First of all I'd like to acknowledge the considerable assistance I got from Stephanie's
THE VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE homepage.
If you need a series summary, character profiles, images, notes on the manga, or notes on the tarot cards, you'll find them there.
Stephanie's homepage also contains synopses for the first four episodes, so I'm skipping those. Note that some names are based on the on-screen katakana spellings.
If you are collecting tapes, note that there are TV and LD versions, and that, according to some, these differ significantly at various points. I have looked into this and been unable to personally confirm any differences whatsoever. However, a fan writes:
Just to let you know, Episodes 1-4 and 6 & 7 are the only episodes of the series to have additional scenes added to them. The only difference with episode 1 is the addition of the regular music OP. No other footage is added the body of the episode.
Why watch? At first seeing, ESCAFLOWNE may seem rather a cynical concoction of tried and popular elements, ie school sports, robots, medieval fantasy, romance, with some rather odd character designs. Stick with it though, and its virtues will start to grip you. Not many anime series have such a complex and developing dramatic storyline, in which a great deal can happen in the course of an episode. Not many anime have such subtle and sophisticated direction, in which apparently inconsequential details are deployed for symbolic effect, and in which stunning fantasy sequences (like Van's walk among the dead) appear. There is plenty of character interest, so the series should appeal equally to male and female viewers. And those character designs? They grow on you; and often look very good in freeze-frame.
TV Episode Credits
English name: Vision of Escaflowne
Japanese name: Tenkou no Escaflowne
Dates: April 2, 1996-September 24, 1996
Number of episodes: 26
Production Company: Sunrise
Creator(s): Shoji Kawamori
Series Director: Akane Kazuhiko
Writer(s): Shoji Kawamori (supervisor)
Character Designer(s): Yuki Nobuteru, Yamane Kimitoshi (mecha), Mahiro Maeda (mecha), Junya Ishigaki (mecha)
Animator(s): Hirotshi Sano, Hiroshi Sako
Voice Actors (regular characters): Maya Sakamoto (Hitomi Kanzaki), Tomokazu Seki (Van Farnel), Shinichirou Miki (Allen Shezal), Mayumi Iizuka (Millerna), Ikue Ohtani (Meruru), Jouji Nakata (Falken), Minami Takayama (Dilando Albatau), Masato Yamauchi (Dr. Dolunkirk)
Genre(s): science fiction, giant robots, dimensional travel, adventure, romance
Episode Synopses Note: These synopses are derived from the TV episode tapes directly, with obscurity fixes derived from Central Anime scripts, and from the article & thumbnail synopses in Protoculture Addicts #43.
Episodes 1-4 Please note that these can be found at THE VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE homepage. You have to look in the table for "Episode Titles + Tarot Cards." rather than anywhere obvious. There's no sense in me re-inventing the wheel; but let me know if you can't find them anymore.
Van, riding the gaimelf Escaflowne in its dragon mode, leads his Zaibach pursuers away from the airship Crusade in which
Hitomi, Allen, etc are escaping. He lands Escaflowne, transforming it to battle-knight mode. Unfortunately he cannot see his
camouflaged enemy at all, only the foot prints of their robot suits.
The Zaibach attack. Dilandau's gaimelf repeatedly strikes Escaflowne, while Van, unable to see anything, cannot retaliate effectively. Folken gives instructions to Dilandau by radio, and the captured Escaflowne is brought to the Zaibach base.
Folken opens Escaflowne by putting his hand into the control jewel on the gaimelf's breast. A dazed Van falls out at the feet of Folken and Dilandau. Dilandau recollects his previous meeting with Van at Allen's castle.
Allen's men work to repair the wing of the Crusade which was damaged in the fighting. Hitomi is anxious about Van. She tries to convince a sceptical Allan of her divining powers. Eventually she tells Allan some facts about his family, which convinces him she has some ability. He produces a map and asks Hitomi to use it to find Van's location.
Van is in a cell. Folken enters, and we learn that Folken is Van's older brother, whom he has not seen for ten years.
An answer eludes Hitomi till Merle gets Hitomi, Allan and herself to link hands holding the pendant. Almost at once they locate the map position where Van is held.
The Crusade finds a great hole, half screened by floating rocks, and descends rapidly, half out of control. They throw out anchors and board the Zaibach flying fort. The attack meets with little resistance. Allan takes a prisoner and forces him to disclose Van's whereabouts. Hitomi senses that Van is in danger, and leaps across the wide gap to the Zaibach fortress. (She is a track athlete, remember). Van, free, heads for Escaflowne, but is confronted by an armed Dilandau. Folken, standing higher up in the structure, throws his brother a sword.
Van is unsighted, and only survives a murderous rush from Dilandau because of Hitomi's shouted warning. Dilandau receives a cut on the face.
Evidently everybody makes it back to the Crusade, and, though we don't see this, Van has recovered Escaflowne. They thank Hitomi for her key role in the action.
Synopsis v1.0 by G.C
The Olympia is cruising. Van looks at his newly acquired sword and wonders about his brother. They arrive at a city with many canals, by the sea. This is the capital of Astoria. On landing, they are greeted by Princess Mirana. Allen (who is a knight of Astoria) introduces his companions, Van of Fanelia, Merle, Hitomi. Hitomi starts to say that she comes from the illusory Moon, but Merle steps on Hitomi's foot.
Allen visits the Court, but gets a rather cool reception, no doubt because Folken is there, representing the Zaibach Empire.
Hitomi gets a new long dress. She asks if it looks OK. The ladies assure her that it is, and offer to dispose of her old school uniform, but Hitomi snatches it back.
At the landing site, Astoria soldiers appear and arrest the crew, and cut the ropes securing the covers on the gaimelf Escaflowne, revealing the giant gaimelf.
Hitomi is taken for an excursion to the market, where she is astonished to see people with fish and animal heads. On a junk stall she spots, amazingly, a CD from Earth. She takes a portable CD player out of her bag and plugs it in, and hears some romantic music from Earth...(This is one of the best scenes in the series.)
Hitomi's thoughts of home are interrupted by an urgent premonition that Van is in danger. She dashes off. "Strange girl!" says one of the ladies. Merle trails after, a general hindrance as usual. Hitomi pauses to rip off the bottom of her skirt so she can run faster.
Van meanwhile has spotted his brother and is following him. Folken stops on a bridge on the other side of which a dark coach has drawn up. Van approaches and the two brothers argue. Van is accusing Folken of the obvious sins. "That Folken is dead," says Folken.
Dilandau is observing all this from a Zaibach flying fort, and gets into one of the robot suits. He extends a metal tentacle in a long-range attack.
Hitomi reaches the bridge just in time to warn Van as the metal tentacle slams down. Hitomi falls on top of Van.
Folken says that the attack wasn't his fault.
Dilandau's mecha, plainly overstressed, blows up around him.
Folken departs in the carriage, as Merle and some Astoria soldiers arrive. The soldiers ask Van if he is Van of Fanelia.
In an arena, Van in Escaflowne is obliged to take part in a tournament against three local mecha. Hitomi, Allen, Merle, and the king are watching. The king and his adviser remark that Van is the one to watch.
Hitomi thinks of her earlier premonition that Van was in danger and wonders if this applied to the current situation instead.
Synopsis v1.0 by G.C
The mecha tournament continues. Escaflowne destroys each attacking mecha in turn.
Hitomi attends a banquet with the princesses, the King, Allen etc. There is some flirting between Mirana and Allen. Hitomi is asked what country she comes from but Mirana skilfully changes the subject. Hitomi tries the wine, for the first time, it seems, and sensing the warmth between Allen and Mirana, gets rather drunk. (Japanese people get red-faced when drunk-especially in anime!)
Later, a drunken Hitomi is tucked into bed by Allen.
Van is standing alone on the battlements. Allen comes up, and the two have a fencing contest which Van seems to be taking rather too seriously. The duel ends when Van loses his sword.
Mirana comes up to the roof and makes eyes at Allan. Hitomi, ascending, is passed by a sullen Van. "Weird guy!" she says to herself.
Hitomi reaches the roof and sees Mirana and Allen in each other's arms. She ducks behind a pillar, but not before Mirana has seen her. Mirana and Allen declare their love to each other. Upset, Hitomi runs to her room and throws herself on the bed.
Merle, in her usual annoying way, keeps asking what is the matter. Hitomi kicks her away and tells her to shut up. Sulking, Merle climbs out onto the roof.
Just then three lizard creatures climb into the room and thrust a struggling Hitomi into a sack. Merle watches as they take Hitomi away, and wonders if she should tell Van. The creatures load Hitomi into a minature submarine and make their way down the canal. (A great creation: note the eyes; they look as if they have been taking some serious recreational drugs!)
Van in Escaflowne, holding Merle, who evidently passed on the chance to be rid of her rival, gives chase down the canal. The gaimelf soon catches the sub and opens the lid. Hitomi seems a little surprised to discover that her rescuer is Van, not Allen. (Apparently the lizards were hired by Aston's adviser, Meriden, who hoped to sell Hitomi).
Dilandau has spotted the gaimelf and descends to fight Van, who dodges Dilandau's attacks while serious collateral damage to the surrounding buildings occurs. (It's a worthy feature that we get to momentarily see the reaction of the inhabitants.)
Escaflowne leaps upwards, transforming into flying dragon mode, while Dilandau finds himself faced with another gaimelf,the Scherezade, piloted by Allen.
Synopsis v1.1 by G.C
Hitomi has a weird dream in which she is falling and is caught by a Van who is flying on angels' wings.
Van, Hitomi and Merle are having a picnic in the woods. Merle, at her most annoying, is rifling through Hitomi's bag and pulling out various objects, -evidently the sort of things Japanese girls usually carry in their bags, including a radio pager- and trying them with her teeth.
Allen meanwhile has been imprisoned. Mirana complains to her father, the King, to no effect. Mirana goes to Allen's prison cell, defying the guard, who tells her she can't come through. She pretends to fall, and while the guard is distracted by a show of royal leg, he is knocked on the head.
Mirana takes Allen by coach to the landing field, where his airship is tethered. Her older sister, Eries, is waiting at the landing field and tries to dissuade Mirana from her course of action which is, evidently, to flee with Allen. Allen puts Mirana back in the coach, telling her to return, kisses her, and then makes his escape on the Crusade.
Van, Hitomi and Merle find an opencast mine or quarry where men are labouring to dig out the remains of dragons. The purpose of the diggings is to collect the purple energistes which are also used to energise the gaimelf robot suits. (It's not altogether clear whether 1 energist powers 1 suit or whether they have to be renewed at intervals like power packs, but the quantities shown suggest the latter.)
Van, in Escaflowne, mounts an attack on the mine site, as it is obviously being operated to the benefit of the Zaibach empire. Hitomi and Merle watch from above. A lizard runs in front of them and its tail falls off as they try to catch it. Immediately afterwards Hitomi and Merle are caught by the mine guards.
In the next scene Van, who has evidently been induced to surrender, is tied up and being beaten while Hitomi and a nasty type with a snake for a pet look on. (One can't help thinking Van should have been able to find something more constructive to do.) Not getting much out of Van, the nasty threatens him via Hitomi, and sets his pet to slither up Hitomi's legs... In the next shot its head is waving near Hitomi's face. (This IS children's TV...)
Van gets free ("With one bound he was free!") grabs a sword and turns the tables on their attackers. The snake-man falls over a steep drop.
As they escape on foot, a pile of energistes blows up and causes the quarry slopes to become unstable. Hitomi falls down from a ledge as the ground breaks into chunks, and she falls into a deep chasm. Van, sprouting wings, just as in Hitomi's earlier dream, swoops down and rescues her. Her fallen pager goes off; we see that it's her friend Amano (the one whom Allen resembles) trying to contact her in Japan!
Synopsis v1.0 by G.C
Hitomi has a nice dream of being with Allen on Earth, which turns a bit sour when Mirana appears in it. Hitomi falls, and is caught by a winged Van.
A glimpse of Van's mother.
The Crusade skims treetops. Inside, Allen and his crew are discussing their course and tactics the gist of which is that they will get to Freid while avoiding the Zaibach.
Eries Aston talks seriously to her younger sister Mirana. Mirana declares her love for Allen and says goodbye.
Hitomi has a vision of angels & falling in which she is caught by Van.
Hitomi finds herself standing on the Fanelia palace roof with Merle, watching (in imagination) as a much younger Van sprouts wings and leaps off.
Exiled Fanelian knights talk about Balgus
A view of Van's mother standing in what appears to be a very shallow lake. Balgus draws his sword and makes to attack the 'Atlantean' but is restrained by Goau. Goau and Varie meet in the middle of the 'lake'; it seems that she already knows his name.
Hitomi viewing this scene thinks that 'these are Van's mother and father'.
A birth scene at the Fanelian palace; 'it's a boy, a healthy boy'. The boy is named Van.
The boy Van who is trying his wings falls. His mother sprouts wings and swoops up to grab him, tells him not to cry.
Goau dies, Folken is designated heir.
On the back of Escaflowne (flying mode) Hitomi thanks Van for telling her his story. Merle is the only other to have admired his wings.
The Zaibach ruler looks through his telescope, complaining that his vision is in chaos, covered by the shadow of the dragon.
Escaflowne (robot mode) is in a forest. Hitomi asks Van where he is going from here. Under a gap in the tree cover, she warns him to wait. Zaibach mecha are flying overhead. Unfortunately they spot a glint from Escaflowne's armour and descend into the forest. Hitomi shouts warnings as Van tries to find out where the enemy are.
'What are they doing?' Dilandau says. Through his optics he gets a glimpse of Hitomi pointing directly at him.
Van runs Escaflowne towards the river, and once there tells Hitomi and Merle to jump off quickly. Hitomi leads Merle out of the way. Van's plan becomes evident as the Zaibach mechas' camouflage is defeated by the river water. However, Van gets the worst of a 5 to 1 battle, till Allen arrives in his mecha. He and Van are doing well till Allen sees metal strands flying towards Hitomi and, distracted by this, receives a serious wound.
Folken has been watching from a Zaibach flying fort. He speaks to Dilandau, who breaks off and ascends.
Allen lies wounded on the Crusade. Hitomi thinks it's her fault. Princess Mirana enters the cabin and discovers to her dismay that Allen is wounded. The mole-man produces a doctor-bag. It turns out that Mirana has some medical skills, and she conducts a proper operation to patch up his wounds. Hitomi hopes that Allen will recover.
Synopsis v1.1 by G.C
The medical operation aboard the Crusade is completed.
An audience takes place in the throne-room of Freid Province. The young boy with the coronet is Prince Chid, Mirana's nephew, the son of her oldest sister Marlene, who died three years ago. He is usually addressed as "prince" (oji).
From his sickbed, Allen delivers a warning about the Zaibach.
Folken and Dilandau discuss the flight of the company and Escaflowne to Freid,and the fact that one of Dilandau's youths is a prisoner.
At the Freid Palace, Mirana gives Hitomi her bag back and makes friendly overtures, much to the latter's surprise.
The fruit of the Folken/Dilandau discussion is evident as Dilandau drops a cyborg shinobi (ninja) onto the roof of a flying vehicle.
Van, Hitomi & Merle are talking in the palace courtyard. Hitomi is explaining how her power of finding things works.
Meanwhile the shinobi has caught one of Prince Chid's aides (the hypnotic monk Plactu) and is absorbing his spirit, prior to impersonating him.
Meanwhile Hitomi continues her explanation, which develops into a demonstration as Merle, bored, offers herself as a test subject and challenges Hitomi to spot her. Once Merle has hidden, Hitomi is able to point to her immediately. Typically, Merle seems to dispute whether the result was worth fussing over. At any rate, Chid thinks the game is fun and wants his fortune told.
The shinobi hypnotises Boris, the officer of the guard to gain access to a young Zaibach officer, Miguel. The shinobi greets Miguel and they talk about "that strange girl" (Hitomi) and agree to thoroughly slander Allen & Co. It appears that Miguel was captured after being 'spotted' by Hitomi during the mecha battle in the forest. The shinobi de-hypnotizes Boris, the officer of the guard who, now accompanied by Prince Chid, takes in all the lies. The accusation is that Allen is plotting a surprise attack to abolish the Freid province and incorporate it into Astoria. (In fact, the Zaibach are planning to invade Freid province via the capital of Astoria). Allen, Hitomi & co are promptly surrounded and arrested.
Miguel is freed and loses no time in regaining control of his captured gaimelf. The watching shinobi pronounces this satisfactory.
Van is still free, and promptly attacks the Zaibach gaimelf in Escaflowne. Miguel assumes that with Hitomi locked up, Van will be unable to pentrate his opponent's camouflage. However Van, possibly aided by Hitomi's instruction, senses his opponent's position and makes a destructive counterstrike, destroying Miguel's gaimelf.
As Miguel stumbles out, he is dragged into a doorway and strangled by the shinobi.
Escaflowne is seized with grappling hooks and immobilized.
Allen talks to the Prince through the cell bars; it seems that the Prince's faith in Allen is somewhat restored as a result.
Synopsis v1.2 by G.C
The crew of the airship Crusade are also imprisoned. Astoria has placed a bounty on the fugitives' heads because of the destruction of the energiste mine.
Hitomi is taken from the cells, put in a large room and told to stay there. On the other side of a set of bars, the prince says that he doesn't understand. Hitomi is hypnotized and questioned by the shinobi (impersonating the monk Practu) and reveals that she comes from the 'illusory moon' (our Earth). He asks about gaimelf-spotting, finds out about the pendant and tells her to hand it over. (Note that what Hitomi sees in these scenes and what the observers see is quite different.) Hitomi points at the shinobi and cries that he is not what he appears to be, he's a murderer. A blackness from the floor attacks the shinobi, sucking his life force. As he is about to go down he grabs Hitomi, who struggles. Hitomi has foreseen the death of the shinobi, Zonghi. Practu says he's tired.
To the others it seems that Hitomi is either dead or in a coma. Pandemonium breaks out. A guard, running by the cells, tells Van that Hitomi is dead. Allen grabs the prince, who has ventured too near the bars, and uses him as a hostage to get the cells unlocked. Mirana tries artificial respiration on Hitomi. Van takes over and eventually succeeds in reviving her.
On reviving, Hitomi again denounces the shinobi and cries out. The shinobi escapes. Hitomi explains that the man was a Zaibach shinobi.
Van and Hitomi are set free, and on the back of Escaflowne, pick a direction.
Meanwhile the shinobi is reporting back to Dilandau that the 'girl from the illusory moon' is responsible for 'spotting' the Zaibach gaimelfs. Dilandau then recalls various incidents, mostly humiliating. The shinobi is enveloped in the metal tentacles extruded by Dilandau's Gaimelf. As the shinobi is crushed, (as Hitome foresaw) Hitomi, who has been linked with it, cries out "Cruel!" and faints. Whether or not Dilandau intended it, this puts Van at a severe disadvantage. Even if she doesn't fall off, she can't help him 'spot' his enemy during the imminent battle. However, Hitomi recovers, and tells Van how to "see" the enemy, as Van flies Escaflowne around the area, being shot at by Dilandau's gaimelf before Van launches a counter-attack. Dilandau is knocked down a flight of stone stairs. "That girl from the illusory moon!" he curses.
Meanwhile the others have found the husk of the man earlier taken over by the shinobi, thus proving Hitomi's assertion.
Synopsis v1.1 by G.C.
One is impressed by Hitomi's bravery during this powerful air combat sequence. (Military buffs meanwhile may care to evaluate Van's performance in terms of the doctrine of Air-Land Battle: his mecha is no more powerful than those of the Zaibach and lacks their superb camouflage, though it does have the ability to attack while in flight, while the Zaibach mecha apparently cannot. Van turns up when not expected, uses Escaflowne's flight mode effectively, and makes maximum use of superior direction-finding and threat spotting gear (Hitomi), and superior tactics. Thus he is able to make a severe nuisance of himself against strong and numerically superior opposition.)
King Freid holds an audience to decide what to do about the alleged threat of Zaibach invasion. He is distrustful of the Astorians who have fled their country. Prince Chid interrupts, only to be told that his advice is not welcome. Princess Mirena enters, and addresses the King rather more diplomatically, telling him that she has renounced her country. Allen affirms his loyalty.
Folken talks to the Zaibach ruler, Domkirk, and Hitomi is mentioned. They realise that her 'seeing' and other abilities are interfering with their plans.
Freid Province prepares for war.
Mirana attends to Allen's bandages. As she does so, Allen is reminded of another woman, Mirana's older sister Marlene.
Merle asks where Hitomi is (so she can go and annoy her?). Hitomi, standing alone on a balcony, has a frightening vision of the shinobi being crushed to death. Merle overhears and mocks Hitomi, before saying that Van is looking for her.
Van and the crew of the Crusade are sharpening weapons, including Escaflowne's giant sword, which has been notched in practice against Allen's mecha. Hitomi comes in with Merle. In confident mood, Van makes optimistic statements about the forthcoming battle. Distressed, Hitomi contradicts him; she does not want to be involved in making any more dire divinations of the future. She runs away, leaving Merle to ask what's with her?
Hitomi sits alone by an ornamental pond.
Mirana walks in the grounds, then enters a suite of elegant rooms,once used by Marlene, where King Freid is standing by a portrait of Marlene. Mirana plays a music box (it plays one of the main themes). Idly, Mirana presses one of the figurines on the music box, and the top swivels around to reveal a book; evidently Marlene's diary. Mirana reads it, while elsewhere Hitomi is with Prince Chid.
Chid asks Hitomi if she is unable to sleep, and they talk. Chid is distressed by his family's high expectations of him. Hitomi says that her grandmother told her people have mysterious powers. Meanwhile Van practices his archery.
Mirana reads a diary section in which Marlene sees Allen Schezar at a martial arts tournament.
Hitomi lays out the Tarot cards for Prince Chid, and suddenly visualises Marlene, Chid's dead mother. Hitomi tries to cover up her surprise by saying that nothing's the matter.
Meanwhile Mirana reads the diary section that reveals that Marlene and Allen were lovers.
The Zaibach invade in strength, and Boris reports to the King that the enemy are advancing in large numbers (50,000 men and 10,000 gaimelfs!). Folken's dialogue is about the military operation.
As they prepare to resist the invasion, Van, getting into Escaflowne, asks Merle about Hitomi, and Mirana tells Allen that she wishes to speak to him. At once Allen asks if it's about Marlene. Allen says that Prince Chid is probably his son, horrifying Mirana, when King Freid interrupts them, saying angrily that Chid is his son.
Synopsis v1.1 by G. C.
This will be a continuing series, updated as I work my way through the 26 episodes.