Mecha Monday: Escaflowne

escaflowne

ESCAFLOWNE, OH NO, IT’S HOT TAKE TIME

WELL the scheduled post system for WordPress let me down big-time this week…

Can a hot take be had for a show that’s about two decades old?

Once upon a time, I saw two episodes of Escaflowne dubbed on the local Fox affiliate back in the ancient time of the year 2000. All I specifically recall from then is Hitomi trying to leap across a large gap and succeeding because of her track skills. I also recall that what I saw felt like a confusing mishmash, so when I just checked the Wikipedia page and learned that they didn’t air the first episode at all, well! It certainly made sense!

Years later, I picked up a cheap used copy of the old Bandai DVD set (this was recently enough that the price had fallen since Funimation had re-licensed it) and finally watched the thing in its unsullied form. I did the same with the movie. And based on how I felt about it, I feel comfortable saying that I think the reason so many people are such big fans of this show has as much to do with their having seen it early in their fandom and the associated nostalgia generated by that as to do with the show itself.

Escaflowne to me seems fairly bog standard stuff with some good bits and a smattering of unique aspects which it doesn’t quite take advantage of. Watching the movie after seeing the TV series, what grates the most is Hitomi’s characterization, as I really liked how much the movie emphasized that she’d always felt a bit out-of-place and ill at ease in her “home” world. But, of course, if one of the elements of the TV series is that Hitomi really wants to get home, it doesn’t work as well as a driving force from the start if she didn’t feel like she belonged there anyway. Soooo this is the kind of problem which means I have a problem with the TV series as a whole, which may explain why I think it’s mediocre.

Expanding beyond simply Hitomi, what is genuinely the biggest issue with this show is that its difficult to impossible to imagine the characters as having lives off-screen. Hitomi is the worst in this regard; I genuinely cannot picture her as walking around and eating meals and, presumably, interacting with people when she isn’t directly visible. But the same problem plagues Van, Allen, and Millerna, who make up the rest of the core cast. To be honest, I don’t really like any of them much – I don’t dislike most of them, either, I just found it impossible to connect with them. I do dislike Hitomi, though, who seemed to spend 80% of her screentime uttering either Van’s or Allen’s name in various tones (pensive, worried, frightened, sad, etc.).

Escaflowne does have a really good OP, at least; it has very lovely shots of the night sky. And the visuals for the show more generally are quite good (although I find the degree to which the noses are upturned very distracting). The mech fights are fairly good, although I’ll admit to not finding the mechs themselves terribly noteworthy. Dilandau’s face is quite fun to watch, although the way his storyline resolves is… hmm. One wonder why he was handled in the way he was, it seems just such an odd storyline and like it doesn’t really fit with much else that’s going on, except that they wanted it to be a total surprise for the back half of the show? Peculiar.

I realize disliking Escaflowne is tantamount to heresy if one is a fan of a certain age. I did try! I still watched the movie even though I didn’t really like the TV series! I actually like the movie better even though its a bit of a mess and doesn’t really manage to cut the story down in a way that avoids feeling choppy at points. I really liked Hitomi’s characterization so, so much more in the movie.

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5 Responses to Mecha Monday: Escaflowne

  1. Artemis says:

    Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of Escaflowne either. Undeniably fantastic OP aside, I just don’t think the show is as unique or impressive as most other viewers seem to think. (And those noses though… even for the 90s, those sure are some noses.)

    • A Day Without Me says:

      The noses are flat-out distracting – suddenly at critical moments, characters turn and you see those noses veering up toward the heavens and it saps all the tension out.

  2. So hi! This has nothing to do with this post, but I found a bunch of your posts on Jigoku Shoujo, the one I originally found was the “Drag them to Hell: Jigoku Shoujo and Gender” because I’m considering conducting a Women’s studies project for college looking at the show through the lens of Feminism and gender. Either way, I read that one (super impressed) and found your other posts (can we complain about and love this anime together? I need more people who get this show XD)
    Anyways, I was wondering if you’ve seen Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi No Togi yet (S: 4) and what your thoughts are, I know everyone else seems to either love it or hate it (most) though this show has always had people who go one way or another.
    Thanks and your posts are wonderful and very thought provoking!

  3. TWWK says:

    I think Escaflowne is an anime of it’s time. It’s soooo 90’s. I don’t think I could watch it today and enjoy it, again, unless I watch with nostalgia-colored glasses.

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