Is It in the Cards?
Marc Ruby? | Warren, MI USA | 04/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As is normal for me, I always watch the wrong part of a series first. In the case of Escaflowne, I saw the movie, and that convinced me that I wanted to see the original TV series. Since that meant laying my hands (and eyes and ears) on an eight DVD series, I've been slow to carry out that commitment. Not that there is anything wrong with the film. In fact, I thought it was remarkable, visually, musically, and dramatically. Moreover, the director made a careful effort to point out the film is an alternative story line, not a recap of the original. But still, what a difference!The first thing that strikes you (no matter which version you see first) is the comparative youth of the characters in the TV series, and, more important, the comparative slowness of development in the series. This is for the good. Already I have a better idea of who Hitomi Kanzaki, the beautiful young runner, really is. And a more meaningful sense of the mysterious world of Gaea where both dragons and giant robots are real, and our Earth is called the Mystic Moon.When Hitomi is snatched from the earth in mid-race by the dragon-hunting Prince Van, she is barely in time to watch the destruction of his kingdom at the hands of Van's fallen brother, Prince Folken. Assisted by the insane Dilandau, Folken now serves at the head of the expeditionary forces of the Zaibach Empire. His instructions from Emperor Dornkirk are to seek out and destroy a mysterious dragon that threatens the future of his overlord. And the nature of the dragon is hidden within the magical suit of armor called Escaflowne.The war spreads from Van's homeland to the castle of Knight Allen Schezar in Asturia. Leaving a trail of fire and destruction behind it. Hitomi's role is still unclear, although she is already showing considerable sensitivity as a Tarot card reader. Romantic complications ensue, than the viewer will quickly realize that this is more than a skeletal plot to enable a lot of action. Whatever the future holds, this first DVD proves a magnetic introduction to the series.Stylistically, this is a no holds barred production. Fin graphics and animation by a noted production staff, and a musical team led by Yoko Kanno (also noted for Cowboy Bebop, among other things). Plot and dialog show complexity much like Evangelion. In fact the two series have a lot of quality in common, although they are much different in all other ways. As US audiences have become more aware of anime, Escaflowne's stature has steadily risen. It is a shame that it is almost impossible to find the individual DVD's but the complete set is well worth it, despite the cost."
A beautiful beginning to one of anime's true epics.
arxane | Oklahoma City, OK United States | 10/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Considered by many to be the "Saving Private Ryan" of anime, "Escaflowne" is a true epic of the anime genre. Filled with action, drama, romance, and mystery, the series has left an undistinguishable mark in the minds of everyone who enjoys a breathtaking story not limited by the American stereotypes of animation. And considering the series consists of 26 episodes, it's amazing that the story moves forward from the get go, as seen in the first "Escaflowne" DVD, "Dragons and Destiny".Hitomi is a regular high school girl with pretty normal life: she has friends, a spot on the school track team, and a crush on the track superstar Amano. So what if she has a sixth sense of some kind or the ability to read Tarot Cards with amazing accuracy? She's about to tell Amano how she feels and earn from him her first kiss. But when her plans are interrupted by the arrival of a young prince called Van and a fire-breathing Earth Dragon, everything falls apart and Hitomi soon finds herself stranded with this Van on a bizarre world called Gaea, where the Earth and Moon hang in the sky. Now she wishes to find a way home while facing the political turmoil that plagues Gaea.The story of "Escaflowne" plays at a perfect pace: it gives you enough information to make the story interesting and doesn't bog down everything with unnecessary exposition. The action, while often not the main focus of the story, is intense and hard-hitting; several scenes of blood warrant the series' 13UP rating. But what really bring the story together are the character interactions. Although several scenes do move by rather quickly, character relationships are well established and undeniable, even in the first four episodes. And considering there are 22 episodes left to go, it'll be interesting to see how these relationships develop over time as the series' intriguing story plays out.Visually, "Escaflowne" is a marvel to look at. While the series may not possess the intense, beautiful art direction found in series like "Cowboy Bebop" and "X: TV", "Escaflowne" obviously possesses the artistic flair to set it apart from all other series before it. Character models, while reminiscent of anime such as "Macross Plus" (the series creator actually worked on both that series and "Escaflowne"), manage to give the series the uniqueness it needs to distinguish itself from other fantasy series such as "Record of Lodoss War". And the world of Gaea is, to say the least, a work of art. Everything, from forests to cities, was obviously given the tender care the series deserves.Sound wise, international music genius Yoko Kanno ("Cowboy Bebop", "Macross Plus") provides an excellent score with her eclectic talents and abilities. Her music is so powerful and moving that some scenes cannot be complete without her beautiful melodies to back them up. Regarding the dub, many people have condemned the English track as being horrible and unacceptable. However, after watching the dub first and then the sub, I can say I actually enjoy the dub. Yes, the English voices cannot hold a candle to the Japanese voices, but the dub is not as terrible as many people say it is and it will satisfy most people who cannot stand "reading anime" with subs.Overall, "Dragons and Destiny" is a perfect start to one of the most prolific series in anime. Everything about this anime is as close to perfection as humanly possible and it deserves a spot in every serious anime collector's collection. If you were introduced to "Escaflowne" through the horribly butchered Fox Kids version, then you'll be pleasantly surprised with what this series truly has to offer. If you're looking for a series that can satisfy fans of virtually any mainstream genre, then "Escaflowne" is the series that demands to be seen."