The Vision of Escaflowne
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 17 of
The Vision of Escaflowne ?
How would you rate episode 18 of
The Vision of Escaflowne ?
Courage of the heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it's there. Those words may come from Don Bluth's 1982 film The Secret of NIMH (also known as the movie that traumatized a generation of children), but they speak to episode seventeen of The Vision of Escaflowne as well. The stone in question here is actually quite similar to the one that allows Mrs. Frisby to move her family's home to the lee of the stone away from the plough; Hitomi's pendant, like NIMH's gem, is powered by the strength of the human heart.
This not being a children's movie (which were serious in the 80s), there are much more severe repercussions for its use. The stone in the pendant is apparently a remnant of the powers of the lost Atlantean civilization, which learned to harness the power of human thought to create not only a seeming paradise, but also an entire planet – Gaea. This makes a lot of sense given the planet's name: Gaea, more often spelled Gaia, was not just the goddess of Earth in Greek mythology – she was Earth, the very first creation goddess. Since myths of Atlantis also date back to Ancient Greece (in Plato, to be specific), there's a definite logic to them naming their new world after the Earth Mother. There's also a fair amount of hubris to it, because they know full well that humans created Gaea rather than Gaea creating the world, so we can see the Atlanteans, or Draconians in the series, as being far too impressed with themselves. The show can therefore be contextualized as blending Atlantis lore with the myth of the Tower of Babel in that the Atlanteans were so proud that they saw themselves as worthy of the gods, who summarily disabused them of that notion.
That some of the power survived into the time the story takes place is almost a trap for the descendants of those people. Hitomi learns that her pendant essentially functions as an amplifier for whatever she's feeling at the time, and because she's mostly been anxious since she got to Gaea and was dropped into a world-wide war, that means that the stone is taking her anxieties and making them come true – the fear of many an anxious person. When she wishes on her stone, whichever thought's most forward in her mind is the one that's going to manifest. That definitely sounds at least a bit like victim blaming, albeit in a different context that we normally use the term in, because what the shade of Van's mom and her own grandmother are essentially telling her is that anything bad that's come to pass has been directly because of her. While it certainly couldn't hurt Hitomi to be a little less anxious, this directive is also kind of counterproductive, because the problem with anxiety is that it's all in your head, and the last thing she needs is another thing to worry about bouncing around her brain.
In some ways, this marks the deterioration of the series as a whole. Not that episode seventeen is all that bad – it continues to use the theme of war and the guilt it brings forth in its survivors quite well. But episode eighteen, which lets us in on the fact that Isaac, AKA Dornkirk, is Sir Isaac Newton, is definitely showing a downward slide. Even without the flashbacks to his Earth life and the remnants of his 17th century hair in his now regrettable look, Dornkirk has moved the story from a musing on the nature of war and its effect on people to a much blander sci-fi vs. fantasy scenario, with Zaibach as the lone technologically advanced nation on Gaea (and therefore evil) and the fight becoming increasingly about keeping Zaibach's ambitions of creating a fate-altering machine safely tucked away so that everyone can go back to using swords with their mechs. It frankly feels nonsensical, and coming hard on the heels of another strong scene of Van trying to grapple with what he's lived through and done, it almost seems silly. Ditto for Allen suddenly carrying Hitomi places while he and Van protect her – does no one remember that she's proven herself more than capable of not just surviving, but jumping enormous gaps? Surely she can handle stepping from a deck to the Escaflowne.
Buckle your seatbelts, everyone. If episode eighteen is any indication, the ride is going to get bumpy from here on out, with or without the power of the stone.
The Vision of Escaflowne is currently streaming on Funimation.
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