Friday, September 21, 2007

The inevitable gravity of Destiny or my review of Escaflowne

That's a beautiful phrase. The Gravity of Destiny. Escaflowne isn't your typical anime, oh wait it is, or well, the truth is somewhere in between. In a way it picks and chooses between anime conventions from all genres of the field, and throws in some European mythology and then it... Well, it ends up beautiful. Just like that phrase. It's a beautiful anime, exquisitely crafted from odds and ends scattered throughout the world. European-style kingdoms, steam-punk elements, mecha, dragons, and the strange techno-mysticism that draws everything together. It is an immensely complex beast.

The story starts with girl lifted from her own world planted in another. She has some pretty impressive odd-ball powers, and she gets involved in war and love pentangles that boggle the mind. Giant robots fight, and one in particular has special powers, and she and the prince that controls it end up fleeing from the evil forces searching for a means to end the war. This show has often been cited as a blurring of the lines between shojo and shonen, that is girl's manga/anime and guy's manga/anime (I think the technical terms shojo and shonen are only supposed to be used for manga but they are commonly used for anime as well), and to some degree it carries the faults of both. It has the gushing emotionals and pointless romantic trysts of a shojo and the convoluted plot of a shonen. But then again it has the strengths of both as well. It has the emotional depth and character development of a shojo, and the ambition and action of a shonen. It's two defining characteristics are probably its emotion and ambition and both come together to something at times confusing, at times frustrating, but still beautiful.

It's plot twists often seem pointless. It takes you from one end of it's amazingly in-depth imaginary world only to throw you to the other end with nothing really accomplished. But every episode, even those that don't get anywhere draws your emotions, engages the eyes, and thrills the mind. There's always action, always something happening, always emotional growth even if it doesn't actually go anywhere, it still gives enough to the episode to make it a treat to watch. The quality of the episodes excuses the scattered plot.

Often the emotions presented seem trivial or repetitive or childish, but blown completely out of proportion. Sometimes I just wanted to slap the characters upside the head to try to get some sense into them. But then there were the moments where the emotions presented were so genuine, so universal, but so personal, that they just took my breath away. At times the show travels through an emotional landscape which includes the terrors of war and their drain on the soul, the desire to end conflict and the means it takes to do so, the sorrow of loss, the depth of love, and all these emotions and ideas are presented maturely but with enough excitement and action accompanying them to prevent them from being dry. But what makes the show frustrating is that both over-blown emotions, and perfectly genuine emotions are both stuffed into every episode, but the latter exceeds the former enough that the experience grips your heart. In the end, the execution excuses the melodrama.

Overall, Escaflowne is a monument to execution. That is not to say it is simply a formula executed, rather it is the execution of a story crammed full of ideas and emotions almost to the breaking point, but one which does not fit any precise formula or genre. Because of that it carries with it flaws from every avenue of storytelling but also virtues from every corner of the universe of imaginative fiction. That alone would not a good show make, but it then shows execution that pushes the ability of anime to the limit, which makes all the flaws excusable, and the final product a legend.

And that is the Vision of Escaflowne, and it receives an 9/10.

So that's my review of Escaflowne, so anyways, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

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