Dilandau, come on down!
The tag reveals the card of the episode as The Hanged Man, more on that later.
The episode begins with Hitomi freaking everyone out by blurting out her vision of destruction. Allen's troops are somewhat disturbed by this until Allen tells them to ignore what he describes as superstition.
Merle arrives in the company of some of Allen's troops (ie: is captured and delivered by), and in not very good condition. Both Merle and Hitomi collapse with a fever.
Meanwhile Dilandau is preparing to launch an attack using the stealth cloaks to preserve plausible deniability. For a little while at least.
Whilst Hitomi and Merle are being treated, there is discussion of family including Allen's sister who was spirited away some years ago. This turns out to be relevant later but for the moment it establishes a closer connection between Hitomi and Allen.
Van discovers a thorn in Merle's face that indicates a possible cause of the ladies' fevers, and seeks the help of the mole man in preparing a cure for the poison.
The treatment is preceded by an amusing look at Merle from Hitomi's viewpoint and vice versa. Apparently they're both weird. :)
Meanwhile Allen is preparing the castle for an assault. However he isn't doing it because of the vision, he's doing it because he's recognised that Dilandau is a nutter out for blood.
This is a nice touch as it shows that Hitomi's visions are not always necessary, sometimes a good judge of character is all that's needed.
Then the attack begins and is as one sided as the assault on Fanelia. Did I mention that in addition to being a nutter, Dilandau is a pyromaniac with flamethrowers?
At least he enjoys his work.
The one difference to the attack on Fanelia is that Allen was expecting it. Accordingly he has an escape route planned (an airship called the Crusade) and is willing to run in order to save what he can.
Van does not initially accept this until Allen provides some battlefield instruction as to the real nature of duty: that a samurai's life is meant to save others, fighting and dying is not real courage if it fails to save others.
Unfortunately it turns out that the Zaibach guymelefs can fly and easily catch the damaged Crusade. What they can't do is fly and use the stealth cloaks so I suppose there's a small mercy there.
It is at this point with the lives of all on board the Crusade at stake because of him that Van takes the Escaflowne, jumps out of the Crusade ... as the Escaflowne transforms into a flying dragon.
This moment is simply spectacular, it is accompanied by one of the strongest pieces of the choral score, and you just want to cheer as Van flies away on Escaflowne.
Of course, Van's success means that Dilandau and his ominously named unit the Dragonslayers fly off in hot pursuit, and Dilandau is far too eagerly looking forward to a dragon hunt.
This is a real "oh crap" moment as you suddenly wonder what Van has let himself in for just as the end credits roll.
For those who are familiar with the Tarot will recognise applicable meaning of The Hanged Man at this point: sacrifice. Specifically self sacrifice to help or save others. It is also worth noting that is the first of the Tarot Cards to only be referenced indirectly or thematically, instead of appearing within a reading being performed by Hitomi.
The episode also shows both Van's youth (only cowards run) and his willingness to learn from Allen's advice about duty (sometimes you must to save others). Of course whether he's learning because Allen is older and wiser, or because Allen has already defeated him twice is an open question. :)
This means that there is some nice character development buried in the action and the cliffhanger ending.
I'm not sure but I think that this is also the episode that caused a couple of very late nights in the company of rdmasters, leecetheartist, possibly possbert and others when we first saw it at JAFWA. I was sort of on committee at the time and abused my privileges to borrow what were going to be the loaner library copies to stage a private screening of pretty much the entire series. It may have been episode 6, but not later than that.
The key phrases from these evenings were "We can stop at any time" and "They're only 22 minutes long, one more won't hurt."
Day 1 - Fateful Confession / The Tower
Day 2 - The Girl From the Mystic Moon / The Ace of Serpents
Day 3 - The Gallant Swordsman / Death
Day 4 - The Diabolical Adonis / The Hanged Man
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