escaflowne of the heavens

It’s almost the 10 year anniversary for Escaflowne… ten years since we were first introduced to Hitomi, Van, and Allen. I found the story of the girl from the Mystic Moon to be one of my favorites over the years, and I wasn’t the only one– Blizzard named the Goliath hero in StarCraft “Alan Schezar.” What Escaflowne was at its core– fantasy adventure– hasn’t been surpassed in the ten years that have passed. Has there been better mecha dramas? Has there been better love triangles? Has there been a better fantasy trapestry? Even if a series excelled at one of those, none combined the three as elegantly and entertaining as Escaflowne.

For people not familiar with the story, I implore you to do yourself a huge favor and stop reading this post, go pick up the DVDs, and watch. For people who have seen it, watch it again and wonder how anime today just doesn’t capture the same feel that Escaflowne did… how our modern flashy CG, gratuitous fanservice, and even nekomimi meido still can’t create the same spirit of wonder and fantasy that Escaflowne did.

Since it’s almost 10 years, it’s appropriate that I present…

Top Ten Reasons Why Escaflowne Is the Best Ever

10. Twin catgirls, Eriya and Naria. Before TSR‘s Xia Yu Fan and Lan, there were the original twin fanservice assassins Eriya and Naria. The two were saved by Folken when they were little and ever since pledged their lives and love to him. They are so blind in devotion to him that they were willing to sacrifice part of their humanity to improve their “luck” to serve Folken better. Yet, they’re not one dimensional killers as Hitomi eventually discovers… and their devotion towards Folken helps Hitomi realize what it means to really love someone. Speaking of Folken…


9. Folken. A very complex villian whose motives are never clear and always in flux. After failing the Rites of the Dragon King and losing his arm because he showed compassion (or confusion), he was reborn as a sorcerer of Zaibach and discarded his Draconian and Fanalian heritage. He always believed what he was doing was right and for the future even when he burned Fanalia to the ground… when I watch Gundam Seed Destiny, I couldn’t help but think of Folken when Shinn attacked Orb. I think Folken’s character grows the most during the series as he pulls a Darth Vader and attones for his sins. His character feels lost yet absolutely clear of his path after watching Eriya and Naria sacrifice themselves for him, and he realizes what Dornkirk is doing is wrong… yet Folken absolutely and adamantly believes that he himself is right, even if it causes Van and others harm. In the end, his inability to trust anyone but himself does him in. Definitely not a cookie-cutter villian.


8. Visuals. Despite being ten years old, Escaflowne still holds up nicely in the visual department. Yes, when they actually use CG, it looks really bad compared to what is available today, but most of the hand drawn art is still top notch. The settings are always grand as there’s always something complex and beautiful in the background, either a sunset, a town, the Mystic Moon, or a guymelef.

Speaking of guymelefs, the general designs have aged nicely a la Gundam‘s zaku (sidenote: why are all the “commander” standard issue mecha always red? Like Char’s or Luna’s or Gauln’s? Wouldn’t that make them easier to be shot down?). The title mecha, Escaflowne, still looks fantasic, and its aesthetics crush more modern creatures like Rahxephon, Nirvash, Daan, and Arbarest. (But loses against Zach Bell‘s Vulcun 300… j/k)


The characters themselves… I still haven’t watch a shoujo series that did blatantly shoujo shots like the entire OP and Van’s last scene as well as Escaflowne. No wonder Van and Allen are a solid second to Heero and Duo in the yaoi fanfic scene (not that I keep track of this stuff). Kimi o kimi o… speaking of the OP…

7. Yoko Kanno music. Some of Kanno-san’s finest work, and it wouldn’t be until Wolf’s Rain until she composed music so sutible and so inline with a series as she did with Escaflowne. I loved the general “Escaflowne” chant and the light Celtic melodies… fit the mecha action and general Gaean mood perfectly. Even the character songs, like Folken’s Shadow of Doubt, make one go, “Wow, that’s him!” But Yoko Kanno wasn’t alone, and for her music, she discovered a 16 year old girl named Maaya Sakamoto.


6. Maaya Sakamoto’s debut. For her first role, she nailed Hitomi; one of her better moments was when Van went beserk fighting in Escaflowne and Hitomi sensed it. So Hitomi just kept asking him to stop… and stop… and stop… hypnotic. I guess nothing captures the angst and anxiety of a 16 year old girl better than a 16 year old girl. Yakusoku wa Iranai was one of my first inductees into the Pantheon. Sadly, she would have been ranked higher if Maaya isn’t currently mailing in her role of Lunamaria for GSD.

5. Hitomi. Without a doubt, despite having the least fanfics written about her, Hitomi’s the central character. The series starts with her struggling to confess her true feelings to Amano, and in her anxiety, doubt, and confusion, she fails to see that her best friend is also in love with him. A sign of things to come? She’s true to herself and acts like a moral compass, and once she gained everyone’s trust… she betrays them. She fudges Millernia’s fortune in order to keep her away from Allen because Hitomi is struggling with her feelings for Allen, and in her anxiety, doubt, and confusion, she fails to see that she’s really in love with Van.


One of Hitomi’s more interesting characteristics is that she’s on the track team. Usually, hobbies like this are tossaways, but for her, it’s a big part of who she is. It’s evident since she runs a lot during the series, either jumping off ships on fire or fetching things or to clear her mind. I really liked how it was integrated into her character like when she asked Amano for a kiss if she made a certain time and when, in Gaea, she changed to her running clothes and ran around trying to clear her mind of Allen and Van.

Hitomi grows a lot as a character and eventually learns from her travels in Gaea that worrying and fighting and trying to do something may not be the best answer. It’s important to have trust and believe in the people that one love. She redeems herself, Van, Allen, and the rest of Gaea because she believed in Van… and Van believed in her.

4. Van and Allen. Y4L jokes aside, I think these are the two most interesting characters of the show. They both change a lot and the Van and Allen at episode 26 don’t resemble the Van and Allen at episodes 1 and 3. Let’s start with Allen… he starts off as the playboy swordsman, and he has even knocked up a queen. Yet, he doesn’t seem that happy despite his harem nor his swordsmenship. And then throughout the series, we get peaks back into his life and how he lost his family… the most painful way… bit by bit… piece by piece… person by person. He dealt with his loss by coming the man he was at episode 3. By episode 26, he gets rejected by not 1 but 2 women, but he found what he was looking for all this time. He seemed happy when he heard “onii-chan!” and lost the duel to Van.


Van is more of the generic high kill count swordsman without a heart… so he starts off acquring one by slaying a dragon. Like Allen, he painfully loses his family one member at a time, but he deals with it a different way: by becoming the best damn King of Fanalia he can be and try not to disappoint them. He earnestly wants to complete the Ritual of the Dragon King because of the shame Folken brought when Folken failed and prove that his brother wasn’t a quiter/loser. He softens considerably after meeting Hitomi, almost like Sagara and Chidori, and at first uses her to further his goal of becoming more powerful with Escaflowne… but it’s not all clear to him. Why is he so affected by her words? And why did he want to crawl into a hole and die when Allen said that he proposed to Hitomi? Why does he want to protect her? Van grows considerably as the series goes on. His swordsmenship improves as well as his ability to look beyond the battlefield. As Chidori would say, “Viva well-adjusted human nature!”


3. Escaflowne. The mecha that Van pilots. Looks aside, the mecha has some history and legend associated with it, and that’s one major mystique to it. With Ispano’s factory, there seemed to be many of such similar mecha, but why is this one special? And why is this one handed down the Fanal family line? Escaflowne seemed to have a mind of its own sometimes as it would not completely obey Van. It also feasts on Van himself and develops an almost symbiotic relationship with him. I’m not sure why I like this mecha so much… party because it’s powerful but not power overwhelming… party because they explain in a logical fashion why there aren’t legions of Escaflownes running amuck… party because it acts like a reflection of what’s in Van’s heart before he even knows what’s there.


2. The fantasy. Escaflowne is only a small part of the mystique. Each nation that the Crusade stops in seems to have its own culture and flair… the towns aren’t all idenitical nor are all the same. There’s also a backstory to everything… the Atlantians… the Draconians… the Mystic Moon. When Hitomi goes to Gaea, it’s like we’re taken there too, and that’s a sign of a successful fantasy story. Aside from Scrapped Princess, there hasn’t been a memorable dragons, swords, and princess story since. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of any fantasy setting? To make it feel like we’re there.


1. The ending. A lot of shows fail at the ending, which would be the most important past as its is what we’re ultimately left with. I rant all the time about the Gainax ending syndrome and so on… but I rarely talk about good endings. Escaflowne had a solid, satisfying conclusion. The audience always were shown allusions to what Dornkirk is up to, but it isn’t spelled out until the very end… and when the result isn’t what Dornkirk expected, I liked his, “Oh, well” kind of reaction. The audience also got some hardcore mecha combat (along with an unfortunate political commentary on nuclear weapons tossed in) as well as the climatic fight between Allen and Van. And then there’s Hitomi, and I just can’t imagine the series ending any other way for her. Bittersweet, yet happy and full of hope and joy.


BONUS. Dilandau. I loved how almost every shot of Dilandau was an extreme close up of him contorting his face. It’s always enjoyable to have a complete psychopath in any anime… and it’s even better if that psychopath can change his body shape and gender via fate alterication. Just loved the look on Allen’s face when he realized who Dilandau really is, and it’s definitely a creepy note that Celena enjoys killing innocent things. I thought that Dilandau wouldn’t be topped… until I watched Fumoffu‘s policewoman and TSR‘s squirrel pr0n, and sadly, that’s why I omitted Dilandau from the Top Ten.

BONUS 2. The Wing Goddess. Oddly, it ended so well that when I heard about the movie, I just couldn’t think of how would they continue the story without completely destroying the original series (which the PS2 game nicely did when they had F16 fighters attack Escaflowne, but that’s another blog post). The only way to top the series was just to do a big budget remake of it. Make Gaea prettier. Make Escaflowne more detailed. Make Van achieve a higher kill count. Make Hitomi more of a goddess. But this topic… it’s another blog post on its own for another time, and that’s why I omitted the movie from the Top Ten.


It’s been almost 10 years since Escaflowne aired, and it’s still running strong as the premier fantasy adventure anime. It’s hard for me to reflect back on a series as fondly as Escaflowne, and it’s earned its place in history along with Totoro, Macross, and Doreamon. Escaflowne‘s combination of time-tested love triangles, mecha on mecha action, and expansive fantasy setting keeps the story of the girl from the Mystic Moon timeless.

6 Responses to “escaflowne of the heavens”

  1. Ah, great recap.

    Glad you left the butchering it recieved after being brought over to FOX. What were they thinking??

    One of my favorites.

  2. You truly appreciate the anime…as much as any anime fan can. Excellent retelling of the beautiful tale, almost makes me wanna’ cry that the series is over. One of the best animes EVER!!!

  3. I loved your recap of everything! and I must say I did enjoy the series but only until the end. throughout the whole series I keep wishing Van and Hitomi will get together, but then there’s Allen! bah! And finally they realize thier feelings for each other, van flies in and scoops Hitomi up, and I find i’m cheering inside… and then she goes home!! what!? I’m so disappointed. I don’t think I can even watch the series again! I guess I’m too much of a romantic.

  4. Ah, yes. Wondering where this post was.

    Just wanted to say that I very much enjoyed this brief look into my all-time favorite show.

    It’s hard to top Escaflowne.

  5. Now I see it. I said before “I didn’t think you would like this show” but then I didn’t know what you really valued in anime wasn’t the same as what you joke about valuing in anime. Forgive my assumption.

  6. sirius CANADA (18:03:02, #40763) :

    I loved your recap of everything! and I must say I did enjoy the series but only until the end. throughout the whole series I keep wishing Van and Hitomi will get together, but then there’s Allen! bah! And finally they realize thier feelings for each other, van flies in and scoops Hitomi up, and I find i’m cheering inside… and then she goes home!! what!? I’m so disappointed. I don’t think I can even watch the series again! I guess I’m too much of a romantic.

    I TOTLLAY agree there, it was the awsomest anime but the ENDING!!! was terrible, come on they finally realise they love each other and then she LEAVES??? anyways i thought it was great in general and usually i dont like anime that is this old cause i dont like the graphics but this was worth it!

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