The Vision of Escaflowne (天空のエスカフローネ Tenkū no Esukafurōne , lit. Escaflowne of the Heavens) is a 26-episode Japanese anime television seriesproduced by Sunrise Studios and directed by Kazuki Akane. It premiered in Japan on April 2, 1996 on TV Tokyo, with the final episode airing on September 24, 1996. Sony's anime satellite channel, Animax also aired the series, both in Japan and on its various worldwide networks, including Hong Kong, Taiwan,Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The series is licensed for Region 1 release by Bandai Entertainment.
Deliberately blending elements from both shōnen and shōjo genres, the series follows a teenage high school girl named Hitomi, who finds herself pulled from Earth to the planet Gaea when a boy named Van appears on the high school track while battling a dragon. In Gaea, she is caught in the middle of a war as the Zaibach Empire attempts to take over Gaea. Van (King of Fanelia), with aid from Allen (an Asturian Knight), commands his mystical mech Escaflowne in the struggle to stop the Zaibach Empire. Hitomi's fortune telling powers blossom in Gaea as she becomes the key to awakening Escaflowne and to stopping Zaibach's plans.
While the anime series was in production, two very different manga retellings were also developed and released: a shōnen version of the story entitled The Vision of Escaflowne and a shōjo retelling titled Hitomi—The Vision of Escaflowne. In addition, a second shōjo adaptation called Escaflowne—Energist's Memories was released as a single volume in 1997. The story was novelized in a series of six light novels by Yumiko Tsukamoto, Hajime Yatate, and Shoji Kawamori. A movie adaptation, Escaflowne: The Movie was released on June 24, 2000, but bears only a basic resemblance to the original series. Four CD soundtracks and a drama CD have also been released in relation to the series.
The series focuses on the heroine, Hitomi Kanzaki, and her adventures after she is transported to the world of Gaea, a mysterious planet where she can see Earth and its moon in the sky. On Gaea, Earth is known as the Mystic Moon. Hitomi's latent psychic powers are enhanced on Gaea and she quickly becomes embroiled in the conflicts between the Zaibach Empire and the several peaceful countries that surround it. The conflicts are brought about by the Zaibach Empire's quest to revive the legendary power from the ancient city of Atlantis. As the series progresses, many of the characters' pasts and motivations, as well as the history of Atlantis and the true nature of the planet Gaea, are revealed.
The Vision of Escaflowne premiered in Japan on TV Tokyo on April 2, 1996 where it aired weekly until it completed its twenty-six episode run on September 24, 1996. Bandai Entertainment's North American division, which licensed the series for home video distribution under its AnimeVillage label, first released the series with English subtitles, across eight VHS volumes, including a box set, from September 15, 1998 to December 15, 1998. In August 2000, Fox Kids began broadcasting the series in the United States. Produced by Haim Saban, these dubbed episodes were heavily edited to remove footage, add new "flashback" sequences to remind the audience of the events that just occurred, and to heavily downplay the role of Hitomi in the series. The first episode was skipped altogether, and the series soundtrack produced by Yoko Kanno was partially replaced with more techno themes. This modified version of the series was a ratings failure and canceled after ten episodes. Fox explained that they edited to meet their own target audience, to comply with broadcast standards, and to fit the allowed timeslot. The Canadian television channel YTV acquired Fox's dubbed version of the series for broadcast. Following Fox's planned broadcast schedule, they premiered the series on September 11, 2000 with the second episode. YTV aired all of the episodes Fox Kids dubbed, concluding with the series true first episode in February 2001. Bandai began releasing the dubbed version to VHS in 2000, discontinuing the releases in February 2001 after only four volumes had been released.
Bandai later released the entire series, unedited and in the original episode order, to Region 1 DVD. Spanning eight volumes, the releases include the original Japanese audio tracks with optional English subtitles, and the uncut English dubbed track. Bandai also later released the series in several different box sets, including a Limited Edition set released on July 23, 2002, a "Perfect Collection"—which included the Escaflowne feature length movie—released October 26, 2004, and an "Anime Legends" box set on April 11, 2006.
Three pieces of theme music are used for the series. "No Need for Promises" (約束はいらない Yakusoku wa Iranai ), performed by Maaya Sakamoto, is used for the series opening theme for the entire series, except the first episode in which no opening sequence is used. Performed by Hiroki Wada, "Mystic Eyes" is used for the ending them for the first twenty-five episodes, while the final episode uses Yoko Kanno's instrumental piece "The Story of Escaflowne ~ End Title" (ザ ストーリー オブ エスカフローネ~エンド タイトル Za Sutoorii Obu Esukafuroone ~ Endo Taitoru ).
Three alternate retellings of The Vision of Escaflowne have been released in manga form, with first two manga series developed at the same time as the anime. Due to the radical changes in the anime series during production, these two manga series are very different from the original anime series and each other. The first series, also titled The Vision of Escaflowne was one of the first manga series to appear in the then new Shōnen Ace magazine from Kadokawa Shoten. Despite the anime series itself being on hold, Sunrise gave artist Katsu Aki the existing production and character designs, resulting in the first manga series having the heavy shōnen feel and curvaceous Hitomi that was originally planned for the anime series. Given free rein to change the story however he wanted, Aki's version is a violent saga focused primarily on fighting and has Hitomi transforming into a "curvaceous nymph" that is the power source of the mecha Escaflowne. The series premiered in Shōnen Ace's first issue on October 24, 1997 and ran until November 26, 1997. The thirty-eight chapters were collected and published by Kadokawa across eight tankōbon volumes. It was licensed for released in North America by Tokyopop with the first volume released on July 10, 2003. The Tokyopop English editions were also imported for distribution in Australia by Madman Entertainment.
In 1996, with the premiere of the anime series, Messiah Knight — The Vision of Escaflowne was created. This shōjo oriented adaptation was written by Yuzuru Yashiro and serialized in Asuka Fantasy DX from April 8, 1996 through January 18, 1997. Unlike the first manga, it focused more on the interaction of the characters and severely toned down the violence to the point that the mecha are not used for battle at all and Escaflowne only appears near the end of the series. It was abruptly canceled after only 10 chapters and the end of the anime, due to the slowing popularity of the series. The individual chapters were released in two tankōbon volumes, at which time the series was retitled Hitomi — The Vision of Escaflowne.
A final manga retelling, Escaflowne — Energist's Memories, was a collaborative effort of various manga artist around Japan to create 15 "mini-stories" related to the anime series. The single volume manga was published in January 1997 under Kadokawa's Asuka comics DX shōjo imprint. Artist's who contributed to the volume include: Tammy Ohta, Yayoi Takeda, Kahiro Okuya, Daimoon Tennyo, Kazumi Takahashi, Masaki Sano, and Kyo Watanabe.
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