In anime form, Escaflowne is beloeved by many, and while it doesn’t feature on my list of favourite series, it was nonetheless a solid and enjoyable experience. Thus it was that, despite dire warnings as to its quality, I decided to venture into the world of the Escaflowne manga, starting with the two volume unlicensed ‘shoujo’ version of the tale.
Whilst the basic setup of high school student Hitomi being taken to the world of Gaea is the same, the similarities with the animated version soon end as the manga takes the story in a new and sadly inferior direction. This version of the tale sees Van and Hitomi go on a quest to locate the sealed Escaflowne in an attempt to thwart the plans of Van’s brother Folken (here cast as the final villain). Although some original characters have been added to the series, in their place key personalities such as Allen and Selena barely appear, whilst Dilandau and Merle are among those to be omitted entirely.
Disappointing as they are, these cast changes could be forgiven if the story had any merit, but unfortunately, it proves to entirely lacking. Not only is the plot rather simplistic and lacking in many of the elements that made the Escaflowne anime worth watching, but it is also rather incoherent, jumping from one situation to the next without much hint as to what went on in between. The result is something so unappealing that even its relatively brief ten chapters seem like far too much.
Although the content is forgettable, this manga does at least manage some solid and aesthetically pleasing artwork, with one unfortunate weakness- Hitomi looks nothing like her anime incarnation. Oddly enough, the other characters are all captured well enough, but with the main character looking like she could be a generic female from any series, the overall standard is lowered. Action scenes are also hard to follow, only adding to the incoherence of the storyline.
Whether you’re an Escaflowne fan or just looking for a new manga to read, you would do well to give this series a wide berth. With a poorly executed plot that makes it a pale shadow of the anime, the only thing to recommend it are some attractive character designs, but when ten chapters feels like too much, this isn’t a good enough reason to subject yourself to the series.