The Vision of Escaflowne
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 25 of
The Vision of Escaflowne ?
How would you rate episode 26 of
The Vision of Escaflowne ?
Correction: In the previous episode review, I said that John Steinbeck's The Moon is Down had been banned in the U.S. It was challenged, not banned. I apologize for the mistake!
There's a lot to be said about the word “fate.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it's most likely origin is from Latin, with the Old English equivalent being “wyrd,” which you may remember from that time you had to read Macbeth in high school. The word as “fate” first showed up in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde around 1374 (so in Middle English), which, if Dornkirk is supposed to be Isaac Newton, makes his obsession with the word plausible. But all of that's just academic; when you come right down to it, “fate” is a word we use in a variety of ways and contexts: as an explanation, an excuse, or one year as a Halloween costume where two of my friends and I held out our candy bags and chanted “We are the Fates. Bribes accepted.”
Ultimately in these two final episodes of The Vision of Escaflowne, “fate” becomes a word for the changes the characters wish to see in the world. Dornkirk believes that it is immutable, and that only through his careful manipulation of fortune (a related term also pioneered in Middle English by Chaucer) can it be tweaked. When his Engine collapses, or rather is shattered by Folken, the powers of Fortune are unleashed upon the battlefield, allowing everyone to reclaim what it is they think they ought to be doing. Tellingly, for most of the leaders, this means staking a claim on supreme leadership of all Gaea as they turn on their allies – a manifestation of every side's firm belief in a war that they and they alone are in the right, i. e. that fate and fortune are with them. But it also allows Dilandau to revert back to Celena because that's what she and Allen wish for, and for Hitomi to realize that Van is the one she loves, letting her reach him through the haze of his anger and need to feel like he's protecting her.
Fate, however, always wields a double-edged sword. We've seen that repeatedly in the latter half of this series, with Hitomi's attempts to wish the future different backfiring (and possibly causing some of the problems that come to a head here), Folken's disastrous attempt to pass his trial as a teenager, and the deaths of countless characters, not the least of whom were Dilandau's squadron, whose deaths did not help his mental health. And more pertinent to these episodes, fate can't keep Hitomi and Van together, either on Earth or Gaea, denying viewers the sort of happy ending we tend to expect.
Is that a deal-breaker for this series? When I first watched it on fansubs as a teenager, my answer was an unequivocal “yes.” (In fact, my sisters reminded me that at the time I said, “you couldn't pay me enough to rewatch the show.” Famous last words…) Now, however, I think that it works, although as a happy ending fan I would have preferred the Disney ending. Hitomi and Van are both still children, although they've had to do a lot of very fast growing up. Their relationship developed in the heat of war, and war stories like Pearl S. Buck's “The Communist” (collected in The First Wife and Other Stories) and those in John Galsworthy's collection Tatterdemalion remind us that that often doesn't end well. They both need some space and time to think and to grow. And as Van says (and we see), as long as they think about each other, there's hope.
That's something that was in short supply for much of the end of this series, and while it isn't a perfect ending, it is one that largely works with what was on offer. War, as one of the characters says, only results in death, and while there are times when it may be necessary, it will always leave those who experience it with scars that never really heal. At the end of the day, Escaflowne is an anti-war story, and Van removing the heart from his Guymelef is symbolic of his realization that fighting, whether it's for a noble reason or not, isn't always worth the cost. Dornkirk's ambitions cost Van everything – his family, his country, you name it – and he's got to spend some time dealing with that. Hitomi, meanwhile, has learned that fate and fortune aren't things she ought to be playing games with; that's basically what Dornkirk was doing, and look where it got him. In their case “fate” and “fortune telling” are stand-ins for ambition and the development of dangerous weapons, and while it isn't a metaphor that is ever all that well realized, it works well enough that we can at least see what the series was going for.
War is bad. In the end it didn't even really bring Hitomi and Van together, and people like Allen, Celena, Millerna, and Dryden won't ever fully recover from what it did to them. (Especially Celena. I hope they have psychologists on Gaea.) Maybe it's a simplistic message to take from the show, but it's also one we seem to have to keep learning and relearning over and over again.
Trying to get that message across once more is something I can't fault The Vision of Escaflowne for, and if this isn't the ending that we might have wanted, I think it may be the one that it needed to have.
The Vision of Escaflowne is currently streaming on Funimation.
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