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.