of
Fanelia and a member of the Ryuujinbito, the Tribe of the Holy Flying
Dragon, direct descendants of the Atlanteans) fighting the forces of
the technologically advanced Zaibach Empire that have destroyed his
kingdom and started a war of conquest. As a last stand tactic, Van
also woke up from its slumber the protector god of Fanelia: a Guymelef
(giant suit of armor) named Escaflowne! They soon link up with Allen
Shezar, Officer of the Royal Asturian Guard and his crew. With time,
Hitomi falls for both Van and Allen, creating tensions between the two
men and making things harder for all of them. At the same time, Allen
searches for his long lost little sister Serena and must battle his
inner feelings about his father, while Van discovers the forces he is
fighting against are led by his older brother Folken. In a swirl of
battles and tragedies, Hitomi tries to keep herself alive and
discovers love, while Allen finds out that Dilandou Albatou, the
leader of Zaibach's infamous Dragon Corps and his worst enemy, is, in
fact, his sister Serena! The final battle arises as Dornkirk, leader
of Zaibach, actives his Absolute Fortune Control Device (whose
functions are to wipe out the bad fortune of the human race and
control destiny. In other words, a machine to create happiness!). Of
course, Hitomi's presence on Gaea and her influence on events, linked
with the reapparition of Escaflowne, have screwed up the calculations
and the machine's activation goes awry, releasing all the "bad Karma"
it had accumulated through Dornkirk's manipulations. In the midst of
battle, Van and Allen come to terms with their rivalry and Serena
returns to Allen. At the end, Hitomi goes back to Earth, forever
protected by Van, her guardian Angel. Eternal love indeed!

One of the first things the viewer will notice while watching
ESCAFLOWNE is the incredible amount of work put into designing the
wonderful and mysterious world of Gaea. While Van's kingdom of Fanelia
has a decidedly Middle-Ages feel, The kingdom of Asturia is heavily
inspired by Italian Renaissance and the Dukedom of Freid is definitely
of middle eastern (Persia) and Mongolian influence. Other countries
show influences from nations and periods as different as 19th century
Prussia, early 20th century France, 19th century Austria and the Roman
Empire. Strangely, except for the shape of some of the swords, there
is no hint of Japanese inspiration. The designs of the mecha are, of
course, heavily influenced by the stylings of the kingdoms they come
from. For example, Escaflowne looks like a Middle-Age's suit of armor
and Scherazade's (Allen's Guymelef) design is heavily inspired from
16th century armors made in Renaissance Italy and central Europe.
Clothing is beautifully designed, mixing the long flowing robes
typical of middle eastern fashion with outfits from European
Middle-Ages and Renaissance.

The technology employed on this world also varies greatly. Steam
engines and technologies so advanced they defy explanation (Zaibach's
Alseides Guymelefs, Escaflowne's power systems, etc.) can be found
side by side, sometimes even completing each other. Ships defy gravity
with the use of floating stones (!), but still use sails to maneuver
and so on. However, the technology is nothing special compared to many
of the people who use it. There are Gaean races who look like humanoid
cats, panthers, bears, wolves and birds, even moles. Jajuka, one of
the series most handsomely designed characters (whom we see for only
three episodes), is a dog (an Afghan hound to be precise) and Van has
wings like an Angel (this indicates that he is a member of the
Ryuujinbito)!

All this makes for one of the best animated TV series ever. The
designs, mecha or characters, are fantastic and the animation is much
better than EVANGELION (it is of excellent OVA quality, something
quite incredible for a TV series), may it be for its crispness,
fluidity of movement or detailing. The soundtrack, composed by Yoko
Kanno, is wonderful, especially the classical pieces, which were
executed by the Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra and chorus. The story,
by Shoji Kawamori (MACROSS) is as complicated and involving as the
best soap operas (some people will wince, but this is exactly what
ESCAFLOWNE is) and, for one of the only times we remember, it actually
ends with a real ending!

People who love action, mecha, character development and romance (lots
of it) will love this series. ESCAFLOWNE's perfect balance of all
these ingredients is one of the greatest achievements of the nineties
in the Japanese animation field. A MUST see.

-- 
gwern


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