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The Vision of Escaflowne is a 26-episode Japanese anime television series
produced by Sunrise Studios and directed by Kazuki Akane. It premiered in Japan
on April 2, 1996 on TV Tokyo, and the final episode aired on September 24,
1996. Sony's anime satellite channel, Animax also aired the series, both in
Japan and on its various worldwide networks, including Hong Kong, Taiwan,
Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The series is licensed for Region 1 release
by Bandai Entertainment. The series follows a teenage high school
girl named Hitomi, who finds herself pulled from Earth to the planet Gaea
when a boy named Van appears on the high school track while battling a dragon. In
Gaea, she is caught in the middle of a war as the Zaibach Empire attempts to
take over Gaea. Van, with aid from Allen, commands his mystical mech
Escaflowne in the struggle to stop the Zaibach Empire. Hitomi's fortune telling
powers blossom in Gaea as she becomes the key to awakening Escaflowne and to
stopping Zaibach's plans. While the anime series was in
production, two very different manga retellings were also developed and
released: a shōnen version of the story entitled The Vision of Escaflowne and a
shōjo retelling titled Hitomi — The Vision of Escaflowne. In addition, a
second shōjo adaptation called Escaflowne — Energist's Memories was
released as a single volume in 1997. The story was novelized in a series of six
light novels by Yumiko Tsukamoto, Hajime Yatate, and Shoji Kawamori. A movie
adaptation, entitled simply Escaflowne, was released on June 24, 2000, but bears
only a basic resemblance to the original series. Four CD soundtracks and a drama
CD have also been released in relation to the series.
Plot The series focuses on the heroine,
Hitomi Kanzaki, and her adventures after she is transported to the world of Gaea,
a mysterious planet where she can see Earth and its moon in the sky. On Gaea,
Earth is known as the Mystic Moon. Hitomi's latent psychic powers are
enhanced on Gaea and she quickly becomes embroiled in the conflicts between the
Zaibach Empire and the several peaceful countries that surround it. The
conflicts are brought about by the Zaibach Empire's quest to revive the
legendary power from the ancient city of Atlantis. As the series progresses, many
of the characters' pasts and motivations, as well as the history of
Atlantis and the true nature of the planet Gaea, are revealed.
Production Shoji Kawamori first proposed the series
after a trip to Nepal, during which he visited the foggy mountain region and
pictured a hidden world where an epic focusing on both fate and divination
should be set. When he returned, he proposed the series to Bandai Visual and
Sunrise. According to Kawamori, his pitch for the series was simple: "if
Macross was robotic mecha and love songs, why not a story about robotic
mecha and divining powers?" He worked with Bandai producer Minoru
Takanashi to finish fleshing out the original idea. They researched various
mysteries for inspiration, particularly stories centered on the mythical land of
Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle. As the series began taking shape, they
changed the lead character from a male, the norm for an action-mecha series, to
a high school girl as the lead character. Nobuteru Yuki was hired as
the character designer, and tasked with crafting a design for Hitomi and the
rest of the cast. He would later state that Hitomi was his favorite character
because it was the first one he'd ever designed completely from scratch rather
than simply being adapted from an existing medium. Initially, Folken and
Dilandau were a single enemy commander, but as the story was fleshed out, the
creators felt the series would be more interesting if there were two with very
different personalities. Initially, the series was planned at
thirty-nine episodes, with Yasuhiro Imagawa brought on board to direct. He
is credited with coining the word "escaflowne", a Latin-based derivative
of the word "escalation", that would be used in the title. Imagawa saw the
series as being a typical shōnen series that was heavily male oriented and
featuring a shapely heroine and dramatic battles. However, he left the project
before actual production started to direct Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Without
a director, the series was put on hold and Kawamori left to work on other
projects. After two years sitting on the shelf, Sunrise revisited the project and
brought in relative newcomer Kazuki Akane as the new director. In order to
broaden the potential audience, Akane decided to add more shōjo, or
girl-oriented, elements to the series. The suggestive elements were removed,
several of the male characters were given more bishōnen—"beautiful
boy"—appearances, and the plot element around the tarot cards were added. Akane
also gave the character of Hitomi a complete make over, taking her from
being a curvy, air-headed, long-haired girl with glasses to the slim, athletic,
short-haired and more intelligent and confident girl seen in the final series.
With the series character designs finalized and the story set, Yoko Kanno
was selected to write the songs for the series, including the background songs
which she co-wrote with Hajime Mizoguchi. Initially they found it
difficult to score the series as the plot itself was still being reworked
around the new concept, but the plot changes were finished in time for them
to prepare the score and give the film the desired final "epic touch."
Sixteen-year-old Maaya Sakamoto, fresh from a small role in the anime
adaptation of Mizuiro Jidai, was selected not only as the voice of
Hitomi, but also to sing the Escaflowne theme song. Kanno is noted as saying
that Sakamoto is an ideal interpreter of her work. After this project, they
continued to collaborate on many other works and some consider her work on The
Vision of Escaflowne to be the launching point of Sakamoto's career.
As the series entered into production, the budget required it be cut down to
twenty-six episodes before work began on the final scripts and animation began.
Not wanting to cut out any of the characters or the already elaborately
planned plot lines, the series was instead forced to fit into the shorter
length and cover more of the story in each episode than originally planned.
This can be seen some in the first episode, where in the credits were cut
in favor of adding more exposition. In the retail Japanese video release, some
of the deleted scenes were restored to the first seven episodes.
Media = Anime series=
The Vision of Escaflowne premiered in Japan on TV Tokyo on April 2, 1996 where
it aired weekly until it completed its twenty-six episode run on September 24,
1996. Bandai Entertainment‍‍ '​‍s North American division, which licensed the
series for home video distribution under its AnimeVillage label, first released
the series with English subtitles, across eight VHS volumes, including a
box set, from September 15, 1998 to December 15, 1998. In August 2000, Fox
Kids began broadcasting the series in the United States. Produced by Haim
Saban, these dubbed episodes were heavily edited to remove footage, add
new "flashback" sequences to remind the audience of the events that just
occurred, and to heavily downplay the role of Hitomi in the series. The first
episode was skipped altogether, and the series soundtrack produced by Yoko Kanno
was partially replaced with more techno themes. This modified version of the
series was canceled after ten episodes due to "low ratings". Fox explained that
they edited to meet their own target audience, to comply with broadcast
standards, and to fit the allowed timeslot. The Canadian television
channel YTV acquired Fox's dubbed version of the series for broadcast.
Following Fox's planned broadcast schedule, they premiered the series on
September 11, 2000 with the second episode. YTV aired all of the episodes
Fox Kids dubbed, concluding with the series true first episode in February
2001. Bandai began releasing the dubbed version to VHS in 2000, discontinuing
the releases in February 2001 after only four volumes had been released.
Bandai later released the entire series, unedited and in the original episode
order, to Region 1 DVD. Spanning eight volumes, the releases include the
original Japanese audio tracks with optional English subtitles, and the
uncut English dubbed track. Bandai also later released the series in several
different box sets, including a Limited Edition set released on July 23, 2002, a
"Perfect Collection"—which included the Escaflowne feature-length movie—released
October 26, 2004, and an "Anime Legends" box set on April 11, 2006. At Otakon
2013, Funimation Entertainment had announced that they have acquired both
licenses to The Vision of Escaflowne and the movie.
Three pieces of theme music are used for the series. "No Need for Promises",
performed by Maaya Sakamoto, is used for the series opening theme for the entire
series, except the first episode in which no opening sequence is used.
Performed by Hiroki Wada, "Mystic Eyes" is used for the ending them for the
first twenty-five episodes, while the final episode uses Yoko Kanno's
instrumental piece "The Story of Escaflowne ~ End Title".
= Soundtracks= The Vision of Escaflowne is the debut
work of Maaya Sakamoto, who not only voiced the main character of Hitomi
Kanzaki, but also performed the opening theme song "Yakusoku wa Iranai" and
other songs from the series. Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi composed and
produced the series' musical themes and background, incorporating a variety of
styles including contemporary, classical, and Gregorian chant.
Four CD soundtracks have been released in Japan by Victor Entertainment.
Escaflowne: Over the Sky was released on June 5, 1996, with sixteen tracks,
including the series' full opening and ending themes. The second CD, Escaflowne
Original Soundtrack 2, was released on July 24, 1996 and contained an
additional seventeen tracks. Released on September 28, 1996,
Escaflowne Original Soundtrack 3 contained an additional fifteen tracks.
The fourth CD soundtrack, The Vision of Escaflowne: Lovers Only, was released in
on January 22, 1997 and contained twenty tracks, including the original TV length
opening and ending themes and the ending theme used for the final episode of the
series. Despite the relative popularity of the soundtracks, they were not
licensed for release outside of Japan for some time and were only available by
importing them. However, all 4 soundtracks can now be currently
purchased digitally via iTunes. = Manga=
Three alternate retellings of The Vision of Escaflowne have been released in
manga form, with first two manga series developed at the same time as the anime.
Due to the radical changes in the anime series during production, these two
manga series are very different from the original anime series and each other.
The first series, also titled The Vision of Escaflowne was one of the first manga
series to appear in the then new Shōnen Ace magazine from Kadokawa Shoten.
Despite the anime series itself being on hold, Sunrise gave artist Katsu Aki the
existing production and character designs, resulting in the first manga
series having the heavy shōnen feel and curvaceous Hitomi that was originally
planned for the anime series. Given free rein to change the story however he
wanted, Aki's version is a violent saga focused primarily on fighting and has
Hitomi transforming into a "curvaceous nymph" that is the power source of the
mecha Escaflowne. The series premiered in Shōnen Ace's first issue on October
24, 1994 and ran until November 26, 1997. The thirty-eight chapters were
collected and published by Kadokawa across eight tankōbon volumes. It was
licensed for released in North America by Tokyopop with the first volume
released on July 10, 2003. The Tokyopop English editions were also imported for
distribution in Australia by Madman Entertainment.
In 1996, with the premiere of the anime series, Messiah Knight — The Vision of
Escaflowne was created. This shōjo oriented adaptation was written by
Yuzuru Yashiro and serialized in Asuka Fantasy DX from April 8, 1996 through
January 18, 1997. Unlike the first manga, it focused more on the
interaction of the characters and severely toned down the violence to the
point that the mecha are not used for battle at all and Escaflowne only
appears near the end of the series. It was abruptly canceled after only 10
chapters and the end of the anime, due to the slowing popularity of the series.
The individual chapters were released in two tankōbon volumes, at which time the
series was retitled Hitomi — The Vision of Escaflowne.
A final manga retelling, Escaflowne — Energist's Memories, was a collaborative
effort of various manga artist around Japan to create 15 "mini-stories"
related to the anime series. The single volume manga was published in January
1997 under Kadokawa's Asuka comics DX shōjo imprint. Artist's who contributed
to the volume include: Tammy Ohta, Yayoi Takeda, Kahiro Okuya, Daimoon Tennyo,
Kazumi Takahashi, Masaki Sano, and Kyo Watanabe.
= Novels= Yumiko Tsukamoto, Hajime Yatate, and
Shoji Kawamori collaborated in the writing on a novelization of the Vision
of Escaflowne anime series. The light novel chapters were originally
serialized in Newtype, and the illustrations were provided by Nobuteru
Yuuki and Hirotoshi Sano. The individual chapters were collected and released in
six individual volumes by Kadokawa under their "New Type Novels" label between
June 1996 and August 1997. = Movie=
Escaflowne is a ninety-eight minute anime film released in Japan on June 24,
2000 that retells of the story in The Vision of Escaflowne. The film was
produced by Sunrise, animated by Studio BONES, and directed by Kazuki Akane.
Featuring character re-designs by Nobuteru Yūki, the film focuses on the
relationship between Van and Hitomi and their personal issues. The characters
themselves are also given different personalities; in the film Hitomi
changes from a cheerful girl in love to a depressed, suicidal schoolgirl who
suffers from self-induced feelings of loneliness and alienation and Van is now
a violent, hot-headed man. In the film the world of Gaea has a more Asian
design than the heavily European-influenced television series.
= Other media= Victor Entertainment released one drama
CD for the series, Escaflowne Original Drama Album, which was released on
December 18, 1996. A video game based on the series, also
titled The Vision of Escaflowne was released to the PlayStation system by
Bandai Games in 1997. A limited edition version came packaged with a small
collector's book and 26 tarot cards. The action-adventure game had an altered
plot line and featured additional characters.
Reception Though well received, The Vision of
Escaflowne was not as popular in Japan as producers hoped. Outside of Japan,
however, it was a worldwide hit. In the United States, it outsold Gundam on
video tape, and the first volume of the English DVD release of The Vision of
Escaflowne was the fourth best-selling anime DVD for the month of September
2000. The series aired in South Korea where it enjoyed consistently high
ratings. Producers noted that it was the worldwide success that led to the
eventual creation of the anime film, Escaflowne.
Egon Loo, writing for Animerica, considered it an "epic fantasy" with
some of the "most dramatic music in any soundtrack, anime, or live-action", and
a "breathless pacing" that result in its being an "acclaimed masterpiece."
References External links
Official website Bandai Channel webpage
Biglobe webpage BS11 website
Official CR The Vision of Escaflowne website
Hananokaze) Tokyopop's manga webpage
Madman Entertainment website Madman Entertainment website
The Vision of Escaflowne at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
The Vision of Escaflowne at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
HITOMI — The Vision of Escaflowne at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
Escaflowne — Energist's Memories at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
Animerica article
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The Vision of Escaflowne

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