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ESCAFLOWNE Explained

The changes to the Fox Kids dub of Escaflowne set anime fans talking. An executive explains the methods behind the manipulation.

By Andrew Osmond     September 19, 2000

As readers who've seen the Escaflowne dub will know, this otherworldly fantasy adventure has been somewhat altered from its original Japanese incarnation. As a Fox executive explains, it's important to remember the new dub is aimed not at in-the-know fans but at newbie viewers: 'We're trying to keep within our main target audience, which is currently boys aged between 6 and 11.'

This accounts for many of the changes, particularly the transition from the romantic Japanese opening sequence to the more testosterone-heavy action montage in the dub version. 'We're looking to grab those kids who love anime, the crowd into Pokemon and Digimon, Gundam Wing and Dragonball Z. But at the same time, we don't want to scare away female viewers. We're hoping this show has crossover appeal.'

In fact, the schoolgirl-heroine Hitomi is seen as a selling point of the show. 'Then there's obviously the anime style, which kids are into, and the giant robot-type suits and of course, the action.' On the prominent techno music: 'Well, electronic music is hot right now in the US. We wanted the title sequence to reflect the current trend. More generally, we wanted to give as many elements kids could relate to as possible, as well as the story and characters.'

This is, of course, a process that raises fan hackles. After all, it means altering the nature of a well-liked series to suit a foreign audience. 'The Japanese creators of Escaflowne did an excellent job of making the show equally appealing to boys and girls. But Fox Kids is known primarily as a boys' action network, and we have to air shows according to what our audience expects. We don't want to do it at the expense of female viewers, so we must find the best way to service the audience as a whole.'

The aim is to keep as much of the show's vision as possible. 'We want to address the story. Escaflowne isn't the sugar-coated type of story that we're used to seeing in some anime imports. It's very deep and involved with many well-rounded, interesting characters.'

Yet as well as commercial considerations, Fox is constricted by its broadcast policies. 'The main reason why many of the changes have occurred is because of our Broadcast Standards and Practices department. Escaflowne can be pretty violent, and obviously we can't show those scenes on children's programming. But removing and altering those scenes leaves us short on time (and can affect story points), which causes us to be a bit creative in filling the half hour slot.'

How will this creativity affect future Escaflowne episodes? One possibility is the addition of further 'flashback' montages, prominent in the 'Girl from Mystic Moon' episode. After all, there is the whole 'lost' first episode to draw on [see editorial link below] and other parts could be creatively reworked. The original serial was 26 episodes: at this time, it's not clear how long the dub will be. 'We're still cutting episodes and have to be careful that something we remove from an early part does not play a major role in a later one. We haven't run into any major problems with that, so far.'

Case in point: one of the last episodes, which reprises several themes and events from the 'lost' first part, involving Hitomi's Earth friends barely glimpsed in the dub. Will this have to be cut? 'We haven't gotten that far yet, but I don't think we'll cut the entire episode.' A more heartening possibility: the 'lost' Episode One may yet turn up on TV, presumably if viewer interest is high enough.

More generally, 'The original show has a very deliberate pace. It takes its time to tell the story. Unfortunately, it's a very competitive market in America, and we don't have the luxury of time. There's a lot of story to tell. We have to figure out ways to keep kids' attention so they don't flip the channel, while trying to maintain the integrity of the original creators' vision. It isn't easy.'

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