The 4th and final part of Dee, Caitlin, and Vrai’s reach the end of Escaflowne! They talk about Dilandau’s trans-coding, how the coming-of-age shoujo isekai differs from modern wish-fulfillment isekai, and bid a final farewell to this big feels-fest of a series.
Recorded: Sunday 9th December 2018
Hosts: Dee, Caitlin, Vrai
0:01:04 A quick (long) recap
0:02:21 Time to talk about Dilandau
0:11:34 Jajuka and more fantasy racism
0:16:58 Shoujo vs modern isekai
0:22:45 Protecting vs controlling
0:25:55 Fighting to end fighting
0:36:58 Newton’s Third Law of Emotions
0:51:18 The ending
1:00:21 Feminist recommendation?
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, the managing editor at AniFem. I also run the anime blog, The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter, @joseinextdoor. And I am joined today by fellow AniFem staffers, Caitlin and Vrai.
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I’m the community manager at AniFem, as well as editing and writing. I write for my own website, I Have a Heroine Problem, and I am the anime reviewer for The Daily Dot. You can find me on Twitter, @alltsun_nodere.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai. I’m an editor and contributor for Anime Feminist. You can find me on Twitter, @writervrai. If you check my pinned tweet, you can find all the places I freelance, which is a lot of them, or you can find the other podcast I’m on, @trashpod.
DEE: And today we’re wrapping up our Escaflowne re-watchalong, with episodes 21 through 26. Conclusions have been reached, and we can finally talk about them.
VRAI: Beware of spoilers.
DEE: But first, quick recap, because this is Escaflowne, and everything continues to happen so much.
VRAI: So much.
DEE: So very much. So, rundown: here we go. I thought about putting this in a rhymed couplet format, and then decided I just was too tired for it.
Eriya and Naria, our catgirls, die of a luck overdose. Folken turns on Zaibach. Allen and Hitomi date for, like, 12 minutes. The gang goes to war, except Dilandau, who is having an identity crisis and trying to eat snails. Hitomi briefly returns to Earth before realizing she wants to be with Van, so she comes back to Gaia. Also, Allen’s long-lost sibling returns, and, surprise! It’s Dilandau?!
Folken kills Dornkirk but dies in the process. Dornkirk’s force-ghost sets the fate machine in motion and everyone’s wishes become super powerful. But, oops, turns out everyone wishes for murder. Womp, womp.
Van and Allen throw down. Hitomi yells at Van and realizes she loves him. Allen is reunited with his sibling. The war ends. Van and Hitomi get together for, like, 12 minutes. Everyone’s force-ghosts look on approvingly, and then Hitomi returns to Earth.
Yeah, I think those were the main points.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] Okay.
DEE: [sing-song] The End!
Normally, this is the part where I ask for general impressions, but I kinda feel like that’s just gonna come out organically in the conversation—and also, Vrai has been sitting on this for so long.
CAITLIN: [chuckling] Oh my God!
DEE: So, Vrai, just talk about Dilandau. Just go.
VRAI: Hi! Hello! Have you met my son? He’s trans as fuck. I just… Yeah. Like I said, I watched this series, and I was actually able to reverse-engineer the exact time period. It was the summer of 2012, because I’d watched A Woman Called Fujiko Mine a couple months earlier. And this time around, I realized, “Oh, Dilandau is just Oscar, and that’s part of why I like him so much.”
DEE: There are definitely similarities there, yep.
VRAI: Yep. Yeah, so, there is so much trans-coding in Dilandau’s story arc. It actually boggles my mind. Sometimes I sit back and get sad about what kind of character arc he might have had in a series that wasn’t so deeply shaped by binary understandings of gender.
The fandom was no help whatsoever. Trust me. I immediately went and read all of—went desperately combing through old fanfics. The Escaflowne fandom back in the day was not great, so there were one or two, and mostly not very interesting.
And none of this is, of course, to say that this is what we would call a “good” representation. I think by the time this comes out, this actual podcast episode, I’ll have written an essay talking about reclamation and Dilandau and Oscar and Naoto. ‘Cause I’ve got some feelings that I need more time than a podcast to put together.
VRAI: Yes, good. But, yeah. Dilandau is not what I would call, “Yay! Good trans representation!” Because he undergoes forced gender reassignment, which is so extremely “this is the future that liberals want” that I can’t.
But at the same time, I remain perennially disappointed by his character arc, because it introduces this thing, and it’s magic or whatever, but also his sense of identity and how very clearly gender roles are on Gaia, and the solution at the end is, “Eh, we slapped a dress on him. He’s fine now!” And I’m sorry, you don’t just have somebody live as a man for over a decade, and “Well, but we’re good now. It’s all fine.” Especially when he’s so clearly dissociating when we see him in the magic sorcerer place earlier.
And, also, all of the problems with the fact that they were using his character to talk about the epitome of capital-M “Masculine” and capital-F “Feminine” traits, such that Dilandau is a tiny ball of murder and toxic masculinity, and Selena is incredibly passive and childlike to a frankly uncomfortable degree. And I would like to spend some time exploring how that person meets in the middle of that and puts everything back together. By the way, the fandom solution was “bullshit ‘90s multiple personalities fanfic.” Boring.
And, yeah. I have so many feelings about this character arc that was essentially introduced as a twist at the last second, used vaguely for the shows’ ideas about toxic masculinity, which are mostly good, but, God, they bit off way more than they could chew with this. And, anyway, my son.
CAITLIN: Your terrible, beautiful son.
DEE: I definitely track with the idea of the literal embodiment of these coded ideas about masculine aggression and feminine passivity within the character itself. Which is, on the one hand, an interesting imagery, but on the other hand, really insensitive. So…
DEE: Not super well-thought-out on the teams’ part. So, Vrai, you agree that it’s Dilandau and “he,” not “Selena,” or not “they?” ‘Cause I’m watching the last few episodes going… ‘Cause at the end, Dilandau sort of gives up on this aggressive… I dunno.
I guess a part of me wondered if we were almost supposed to read it as… In the same way Van is this gentle person who gets forcibly shoved into taking on these toxic masculine roles, and we were supposed to see that with Dilandau, and this idea of “it’s okay to be that feminine person again.” Does that make sense?
VRAI: Yeah. I think with Dilandau, “they” would be completely viable in the same way it would’ve been with Nuriko, if that had been explored by a writer with a better grasp on the topic.
VRAI: I tend to default to “he” when talking about it just for ease of understanding, but, yeah, if we were talking about what gender identity I think an actually complete arc for that character would go to, I think “they” would be more appropriate, and I don’t… I genuinely don’t know about if… Because the thing is, I think the series wants us to think that they’re Selena again, and everything is fine now, but also who even is Selena? She is a non-character. It’s not very satisfying.
DEE: Yeah. She was… She was taken away, what? Ten years ago? Maybe longer.
CAITLIN: As a very small girl.
DEE: And she was… Yeah. And she was very young. Well, Dilandau’s 15—Selena?—the character—Allen’s sibling is 15. Then Selena was probably taken at age 5.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, it’s cray-cray.
DEE: So, yeah. I agree with you. There’s a structure that is followed in a lot of Japanese fiction. I don’t remember where it started, if it was Akutagawa or if it was further back—I’m positive it was further back than that. But it’s this idea of: start slow, escalate quickly, finish fast.
And you see it in a lot of media, and it comes across as kind of jarring, because I think in a lot of Western films we tend to give more time for the sort of wrap-up conclusion. But because everything is like… We get the reunions, we get the big kind of emotional—but we don’t get any of the fallout. It’s just like, “And that’s the end of the series!” And it’s like, “Oh! Wait!”
CAITLIN: “Excuse me, but wait!”
DEE: “There’s still quite a bit left to explore here.”
CAITLIN: And I wonder if that has anything to do with why Japan has such a large, transformative fiction culture. I wonder if those are related at all.
DEE: It’s definitely possible. That it kind of encourages… The quick endings encourage you to come up with your own conclusions and tie things up after the fact. And I think that’s very much a thing with Dilandau. So, I am sorry, Vrai, that the fandom has failed you on this.
VRAI: It sucks so much.
CAITLIN: But the fandom produced that beautiful, beautiful Angelfire website that I linked you guys to.
VRAI: I will say: there was one good fic that still is extant on AO3 that’s about Selena, Dilandau kind of trying to settle in… It’s not really so much about them trying to find their identity, ’cause it’s a short fic, but it’s about them being ace and Allen not being a shitbag about it, and that was a nice fic.
DEE: Oh, that’s cute.
CAITLIN: That’s nice.
VRAI: I guess I just… With Dilandau, their story arc feels the most… ‘Cause everybody still has stuff to explore, but they all feel like they’ve reached a conclusion in some way. Like, Millerna’s going to go off and do some stuff, and Allen’s going to think about how to be less of a shitbag, except he’s not.
VRAI: And that concerns me about how he’s going to treat his newly returned sibling. And, you know, Hitomi is gonna grow up and Van’s gonna be a kinder king. But Dilandau gets acted on, has a meltdown, then has another, different meltdown that puts him in the hands of kinder caretakers, and end of story.
CAITLIN: Yeah, he really doesn’t get a chance to grow. Or to explore. Which is a shame, because he is definitely… I don’t want to say he’s one of the more interesting characters in the show, ’cause they’re all really good characters, but there are so many opportunities to introduce a complexity to him that never really happened.
DEE: Yeah, I think dragging them out of the story for those six episodes and then throwing them back in at the very end was a mistake. I think they could have spent those six episodes actually checking in on the character regularly, and the ending… The ending of “I have to fight.” “No, it’s okay. You don’t have to be this ball of toxic aggression. You can go back to being that gentle person that you actually want to be.” I think that could be a really good story, and I don’t think… They just didn’t do it right, at all.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, ’cause I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with… It could have been a great opportunity to decouple those traits from their gendered assumptions.
VRAI: But no. Series over. Hitomi went home. And she’s having a good time and I’m glad for her. And then there’s… We’ve introduced this whole new character who is just crucially important and didn’t show up until this last batch of episodes.
DEE: Are you talking about Jajuka?
DEE: The dog that looks a lot like Allen? I just wanna point out that’s Doggo Allen.
DEE: And I think that was intentional.
VRAI: Almost certainly.
DEE: Yeah, and then they bring in the fantasy racism again.
There’s a lot… I think Escaflowne… I still really like it. I think it does very well for as much as they crammed into 26 episodes. I do think it’s one of those shows that probably could have benefitted from another cour.
DEE: Or just a little less Stuff happening in the last stretch.
CAITLIN: It was rumored 39 episodes.
VRAI: Would have been about perfect.
CAITLIN: That was neither confirmed nor denied.
DEE: Because I think we get a lot of these side characters who come in for a couple episodes—and, as far as economy of storytelling goes, I think Escaflowne could have been an absolute trainwreck, and it isn’t. So, as far as economy of storytelling goes, it does a serviceable job with as much as it’s trying to do. But I think Dilandau gets short-changed here at the end. I think Jajuka and the whole undercurrent about how beast people are second-class citizens, I guess?
DEE: It keeps popping up as a background element, but they’re always used as vehicles for the non-beast-people’s character growth. And it’s not super well-done.
VRAI: Mm-hm. It kind of sucks a little bit.
DEE: It’s very much background worldbuilding that clearly… Again, I think we talked about this last week, and I can’t remember with who. I guess with Eriya and Naria. And I was saying how it feels like there’s a lot of notes somewhere about this world and how things work and they just couldn’t fit it all in in a… [thoughtful pause] complex, fully-fleshed-out way within the amount of time they had.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It’s no Planet With, with economy of storytelling.
VRAI: And, I mean, it’s a storytelling style I don’t hate. I play me some FromSoft games. But it doesn’t work when you are doing that with characters who are such a loaded metaphor.
VRAI: You don’t get to say, “That over there.”
DEE: Yeah. I think that “background world that we’re not necessarily going to explore” creates a sense of depth to Gaia that’s really nice, but, yeah, like you said, with these more loaded metaphors, you have to be willing to explore them, or just don’t include them. Otherwise, it’s just a very shallow “prejudice is bad.” You know? [crosstalk] Which, it is. They’re not wrong, but…
VRAI: [crosstalk] It is, but it’s so shallow.
CAITLIN: “This is bad! See all of these privileged characters grappling with the idea that prejudice is bad?”
VRAI: Well, and so many of them are lawmakers, but has Van felt the need to do anything on Merle’s behalf throughout his entire life, with this kinghood that he has now?
DEE: I do sort of get the sense that Fanelia was more equitable. ‘Cause when the story starts, he’s good friends with those dog-people who they meet when they first get to Gaia in the first episode… The guy who hooks Folken up with Van. And they seem to be like a traveling caravan or something, and they seem to be on good terms with everybody. So, I get the sense that Fanelia’s better about that stuff than maybe the rest of the world is? Especially Zaibach—you know, the fascist empire?
VRAI: Very subtle. I know we put this at the end of the notes, but I do think that all of this is why nobody can remember a good goddamn about what happens in Escaflowne, because the plot elements are either very by-the-book fantasy in some ways, or kind of rushed. And it only holds together because of the characters and how they feel.
CAITLIN: Right. Yeah, no. Just everything happens so much that by the end of an episode, it feels like you’ve watched five episodes’ worth of plot, and the only thing that really sticks with you is how the characters reacted to it, and how the characters felt in the name of these plot developments. But what actually happened is not as clear.
You know, it’s easier to remember Hitomi was dating Allen and then Allen was a jerkbag and then got really angsty because he knew Hitomi was going to break up with him for Van, and then… It’s so much easier to remember that than all of the surrounding plot developments that were going on at the same time.
DEE: Fate Alteration something-or-other. Yeah. Which, I mean, to be fair, that is kind of the theme of Escaflowne: feelings are the most powerful.
DEE: [laughs] So, in its own awkward way, it forwarded that idea by having everything happen so much.
VRAI: Yeah, I think you mentioned… You were talking in our chat about how you… Escaflowne has a beautiful ending and just don’t think about it too hard.
DEE: No, if I think about it for more than 60 seconds, it kinda falls apart. But it is beautiful in that wonderful, messy, adolescent-metaphor way that, I think, good isekai are. So, yeah. I just won’t worry too much about the plot.
VRAI: Mm-hm. I was talking with Dorothy, actually, and she pointed out that so often shoujo isekai are coming-of-age stories and stories about accepting responsibility and growing, and the more modern boom of male isekai is about escapism, wish-fulfillment, and getting all the things you deserved that you didn’t get.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] They stop–
DEE: [crosstalk] I was thinking about that, too, so I’m glad you brought it up.
CAITLIN: Yeah, they very much… The shoujo ones very much start off as trying to escape, and there’s a couple different routes that they tend to take. But usually they start off with a girl who wants to escape something in some way, and then when she’s drawn into this other world, she needs to learn… It functions in a way that, through her experiences in the other world, she is now able to accept her responsibilities that she had when she went back. And there are also series where she chooses to stay in that other world, like Red River or From Far Away.
DEE: [faux annoyed] Spoilers, gawd!
DEE: I’m kidding. They’re 20 years old. It’s fine.
CAITLIN: Sorry I spoiled these 20-year-old shoujo series.
I mean, but there are a couple of different ones—a couple of different routes for the series to take. But they do generally have the theme of… But those are usually like: “she fits in better in this other world after she was just an ordinary girl in her own world, but in this other world, she finds responsibilities and connections that she had in the other world.”
But yeah, no. Escaflowne is very muc: learning acceptance and responsibility in your own life and then coming back with the lessons that you’ve learned. It is… I know that it does have echoes of almost a Joseph Campbell sort of thing.
DEE: [crosstalk] How so?
CAITLIN: “How so”?
DEE: Yeah, could you expand on that?
CAITLIN: So, the monomyth has a lot of limitations. I am not a big Joseph Campbell stan. I went through that phase in college.
VRAI: [muttering] Didn’t we all?
CAITLIN: So, the idea of the monomyth is that it usually starts off with a hero descending into the underworld for some reason, and then, in the underworld, he meets all these archetypal figures. He usually refuses the call. He has to refuse the call at some point. You know, Hitomi being like, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to fortune-tell anymore.” My memory of this is approximate. I remember bits and pieces.
DEE: Sure, sure.
CAITLIN: I don’t remember the full cycle. And then—
DEE: No, that’s fine. I just figured for folks at home to have a better idea of what Escaflowne‘s toying with as far as archetypes go.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Absolutely. And so he descends into the underworld, or goes into this otherworldly sort of realm. And then through his experiences… I use “he” because Campbell uses “he” ’cause he was kinda sexist.
DEE: Well, and most of the old, old myths do focus on dudes.
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, anyway, then he becomes victorious after hitting rock-bottom, and re-emerges back into his life with these new skills. Which is very much like Escaflowne. Fushigi Yugi has a lot of shades of that.
VRAI: Right. Also that element of… Well, these kinds of stories usually cut off before then, but with those monomyths, there’s always that element, too, of… with the end of The Lord of the Rings, where the hero comes back but they don’t fit in the comfortable home place anymore. They are too changed.
DEE: Yeah, and I would say that… I think Escaflowne doesn’t necessarily go that route. Hitomi comes home and she’s definitely changed. But she says, “I’m doing fine.” And she seems to be. She’s more aware of herself and the people around her and so she’s kind of ready to take that next step into adulthood.
VRAI: I’m just so proud of her.
DEE: I know. She’s such a good character.
CAITLIN: She really is.
DEE: She continues to just take no shit in a way that’s… I don’t think she comes across as a stereotypical—I shouldn’t even say “stereotypical” ’cause I like tough, angry girl characters who take no shit. But Hitomi is not that, while still standing up for herself. And I like that, because I do think you tend to see extremes, especially in fantastical media.
And so the fact that Hitomi is conflicted and doesn’t wanna go out and fight, but at the same time, she refuses to be put on the sidelines. Allen is such a douchebag, [emphatically] and she puts up with none of it.
CAITLIN: [through laughter] Oh my God.
DEE: He’s like, “And then you ran off without telling me.” She’s like, “I don’t really think that’s any of your business, and now I’m going home by myself, so leave me alone.” Van has that whole thing about, “Oh, I have to protect her,” and she’s like, “I didn’t ask you to do that.”
So, she’s… Yeah. I really like Hitomi. I think she has a good character arc while… She comes into the story already kind of great. You know what I mean? But she still has a good arc and grows as a person and has these ups-and-downs moments, and she’s a wonderful protagonist.
VRAI: I will say she does kind of get stuck interpreting Van’s emotions for us, in that one stretch there. That becomes her role in the plot. Because she’s kind of sorted her own feelings, mostly. So there’s a lot of her standing on the edges of balconies and telling us how Van is feeling many, many miles away.
VRAI: Although, I do like that kind of thing the show is playing with, where she’s talking about how, “No, you’re not actually concerned about protecting me. Basically, I am a convenient excuse for you to go to war and enjoy it in the name of protecting hearth and home and helpless women.”
DEE: Yeah, that’s an idea that comes up. It’s been floating there from pretty much the beginning, but we see it so much in this last stretch. This idea of war being about protecting, but how that’s less an ideal and more of an excuse to—this is something that comes up in a few other mecha series. It comes up in Star Driver, and I really like what they do there. One day, we’re gonna have a Star Driver watchalong, dammit.
VRAI: We will.
DEE: But this kind of… the fine line between protecting, or keeping someone safe, and controlling them. And this idea of… ‘Cause these are characters with giant robots and power, and there are people who don’t have that power, and “how do you wield that in such a way that you’re helping people; you’re not just manipulating them or overriding their personal will?” And I think Escaflowne spends a lot of time in this last arc talking about that, and does a pretty good job not letting the characters be controlling d-bags.
DEE: Again, I think the fact that Hitomi reacts immediately sourly to Allen—the other Disaster Sibling, as I lovingly call them—
VRAI: Oh, God, they’re all a mess.
DEE: —is very indicative of how the show feels about those behaviors. It’s very much a show that is coming down against these toxic masculine ideas about controlling others and using aggression to… fighting conflict with conflict. Violence literally begetting violence is very much a part of these final episodes, and, you know, that willingness to stop, take a breath, and be honest with each other.
Yeah, the thing I kept writing in my notes—and I went on a minor tweet rant about this the other day, too—is the show, I think, does a very smart job of showing how the characters’ feelings are valid, but they’re expressing them in really unhealthy or damaging ways, and the necessity to deal directly with those feelings without the toxic response to them.
DEE: Which is Allen. Allen, my trashbag, who [sing-song] suuucks! But I still like him. Somehow.
VRAI: Apparently he sucks more in one language track than the other.
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, I was thinking… While Isaac was sort of talking about gravity while watching people fighting, I was thinking about… I saw a clip from Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, where Char was hollering about how he wants to destroy the Earth because people are weighed down by gravity, and then a girl is so moved by this that she stands up and says, “Gravity: that’s why my parents fight!”
CAITLIN: And then she goes from being on Amuro’s side to threatening to shoot Amuro because he was attacking Char, because Tomino. But anyway.
VRAI: That’s beautiful.
CAITLIN: But I was thinking about that, and mentally comparing that to Dornkirk’s whole thing about how everyone who was fighting was also being weighed down by gravity, but the thing is that Gundam is always so, “We’re gonna fight to end war!” You know, at least the ones that I have seen have been like, “This is gonna be the war to end all wars. We’re gonna come down to the earth and beat up the empire and that’s gonna end war forever.” And Escaflowne had characters saying that, and then they were like, “No! That’s stupid! You end fighting by stopping fighting.”
VRAI: I will say 00 tried to interface with that idea. It did it bad, because of how it was forced to pace itself in two 25-episode seasons, but it tried.
CAITLIN: Ah, The Sunrise Effect.
VRAI: Anyway, it was one season that was 25 episodes long, and it was a tragedy. Sure did enjoy.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Anyway!
VRAI: [;aughs] Go on.
CAITLIN: But, yeah. Just sort of… I dunno. I don’t have any grand conclusions that I drew from this, but just sort of the parallels and echoes…
VRAI: It does get in… Sorry.
CAITLIN: I dunno when Char’s Counter Attack came out. I think it was the ‘80s. But Escaflowne‘s roughly contemporaneous with Gundam Wing, which also had “fighting to end fighting” sort of plot threads and silliness.
VRAI: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of… Boy, there sure is some extremely overt Hiroshima imagery in this last spat of episodes.
CAITLIN: Ooh, yes. That too.
VRAI: Yup. And about atrocities and the effects, and lots of bloody battlefields. I don’t think—
CAITLIN: Crusaders. There were crusaders.
VRAI: Mm-hm! I don’t think it’s necessarily all successful. I think a lot of the talk with Dornkirk and all of that, everything that is not about Hitomi having her own personal breakthrough is kind of word salad bullshit, if well-meaning word salad bullshit.
VRAI: But I do think it’s driving toward something. I think I lost my train of thought there.
DEE: That’s all right. Yeah, Escaflowne is very explicitly anti-fascist, anti-war, anti-violence. But I think it’s one of those shows where the creators are smart enough to know that it’s not quite that simple, so they’re trying to come down hard on this stuff, because it is worth saying.
And maybe a few years ago, I might have been like, “Oh, it’s a little heavy-handed.” And now I’m like, “No, we have actual fascists in power again, so we need to actually be really heavy-handed about this shit, turns out.”
DEE: But. Anyway. But, I do think there’s that element where Dornkirk’s like, “Oh, the love of these people”—I mean, not just Allen—[correcting self] God, not just Van and Hitomi, but also Allen and his sibling. I think this idea of: “Oh, this honest, open communication [and] desire to help each other has stopped this war,” but then there’s that sense of, “But for how long?” You know, people are fickle and there’s all these conflicting desires that are gonna keep clashing against each other.
And so there’s this understanding at the end that, no, there’s probably not going to never, ever be another skirmish on Gaia ever again. But Van is taking the steps needed to approach things from the perspective of: We’re going to focus on personal agency and kindness and try to get back to that compassion rather than immediately jumping to, “Well, I’ve gotta kill them or they’re gonna kill me.”
So, it’s… So much happened so quickly there at the end. I finished the penultimate episode and was like, “How are they gonna wrap this up in 25 minutes?”
VRAI: With feelings.
DEE: And the answer is “with feelings,” and with an understanding of: we don’t have a 100% good answer, but this is a start.
VRAI: I will say: how much bullshit is it that Folken gets his redemptive death for all the war crimes what he did… And that’s good. That’s a good thing to do with his character even if Jouji Nakata made me feel a sad because he’s good at acting. But Dornkirk gets to—
CAITLIN: [groans] Ah, I’m so mad I couldn’t get the subs to work on the app.
DEE: I’m sorry.
CAITLIN: [faux crying] I had to have Vic Mignogna do the ending speech.
DEE: [laughs] I’m sorry, Caitlin. There, there.
CAITLIN: [fake sobs]
DEE: There, there.
VRAI: A moment of silence.
But, meanwhile, Dornkirk does die, but it has no effect because he immediately gets to come back as a sage, wise, neutral ghost, and fuck this guy in particular, though.
DEE: Yeah, he kind of seemed like he just needed to come back to exposit at Hitomi a little bit, ’cause he doesn’t actually do anything. He’s just like, “With my death, this machine took over and now there’s nothing we can do.” And just kind of watches it unfold.
Let’s talk a little bit about Folken, though. Since we’re there. Because last week, I said he kind of sucked, and then I got two episodes into this stretch and went, “Ah, damn. I like him again.” So…
VRAI: It’s so… My smart brain with good thoughts is like, “You’re still a war criminal, sir, and I’m not sure any of this saying ‘Well, I’m really sorry, though. Here’s some intel,’ makes up for that,” but my heart-meat and my love of Jouji Nakata’s voice and acting ability is like, “Oh, now… No, but he’s dead, and I’m sad. I’m sad and he had a feeling and he’s sorry, though.”
DEE: [laughs] Yeah… Well, the thing is—and this is one of the things I like about Escaflowne—I think all of the characters are flawed in really good ways. Because, yes, I’m sad about Folken’s death.
Yes, I thought the part where you basically find out that one of the main reasons he decided “I need to work to end conflict on this planet” is because he didn’t want his brother to ever have to be forced into the situation he’s been forced into at this moment… They have this wonderful flashback where Van’s like, “Well, isn’t it mean to kill dragons?” And Folken’s like, “Yeah. It is. You’re right.”
CAITLIN: [sympathetically] Yeah.
VRAI: [softly] So good!
CAITLIN: Aww. Sweet brothers.
DEE: But his heel-turn on Dornkirk is a little abrupt. But, understandable. And I think that idea of “I still want to make this happen, but you have to have actual regard for human life. You can’t just be all reason and logic and ‘ends justify the means.'”
But, at the same time, he has no regard for his own life, and he still tries to resolve violence with violence. His answer at the end is, “I’m just going to protect everyone by killing Dornkirk.” And, surprising nobody, it doesn’t work, because that’s the world of Escaflowne.
CAITLIN: Because irony and luck.
DEE: So his ending is really tragic, because it actually doesn’t accomplish anything.
DEE: He’s kind of a cautionary tale, albeit a very sympathetic one.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I think… I’m willing to give him his redemption arc.
DEE: No, yeah. I’m not saying… I think they redeemed him, but I do think ultimately they didn’t… How do I put this? His character is made sympathetic without them agreeing with his methods. Does that make sense?
CAITLIN: Yes. Yeah.
DEE: I think he has the best of intentions all the way through, and I think he makes the wrong choices most of the time. Which, again, kind of comes back to that idea of all these characters have these valid feelings that they are expressing in unhealthy ways.
CAITLIN: It’s definitely not a “Folken did nothing wrong” situation.
VRAI: Oh, no. He did so many things wrong. He did a lot wrong.
CAITLIN: I’m sure if Escaflowne came out today, there would definitely be a “Folken did nothing wrong” meme. But Folken did many things wrong, and once he realized that he did many things wrong, he tried to do things right.
VRAI: Yeah, and, again, I do think having—
DEE: [crosstalk] I think he was always trying to do things right.
CAITLIN: Well, yes, he was always trying to do things right, but when he saw how wrong he was initially, he was like, “Maybe this will be the right thing.” And he was not entirely correct.
VRAI: It was not.
CAITLIN: But he tried.
VRAI: But it does seem like a smart move, having him die, because if you let that character live, there’s just no way to balance out the magnitude of all the shit he did, even meaning well. So, I appreciate it as an arc.
CAITLIN: This is tangential, but I think it’s really cool how you see Folken in Van’s flashbacks, and you see Folken all the way back to before he went to fight the dragon, and he looks like Van. And you see him now, and he looks completely different. And I think it’s cool how the flashbacks… Through varying points, you can see the evolution of his look. I dunno. It’s not really a super-relevant point, but I thought that was really cool.
DEE: Well, no, I see what you’re saying, too, ’cause it also kind of reflects his different worldviews and positioning. ‘Cause he looks more like Van when he and Van are kind of in agreement, and then they split, and then he starts to look like Teardrop Bowie.
CAITLIN and VRAI: [snort laughter]
DEE: [innocently] That’s what I call him.
VRAI: That’s amazing.
DEE: And then he comes back.
CAITLIN: He truly is the man who sold the world.
VRAI: Points off, Escaflowne, though, for having him wake up and reacting to his prosthetic arm as though he has had some terrible part of his humanity ripped out.
DEE: I mean, if I woke up and didn’t have my arm anymore, I’d probably freak out too.
DEE: I think that’s fair.
VRAI: Yeah… I mean, yes, character-wise. Framing-wise, it felt a little bit like, “Oh no. He has become mechanical and less human because he has taken this part of Zaibach’s fascist empire into himself.” The show is a little shaky on how it wants to frame science as… It wants it to be a neutral tool that can be used for evil, but it’s Evil Science some of the time, though.
DEE: It’s constantly used for evil, so it’s hard to get the neutral element that they’re going for there.
CAITLIN: I don’t know… “Feelings are good, science is bad.” That’s not a good message to take away, ’cause that’s how you get anti-vaxxers.
CAITLIN: But did they actually say who Dornkirk was? Which Isaac he was? ‘Cause if they did in these last few episodes, I missed it. And I want it to be known.
VRAI: I feel like they are implying, maybe, that it was Newton, ’cause Hitomi goes back to class and they’re like, “You know, he invented gravity, but did you know he was also into all this alchemic shit?”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] There was no gravity before Isaac.
DEE: [crosstalk] Well, he didn’t invent gravity…
VRAI: No, there was no gravity before Isaac Newton. I don’t know if you knew that.
DEE: I know what you mean.
Well, and what did I call this in my notes? “Newton’s Third Law of Emotions.” The idea of conflict breeding conflict, and Folken kills Dornkirk and then is immediately murdered because of the very literal equal and opposite reaction… Yeah, that’s definitely the Isaac they are calling back to in this particular instance, for sure.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, that was… It’s one of those things where… I think it is one of the more popular spoilers that Dornkirk is Isaac Newton, and during the previous stretches, Jared had sat down with me for a couple of episodes and when they showed a little bit about his life on Earth, he goes, “Oh, he’s Isaac Newton.”
CAITLIN: So, I just wasn’t sure if they ever actually said it.
DEE: No, it’s never made explicit.
DEE: But it’s there.
CAITLIN: It’s heavily-enough implied that anime fandom has, over the years, picked up on it. It is not a secret.
VRAI: It’s good. It’s good.
Do we want to take a minute to talk about your trashbag, Dee? We dedicated a full ten minutes to mine, and I feel like Allen deserves the same respect.
DEE: The other Disaster Sibling. Yes. It’s very… For our listeners who have been watching this the first time through, watching it a second time, some of the early episodes are hilarious because there’s one episode that is two parallel storylines, and one of them is Folken telling Dilandau not to set fire to a village and then he does, and the other one is Eries telling Allen not to lead Millerna on, and he does. And it’s like, “Oh yeah, you guys are definitely related.”
DEE: “This is so obvious in retrospect.”
VRAI: That is the shit I would love to see explored! Fuckin’… They’re both so…
DEE: I think they’re both characters who were supposed to see a trajectory for redemption at the end of this, but we don’t quite get there, and I guess that’s what fanfiction is for, because I do think both of those arcs are really interesting.
I keep circling back to this idea about, you know, “It’s understandable where you’re coming from, but you’re being a shit about it,” and I think that’s very true of Allen. Escaflowne does a good job of being like, “This is why he is the way he is.” His dad abandoned him. He lost his family. He keeps losing people that he cares about. So, Hitomi gets kidnapped. He freaks out. And then he becomes a controlling asshole. But then Escaflowne‘s also very good about going, “No, that’s not an excuse. You’re still being an asshole.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. Hitomi calling him out like, “Don’t control me. Screw off.”
DEE: Yeah. Again, they dated for about 12 minutes because he was awful and Hitomi was not going to put up with it. And it’s… Vrai, a couple episodes back, you were like, “Oh, you are to Allen as I am to Saionji,” and I think that is continuing to be legitimate, because I think that’s another show that does a good job of showing how people get to be the way they are without excusing the behaviors.
And so, yeah. I think we end up in a place with Allen where… I sent you guys a message a couple episodes in a row. I was like, “Oops! Allen sucks! What a rollercoaster I’ve been on!”
DEE: And then… But it feels like the series always wants to redeem him and just doesn’t know how to do it.
DEE: Because he’s so locked into this knightly role. And so the best they can come up with is his… I’m gonna keep saying “sibling” because I’m just gonna treat [cautiously] Dil-ena?—
DEE: —in a gender-neutral place because the series doesn’t quite know what they wanna do with the character, either.
His sibling shows up, and it’s the first time someone… They don’t really respond to him at all. They don’t recognize him. They don’t remember him. Next time he sees him, they’re on a battlefield trying to kill one of his buddies. And I think it’s one of the… I think it’s the only time in the series where he actually takes the first step towards helping someone, or trying to be kind to someone without them doing it first.
Beforehand, it was always like he had no interest in people until they started expressing an interest in him. I talked about that last week. As soon as somebody’s like, “I like you,” he’s like, “Oh, I guess I like you back! That’s how that works.”
And so I think we’re supposed to see in the fact that he protects somebody who actually needs protecting in that moment—rather than just trying to be manipulative and controlling—I think we’re supposed to see that as the first step towards him becoming less of a shit. Realizing that he really just wanted a family, not a girlfriend. He even says that about Hitomi: “I think I always just kind of saw her as a sister.” Then that Fanfic Machine showed up and things got weird.
DEE: So… But he still sucks! He just sucks less once he’s like, “I want to do right by my sibling this time. I don’t want to leave them for the wolves,” basically.
VRAI: Yeah, and it’s kind of a bummer at the end of the day, honestly, because I do think that Allen could be a better person very easily, and the show just actively resists giving him any moment of self-realization, to the point where I could buy a universe where that does, indeed, become the first sign of him becoming a better person.
I could also easily see a terrible, dark fic where he puts his sibling in a room and makes sure they never go anywhere and makes sure that they are the perfect, pretty princess that he remembered from when he was a child, and immediately starts dating Millerna again.
DEE: Yes, that is the darkest timeline that you just described. And it is—
CAITLIN: I really liked how Millerna’s conversation with him at the end goes.
DEE: Yeah, let’s talk about Millerna, too, for sure. I think that’s a good place to spin to, because I think maybe… Allen and Hitomi never really get that moment where he goes, “Yeah, you’re right. I was being a dick.” I think that’s part of the thing you’re talking about, Vrai, is the fact that you can so easily see that darkest timeline [because] we never quite get that moment where he realizes he’s been awful.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Which is a shame.
DEE: Which is important. And, like you said, I do think this is a character that could easily move onto a path of being a good dude, but he’s not there yet.
DEE: But I think that scene with Millerna is also, perhaps, a step in the right direction, in that he honors her request, and the two of them separate on cordial terms with her being like, “No, I don’t want to rely on you or anyone anymore. I want to try to be more independent.”
VRAI: Yeah, I like that scene, and I still like Dryden and Millerna. I think they’re really cute. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Yeah. I think they could work in the long term.
DEE: I guess. I thought Dryden leaving because he felt like he needed to be of use to her, and since he wasn’t, he wasn’t deserving of her love… I thought that was a weird scene and I wasn’t really sure what the point was.
DEE: I think that’s why I forget Dryden. I think that’s why I keep forgetting he’s a character.
CAITLIN: He doesn’t really get a full arc.
DEE: [agreeing] Nn-nn.
CAITLIN: I think he could have been a really good character. I liked him. I think he and Millerna could be good for each other, honestly. But after—
DEE: I’m not sure I like him. I haven’t decided yet. I’m on the fence.
CAITLIN: I mean, he’s a little smarmy. Don’t get me wrong.
DEE: Yeah, he’s got this… He’s constantly got this “I always get what I want” attitude.
CAITLIN: But also, you like Allen, so…
DEE: I do, but he’s also a trashbag. I’m not gonna pretend he’s not a trashbag!
CAITLIN: [through laughter] I’m just saying. Callout post for Dee…
DEE: [defensively] Listen. He responded to a breakup by putting on his nice leather pants, sitting in a room with his pet owl, in the dark, and draining a bottle of wine.
VRAI: [cracking up]
DEE: I like that character!
VRAI: [through laughter] While talking to his dead dad.
CAITLIN: Callout post for Dee: likes Allen, but does not like Dryden even though they are very similar.
DEE: I don’t think I’m supposed to like Allen. I don’t think I’m supposed to approve of what Allen does; I think I’m supposed to approve of what Dryden does. I think that’s why I’m less certain that I like Dryden, but I like Allen. ‘Cause I like that Allen is so—as one of my Twitter followers put it—“brilliantly flawed.” Like, really, a very well-constructed character.
VRAI: Mm. I feel like with Dryden, it’s supposed to… The series builds itself in a little backdoor with Van and Hitomi, where it’s like, “I’m going home now, but we can reach each other any time as long as we know each other’s thoughts.” And it’s like, “All right, fanficcers. Go on. Do your thing.”
VRAI: They did.
CAITLIN: “We’ll talk on the internet every day.”
CAITLIN: “We’ll exchange emails.”
VRAI: Absolutely. “Our feelings will always remain the same and as passionate as they are when we’re right here next to each other.” [skeptical] Mm, long-distance is hard, kids.
But I think it wants to be that with Millerna and Dryden, with this implication that the reason they need to break it off is because it was hasty and they’re not grown to the point as people where they can make this potentially good relationship work. But it kind of fumbles it in execution.
DEE: It’s so fast.
DEE: It’s like one scene. It’s like, “Oh, they’re fine,” and then it’s like, “Oh, they’re not. Dryden’s leaving ’cause he feels like he doesn’t deserve her yet.”
CAITLIN: Which he doesn’t.
DEE: No, he doesn’t. To be fair, no, he does not.
VRAI: It’s a conclusion I buy, but it’s too rushed to be believable.
DEE: Yeah. The thing I like best about it is where it places Millerna. Because he’s like, “I’m gonna leave,” and she’s like, “Can’t promise I’ll be waitin’ for ya!” And then she has that really good scene with Allen where you get the sense that she really wants to move into, like, rather than…
Millerna is a character… We’ve talked about this. She definitely has these other goals and interests and is a very… She seems like a very capable and awesome character-lady. But she keeps… She, personally, keeps latching on and defining herself by her relationship with a guy.
So, I do think that the end being like: Dryden leaves and she doesn’t immediately jump to somebody else; she’s like, “No, Allen. We’re done.” And, again, to Allen’s credit, he’s not a controlling asshole. He goes, “Okay. Cool.”
CAITLIN: “Fair enough.”
DEE: “We’re done. Fair enough.”
CAITLIN: It’s like the end of the Scott Pilgrim movie, which had many issues, don’t get me wrong, but the part where Knives looks Scott in the eye and says, “You know, Scott, I’ll always love you. But I’m too good for you.”
CAITLIN: And just turns around and walks away.
VRAI: “I have realized that it’s weird for you, a 25-year-old, to be trying to date me, the 17-year-old in your band.”
DEE: Which, I mean, are the exact ages of Millerna and Allen.
VRAI: What I want in my heart—and, if this fanfic exists, I haven’t found it, or it’s been lost to time—is for Millerna to go out on the road as a roadside traveling doctor, and to take Allen’s sibling with her, to be her assistant, and they become friends. And it’s good.
DEE: I would be down for that fanfic. Vrai, be the change you want to see in the world.
DEE: Sounds cute.
CAITLIN: Transformative fanfiction.
DEE: I think Millerna has to run the entirety of Asteria right now, though, because her dad’s super sick and her older sister, who is cool—and we’ve never talked about Eries. I like Eries. She’s a very minor figure, but she’s the one person in the story who is completely immune to Allen, and they end up actually having kind of a great relationship because of that.
CAITLIN: She’s the pragmatic sister.
DEE: Yeah, and she’s the one person he’s kind of open and honest with, which is, again, kind of neat. The fact that she doesn’t really like him makes him more willing to tell her stuff. She’s the only person he says: “My sister came back. That’s weird!”
VRAI: Yeah, she’s kind of in that same camp as “dude who’s name I can’t remember who pilots Allen’s ship.” They are there. They never get any development.
DEE: Gattis is great.
CAITLIN: I wish Gattis got more development!
DEE: I think they’re both characters who… Again, you get the sense there’s backstory there and we just are not privy to it because there’s too much else going on.
VRAI: So much stuff.
DEE: She’s one where I think you can pull some subtext out, though. For sure.
CAITLIN: Why didn’t Escaflowne get the treatment where they have ten slice-of-life alternate universe spin-offs?
VRAI: Well, there were light novels. I don’t know if they’re just retellings of the story or what.
VRAI: [cracking up] If they suck as much as the shounen manga, maybe it’s best we never know.
CAITLIN: It looks like they’re just a retelling.
CAITLIN: There is a shoujo manga… In addition to the two-volume one, it’s a bunch of different artists doing 15 mini-stories related to the series. And I don’t know anything else about it. That’s what’s on the Wiki.
DEE: That would satisfy my desire.
CAITLIN: That could maybe be something.
DEE: Yeah, we need that sequel series. ‘Cause there is… There’s so much… And I had not realized that the ending of Escaflowne was contentious.
DEE: It was so obviously… I’m a sucker for bittersweet endings, first of all. I like the long-distance finale where it’s like, “Well, we’re separated, but you’re still an important memory to me, and I’m gonna move on with my life, but I’m gonna think back on you fondly,” kind of thing. That ending has always stuck with me, even if I couldn’t remember anything about the plot that led up to it.
And so I think I just always assumed that it was accepted that it was a good ending. You know? Bebop is a good ending; Utena is a good ending; Escaflowne is a good ending. And then I very recently found out that that is not the case and a lot of people did not like that ending. But I will stan for it.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s one of those things where, in my heart, I think they’re really cute. I would be down to imagine a future where Hitomi and Van got together again as adults. But also I don’t want to see that dramatized in the show, if that makes sense? ‘Cause it feels so Harry Potter Epilogue, which I hate.
I hate those series that are like, “And everyone married their destined partner who has been named in the course of the story, and they all got the jobs they wanted, and there was no conflict ever again. And this is all completely counter to those themes we finished up with the nicer ending ten pages ago, but we need to resolve all of these things on-page and leave no room for fanfiction. Go!”
DEE: “And then retcon it in our play that will come out ten years later that reads very much like a fanfic.” But this is not a Harry Potter podcast, and we are not going to get into that.
VRAI: But that impetus… I really hate the “tie up all the loose ends.”
DEE: Babies Ever After?
VRAI: Yeah. They left that door open. “Our hearts can always reach each other.” That is for you, the fans. But the main impetus of the narrative is to wrap up Hitomi’s story, and Gaia as this sort of green world of adolescence, where you go in and you are changed, and you come back to the normal world. The narrative supersedes your shipper feels! I’m sorry!
DEE: Yeah, I agree. I had some… I sent out a tweet that was basically like, [through laughter] “If you don’t like the ending of Escaflowne, you can huff my shorts, Daryl!”
DEE: And I had a lot of people respond to it that were like, “I used to hate it, and then as I got older, I really appreciated it,” and I was like… I think part of it is just there is that knee-jerk desire for the perfect, sweet ending. And then you go, “Oh, wait. No. Thematically speaking, as far as this character’s arc goes, this makes more sense.”
I also think it fits… When Hitomi gets swept away to Gaia, part of it is because she’s grappling with the fact that this guy she likes is moving away, and she might never see him again. And “Do I have the courage to tell him that I like him before he leaves?” And turns out, she’s not really that into Amano.
But that still plays out in her story on Gaia, where she becomes more aware of herself and the feelings of others, and more certain in herself, but then she also still has to deal with the fact that, no, he is “moving away.” “I still do have to deal with that separation,” and where you go from there.
So I like it. I think it’s more true to the kind of intense, passionate relationships of high school that very rarely actually lead to marriage and being together forever and ever. So I think it’s very well-done.
DEE: Even if there are some loose ends with some of the side characters that I wish they’d had more time to tie up, overall I’m very fond of the ending.
VRAI: Yeah. Just to make the reference pool four for four, when I was 15 and I watched Gankutsuou for the first time, the ending really bummed me out and I kind of hated it, but as an adult, I’m really glad it didn’t end the way I wanted it to when I was a teenager. It would have been such a nightmare.
CAITLIN: Or it’s like people who are mad about how Paradise Kiss ended, and thought that Yukari and George–
DEE: [crosstalk] Haven’t read it! Haven’t read it! Haven’t read it! Not listening!
CAITLIN: Oh! Sorry!
DEE: Would like to read it. Should I take off my headset?
VRAI: I know what you mean though. [steadily becoming more annoyed] In ParaKiss‘s case, all you have to do is wait long enough, and each successive version will slowly erode the effects of the original story. Yay! I’m so mad! That article is coming.
CAITLIN: Yeah. No. [laughs] It’s okay, Dee. We’re not gonna go farther.
DEE:Okay, thank you. ‘Cause I’ll take off my headphones if I need to. It’s a series I actually do want to read, so I do care about… Normally I don’t get too fussed about spoilers, but this one I would like to not know how it ends. Just, yeah. So…
CAITLIN: It has similar… Honestly, kind of similar themes to Escaflowne. But very different everything else.
DEE: Then I will probably be into it, because I am into Escaflowne. I still don’t… Even after this rewatch, I’m still not sure if I would slide it onto my list of “Best Beloved Titles Ever,” but it’s right there on the edge, ’cause I do like it an awful lot.
CAITLIN: It’s really good. And it’s just… It’s got so much going for it. ‘Cause it’s not just a really good well-done story and characters. But, visually. Honestly, visually, watching this whole thing… Asteria? Incredibly gorgeous. The mecha design? I’m not a big mecha person, but every time the Escaflowne changes into a dragon, it’s super cool. Every time Van sprouts his wings and grabs hold of Hitomi and flies away, I’m like, “Hell yeah!” It is not a perfect series, but what it does well, it does so well.
DEE: Yeah, I think its strengths not only outweigh its flaws, but I think its flaws are… Especially given that it was made 20 years ago, its flaws are fairly easy to overlook. Does that make sense? We talked in Fushigi Yugi about how, overall, we agree that the series has a lot of value, but some of those flaws are so dramatic that it totally makes sense that they’re dealbreakers for folks. They can really affect your enjoyment of the story.
And I think Escaflowne—I don’t think it tries to do quite as much as Fushigi Yugi does; to Fushigi Yugi‘s credit, I think it’s a very ambitious, messy story—but I also think that those flawed elements aren’t quite as in-your-face and intense dealbreakers for folks. So, I think it makes it an easier one to recommend to people. Even going, “Yeah, it was made 20 years ago, but it’s still a lot of fun, so check it out.”
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah.
VRAI: Yeah, yeah. I feel like Fushigi Yugi soars higher and crashes harder in some ways than Escaflowne, like you said.
CAITLIN: Yes, I think so. Yeah, Escaflowne never hit me as hard in the feels as Fushigi Yugi.
CAITLIN: Even if it is, overall, a much more polished series. Obviously, a story told by more experienced storytellers.
DEE: Yeah, for sure.
VRAI: Yeah, I will… It has that benefit of the fact that it’s so vague about some of its themes. The reason I love Dilandau so much, and I really don’t have that same attachment to Nuriko, is that Dilandau’s story is buried under about six layers of coding rather than explicitly talking about the thing upfront, so its fuck-ups are easier to take and fix.
DEE: Very true. Yeah, there’s a lot of… Escaflowne runs on subtext and implicit stuff a bit more, I would say.
VRAI: Yeah, for sure. But it’s just one of those risks, I guess, of media that really wants to be overtly progressive and tackle these sensitive issues is that, if you succeed, you did something inimitable, but if you crash, hoo boy, you are gonna age fast and poorly.
DEE: Yeah. Which I guess brings us to the question we do have to ask: is Escaflowne feminist?
VRAI: Jesus. Podcast over. I’m gone.
DEE: We just hear a crash as Vrai’s computer flies out the window.
DEE: No, I am kidding. Obviously. That is a reductive question we do not ask here on Chatty AF, except that one time Caitlin did to troll Amelia on our Miss Hokusai podcast.
CAITLIN: But also, sincerely.
DEE: Yeah, I guess on that note… Not “Is Escaflowne feminist?” but would you recommend this to… I would say it’s pretty obvious that overall, we’re all pretty positive on this series. During the rewatch, I don’t think any of us surprised ourselves by souring to a show that we liked. It sounds like we all still like it. Would you recommend it to a feminist friend?
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think it definitely comes with some caveats upfront, and that overall sentiment that, if you pick at this show it is going to unravel… which I don’t mean to say, “and therefore, don’t critique it,” but you kind of have to engage with it on a certain level just to make it work at all. You have to be willing to sincerely go with those emotions of feeling all of the things. Everything happens so much.
DEE: Yeah, and I think sometimes there’s this idea that… How do I say this in a way that’s not “stop criticizing things; how dare you?” This sense of nitpicking plot points—which, fine. You can criticize plot points. But when they don’t actually matter for the overall story. Does that make sense?
CAITLIN: It’s sort of the…
DEE: Like losing the forest for the trees.
CAITLIN: The Cinema Sins sort of approach to criticism.
DEE: Mm-hm. Yeah, exactly.
VRAI: Yeah, that’s not how it works.
DEE: I think that does kind of a disservice… I think that as an audience member, you’re kind of depriving yourself of an experience if you take that approach to stories. And I think that Escaflowne is very much a story about the power of feelings, but I also think that emotionality is important. That’s why the story sticks with us. We can’t remember the plot, but we like this show. We remember liking this show. We remember these characters.
And I think that sometimes that gets swept under the rug so that we can all poke fun at the Fate Alteration Machine and the Luck Soldiers and… Yeah, it’s ridiculous, but it serves a broader purpose of this adolescent narrative and these characters working through a lot of toxic ideas and coming on the other side better. And I think that’s good and has a lot of value.
VRAI: Yeah, and you know, I think there’s still plenty of criticism one can make about “I don’t think these emotions sold in this place. I don’t think this arc ended in a place where the character fully completed their growth as a person.”
DEE: Sure, yeah.
VRAI: But that’s not the… I think that, too often, gets lumped in with kind of taking an aloof approach to the nuance. The magical word that we’re always approaching a half-life toward on this show: “nuance.” I’m not words good today.
DEE: No, no, no. I think you caught it. That’s the point. Yeah. But, overall, I do… I am… So, yeah. I guess recommendation—rewatchalong success. Well done, gang. We have knocked out another classic ‘90s isekai together.
DEE: It was fun. It wasn’t quite as epic as our last one, which was so many episodes long.
VRAI: Ten episodes.
CAITLIN: [laughs nervously]
DEE: Yeah, we got to the end of that one, and I felt as if I had been on my own isekai journey and come out the other side.
CAITLIN: Yeah! [laughs]
VRAI: It was so long.
CAITLIN: Which, you know what? It was a great bonding experience for the three of us.
DEE: It was.
CAITLIN: I think it brought us closer together.
VRAI: I am incredibly glad that we did that.
CAITLIN: Power of friendship. And clearly doing Escaflowne [sing-song] will only strengthen our bonds~!
It’s that gravity, remember? That gravity.
VRAI: [laughs] The solution is gravity.
DEE: Yeah. We’ll have to do another one at some point, too.
VRAI: Oh, heck yeah.
DEE: Well, we are at the hour, though. And I have said a lot of the concluding things. Was there anything else y’all wanted to mention here at the end?
VRAI: Good show. Shame it’s locked behind Funimation’s nonsense right now. Oh, also, send me your Dilandau fanart, if it exists. I’m dying. It’s a desert. I’m dying.
DEE: Okay, Vrai needs Dilandau fanart. Get on that, dear listeners. Save them. Save them from this.
VRAI: All right, now we can do housekeeping.
CAITLIN: All right.
DEE: Okay. So, that brings us to the end of our Escaflowne rewatchalong!
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And that is the show! I should have come up with a witty phrase to say here at the end. Anybody got an idea? And then I’ll say it, and then Peter can cut the part where I was trying to figure out what to say?
DEE: Was there… was there a good—?
VRAI: [crosstalk] Remember, everyone: feelings.
DEE: Okay, yeah.
And that’s the show. Harness the power of your feelings, AniFam, and we will catch you next time.
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