At a Japanese high school, the boys track team begins practice, and Hitomi Kanzaki runs to the track field while her friend Yukari waits impatiently. Hitomi reaches the track and is scolded by her friend for being late. They watch the boys do their last track meet and pay close attention to Amano, the attractive star of the team. Amano finishes in less than 11 seconds, to the amazement of the two girls. The girls are called on to the track; Hitomi is still in a daze so Yukari pulls down her shorts. Hitomi gets on the track and starts running, but in the middle of it she sees a vision of a boy wearing armor, prepared for battle. After running right through him, she collapses and sees three metal giants walking through burning rubble. She then sees the boy talking to an older man named Balgus about fighting a dragon. She then sees one of the giants dueling with a separate white, bone like giant. A tower behind her breaks in half, causing the ground beneath her to crack and Hitomi falls, but a winged boy comes and saves her. Hitomi wakes up in a bed with Amano watching over her. He tells her she passed out on the track. He asks about a pendant on her neck, which she says was a memento from her grandmother. It keeps perfect time when swung, going at one cycle a second. Amano looks at it and they start counting together but Amano stops and puts his face close to Hitomi. Yukari enters the room and interrupts in awkward fashion. Later, the two girls walk home and Yukari says she wants Hitomi’s deserts for the next week to make up for what she thinks was Hitomi faking her passing out to get Amano’s attention. As they walk under a bridge, Yukari asks Hitomi why she has never done a tarot card reading on Amano. Hitomi says it’s because she doesn’t want to find out if nothing will happen between the two of them. Yukari sadly tells Hitomi that she heard rumors that Amano is permanently going abroad in a few days. That night Hitomi does a tarot card reading, seeing the card of distant separation signaling that Amano is indeed leaving and she’ll never see him again. She also sees the card of courage. On a later date, Amano says farewell to his friends at the school. Hitomi shows up in her track outfit and asks Amano that if she can do a lap in 13 seconds if he’ll give her her first kiss. Amano says yes.
Hitomi gets ready to run when the lights on the track turn on; its Yukari watching from afar. Hitomi starts running, but suddenly a bright light shines on the track and the boy from before arrives. Hitomi, thinking he is yet another vision, ends up running right into him. The boy seems puzzled about where he is as Amano and Yukari run up to her. The boy says his name is Van, and that a land dragon is coming. He’s correct, as bolts of lightning strike the nearby woods causing a dragon to appear. The dragon breathes fire at Van, but he blocks the flame with a shield. Van takes out a crossbow and hits the dragon in the eye. The dragon flails wildly as blue blood oozes out of the wound. The dragon swings its tail, striking Van and causing him to fall on the ground and puke out some blood. The dragon looks at the other three, and Van tells them to run, which they do. However, on the way, Yukari trips and sprains her ankle. Amano picks her up and they continue to run. Seeing this, the dragon chases after them. Van grapples onto the dragon as it jumps over towards Hitomi and the others. Van attempts to attack the dragon with his sword to no avail due to its tough scales. Hitomi sees a vision of the dragon stabbing Van through the back with its tail so she runs up close and warns him. Van jumps out of the way just in time such that the dragon’s tail only slices through his armor. Van takes the opportunity to slide his sword through the dragon’s underside and stab it in the chest. The dragon falls over dead and Van uses his sword to dig through its chest and remove a glowing red stone, a Drag Energist. As soon as the stone is removed the dragon’s corpse disintegrates. Hitomi walks up to Van asking him if he’s okay and Van yells at her. Hitomi slaps him and starts crying. Suddenly the Drag Energist starts glowing and a pillar of light surrounds Hitomi and Van. They start ascending into the sky. Amano runs up to it and Hitomi’s pendant slips out of his hands into Hitomi’s. The light and the two of them vanish, and deposits them in a wooded field. Hitomi is shocked to see both the Earth and moon in the sky. A large group of wolf-like creatures surround them. Hitomi realizes what the earlier reading meant; she’s now in the land of Gaea, where the Earth lies in the sky.
An interesting first episode that gives you only a few clues about what’s to come (such as Hitomi’s tarot card hobby and her crush on Amano). The episode, in particular the first half is quite light hearted and comes off as more of a school girl drama than a mecha anime. The second half of the episode is more action themed and provides us with an entertaining battle between Van and the dragon. It’s another 20 episodes or so before another dragon appears on the show. The titular Escaflowne appears only for a few seconds in Hitomi’s vision, getting a proper introduction in the next episode. Some might criticize the approach taken with this opening episode, but I had no problem with it whatsoever. Escaflowne is rare in that it’s a mecha anime with a female main character and the episode provides a strong introduction and character development for Hitomi. When Escaflowne was aired on American TV by FOX Kids this entire episode was cut, although certain scenes were later used in the form of flashbacks. A strong beginning and things will only get better from here.
Original Review: April 1, 2006