Fortunately I gave it another try and Escaflowne is now one of my all time favourites. That doesn't mean that these posts will be universally paeans of praise however, I will be attempting at least some critical analysis.
One of the nice features of The Vision of Escaflowne is that in each episode the presentation of the title is accompanied by the turning of a Tarot card that matches the episode.
Conversely the episode previews show only the back of the card.
To honour this the topic list won't include the relevant tarot card until I write the post for that episode. Which in this case is The Tower, which Hitomi describes as the card of distant separation.
This episode starts by introducing the lead character Kanzaki Hitomi who is quite the gifted athlete for a 16 year old, although she is yet to break 13s for the 100m dash. She is also established as something of a fortune terller.
A timed attempt at doing so is interrupted by a vision of the other lead character Van Fanel as well as some quite horrifying visions of war and destruction judging by Hitomi's reaction. Unsurprisingly Hitomi faints and awakes in the nurse's room in the presence of her crush, the upperclassman Susumu Amano.
News that Amano is leaving causes Hitomi to finally do a reading of her future with Amano and this reveals the The Tower, much to her dismay.
The particularly Japanese teen romance aspects in this episode are a bit overdone, although there are some key hints for future episodes. To be honest I think this is what I reacted to badly in the first episode the first time around, and it is still a bit on the cloying side.
Fortunately this gets interrupted by Van Fanel's appearance for real this time and Hitomi promptly crashes into him. I always liked this touch: since he was a vision last time why would Hitomi think differently this time?
Then things get worse: a sword armed and armoured warrior appearing out of nowhere is one thing. The appearance of the dragon that he was hunting (or vice versa at this point) is quite another.
Van's fight with the dragon is extremely well done and features the first time in which Hitomi uses her visions to change the outcome, saving Van's life in the process.
Van is not appropriately grateful, and Hitomi lets him know this in the time honoured fashion (SLAP!). I have to say: Van had that coming. :) It was also amusing to watch him be completely unable to handle Hitomi as she, quite understandably, goes through a lot of emotions in the aftermath of being hunted by a dragon.
After retrieving the Energist from the Dragon Van is summoned back to Gaea in a beam of light. Unfortunately so is Hitomi, and Amano only just has time to return her pendant before she disappears.
[Aside: one of the other nice things about Escaflowne is the almost absurd attention to continuity around Hitomi's possessions. You can track them without fail from episode to episode and I don't think the animators ever got it wrong.]
And then Hitomi arrives in Gaea with Earth in the sky as a second moon.
Cut to the end credits and the preview for the next episode.
There was one other aspect of the first episode that, in retrospect, I was quite sceptical of but I'll discuss that tomorrow as it was the second episode that resolved it.
Fateful Confession tries to balance the shojo and shonen aspects of the series but doesn't quite manage it as well as later episodes. Part of the problem is that the shojo elements (the hinted at romantic triangle between Hitomi, Amano, and Hitomi's best friend Yukari) are presented in media res but don't quite feel all that convincing in this episode.
Conversely the more active shonen elements are more ab initio and are significantly stronger in this episode.
Overall I rate Fateful Confession as somewhere between just good enough to hook the viewer in for at least one more episode and a "Wow! That's So Cool!" pilot.
Day 1 - Fateful Confession / The Tower
Day 2 - The Girl From the Mystic Moon
Day 3 - The Gallant Swordsman
Day 4 - The Diabolical Adonis
Day 5 - Seal of the Brothers
Day 6 - City of Intrigue
Day 7 - Unexpected Partings
Day 8 - ???
Day 9 - The Day the Angel Flew
Day 10 - Memories of a Feather
Day 11 - The Blue-Eyed Prince
Day 12 - Prophecy of Death
Day 13 - The Secret Door
Day 14 - Red Destiny
Day 15 - ???
Day 16 - Dangerous Wounds
Day 17 - Lost Paradise
Day 18 - The Guided Ones
Day 19 - The Edge of the World
Day 20 - The Gravity of Destiny
Day 21 - Operation Golden Rule of Love
Day 22 - False Vows
Day 23 - ???
Day 24 - Reaction of Fortune
Day 25 - The Black Winged Angel
Day 26 - Storm Premonition
Day 27 - Fateful Decision
Day 28 - Zone of Absolute Fortune
Day 29 - Eternal Love
Day 30 - Looking Back at The Vision of Escaflowne