Escaflowne Vol. #4 (of 8) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, February 03, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001
What They Say
The struggle on Gaea continues and Hitomi begins to realize her importance in this war. Allen and company prove their loyalty and are cleared of any charges. Meanwhile, amidst all the fighting, Millerna makes a shocking discovery. Zaibach's forces march through Freid, destroying everything in its path. Folken is determined to retrieve the legendary Sword of Atlantis and make Hitomi's vision a reality. During the battle, Van and the Escaflowne suffer near-fatal injuries. Can they both be healed, or will the blood pact that binds Van to Escaflowne doom them both? Episodes 12-14.
The halfway mark is reached and the events in the series continue their fast pace with a lot of the elements now coming together. Surprises and twists are definitely abound in these episodes, the set which really marks the beginning of where I needed more episodes and just don't want to stop.
For our primary review, we listened to the Japanese track. Throughout it, the audio was definitely a solid stereo presentation. Dialogue was clean and undistorted and the music continues to be the bright spot. There's a fair amount of directionality across the front soundstage here and it sounded very good. Oddly enough, flipping back and forth between the Japanese and English tracks, the music and ambient effects all sounded a notch lower.
This is a batch of quite good looking episodes. Colors are bright and vibrant, there's hardly any artifacting in the dark sky blue sequences and there's very little line noise. The only minor problems are the continued rainbows, which like the last episode of the previous disc, is relegated to edges of characters and the close linework seen under the eyes of many of the characters. I gave the disc a spin in our Playstation 2 on the 19" TV and the rainbows, while still visible, are much much less apparent. We've received a lot of complains about our commenting on the rainbows which many people don't see, but they're definitely there on our higher-end gear. With the rainbows relegated to minimal status on this disc, the viewing of the episodes was much more enjoyable.
Of the four discs so far released, I think this is probably the one I really like the most. The menacing image of Dilandu and his Guymelef aren't in the forefront, but they're definitely a strong presence. Hitomi's scared look does take up the first visual, but it's Dilandu and the quiet Folken that really make up this great cover. The insert provided this time around with the Escaflowne History (which come to find out is not available on the region 2 DVD's, only on the laserdiscs) covers the crew of the Crusade. Overall this is a nicely put together package.
The themed menus look wonderful. The main menu is similar to the opening of each episode with a tarot card in the middle where you select each episode. Access times were pretty decent throughout, though there are a few slowdowns in returning to the menu and selecting the next episode due to the odd way Bandai puts each episode on its own title.
The only extra this time around is the 13 minute Club Escaflowne, which is set up a bit differently than the past two. This time around there's staff interviews with the production side folks, interviewed by Millerna's voice actress. There's some really interesting nuggets in there once they relax a bit and get talkative, but it's not quite as humorous as the past two installments.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With revelations in each of these episodes and dramatic changes, the first time I'd seen these episodes it was one mouthed "wow" after another. Things started showing up that made me really interested in the overall design of the world and its history. The characters begin to really change with their surroundings being engulfed in the war around them.
The Duke of Freid returns and takes stock of the situation, seeing how his son, Prince Chid, has possibly brought them onto a path of complete destruction. Millerna discovers the villa where her older sister Marlene used to live, and discovers a secret compartment where Marlene kept her private journal. Her reading of the journal is played against many different scenes, such as Hitomi giving Prince Chid a tarot card reading and Van practicing his "dowsing" ability, to see what cannot be seen.
So where's the other tension here? Well, Folken's boss has ordered the invasion of Freid to gain both the Dragon and another mysterious power. The brigades are sent out and what looks to be nearly 10000 Guymelef's prepare to invade the Duke's kingdom.
From this point forward there's a lot of fast moving action and a lot of twists. Due to most of them being spoilers, we'll keep them separate here where you need to highlight it to read it. Our summary will be afterwards.
[Spoilers: The sheer amount of questions asked here and not necessarily answered is plentiful While it was never quite hidden or subtle, it is revealed that Chid is indeed Allen's son, but the Duke makes it quite clear that Chid is the prince and his son. Chid himself has probably the most difficult and challenging time during these episodes, watching the kingdom destroyed and then later knowing that his father dies in battle, and left him with the charge of surrendering and rebuilding the kingdom anew.
The secret treasure of the kingdom of Freid was also rather interesting. The telling of the tale gave Hitomi visions of the past, seeing Atlantis in all its glory and then at the end, in all its fallen tragic despair. The additional history to the Draconians is quite interesting and provides more of a world backdrop that helps without getting in the way of the main story.
The two areas that really struck me as wonderfully done though is the raging battle between Van in his Escaflowne and the group Dilandu oversees. The battle between the two, as Van uses his new found ability to see that which is hidden, brings an amazing amount of destruction and death around him while bonding him even closer to Escaflowne. And poor Dilandu's absolute fear as he watches his charges die one after another in front of him is wonderfully done. It's really one of those rare times when you feel sympathy for a villain that you're supposed to hate so much (even if Dilandu is a cool villain in one sense).
The other area that really got me excited is that with the introduction of Dryden and the new synergy between the characters, it's his knowledge of the Escaflowne and the Ispano clan that really got me. His almost casual flipping of the switch to call down this massive mother factory of Guymelef's and other mech was just completely unexpected and provided something new and quite unique to the world the characters inhabit. Truly good stuff there. :End Spoilers]
Escaflowne is still a very tightly written show with wonderful pacing. The animation continues to be strong (and the noses long!) and the production values high. Things only continue to get more interesting as more of the setting is presented and fleshed out and the characters slowly but surely begin to change and grow from their experiences, which colors their upcoming challenges that are yet to be faced.
Escaflowne ranks quite high in my book as a whole, and it's episodes like these that really remind me why I hold it in such high regard. Storytelling. That's where it is.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Club Escaflowne
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+/
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2