Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Vision of Escaflowne

Tenkuu no Escaflowne; Animated fantasy series, Japan, 1996; D: Shoji Kawamori, Kazuki Akane, S: Maaya Sakamoto, Tomokazu Seki, Shinchiro Miki, Joji Nakata, Kappei Yamaguchi, Mayumi Iizuka

Hitomi (15) is a secluded Japanese student in love with the sportsman Amano, but one night prince Van shows up on the playground and kills a dragon, until a beam of light transports the two of them to planet Gaia. Hitomi discovers that the Earth can be seen from it, but that's it called "The Moon of Illusions". She follows Van to his town where intends to crown himself, while his girlfriend is a cat-woman, Merle. But then invisible giant robots show up and make a massacre, while Hitomi uses her medallion to teleport herself, Van and his robot, Escaflowne, to safety. They show up at the kingdom of prince Allen - who looks exactly like Amano. They flee from the robots led by the evil Dornkirk, into a new kingdom. But they are attacked even there. Hitomi discovers that her grandma was on Gaia too, and that Dornkirk constructed a machine to control destiny. She destroys the machine, admits her love to Van and returns to Earth.

"The Vision of Escaflowne" is an epic and monumentally animated fantasy adventure anime series whose 26 episodes somehow end up as criss-cross between mecha, shoujo and fantasy genres: it's not an accident that director Shoji Kawamori tried himself out in a Sci-fi genre before, in the popular "Macross". The story is astonishing in animation of characters, set designs and the unusual planet Gaia and in the music by Yoko Kanno, but is visibly ephemera in the description of characters. Many scenes are impressive: Hitomi runs through the hologram of the prince of her vision; a step of a giant robot causes pressure that lifts her skirt up; the Earth can be seen on the sky of planet Gaia; it is hinted that the villain Dornkirk is actually Isaac Newton (!); giant robots fight between the buildings...and there is also one wonderful detail that sharply shows how many symbols can be hidden in fantasy: namely, Hitomi discovers a prince in the new world, who looks exactly like her crush, Amano, creating a parallel relationship between them. The rest of the details are, sadly, just wasted on creating creatures from the 'Muppet Show' - that way needlessly new characters show up in every episode and create fake intrigues in fake kingdoms, equipped with gruelling robot battles, while Hitomi is somehow pushed in the background. Everything is there for an anime to be great, but the story somehow never hooks you entirely - it always seems routine. It has a marvelous ending and the most detailed animated dragon in the history of animation, but what can you do when the story is simply mild?


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