The Australian release DVDs I'm reviewing preserve the broadcast format of the first episode so this episode is the first with the stunning opening credits I Don't Need a Promise. This is one of my favourite openings and is sung by Maaya Sakamoto who also plays Hitomi.
The prologue then reveals the card for this episode which was described by Hitomi in the previous episode as the Ace of Serpents, representing courage. I'm not certain but I suspect that in Hitomi's deck this card takes the place of the more usual Ace of Wands.
It turns out that the beam of light dropped Van and Hitomi somewhere in the forest where they're met by a tribe of wolfmen, fortunately friendly but being initially surrounded by a ring of glowing eyes in the night is not a good look (but did make a nice cliffhanger at the end of Fateful Confession).
Some painless infodumping about the Mystic Moon (that would be the Earth) later, Van and Hitomi arrive in Fanelia. Merle, the cat girl who adores her Van-sama makes an appearance. Meanwhile Van is acclaimed a worthy prince by Balgus and the other generals for returning with the Energist.
Speaking of Balgus, it is clear that his character designer subscribes to the Big Damn Hero school of character design (remember my comments about Fahn and Beld in Lodoss War?).
The arrival in Fanelia also introduces the mecha, or guymelefs,,which I was deeply sceptical of the first time I saw Fateful Confession.
However this episode also resolves those concerns as the general feel of the melefs fits the series perfectly.
I get the impression that Hitomi is in a state of shock in the early part of the episode. Which given recent events, isn't all that surprising, and a nice piece of characterisation.
Early on Hitomi snarks a bit but basically is just reacting until Merle makes off with her pendant.
That snaps Hitomi out of it and and the resulting chase results in her observing a training session between Balgus and Van prior to the Van's coronation. In the subsequent conversation Balgus makes a promise to return Hitomi to the Mystic Moon if at all possible.
Cut to the coronation and the arrival of the bad guys.
The invisible bad guys.
The invisible bad guys in cloaked melefs who are trashing Fanelia.
As the attack begins Balgus directs Van to the Shrine to activate Escaflowne and save Hitomi.
Van does so by pledging a blood pact with the energist recovered from the dragon slain in Fateful Confession.
This, naturally, is accompanied by the massed chorus chanting "Escaflowne" which just works far better than it has any right to.
Escaflowne appears as a spectacular white melef with a cloak and again this shouldn't work but does.
For the moment let me just observe that blood magic is rarely a good idea in the long run.
And the fact that energist becomes a beating heart for Escaflowne is also more than a little disturbing.
Van mounts up just as the bad guys reach the shrine. Fortunately Hitomi can detect them and guide Van to survive long enough for Balgus' heroic intervention and death.
In some respects Balgus' death is utterly clichéd coming as it does after an impossible parry and rounded out by a dying monologue exhorting Van to flee and rebuild the destroyed Fanelia later.
And, yet, it works perfectly.
The scene plays to the gentle promise Balgus made to Hitomi earlier and caps the utter destruction of Fanelia.
Although Hitomi has been handling the battle better than anyone could expect, and Van has been displaying some disturbing berserker like tendencies, this is the last straw for both. The heartfelt screams of agony resonate with the energist and Hitomi's pendant producing a beam of light that sends them somewhere else.
Behind the ruins of Fanelia the civilians and a heartboken Merle watch this as the episode cuts to the end credits.
An all too common reaction when watching Escaflowne is "But! No! It Can't End Yet!", and this episode is a classic example of it.
I don't have many criticisms of this episode except possibly Merle who at this point seems to be little more than comic relief (although Hitomi's line about cat burglars is amusing). This changes later but I'll hold that thought for now.
This was the episode that truly hooked me.
Day 1 - Fateful Confession / The Tower
Day 2 - The Girl From the Mystic Moon / The Ace of Serpents
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