This is an OWLS post. What is OWLS?
OWLS stands for Otaku Writers for Liberty and Self Respect. We are a group of otaku bloggers who promote acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being.
This year the blog tour prompt is Visions.
Happy New Year! Since it is a new year, it’s a new you! This month we will be talking about various pop culture mediums that focus on envisioning “the future.” What type of future do we want for ourselves, our communities, and the world? Also, we will be sharing our goals and plans for the new year. Once again, happy new year!
“Visions” Blog Tour Schedule
1/9: Megan from Nerd Rambles
1/11: Matt from Matt in the Hat
1/14: Takuto from Takuto’s Anime Cafe
1/16: Aria from The AniManga Spellbook
1/18: Naja from Blerdy Otome
1/21: Fred from Au Natural
1/25: Crimson from Read at Night
1/27: Dale from That Baka Blog
1/28: Pinkie from Pinkie’s Pokemon
1/29: Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews
1/31 Matt from Matt Doyle Media
But first, let’s look at some different kinds of vision!
Owl Vision: Can be 35 to 100 times better than humans at night but there are also owls wh have adapted to daylight.
Rock and Roll vision: I’ve been there. Usually starts around the 3rd or 4th drink, right after I embarrass everyone in the room by throwing my clothes out the window and before I start to vomit.
Fill my eyes with that double vision
No disguise for that double vision
Ooh, when it gets through to me, it’s always new to me
My double vision gets the best of me
Helen Keller vision:
Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not…
…eyes have they, but they see not;
X ray vision: You can see the real deal when you go thru most major airports.
A dark vision of humanity:
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
An even darker kind of vision:
Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…
A Marvelous Vision:
A vision of the future:
But none of those are what this is about. Let’s talk about one of my favorite old anime, A Vision of Escaflowne.
Escaflowne has a bit of many things in it. Whatever tickles your fancy you can probably find it here.
- A plucky heroine
- A bit of shounen and a bit of shoujo
- Mecha with regular battles
- Beastmen and cat girl
- Romance and triangles
- A flying castle
- Political intrigue
- Interesting primary characters with strong development arcs
- Interesting secondary characters who also develop
- A complex and well-realized world
- A good soundtrack
Hitome Kanzuke – She’s “the girl from the Mystic Moon.”
Hitome starts as a normal, extraordinary, high school girl. She’s on the track team. She’s trying to run the 100-meter dash in less than 13 seconds. That’s not a bad time for a competitive high schooler. Sprinting was the only sport I was ever any good at in school. I managed 100 yds. in about 12 seconds in jr. high. and the extra distance would have added about 1 second to that. Girls are statistically about 10% slower than guys in sprints, so she is doing really well.
This is how I like to remember Hitome. Running forward with everything she’s got. It is my favorite image of her.
She has a crush on Susumu Amano a track star. He’s the real deal. His time is almost world-class, just a few tenths off the world record at the time but he is still in high school and will get faster. She learns he is on his way overseas and won’t be back. But she doesn’t get hysterical and adults her way thru it. She’s also a psychic, doing tarot readings and she’s got a pendant from her grandmother that helps her find directions and hidden things and swings at exactly once per second.
That last part isn’t so unusual. It turns out, using Foucault’s equation, for a pendulum to swing at exactly one swing per second the free length of the chain to the center of gravity of the pendulum needs to be very close to 25 cm. or about 10 inches. Hard to tell but that could be about the length of chain they are holding in the anime.
It is while she is doing a hundred-meter run that she has a vision. Oops! Inconvenient time. She faints from it. Her ability to see the future is established but it is random and confusing and she doesn’t realize what is happening until it happens a few times.
She is the classic shoujo heroine. Plucky, courageous, honorable and intelligent. Pretty but not oozing sexuality. She is not afraid to risk her life if it is called for and will push her running ability beyond previous limits when she needs to. She does get frightened every now and again but does not vaporlock or run around screaming aimlessly.
Van Fanel (Van Slanzar de Fanel ) – Prince and then King of Fanelia. He gets to pilot the mecha, Escaflowne.
The first time Hitome sees him is as a vision while running a 100 meter dash. She faints. She hasn’t had a vision before. While unconscious she has a very bad dream about mechas and a city on fire. And see’s his preparation for the battle with the dragon. And then more visions. Finally, she’s rescued by an angel.
Van starts out as a prince who has to pass a test of slaying a dragon before he can assume the throne. He comes off as a bit bratty and imperious. He’s a great swordsman but doesn’t drive his attack home with full force because he can’t bring himself to kill a person, even if it is only practice. Slaying this dragon has personal meaning because his brother apparently declined to do so, turned his back on the kingship, and was never seen again.
Van has this motto he keeps saying. He’ll never run away. He’ll never turn his back on an enemy. Again, he is young. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
So Van is off to slay a dragon. but a funny thing happens…
Hitome is running that 100 again. This time it is so Susume can see her break 13 seconds before he leaves. After that, she’ll give him her first kiss and he’ll go away forever. It doesn’t quite work out that way. As she’s heading for the finish line, Van shows up again. She’s not going to be fooled by a second time so she just barrels on thru the vision at full speed. Well, hehe, it is really Van transported to our Earth from his world by who knows what. Crash.
Moments later, the dragon shows up. Hitomi, Van, Susume and another girl Yukari, end up getting chased all over the place by the dragon. Hitome has another vision – Van getting skewered by the dragon’s tail – and this time correctly interprets it as being a possible future. She shouts out a warning that saves him. He kills the dragon but refuses to give her any credit – for which she dresses him down. He grabs the Eveready Energizer out of the dead beast’s
chest and because Hitome had moved close to him, the two of them are transported back to his country of Fanelia.
Van’s brother Folken was supposed to have been king but he disappeared on his dragon quest. Everyone assumed he turned chicken and abandoned the kingship. Van still holds out hope for a different explanation. It is also the source of his never run away mantra.
Fanelia is one of several nations on a planet called Gaea. It is in the same orbit as Earth but maybe a few hundred thousand miles ahead of it. Earth is visible from it but we can’t detect them. To the inhabitants of Gaea, we are the blue (mystic) moon with a much smaller silver moon circling us.
Van puts the heart of the dragon into Escaflowne and creates a blood bond between the prince and his mecha. Now he is King.
The guymelef Escaflowne. It can turn into a dragon.
The big mechas like Escaflowne are called guymelefs. Smaller ones are just melefs. Alseides are mass-produced guymelfs upgraded with cockpit instruments, invisibility cloaks and a secret known as liquid metal. They are the top machines of the bad guys who are way ahead in technology.
All of Hitome’s visions of death and destruction happen on schedule. Fanelia burns, thanks to the secret treachery of the Zaibach Empire which has somehow devised cloaking devices for their mechas. Van hops into his Escaflowne to fight the evil invisible hoard but it is no good and Van learns that sometimes you really do
have to run away. Unexpected teleportation to a distant point happens and Van, Escaflowne, and Hitome are saved. (He really ought to get more interested in her visions.)
Then there’s Merle – She a cute little 13-year-old catgirl with the hots for Van. That’s not so unreasonable. He’s a teenager with lots of growth ahead of him. (A classic shounen hero trait – to be drawn about two thirds the height and one third the musculature of an adult.)
Merle views Hitome as a romantic rival for Van. Van treats her like a sweet but annoying little sister. (They are not related.) She is an orphan that the royal court saved and she has been fiercely loyal ever since. She starts out as a clingy little girl but her character matures nicely as her arc progresses.
When I was in my late 20s I was visiting a friend’s house and there was this adorable 13-year-old girl (and her mother) staying there who developed a crush on me. (The girl. Not the mother. That I might have welcomed.) Trying to gently dissuade her from constantly demanding my attention without hurting her feelings turned out to be impossible and I felt very bad afterward. I was also angry at her mother for just watching and not intervening after I’d asked her to. Another man might have hurt more than her daughter’s feelings.
I understand the Van – Merle situation purrr-fectly.
Allen Schezar – Official bishounen, he gets to pilot the mecha Scherazade. (The names in this anime do not reek of creativity.) Also bears an uncanny resemblance to Susumu Amano, Hitomi’s crush back on Earth.
Hitome and Van are now wandering in a foreign place. The run into this wandering knight named Allen. Van’s arc hasn’t progressed very much so he gets all high and mighty and ends up starting a fight with Van and loosing because he isn’t aggressive enough. Allen points this out but also says it would be a shame to kill such a fine swordsman. After this, of course, they all become friends.
Hitome is torn. She has this relationship with the other guy back home. She’s also getting attached a little to Van. And here’s this Susume clone with even nicer hair. At one point she wonders if she’s really that shallow.
Allen is a knight of the merchant kingdom of Asturia. Other kingdoms include Freid, Basram, Cesario, Daedalus, and Atlantis.
There’s a Lancelot in there somewhere.
She doesn’t just hang out with these guys. She later accompanies Millerna Aston, a princess of Asturia and Dryden Fassa the eldest sone of a rich merchant family in the same country. The two are betrothed. Neither conforms to their family’s expectations. Millerna is a tomboy despite her appearance and Dryden dislikes Zeibach but wants to fight them his own way.
And watch for one of Allen’s subordinates Geddes.
There’s a supply of villains too!
There’s a really old guy, Emperor Dormkirk of the Zaibach Empire. He only alive because he is hooked up to machines he created. He came from Earth a very long time ago and used his knowledge to bring prosperity to a poor land. Now he is a megalomaniac.
Starting to remind me of the Wizard of Oz.
He has a gadget called a Destiny Prognostication Engine. It predicts the future. It can’t predict this new element that suddenly arrives. He becomes obsessed with neutralizing this new element that threatens to disrupt his plans.
Then there is Folken. Folken is Van’s brother who disappeared during his dragon-slaying quest. He was almost killed by the dragon which then got bored and wandered off. He was found by Dornkirk’s men and then healed. His cloak conceals a metal bionic arm. Now Folken shows up as the Emperor’s right-hand man. Seduced to the dark side of the force? Perhaps we have a Star Wars parallel going on.
He gets to fly the floating fortress known as Vione.
“Van, you are my brother; we share the same blood. This world is difficult for a… gentle soul such as yours to bear.”
Lastly, I’ll talk about Dilandau Albatou. He is nuts. He is also the top warrior for the Zeibach Empire. When the “Dragonslayers” (the unit name for the Alseides) burned and crushed Fanelia, it was Dilendau who ordered it against Folken’s wishes. He angers easily, seeks revenge for trifles and wants to utterly destroy his opponents where Folken would defeat them and then accept terms. Still, Folken puts up with him. He’s good at what he does.
He’s also extremely vain about his face. Some other bad guys include the team of Dragonslayers he commands, a couple of catgirls, and a beastman. But there’s a secret about Dilendau that will shake Allen to the core…..
Almost all of this you learn in the first few episodes. There are 26 in total. The animation isn’t what we would call godlike or even outstanding. Other anime of the same time are Ruroni Kenshin, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball GT, Detective Conan, Gundam Wing, Ghost in the Shell, and Evangelion. I’d say above average for the time but not exceptionally good.
But then for me, the quality of animation depends on the time it was produced. Great classic movies like Citizen Kane or Casablanca have fantastic cinematography even though they were black and white and even though grainy by black and white standards ten years later. Composition, mood, and lighting carry the day. This was no classic of animation style but it broke a lot of ground in term of ideas. I think it holds up well. I am not enamored of today’s homogenized and CGI faces.
Escaflowne explores the concept of fate versus free will. How too much power for too long corrupts men of goodwill. The conflict between brotherly bonds and duty, between pacifism and the need to fight evil. The damage that war does to both the good guys and the bad guys. The nature of love and the willingness to sacrifice, recovery from trauma. Being psychic, Hitome sees it all through the eyes of Van and Allen. In it, you can see plot elements of the Arthurian legend, Star Wars, and even the Wizard of OZ.
FYI, the Van Allen belts are belts of radiation trapped in space around the Earth by our magnetic field. I can’t help but wonder about those names.
I consider it one of the classic anime for every person who would be either an expert on – or a connoisseur of – fine anime. If I were running an anime class in a local college, it would be on my required watching list.
And there’s an Escaflowne movie of roughly the same plotline, somewhat modified and extremely condensed, for those who want the Cliff Notes version.
That’s it for me. Don’t forget that on the 18th we had Naja from Blerdy Otome and on the 25th we’ll have Crimson from Read at Night. And maybe next time you may want to join us at Otaku Writers for Liberty and Self Respect.
IIRC, when she sang this song Maaya Sakamoto was only 15.