Escaflowne of the Sky
For those of you who are not familiar with the story of Escaflowne of the Sky, otherwise simply known as Escaflowne, the 26-episode series starts out in modern Japan, where a 14-year-old girl named Hitomi Kanzaki is magically transported to a planet called Gaia. There, humans thrive with different species of human-sized animals who live and dress like humans, as well as with a cursed clan called the Draconians. Van, the young man whom Hitomi awkwardly bumps into when she is transported to Gaia, is one such Draconian who is able to sprout his wings (like angels) at will. As Van is performing his dragon-slaying rite at the time, the two have a bumpy start, but they work things out by the end as the cover of this Escaflowne: Memorial Collection artbook promises. (The publication's obi also reads 'Hitomi! I want you!')
If I were asked to describe the artbook in one word, it would be 'big.' In fact, amongst all the paperback artbook sizes that I've encountered thus far, the Escaflowne: Memorial Collection is the largest that I've seen. Perhaps the artbook's relatively-few ninety-eight pages makes the book look even larger. But then again, a book that is almost nine inches by twelve inches is larger than normal size, however you look at it.
Since my rating of an artbook depends on the percentage of decent artwork shown in the publication, I'd score the Memorial Collection high because this is exactly what the artbook is about, with eighty pages of great artwork, either in full colors or black and white. The format of the book, I admit, is nothing out of the ordinary, save for the odd fact that the press neither numbered pages one nor two: the artbook starts off from page three. From there to page eighteen, and from page fifty-one to page eighty-two, the pages are in color, whereas the rest are in black and white.
Another thing that I love about this artbook is that the order of the pictures is in sequence to the plot of the story. For instance, the first full-page art greets the readers with the famous Was it a dream? Or an illusion? No. It was real... opening quote from the first few episodes, over a praying Hitomi with Van and Allen by her side, prepped for battle. The next two pages take us to the scene of the dragon-slaying, with a frustrated Van in armor.
The first section of the book features all of the main characters from the twenty-six episode series in color, along with a selection of famous quotes for each character. For example, 'Burn! Burn!' for Dilandau. Then, we have some comments from the creators (six pages to be exact), discussing the original designs of some of the characters, namely Hitomi, Van, and Folken, and why they did not use them in the final stage.
Following the creators' notes are sketches of the main characters, along with what their voice actors think of them. The sketches are detailed, as we get to see Hitomi, Van, Allen, Millerna, the Escaflowne (both in Guymelif and Dragon mode), the Scherazade, and even the Alseides in several different angles. These pages are especially helpful if you are into drawing doujinshis, as I am.
Episode summaries run from page thirty-two to page fifty. What's interesting about these short summaries is that they also include the images of the custom-made tarot cards that symbolize the themes in every episode. In my opinion, the cards would have been better if they were in bigger sizes and in color. Below these summaries, we spot more designs and sketches of the minor characters, dragons, buildings, flying contraptions and height charts. These detailed sketches are awesome art references.
Images from the opening and ending songs soon follow. Between these sections, we find screen shots from episodes that are categorized into different Visions, or themes. Episode one is Vision of Gaea, episode two is Vision of Fanelia, episodes three to nine are under Vision of Asturia, Vision of Freid covers episodes ten to thirteen, Vision of Atlantis fourteen to eighteen, Vision of Love and Death nineteen to twenty-five, while Vision of Fortune covers the final episode.
After these screen shots from each specific episode, we have more screen shots of the main guymelifs, namely Escaflowne, Scherazade, Alseides, Oreades, and Teiring. What surprises me is that this artbook is compiled so densely that it is able to combine the interview with the voice-actors and the ones with Yohko Kanno, the creator of Escaflowne's legendary music, and her comments on every single song on the first three OSTs, along with the Encyclopedia of Gaea in less than fifteen of the remaining pages. I'm sad to admit that I found a copy of the Roman Album on Ebay recently for a mere fifteen dollars, whereas I paid twice as much at a novelty bookstore. However, the price is well worth it, even though it has been very difficult for me to keep such a large publication in good condition due to the cover's fragility. If you are a fan of Escaflowne of the Sky, this artbook is a must-own.