animefringe august 2003 / reviews

The Vision of Escaflowne Vol.1
Format: right-left manga
Production: TOKYOPOP / Katsu Aki / Hajime Yatate / Shoji Kawamori
Comments: A slightly alternate take on the anime classic, Escaflowne is oozing with potential.
Animefringe Reviews:
The Vision of Escaflowne Vol.1

Before the anime version of The Vision of Escaflowne was revealed to the public, two different manga series were penned to give the public a taste of what was to come. While they tell essentially the same tale, there are some differences between the two, just like the manga versions of Cowboy Bebop. However, I'm not going to judge this series according to how closely it aligns with the anime version. Rather, I'm going to pretend that this edition - the shonen edition - is the only one that exists for the purpose of this review.

Escaflowne is a cross-world fantasy about Hitomi Hoshino, a high school student who is suddenly transported to an alternate world. There, she is told that she is an Energist, a person with the mysterious power to command the Escaflowne, a mechanical deity with incredible offensive powers.

When Hitomi arrives in the new world, the nation that she appears in, Fanelia, is on the verge of being attacked by the power-hungry Zaibach Empire. She's given no chance to display uncertainty about aiding the Fenelians, for when the attack finally comes, activating the Escaflowne is the only alternative to falling under the destructive power of the Zaibach Empire's battle mechs. Fanelia's Prince, Van Slanzar, accompanies her as she buys a small amount of time with the giant battle mech.

The story gets moving rather quickly, tossing Hitomi into a war with barely a spare moment for us to gain our bearings. While I enjoyed the fast pace, it was a bit odd to suddenly have so much information thrown at me all at once. I suppose that's one of the ways you can tell this version was geared towards guys - it skims the details and moves right into the action sequences.

The artwork features some entertaining character design details, from Hitomi's oversized glasses to Prince Van's short stature. Screen tones are used to good effect, and action is conveyed well thanks to Katsu Aki's energetic line work. This is a visually pleasing series on its own, though diehard fans of the anime version may prefer those designs a bit more. I, personally, liked the look of the manga.

So far, I've enjoyed Escaflowne, but one volume isn't nearly enough to convey the true nature of a story. It moved a little bit too fast for my tastes, and Hitomi's ability to adapt to change is nothing short of miraculous. I'm not sure how keen I'd be on piloting a giant robot after being ripped away from my home planet.

Well, ok, I'd love to pilot a giant robot. But that's just me.

I will say that I'm a guaranteed customer for the next few volumes, but I feel that there's so much more to develop that this series simply hasn't hit its stride yet. I look forward to the moment it does. In the meantime, while it should satisfy longtime fans of the series, it may be even better for readers who are only now entering the world of Escaflowne. In any case, it's worth reading if you appreciate mecha manga with a cross-world twist.