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Anime / The Vision of Escaflowne

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Hitomi Kanzaki is an Ordinary High-School Student who reads tarot cards and runs on her school's track team. One day, just as she's about to earn her Sacred First Kiss from her senpai and crush, a dragon appears in a Pillar of Light, closely pursued by a young armored warrior. The warrior, Prince Van, rescues Hitomi and her friends from the dragon, and takes a power source for his Humongous Mecha from the heart of the dead dragon. Another Pillar of Light then appears, whisking Hitomi and Van away to his world, Gaea, where Earth itself hangs in the night sky...

Once there, Hitomi and Van quickly become embroiled in a massive war. Van's kingdom of Fanelia is one of many at war with the sinister Zaibach Empire, whose Emperor Dornkirk seeks to use his probability-altering technology (and army of Schizo Tech Humongous Mecha known as "Guymelefs" — or "Melefs" for smaller mechas) to conquer Gaea and create a world without uncertainty. The best chance to turn the tide of the war is the mighty Guymelef, the eponymous Escaflowne... which is also the biggest source of uncertainty in Dornkirk's vision of the future.

A brainchild of Shoji Kawamori, Tenkuu no Escaflowne (lit. "Escaflowne of the Heavens") was conceived during a trip to Nepal and pitched as Air Cavalry Chronicles, basically "Macross with divination instead of love songs". It spent several years in Development Hell, during which a manga was published (based on pre-production materials and thus markedly different from the final product). The series was finally broadcast in Japan from April 2 to September 24, 1996. Two more mangas and a novelization were produced later, and the anime was licensed as The Vision of Escaflowne in the US. There was also a movie, Escaflowne, released in 2000, which greatly simplified the series' mythology and played up its mystical aspects.

Curiously, Fox Kids aired the dub of the show around 2000, largely in response to the anime boom at the time. Of course since the show was not exactly kid friendly, it had to be edited a bit. It never fully finished, not even getting halfway before the TV broadcast was cancelled at 8 episodes for low ratings. The edited version played in full on YTV in Canada, with about 2 episodes worth of footage trimmed from the show.

Originally, the show and the movie were licensed by Bandai Entertainment and were dubbed in Vancouver by The Ocean Group. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Funimation redubbed the series and the movie with a brand new Texas-based cast for their Blu-Ray releases in 2016.

Compare and contrast with Aura Battler Dunbine, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Panzer World Galient, their predecessors in creating a Medieval European Fantasy setting and adding Humongous Mecha in the mix.

The Vision of Escaflowne provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: Mostly averted, this show was one of the first to make extensive use of computers to aid the animation, but the creators were careful to blend it with the hand-drawn stuff. However, there are a few instances that stick out, such as Zongi's camouflaging.
  • Action Dress Rip: Hitomi gallantly ruining fashion to save Van from a sneak attack.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the movie, Folken is a psychotic Big Bad, while in the original series he was more of an Anti-Villain or a Dragon with an Agenda to the actual Big Bad, Emperor Dornkirk (who is absent from the movie altogether). In fact, in the series he eventually has a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Agent Peacock: The Zaibach officer overseeing the energist extraction at the dragon graveyard wears pink accents and speaks in a somewhat flamboyant manner. He also has a Feather Boa Constrictor named Nina.
  • Alien Sky: "I could see the Earth and Moon in the sky of this strange world", from the first episode when Hitomi ends up in Gaea.
  • All There in the Manual: The ages, birth dates, full names and even some interests of many characters are listed in the Roman Album Artbook as well as some other artbooks.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Folken, until his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The FOX Kids version has a different opening. So does the German version, the ending stayed the same though
  • Angst Coma: Van goes into one after going berserk and killing a number of minor villains. Hitomi enters his mind to try to bring him out of it, but it is ultimately Merle's heartfelt pleas that do the job.
  • Anti-Villain: Folken and Jajuka are the most prominent examples.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Energists and Levistones. There's also Hitomi's pendant, which turns out to be an Atlantean artifact salvaged by Leon and given to Hitomi's grandmother on his deathbed.
  • Badass Normal: Balgus again. You don't see a lot of people who are able to fight off a giant mecha with just a sword.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Played straight with Zongi the Doppleganger, who has no genitals. Slightly subverted when he takes Plaktu's form; observant viewers can see the shadow of his bulge for a brief moment before the candlelight is extinguished.
  • Bash Brothers: Nariya and Eriya fight with perfect synchronicity.
  • Bathtub Mermaid: Dryden Fassa is introduced interacting with a captive mermaid in a large water tank. It's then revealed that he purchased her in order to set her free.
  • Beast Man: There's a lot of animal people, including cat girls, wolf-men, a dog-man, and even gecko-people, as well as one person who appeared to be part dolphin/porpoise.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The final episode, where Dornkirk's machine grants everyone their wishes... and apparently everyone's wish is to fight each other rather than have peace like Dornkirk had envisioned.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Emperor Dornkirk is really Isaac Newton. And crazily enough this has some historical basis, given his obsession with the occult and the end of the world.note  Yep, apples dropping on your head can do that to you.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: To a very mild degree, Princess Millerna and Dryden.
  • BFS: In an example of The Big Guy using one, Balgus uses one to take giant mecha headon, even parrying the strikes of Guymelef-sized blades and severing limbs from the mecha.
  • Bold Explorer: Allen's Disappeared Dad was this. In fact, his frequent absences and the fact that he never returned from one of his voyages are the source of Allen's massive Daddy Issues.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Invoked, then subverted. At one point Allen asks Dryden for Guymelefs to defend against Zaibach, but Dryden tells him he is merely a merchant, not a arms dealer, unless they want to take out the museum pieces in his collection. Ultimately they don't get used in the fight, suggesting they wouldn't have been of much use.
  • Break the Cutie: Van, Hitomi, Folken right before he joins Zaibach, Dilandau in his... er, her backstory.
  • Broad Strokes: The manga adaptations take quite a lot of liberties with Escaflowne. You can't even recognize most of them in the shōnen manga; Hitomi has longer dark hair and glasses, just for starters.
  • Cain and Abel: Van is Abel. Folken is Cain; though he pulls a Heel–Face Turn towards the end.
  • Caped Mecha: A feature of pretty much any Guymelef that isn't mass produced. The capes on Zaibach mechs double as Invisibility Cloaks.
  • Cat Girl: Merle, later Nariya and Eriya.
  • Central Theme: Winds of Destiny, Change!. The Zaibach Empire has built a machine to see — and alter — the fate of human beings; their ultimate goal is to do this to the entire world, which they believe justifies their numerous atrocities.
    • In turn, Hitomi isn't just a fortuneteller, she's also a fortunemaker — she can do everything the machine can do, and between her fortunetelling skills and Atlantean Clap Your Hands If You Believe pendant, she's strong enough to seriously screw with its ability to even see the futures. When she's close to Van, she does it without even thinking about it. And that's just when she's physically close to him; when she feels emotionally close to him, it's as if such a machine is being used against them. Unfortunately, until about halfway through the series, she isn't even aware she's doing this, and even afterwards doesn't realize the Prophetic Fallacy; she's the third wheel in two Love Triangles(Van/Merle, Allen/Millerna), and after Zaibach whammies her at Allen to decrease her power, she tries to whammy Millerna into an arranged marriage — this ends up instead supercharging the fate machine and pretty much enables Zaibach to destroy over half of Palas.
    • Played most straight with the "Intensified Luck Soldiers" Naria and Eriya, who get powered up with "lucky blood" which causes, among other things, weapons fired at them to bend off-course if not self destruct, swords swung at them to veer dramatically off to the side and flying mechs pursuing them to spontaneously power-off and drop out of the sky. Unfortunately for the two of them, that blood proves to be Power at a Price. Especially since Hitomi is inherently better at pulling that stunt.
  • Charm Person: Folken uses a Magitek device to prod Allen and Hitomi into getting together in a process somewhere on the spectrum between this and More than Mind Control. He's not forcing them to do anything morally wrong, or even anything they might not have done on their own, just giving them an extra push to do something that both of them on some level wanted to do anyway.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Hitomi skills as a runner and jumper come in handy a couple of times. She is fast and resistant enough to be able to run across the city and warn Van of a potentially deadly sneak attack.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The reason why Hitomi's calamitous prophecies come true is that she believes in them. Also, Dornkirk's machine's function is to cause this to happen. Too bad people want destruction of each other instead of world peace....
  • Club President: Amano, the captain of the track team.
  • Costume Porn: Lots of elaborate costumes here.
  • Chocolate Baby: A very rare inversion of the usual trope is used here. While it is thought that Prince Chid is the son of the Duke of Fried and Millerna's sister Marlene, it is very obvious both in-universe and out that the Anglo-Saxon-looking Chid looks absolutely nothing like the duke, who has olive skin and Middle Eastern features. Naturally, Chid isn't his son; he's Allen and Marlene's love child. Unusually, the duke knows all of this, and keeps on vocally insisting that Chid is his, likely out of love (and avoidance of war). .
  • Cosmic Deadline: The series was originally supposed to last 39 episodes, but got cut down to 26, forcing the writers to speed things up.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Dilandau is so angry at Zongi's murder of one of his Dragonslayers that he crushes Zongi to death with his Guymelef's hands.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Atlantis. Eventually Atlanteans decided that even this wasn't good enough for them, and decided to make themselves into Physical Gods. That didn't end well.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Van vs. the Dragonslayers is a pretty epic example of this.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Van, Folken, and Dilandau. Played up for great drama in The Movie.
  • Deadly Upgrade: Van forges a psychic link with Escaflowne that makes him more effective at piloting it, at the cost of feeling its pain. Luck enhancement does not end well for Naria and Eriya. Also, Folken implies that His Days Are Numbered because of a set of these.
  • Determinator: Van, more so as the war goes on. By the halfway point of the series, silly little factors like "we've already surrendered," "your mech is utterly totaled," or "you're bleeding to death," get in the way of trying to fly straight back to the battlefield on his own two wings.
  • Dowsing Device: In Episode 5, Hitomi uses a pendant and a map to locate the missing Van Fanel.
  • Dungeon Punk: A setting where giant robots are powered by dragon hearts? What else could it be?
  • Fan Disservice: The fans are treated to more than a couple shots of the Doppleganger's pale, skinny, naked butt in Episode 10 as he infiltrates a ship.
  • Fanservice
    • Nariya and Eriya, complete with a bit of incestual Les Yay.
    • The manga series then takes the fanservice and runs off a cliff with it, to the point that it gets distracting.
  • Fantastic Aesop: Trying to change fate is possible, but also dangerous and can have dire consequences.
  • Fantastic Nuke: During the final battle between Zaibach and the Asturian alliance, Basram deploys a new weapon that is unmistakably a nuclear bomb except it's powered by dragon hearts. When deployed, it completely wipes out three of the four Zaibach armies and an unknown number of Asturian troops.
  • Fantastic Racism: At least some humans seem to have this for the Beastmen. Humans and Beastmen against the Draconians, the winged descendants of the people of Atlantis.
  • Flight of Romance: Van and Hitomi in the finale.
  • Freakiness Shame:
    Hitomi: And about wings... I really like them, Van. They're pretty.
    Van: You and Merle are probably the only people who'd say that.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: When Merle manages to (literally) slap Hitomi and (not-so-literally) Van out of a dark vision, which saves their lives.
  • Go Through Me: Merle does this for Van in Episode 15. Notable in the fact that she's facing two Guymelefs with only her body.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: Folken's wings, unlike Van's or Varie's, turn black. While the cause of this is unrelated to his moral alignment, the Fallen Angel imagery is definitely there; Folken performed Fate Alteration experiments on himself.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Sir Isaac Newton is an alchemist who uses the power of Atlantis. Also a case of Shown Their Work, Newton did develop quite a bit of interest in alchemy and the occult in his later years.
  • Humongous Mecha: Not as egregious as other series. Most Guymelefs are about 8 meters tall. The manga, on the other hand, goes and makes Escaflowne about 10 stories tall.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Merle begins taking this approach after it becomes obvious that Van is in love with Hitomi. Her anger at Hitomi in the second half of the series isn't because Van likes her more, but because Hitomi's Love Triangle indecisiveness is hurting him.
  • I Have This Friend: Millerna and Hitomi; almost as soon as Hitomi says it, Millerna catches on.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Consisting of at least four interlocking Love Triangles. Possibly as many as six triangles. The main six interlock like this: Merle — Van — Hitomi — Allen — Millerna — Dryden. Branching off you have Hitomi — Amano — Yukari, and you could possibly add the Mermaid as another link off Dryden.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The Escaflowne
  • Luck-Based Search Technique: Millerna sits at her late sister's desk and listens to a built-in music box. Then, for no reason, she presses down on the head of one of the mechanical figurines. This causes a secret compartment to open, revealing Marlene's diary.
  • Mauve Shirt: Gaddes and the other crewmembers of the Crusade. They get just enough characterization to be memorable and survive the series, but remain background characters.
  • Maybe Ever After Suggested in the very last moments of the TV series. Presuming that Hitomi isn't just hallucinating/imagining seeing Van, the scene suggests that communication between Gaea and Earth is still possible (and, if so, travel may be as well). Whether this is the case lays beyond the purview of official works, though.
  • MacGuffin Turned Human: Hitomi in the manga. Literally: her body becomes the crystal used to power Escaflowne.
  • Marilyn Maneuver:
    • In the uncensored version of the episode, "The Girl From The Mystic Moon", the back of Hitomi's skirt is blown up slightly when the Escaflowne takes a step and she tugs on it from behind.
    • Hitomi has another in "The Gallant Swordsman". When the spirit of The Death card comes to life and emerges out of it, swirling around Hitomi and the motion causes her skirt to flap around in the wind the spirit creates.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Hitomi means "eye", or "iris" which is the colored part of the eye. It was picked out for her because of her ability to see the unseen. In the mangas her last name Hoshino is a play on the words "of the stars".
    • Escaflowne, according to Shoji Kawamori, is rooted in the word "escalation"; and given the presence of Dornkirk a.k.a Sir Isaac Newton, and as already noted above under Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, it is highly likely that it is also related to Eschatology.
    • Master swordsman Balgus' last name, Ganesha, comes from the Hindu god of the same name. (The site is Sadly Mythtaken however- Ganesha's father is the God of Destruction, while Ganesha himself is the god who clears obstacles)
    • Dilandau's guymelef, Alseides, is named after the Alseids, the nymphs found in Greek mythology who live in the groves, springs of rivers, and in meadows — which possibly describes Selena's personality, seeing that Allen's flashback has her in a field and she was said to be gentle. It's also an Ironic Name given how it's used by Dilandau to burn cities and to try to impale Van.
    • The Oreades is named after Greek mythology Oreades, which were nymphs who lived in the mountains.
    • The name of Allen's guymelef, Scheherezade, references A Thousand and One Nights and is Persian for "city-freer"
  • Mecha-Enabling Phlebotinum : The petrified hearts of dragons.
  • A Mech by Any Other Name: On Gaea a mech is called a "Guymelef".
  • The Medic: Millerna in the TV series. Note that she's not a White Magician Girl, though: she's a normal medicine student.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Hitomi's pendant, given to her by her grandmother which was given to her by Allen's father, Leon. Yep, turns out that Hitomi isn't the only Kanzaki that's been world-hopping....
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Dilandau descends into further madness and becomes even MORE Ax-Crazy than he already was after getting a facial scar from Van.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Van and Folken's mother. It's not explained in detail what happened to her after she disappeared, though. The implication is that this character is dead.
    • Encia Schezar, who died of a broken heart when her husband died and her daughter disappeared.
  • Overdrive: When Van, Allen and Hitomi are escaping Zaibach's capital on Escaflowne they are pursued by Zaibach's mechas which are much faster. As they're closing in and a panicked Van is urging Escaflowne to fly faster, it suddenly transforms to reveal a jet engine and shoots forward at Ludicrous Speed.
  • Pillar of Light: Transports people from Earth to Gaea and vice-versa as well as around Gaea.
  • Planetary Romance: Though it initially appears to be pure fantasy, Gaea ends up fitting neatly within the Planetary Romance genre, with all instances of "magic" actually being hugely advanced technology.
  • Posthumous Character: Quite a few of the main characters' dead (or presumed dead) relatives are relevant to the plot.
  • Precursors: The Atlanteans. Most of Gaea generally doesn't think very highly of them.
  • Princesses Prefer Pink: Millerna; Marlene's dresses are a dark shade of pink.
  • Probability Power: Dornkirk has been tinkering with this for years, finally turning Naria and Eriya into "Enhanced Luck Soldiers" who are preternaturally lucky — though it's implied it only worked due to Hitomi trying to use her newly-discovered fortunemaking powers to cheat her way out of a double Love Triangle. Shots fired at them veer off-course, mecha that attack them experience sudden mechanical failures, etc. Unfortunately, some sort of "conservation of luck" mechanic is in effect, and having so much good luck is balanced by bad: within a day they become sick and die.
  • Prophecy Twist: Knowing that fortunes on Gaea are influenced by human belief and will, Hitomi switches out the Tower card (Separation) for the Emperor (Good Fortune) in the Tarot reading of Millerna's impending marriage to Dryden. Turns out that luck was for the bad guys, who crash the wedding and — thanks to literally supernatural good fortune — destroy over half of Palas and defeat the Escaflowne with only two mechs. Cue Hitomi's cry of My God, What Have I Done?.
  • Sacred First Kiss: Hitomi had asked Amano to kiss her if she broke her own race record.
  • Scenery Porn: Say what you like about the changes the movie made to the characters, it had breathtaking visuals and sumptuous animation, no question.
  • School Uniforms are the New Black: Hitomi wears her school uniform despite being on a completely different world. She was at school when Van brought her to Gaea, therefore she only had her uniform and her track clothes with her for quite a while. Millerna gives her a new dress, but Hitomi only wears it for one or two episodes, then goes back to her uniform because the dress meets an unfortunate end. When Hitomi's racing to save Van's life, she has to rip it. When one of your best skills is running, long skirts are not helpful.
  • Shoulders of Doom: Pretty much all the Guymelefs. And Folken.
    • Dornkirk's vision of multiple Escaflownes' shoulder gems becoming lasers and destroying a flying fortress.
  • Shout-Out: The Duke of Freid sounds very similar to the main character of another giant robot show.
  • Show Some Leg: Millerna pretends to trip and break her leg in the dungeon where Allen is being kept. She asks the guard to take a look and pulls up her skirt, providing a distraction long enough for him to be knocked out by one of Allen's men.
  • Slasher Smile: Dilandau's default expression.
  • Spanner in the Works: Hitomi. Also Van at the end.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Dragonslayers in the movie.
  • Spell My Name with an S: The official subtitles can't seem to agree on how to spell things. Though mostly consistent when it comes to the main characters (with the exception Merle being called Meryl once), minor characters vary much more. Compare Ispano/Yspano/Hispano, Chesta/Shesta, Gatty/Gatti, Viole/Viore/Biole/Biore, or Gaea/Gaia for example.
    • Some of this is also due to the Japanese names being translated into other languages. Compare the Mermaid's name of Sylvie/Sylphy/Sylphie. Millerna/Mirana, Dilandau/Dirandau, Balgus/Vargus and Eries/Elise are others.
  • Standing Between the Enemies: As Van's Humongous Mecha is getting Curb Stomped by the leopard twins becaue they're female, Merle runs out and interposes her tiny little self in front of him. The twins back off from delivering the killing stroke because she's a catgirl like them. (We also get a flashback to them doing the same thing as kids.)
  • Super Cell Reception: There is a pager (remember those?) that works on an invisible moon orbiting the Earth. This is debatably justified via Your Mind Makes It Real but this still resulted in a lot of jokes.
  • Synchronization: Van eventually establishes a connection with Escaflowne that makes him all but unstoppable in combat. Downside; After that point, any damage the mech takes is not only inflicted on his body, but will not heal until it is repaired! This is compounded by Escaflowne being Lost Technology that can only be repaired — at incredible cost - by a race of reclusive nomads.
  • Technology Porn: Van activating Escaflowne for the first time.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball:
    • How much time passed between Leon meeting Hitomi's grandmother and when he sees her before he dies — he grew a full beard but she's wearing the same clothes and is even holding the pinwheel?
    • When Hitomi returns to Earth the first time, it's before she left. When she returns to Gaea, her entire adventure has still taken place.
    • About ten years ago Leon died and gave Hitomi's grandmother the pendant. Hitomi is fifteen-years-old. Not enough time has passed for grandmother to get married, have a daughter, and for the daughter to get married to have Hitomi.
    • When Hitomi truly returns to Earth, it's never stated how much time has passed. Pretty sure someone would notice she's been gone for more than a month. There is a scene where Yukari and Amano talk to Mrs. Kanzaki about Hitomi's disappearance... but is this rendered null when Hitomi finally returns? Was Earth time reset?
  • Token Mini-Moe: Selena before she is kidnapped and turned into Dilandau.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Poor Van has to take every level in badass he can if he wants to stop The Empire and save the world and slowly becomes an all-out Blood Knight who revels in battles. Needless to say, Hitomi is horrified.
    Hitomi: I saw it — you enjoyed fighting! I don't want your protecting me if this is what it does to you.
  • Transforming Mecha: Escaflowne.
  • Translation Convention: As Van's introductory scene shows, the language they speak on Gaea is most definitely not Japanese, rather some form of mixed-up Portugeuse — Hitomi just has Translator Microbes.

Alternative Title(s): Vision Of Escaflowne, The Vision Of Escaflowne, Escaflowne