arisha: (escaflowne van)
[personal profile] arisha
As of yesterday, I have finished my first full rewatch of the anime Vision of Escaflowne since the last time my friends and I marathoned it, which I suspect was in 2009. (It's true that last year I said I was rewatching it, but due to a lack of emotional fortitude I stopped three episodes from the end so it doesn't count. I also attempted a rewatch while I was in Japan but after watching the first five episodes in one night I got busy and kind of forgot I was doing it, whoops.) I am very happy to say that, fifteen years after I first saw it, I still love it completely. (Fifteen years omg, fifteen years is the same age as the protagonists of this thing.) I was a little worried that I wouldn't, not because of anything Escaflowne does but because this year has been a year of discovering I no longer like shows that I used to love! I attempted to rewatch Reba, Blossom, and Disney's Hercules and couldn't make it through any of them. I also read all of Full House Reviewed in a weekend and enjoyed it thoroughly but it's made me terrified to rewatch Full House for fear I will hate it, and if that happens then there goes my childhood! (In all honesty I am really not looking foward to Fuller House, although I'm glad it's providing Scott Weinger with the first regular non-Aladdin work he's had in quite some time.)

Well all that is off-topic when all I want is to ramble forever about Escaflowne like the good old days. <3

(GINORMOUS AND UNFORGIVING SPOILER WARNING)

· So you know how sometimes a piece of media stops being just a movie or just a series or just a whatever and becomes, like, a legitimately important part of your life? Well I feel like this happens to me a lot just because I tend to get so disgustingly obsessed with anything that I like, but yeah. Escaflowne stopped being "just an anime" for me a loooong time ago. In this post I said I didn't remember whether I discovered Escaflowne or Morning Musume first; the other night I very belatedly realized I could quite easily solve that puzzle by looking up release dates and the conclusion is that I must have been watching Escaflowne for at least two months before I heard my first Morning Musume song. I'm pretty sure Esca's opening song was the first Japanese song whose lyrics I memorized. But even if I ignore the "was it Esca or MoMusu* that got me to start learning Japanese" debate - Van Fanel is still one of my favourite characters from anything ever, I still frequently listen to the music, and I may not have watched the series in full since 2009 but I definitely think about it way more often than that. I don't really know what I wanted to say in this paragraph except that Escaflowne is really important to me and I'm so glad I still enjoy watching it.

* I am frequently asked why I started learning Japanese, and although I'm not ashamed of the truth or anything, I do wish I had a more intelligent-sounding answer. Oh well. Depending on my mood I pick either MoMusu or Esca and the results are always the same. If MoMusu: "Hey, I remember them! I used to listen to them when I was a kid! Are they still around?" If Esca: "Vision of what? I've never heard of that." (Wikipedia says that Escaflowne was way more popular overseas than it ever was in Japan and my personal experience agrees with that 100%.) Neither is a response I really want to hear ...

· This was not my first time watching Escaflowne without subtitles, but it was my first time watching all of Escaflowne without subtitles, and I think it was the first time truly not needing them. Even last year's rewatch was more difficult than this one. I admit that this past year I have been very lazy about actually sitting down and studying Japanese "properly," but I have been consuming a lot of spoken and written Japanese, which is perhaps why I feel my ability to quickly understand what characters were saying really improved. There's a lot of military vocabulary so I did still find myself checking the dictionary a few times an episode, but I even found something to be happy about there because I remember years and years ago how I used to find it so difficult to look up words in the dictionary - I would be like, "Was that an 'n' or an 'm'? And what was that vowel? Was it long or short?" I basically do not have that problem at all anymore which is awesome.

Of course I realize that I can't really judge my Japanese comprehension level based on how well I can understand a show that I had already watched multiple times in English, but I am still happy about this, especially because this is a show where I can distinctly remember watching it and understanding nothing at all. This time I watched the last three episodes for the first time in six years(!!!) and I understood probably 98% of what everyone who isn't a gruff-voiced Zaibach general said. (Gruff-voiced older men are my listening comprehension weakness.) Language learning is such a long process and it's so hard to see your own progress but I feel like I can see some here so that's awesome. I'm looking forward to understanding everything even easier next time!

· Another aspect of watching it in Japanese that I very much enjoyed was discovering all the fantasy words they use that aren't made by stealing English words (which I knew of before), but by combining kanji. They use two different words for dragon (飛竜 hiryuu "flying dragon" and 地竜 chiryuu "land dragon"), which I don't think is reflected in the subtitles? Google seems to be telling me that those words aren't unique to Escaflowne but there are some that seem to be. 操演宮 souenkyuu is the word they use for the cockpit of a guymelef. I'm not sure why they decided that needed a special word. I also learned that 浮き船 ukifune is the word they use to refer to the flying ships, which I love only because that's the name of one of the characters in The Tale of Genji.

Also, because grammar is my first and only love, I very much enjoyed discovering all the lines that use constructions that are perfectly normal in Japanese but would never be used in English. Perhaps my favourite was one of Dilandau's lines, 獲物に逃げられてしまう emono ni nigerarete shimau, which features an intransitive verb in the passive voice, something that in English is just not done! My attempt at a painfully literal translation: "We will regrettably be escaped by our prey!" I imagine the translators probably rendered this as something closer to "Our prey will get away!"

(Dilandau's lines are pretty much all amazing - grammatically or not, lolz - and I love the way he delivers them, but he also has the only two lines that I prefer in English! "He's here. He's in my dream" because the Japanese line, though it has the exact same meaning, runs longer and so feels less creepy, and "Well played, Freid!" because it rhymes.)

· Every review of or introduction to Escaflowne that I have seen makes a big deal of the way it mixes traditionally shounen (anime for boys) elements with traditionally shoujo (anime for girls) elements. I have only seen like five anime series from start to finish so I am maybe not someone who should be commenting on this but I am going to anyway. I always figured that the shounen elements were things like how the story is about a war that's fought with giant robots and the shoujo elements were things like the love triangle and then sometimes they blend together like in the way Van and Hitomi rescue each other like twenty times each. But I think the mixture shows itself in more subtle ways as well. Something I really liked this time is that Hitomi teaches Van how to focus on her pendant to psychically see things that are out of sight. The female lead teaches the male lead a skill that he constantly uses through the rest of the series, that's pretty cool. (Off the top of my head I can't think of another series where that happens, but I also haven't been watching very many series lately.) But it gets better! Whenever Van uses this skill, the pendant appears onscreen to let us know he's using it. This means that in the middle of the bloodiest and most brutal battles in the series, our warrior king is focusing on a piece of jewelry. A pink piece of jewelry appears in front of his face at the very beginning of the battle where he goes on a rampage and kills the Dragon Slayers. This is never commented on at all and I never thought anything of it before but now I'm like, wow, what an unusual juxtaposition, I LOVE IT.

I also like that both Van and Folken are shown crying, although they definitely don't cry to half the extent that any of the female protagonists do and I have no idea if this is rare or not compared to other anime. (Yes I am counting Folken's ONE TEAR as crying hahaha.)

· Related to the above, I feel like I have always been indifferent to all the talk of ~wishes~ and the ~power of emotions~ that there is in this show. I will definitely admit that there are still plenty of places where those discussions make me go "wut." Like I'm not sure that "Believe in the person who's trying to kidnap you!" is the most useful message to put out there, and this show does it twice?! But other than that, I ... kind of loved all this stuff this time. Just, how great is it that this is a show with GIANT ROBOTS that can FLY and shoot FIRE and turn INVISIBLE and yet the most powerful forces in the world are WISHES and EMOTIONS. How great is it that there is a huge, technologically advanced evil empire that PANICS every time it looks like two teenagers are going to realize they like like each other. I kind of couldn't get enough of the scenes where Van and Hitomi are talking and it keeps cutting over to Zaibach where everyone is running around crying "MAYDAY MAYDAY THEY ARE TALKING OUR EVIL PLANS ARE DOOMED!!!" I mean, episode 19, you guys. The evil plan in episode 19, you guys. Operation Golden Rule of Love, you guys. It is perfect and amazing and hilarious and I love everything about it.

Kind of a random thought, but I know that if I were to have an idea one day for a story about a world controlled by wishes and emotions in the way that Gaea in Escaflowne is, I would almost certainly give up on it as being too abstract and hard to pull off. So I am pretty impressed that they even had the guts to go through with it.

· I feel like I have seen a lot of discussions recently about alternatives to the bride's father walking her down the aisle? So I was happy to see that Dryden and Millerna walk down the aisle together. Also it's kind of cool that this show talks about love all the time but only one couple actually falls in love? Like, they had enough characters, they could have easily paired a whole bunch of people off, but they didn't, and that's cool. LIFE AND LOVE ARE MESSY AND COMPLICATED, SIGNED ESCAFLOWNE

· CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT RUHM FOR A SECOND I feel like no one ever talks about Ruhm but I think he is the most interesting of the minor minor characters. Like, I wanna know more about his relationship with Van and Folken! He talks to them so casually even though they're royalty. He doesn't even use an honorific after their names. Balgus and Merle are both Fanelian subjects close to Van and they both use "-sama" and polite language (well, Merle sometimes uses polite language - she's super polite in the "um obviously you're in love with Hitomi" scene which is something I never noticed before!!) but Ruhm doesn't use anything! And he's so casual about everything! How did he and Folken meet up in the ruins of Fanelia? By the time we see him he doesn't even seem like he's surprised that Folken is alive. And that line he says, "All this even though you two know each other so well" - waugh Ruhm what is going on in your head! How are you so close to the princes? Who even are you? How do the wolf people fit into Fanelian society? And then he's all "Well, I'm not getting involved. See you later" all casual like hanging with Van and Folken is something he does every day. And he says it so casually even though he's never going to see Folken again because Folken diiiiiiiiies and that makes me unreasonably sad considering Ruhm is in the series for TWO WHOLE SCENES.

AND ALSO before that when the wolves are howling and Van is like "Are you the one who called for me?" whaaaaaaat Van can you understand the meaning of wolf howls??? (Actually I really love that part.) (UNRELATED, but I also love the part right after where he's running and then stops suddenly and the camera whips ahead and then pulls back like "Whoops, he stopped running! Gotta back up a bit!" I love when animation pretends it's shot like live action.)

Clearly I just need all the Fanelia backstory please.

· So as mentioned above, Van Fanel is one of my favourite fictional characters ever, and honestly I am pretty sure I would say he is my favourite fictional character ever except that I have an irrational fear of being teased. So as much as it pains me to say this ... is it just me or are his feelings towards war and fighting handled really inconsistently? I don't even mean "sometimes he says one thing and sometimes he says another," I mean "sometimes the writers put a strong focus on Van's relationship with war and sometimes they forget about it entirely." Like, in the beginning episodes of the series, we learn that Van doesn't like fighting and isn't particularly great at it. Folken talks about how Van's ~gentle spirit~ is his motivation for creating a better world. But then we get to episode 8, and Van kills people for the first time, and it's never commented on and doesn't seem to affect him in any way. Um, 'kay. Skip ahead to episode 14, which is my FAVOURITE episode of the entire series because of the way it shows a Van who feels like he has no choice but to fight even though it destroys him mentally and physically. That moment at the beginning where he's covered in blood and barely conscious and can barely speak and what he chooses to say is not "Wow, this hurts" but "I can still fight"? That's amazing, I love that moment so much. And then immediately after he's healed he goes right back out to fight even though he has a perfectly valid excuse not to and I have watched that part way too many times. (I love Hitomi's line 「イスパーノの人たちが言ってたでしょう?保証できないって!」 "You heard what the Ispano said! They can't guarantee it!" except I think it sounds better in Japanese and Maaya's delivery is perfect.) Episode 15 does a decent job of following this all up by giving him flashbacks to the big battle at the end of 14. Episode 17 is good too, I really like the part where Balgus is all "You have to fight" and Van is like "NO I HATE IT," but then ... he has a big speech about how he has to fight and so he'll just accept it. I actually really like that speech and am not doing it justice but it's really frustrating to me that the writers seemed to be like "Welp, that ends that storyline!" I guess in a world where wishes control everything it's valid that a character could say "I'm going to be okay with fighting from now on" and then be okay with fighting from then on but it feels like such a cop out. And then it kind of goes in the other direction and Hitomi has that part in episode 23 where she's angry with Van for enjoying fighting, and I'm just confused by that. Maybe the idea is that he enjoys fighting when he's doing it to protect her? Since there's all that "I'll protect Hitomi" stuff and he's an episode away from realizing he loves her? But ergh, I dunno ... it feels inconsistent to me and I wish it didn't.

If anything in that rambling paragraph made sense to you and you want to offer an alternate way of looking at this aspect of the series, I would be very glad to hear it!

· Also how great are the Ispano. I always find them entertaining.

· Also I really liked Dryden a lot this time! His flippancy is a nice contrast to the super seriousness that the series enters around the time he makes his first appearance. And I love how he doesn't really care what other people think of him and how he dresses in a way that shows that, hahaha. I kind of just want to hang out with him.

· Speaking of episode 14, Van creating a psychic connection between himself and Escaflowne is one of my most favourite parts of the series. That the thing built to protect him becomes a thing that can kill him is so fantastically demented and I love it. I love that brief moment during the battle in episode 13 where we see him getting hurt when Escaflowne is hit, and I don't even care that they had his shirt rip when it makes no sense for his shirt to rip. It looks cool and what's happening wouldn't have been clear otherwise so I forgive it. Then episode 14 is great, it continues into episode 15, in episode 18 Escaflowne-hurting-Van happens again, and then ... that's ... it? They built up this huge danger for the male protagonist and spent it all in the middle of the series? Van becomes so good at fighting that Escaflowne is never hurt again? I mean, he doesn't spend that much time fighting after that point, so it's not completely unbelievable, but I'm always disappointed that this plot point kind of fizzles out after episode 18 when it is so good ...

I guess they already had Van almost die and Dryden sell everything in order to save him, so they couldn't really go any bigger than that, but still ...

MY CRITICISMS IN THE ABOVE POINTS do not at all affect the ridiculous amount of love I have for this series, they just make me think "Wraaaugh, it could have been even better~~~"

· So I watched the last three episodes for the first time in six years. Ignoring the times when I watched it with my friends at four a.m. after marathoning the whole series - seriously, those times don't count, I'm pretty sure I was both too tired and too hopped up on sugar to read any subtitles or pay attention in any meaningful way - I feel it is entirely possible that I had only watched the last episode three times before. This is hilariously nothing compared to the thirty or forty times I have surely watched some of the earlier episodes! Watching the last few episodes was such a weird feeling because I knew all the major things that happen in them but I didn't remember the exact order and I really felt like I was watching them for the first time. I had totally forgotten some of my favourite parts! I forgot about the cards blowing off Hitomi's desk in episode 24 and I totally forgot about Allen in episode 25 being all "You're the first person who's ever rejected me." Haha, oh Allen, never change. I had also forgotten that Folken himself tells us that his black wings are a sign that he doesn't have long to live ... somehow I had started thinking that was fanon. ("Does Van know that's what they mean??" is another question to add to my desire for Fanelia backstory.)

(While we're on the topic of scenes I'd forgotten about - the very opening scene of episode 19, when the Zaibach generals are imagining a million Escaflownes all attacking them at once, caught me completely off guard. And the music in it is so weeeird hahaha.)

My memories of episode 26 were so vague that it felt super new to me and watching it was kind of a big deal. I am torn between "I should watch it a bunch more times so I remember it better!" and "I shouldn't watch it for another six years so it can feel new to me again!" and I have no idea which side is going to win. Anyway, let me take a moment to talk about how much I SUPER LOVE the fight between Van and Allen. Yeah, Van's deepest wish being "I want to fight Allen!" also kinda goes against his supposed gentle nature and hatred of fighting, but I don't care, I very much enjoy the idea that these guys were working together the whole series even while they both secretly just wanted to beat the crap out of each other. And also that they would consider each other their most challenging opponent? I also really don't care that episode 25 features a ginormous deus ex machina. A country we've never heard of drops a weapon we've never heard of and obliterates the enemy? Well, that's fine, the focus of the series was always more the relationships and the talk about destiny than the actual war, and personally I am way more interested in a climactic scene that focuses only on the main characters than one that has to focus on whole armies. (I do understand why other people might find it super annoying though.) Anyway anyway, the fight between Van and Allen - I had completely forgotten about Van shouting "My country was destroyed! How could you understand my pain?" and when I heard it I was so excited I immediately rewound hahaha. 'Cause yeah! His country gets destroyed in the second episode! And there's always an undercurrent of "my country was destroyed and that sucks" but it's never really as huge a thing as it might have been? Van is seriously a vault haha. So I'm glad he got at least one moment of "I AM REALLY UPSET ABOUT THIS." And the animation is so good~~ and the voice acting is so good~~ (not that the voice acting in this show is ever not good) and I love the lines they have before they start fighting~~ and I love how they're complimenting each other the whole time they're trying to kill each other! Also I was very very happy when "Dance of Curse" started playing because that most definitely should be the song that plays during the series' last fight scene. ("Dance of Curse" isn't used in the show as often as I thought it was but it somehow still feels like it is The Escaflowne Background Music.)

Also I super love that they took the time in the very last episode to let us know that Van smells like grass. Partly because it's hilarious that they included that where they could have included something more relevant to, like, the plot (maybe it's just my fangirl self constantly wanting more but I think the last episode feels a little rushed), but also because omg, of course he does. <3

As for the rest of that episode ... ... ... don't tell anyone but this was the first time I cried at the end like not tearing up but actual crying I don't know why it just happened I don't think it was entirely the episode's fault or because it was the end of the series although yeah I am bummed to be done it but I think there was also a sprinkling of "omg nostalgia omg why do I have to grow up" which is something I haven't stressed out about for a while but I can't be sure either way let's never speak of it again.

· I am planning to watch the movie soon and I am pretty sure I haven't watched it since high school. Like, I am pretty sure I haven't watched it in thirteen years. I watched a trailer for it recently and it was the weirdest experience because I was like "these characters look like characters I know ... and they sound like characters I know ... but they're in totally different situations ... talking about totally different things ..." and so I'm a little nervous that watching the movie is going to be weird and uncomfortable. Hopefully I like it though? I do listen to the music pretty often and "Black Escaflowne" has the most plays of the songs in my Escaflowne playlist. I will always be grumpy that the movie is a reboot instead of a sequel but, as I recall, the movie still does some cool things so I will do my best to enjoy it!

If I were to reread the Harry Potter books now, I imagine movie!Draco will have taken over the image of book!Draco that used to exist in my head, but for a while I couldn't stop picturing him as movie!Dilandau ...

To avoid ending this awkward entry on that awkward note, here are the ten most played songs in my Escaflowne playlist:

10. Machine Soldier
(Lots of clanging noises, good for robot fight scenes; my favourite use of this is in episode 7 when Dilandau spots Van and this starts playing almost out of nowhere.)

09. Cradle Song
(Soft and short, good for when Allen is reminiscing.)

08. Chain
(The most dramatic music I have ever heard played during a kiss scene. Not sure why this isn't higher, it's one of my most favourite pieces of background music from anything.)

07. Yakusoku wa Iranai
(The opening theme; all the full versions have been muted so here is an ancient upload of the opening from the show.)

06. Blaze (Take 2)
(Moody music good for a fight your protagonists are going to super lose.)

05. Shadow of Doubt
(The first part is basically Folken's theme song but my favourite use of this piece is when they use the end of it just before the fight in episode 14. It's got a good "everything's going wrong and we're panicking" feel to it.)

04. Dance of Curse
(Epic violins, epic chorus epically singing the title of the show. Someone has apparently also uploaded this under the title "Escaflowne epic theme" which makes me stupidly happy.)

03. Epistle
(Another epic chorus epically singing. Good for when your protagonist decides to take out like half of the antagonists in one scene.)

02. Aoi Hitomi
(A song sung to the same tune as the "Memory of Fanelia" background music. Also the song that helped me learn my Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp verbs in high school French.)

01. Black Escaflowne
(Yet another epic chorus epically singing. So good. <3 )

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July 2015

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