Vision of Escaflowne
Hitomi is a typical girl attending school. Other than her talent in running, there's nothing noteworthy about her. Hitomi works up the courage to confess to a boy she's had a crush on, only to be interupted by a boy trying to kill a dragon brought through a magical vortex. Can't these things wait just a few more minutes? The boy named Van, comes from a different world, and unintentionally returns with Hitomi. It turns out he's actually a prince, and his kindom was put to the flame by the sinister Zalbach not long ago.
Hitomi also discovers she can see the future. With this skill, and Van's mecha dragon (Escaflowne) the two set out to warn other kingdoms about the increasing aggression of the Zalbach empire. Along the way they'll have to deal with psycho crazed villain Albatu, super jelous catgirl Merle, various Zalbach minions, and the greatest obsticle of all... Hitomi trying to decide if Van or Allen are better suited to her.
VoE was once vaunted as one of the anime greats. It's still remembered fondly by the old-timers. Other than that, it's mostly been forgotten. As for me, I was first exposed to Escaflowne through fansubs before commercial release. Over the years I've repeatedly tried to watch VoE but had my interest stall and never finished it. I even made a new years resolution to finally finish this one... Then I find the ending is the worst thing about this series - which otherwise isn't bad.
My big problem with VoE is that I hate so many of the characters. Particularly Albatu, one of those "throughly evil" always laughing like a maniac to infer he's crazy kind of "characters" - they're generic villan shells, not characters. That might be forgiven if he made a one off appearance, but he never goes away - which I very much wanted to happen. The other major annoying character is catgirl Merle. She's more typical of 90s anime before they figured out "annoying and obnoxious" wasn't cute or funny after all. Among the crap characters, only Van redeems himself by becoming decent person.
There are just as many good characters though, and thankfully they're the more important ones. Unlike many anime titles where the girl in wonderland is mostly a worthless cheerleader, Hitomi is actually useful and can see the future. This turns out to be a great way to foreshadow parts of the story too. Hitomi is also a track star. The fact that this girl can run like hell is a major point in parts of the story, and I really love that.
The story starts with Hitomi dumped into a land of magic with mysterious ominous dude conspiring against her From there it basically jumps to governments not listening to warnings of imminent doom obviously about to kick their ass, or some trouble with a new adversary Hitomi and her group have to deal with. This is where I lost interest, but usually people enjoy these parts most. By the end the war fanlly reaches a crescendo (kinda), then VoE completely screws up the ending; solving everything by "the power of love" (kinda sorta). For an anime so vibrant and imaginative, it's frustrating and confusing why they gave up on the ending. The final conclusion is only more frustrating by the way.
Japan had been saturated by fantasy-mecha titles for some time, which is (probably) why it didn't fair so well there. Over here people hadn't seen anything like it and it was a big hit. A fantasy epic with giant fighting robots and romance on top of that; Escaflowne has it all. While this show doesn't do it for me, I think all of us old schoolers have a list of the "classics" that we never really took to. Escaflowne just happens to be one of those for me. While I make the end sound like a travesty, it's honestly not THAT bad.. just annoying. I do recommend checking it out. Being well remembered over the years, Escaflowne makes the cut as one of the classics worth picking up again.
Why does Hitomi return to Earth? It almost invalidates all the relationships she's experienced. She could be a queen. She's built a legacy in a land of magic where she has a unique and invaluable talent. Japan has some guy she had a crush on who's moving away, a friend, and a family she only talks about in passing. My conclusion is that she's returning to Japan for the one thing not available to her in the land of sorcery: toilet paper. TP may seem insignificant until you don't have any. Trust me.
Screen Caps: >