Escaflowne is a 24 episode animated series with a fantasy flavor. It begins with our main character, Hitomi, in the middle of a typical kind of high-school romance situation. It’s complicated somewhat by the fact that when she’s about to get this kiss she’s worked really hard for, a frigging dragon appears from nowhere and (luckily) so does this high-school age kid fighting it with ahem a sword. Go, kid! Anyway, Hitomi steps in to help a bit during the fight, having a premonition about a particular way in which the dragon will split the kid in two. As a reward, she gets transported along with the kid, who turns out to be named Van (represent!) to his magical world of mystery.
When they get there, you’re in for a hell of a story. You’ve got plenty of characters, and lots of plot. It’s understandable how this series could get compared to Evangelion, because of their similarities: they’re both about the same running time, they both have robots piloted by teens, striving against some mysterious enemy. Even with these similarities though, it’s like comparing Requiem for a Dream with Reefer Madness because of the anti-drug messages and junkies.
Escaflowne really doesn’t compare favorably with Evangelion, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Evangelion’s plot, which can be fairly inscrutable at times, is replaced with fantasy storytelling, which is a little easier to pull off. It’s well done, although with fantasy stories, the credibility bar is lowered. Even still, late episodes manage to strain the limits. Especially when one main character turns out to be another rarely mentioned other character for… no apparent reason!
Since Escaflowne is not trying to say anything terribly important, you can only judge it on how fun of a ride it is. The fantasy story starts out really, really well. The first three quarters of the story are completely involving, and I wouldn’t have a problem recommending the series, even though the conclusion really just manages to keep the story inside the lines.
All the subplots are like a soap opera, with all the main characters having a romantic interest in at least one other character, and in one case, up to three. You can’t really treat them seriously (alhough the characters certainly seem to), but what happens seems plausible enough to me. This has to be taken with a grain of salt, though, when two characters get hit with a “Fall in Love” ray. I mean, really.
All in all, though, it’s worth it. If you like anime, you’ll probably like Escaflowne. I’ll give it an 8.2/10
UPDATE: (1/6/05): I now own the series on DVD.