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Title:
  The Vision of Escaflowne vol 1

UK Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Katsu Aki

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £6.99

Number of Pages:  192

ISBN:  1-5918-2366-8

Reviewed:  15th May 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

The anime series of Escaflowne is an excellent example of how to make a show that will appeal to both male and female audiences without compromising on quality.  The series balanced giant robot action with an excellent heartfelt romance to superb effect, and itís popularity soon lead to two manga spin-offs, one aimed at girls and one aimed at boys.

This book is volume 1 of the series aimed at boys, and as you would expect action is the name of the game.  As with the anime series, The Vision of Escaflowne focuses on the tarot reading schoolgirl Hitomi, who is magically transported to the swords and sorcery fantasy world of Gaia and into a heap of trouble.  Hitomi has come to the land of Fanelia, a kingdom ruled by the brash and arrogant prince Van, and she soon learns that she is the ĎEnergistí - the key to unlocking the nationís guardian, the mighty giant robot suit known as Escaflowne.  Poor Hitomi may be completely out of her depth, but in typical manga fashion it isnít long until she has to demonstrate her new found power.  Fanelia is attacked shortly after her arrival by the army of Zaibach led by the psychotic Dilandau, and Hitomi and Van narrowly escape only when Hitomiís Energist powers manifest.  Confused by her new abilities and on the run from a deadly enemy, Hitomi is going to have to learn a lot and fast, but with Van seemingly trying to escape his responsibility, and Zaibach hot on their tails, is she going to live long enough to get the chance?

Fans of the popular anime series will be surprised to find that this manga incarnation is a very different animal in tone, style and delivery.  It is interesting to see that the author has put his own spin on the events, taking the existing series as a base and then working his own story around it.  It is always risky to try and interpret a classic series in a new way as it will invariably be compared to the original, but for the most part Katsu Aki does a good job of it, introducing some intriguing ideas and taking the plot in new directions.  As mentioned the focus is very much on action and it is the action that really drives the story and also takes up most of the bookís pages.  Whether battling Dilandau in Escaflowne or negotiating a maze of moving rocks the action scenes are fast paced and exciting, which goes some way to covering up what is - at the moment - a decidedly underdeveloped story.

The Vision of Escaflowne vol 1 is all about flashes and bangs and apart from a couple of dramatic scenes where Van is forced to take stock of his life and priorities, the scenes that move the story along are often pretty brief.  The story starts well with a decent sense of tension as Hitomi and Van attempt to escape Zaibach, and in fairness this tension does remain throughout, but it never really gets gripping.  The only real plot development occurs when they meet the dashing knight Allen Schezar, and apart from that it is pretty standard fantasy-action fayre, entertaining but not groundbreaking in either idea or setting.

The artwork is a completely different style to that of the anime, and is pretty good too, if a bit less distinctive.  The artwork does fit with the new style the author has brought in though, and it suits the characters well.  The characters thoughÖ well thatís the only real problem for me.  Van in particular is incredibly annoying, mostly because of the surly Italian-American accent they have decided to give him which makes it seem like heís being played by Joey Tribianni.  Hitomi lacks any real depth at the moment and so far Dilandau has been nothing more than a random nutter, but all of these are problems that Ė if the anime is anything to go by Ė will no doubt be addressed in future volumes.

At the moment though The Vision of Escaflowne is an enjoyably solid fantasy-actioner with plenty of battling and the promise of some great stuff to come.  Apart from the current lack of depth and Vanís accent there is nothing really wrong with this book, but there isnít that spark that elevates it above the norm either.  Iíve no doubt that it will become better once the characters are fleshed out a bit, but at the moment it is simply good when it probably should have been great.

Extras

Not a great deal, which is unusual for a Tokyopop book.  As well as the obligatory adverts and next volume preview there is an, admittedly interesting, one page introduction explaining about the origins of the manga.  Could be better.

Ratings

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