[identity profile] kristenell.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ship_manifesto
Title: Promises Not Necessary
Author: [livejournal.com profile] escalove
Fandom: Vision of Escaflowne
Pairing: Van Fanel/Hitomi Kanzaki
Spoilers: For the entire series.
Notes: Screencaps were done by me. Quotations, unless stated otherwise were taken from the official English dub. This manifesto is also only focused on the television series, all other canons are not in focus. Lyric translation courtesy of the Anime Lyrics.



I. Preface:

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Say, when they're in love,
does everyone get this lonely?
Say, do they embrace the pain
that's even deeper than the darkness?

The passage above is the first verse of the opening theme for The Vision of Escaflowne, a series about a typical high school girl, Hitomi Kanzaki, and her adventures on the world of Gaea, a world similar to Earth but also extremely different. Through a tangled web of events Hitomi finds herself in the middle of an epic conflict between forces that fight to preserve Gaea and those that would destroy it. It is only by allying herself with the legendary guymelef Escaflowne (a giant mecha) and its pilot, Van Fanel, that Hitomi can help save Gaea and return home.

I have been in love with Escaflowne ever since I first saw it at the end of 2001 (the series itself originally aired in Japan in 1996), and no matter how much I try to move on and get into something new, something always draws me back to it, and I believe that part of that something is the relationship between Van and Hitomi. Their bond is the heart and soul of Escaflowne, and I can’t imagine that a person who hates this pairing would ever really enjoy the series because it is such a big part of it.

For the sake of time and detail, this manifesto will only focus on the 26 episode TV series. The TV series is the more popular and well regarded canon in the fandom, as all the other versions fall short compared to it. There is also a movie but it isn’t as highly regarded as the series and Van and Hitomi are distinctly different in it compared to the TV version, to analyze their relationship in the movie would require a manifesto in and of itself.


II. The Girl From the Mystic Moon

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Hitomi Kanzaki is your average 15 year old. She enjoys hanging with friends, running track, and crushing on her senpai, Amano. She also has a keen knack in fortunetelling. Hitomi has a limited and not all that wanted ability to sometimes see visions of the future. One Earth, this ability is used as a fun little game, where Hitomi will read fortunes for friends, usually concerning love. However it is this power, which is fueled by a pendent given to her by her grandmother that ends up connecting her to the strange world of Gaea. When Hitomi is taken to Gaea, her visions intensify and become even more accurate. This is a cause of distress to Hitomi because she often cannot control them, and she is forced to face things that she is not able to deal with.

Hitomi is at heart an extremely naïve and uncertain person. She has a tendency to be oblivious to the true meaning of things as she becomes caught up in her own feelings. Her doubt about herself and others often times leads Hitomi to unwillingly bring on bad fortune and misery to those around her and often causes those who care about her to be unsure of themselves. However, she does worry deeply for her friends and is quite willing to go out of her way to save them, even if it means putting her own self in danger. So, while she is unsure about her own role in the events taking place on Gaea, she has tremendous faith in those around her. In the end, Hitomi’s journey is more of an internal change than an external one, as she becomes more confident in herself and how she really feels.

III. The Dragon King

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Van Slanzar de Fanel is very much a man bound by duty. He is the prince of a small isolated country known as Fanelia. He is the second born son, however when his older brother went missing in the rites to become King, Van became heir to the Fanelian throne. He starts the series as an extremely brash individual, with little to no social grace. When he first meets Hitomi, he is harsh and nothing short of cocky and rude when talking to her and others. He very much rushes into things without thinking first. However, he is generally quiet and reserved, particularly when he is around those he cares about. He is especially kind and caring in dealing with Merle, a cat girl, Van had rescued and adopted as a sort of sister when he was young. He allows her to cling to him, a closeness that he doesn’t normally show with anyone else. He is a loner, he knows what it means to be outcast. His country is not well regarded in the world of Gaea, and to top that Van is half linked to a race of winged people known as Draconians that is reviled throughout Gaea. This is marked by the fact that Van has a set of wings, that appear at his will, which we first discover in episode 8.

Like Hitomi, Van is filled with uncertainty and doubt about his abilities and his feelings. He often doesn’t know how to communicate how he feels to others, which often leads him to say the wrong things, and to be misunderstood.

Fanelia is invaded and destroyed by Zaibach during his coronation, and this event becomes the driving force behind Van’s actions. Van feels that he is a failure, even though he had no idea that the invasion was coming. He is king and is supposed to be able to protect his people, and on the first day of his reign, his kingdom is destroyed. It gets even worse when Van discovers that his older brother, Folken, whom he thought had died, had actually been involved in the attack and had betrayed his country. Van becomes deadset on stopping his brother and getting revenge. Van goes from an inexperienced and reckless melef pilot to a seasoned warrior able to take down most of his enemies. However, war takes its toll on Van. At the beginning of the series he tells Balgus, his mentor and guardian, that he dislikes combat, and even says he was reluctant to become king, because it was a position that he did not choose, but as he fights he becomes more engrossed with it. This conflict leads to Van fighting against losing his humanity and kindness that he had grasped at before. However, he soldiers on because he believes that avenging his country and stopping Zaibach is the way for him to fulfill his responsibilities as king.

IV. Canon

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Van and Hitomi’s relationship is really the point of the entire series, so the issue of it being canon is sort of moot. I could spend so much time detailing all the little moments in canon that make their relationship so apparent and so perfect. However, I don’t have the space and thus I want to focus on some major points to look at when viewing them in canon.

It is obvious from the beginning that there is a connection between them, even before they meet. Hitomi has multiple visions of a winged man coming to save her, and it is revealed in episode 8 that the man is Van when he shows his wings for the first time to rescue her as she falls from a cliff during a battle with Zaibach. Visually they are connected, before their first meeting, the scene changes between Hitomi running track, and Van running with his sword ready as he tries to slay a dragon in order to become King of Fanelia. In essence, what this shows is that when Hitomi’s and Van’s wills act in tandem, spectacular things may happen, and it was their will in episode 1 that I believe brought Van to Earth in the first place, changing their destinies in the process.

It is easier to tell how Van feels about Hitomi than the other way around. Even though he never says it in words, Van obvious is in love or at least in like with her at the beginning of the series. When Allen Schezar, a knight from the country of Asturia and a rival for Hitomi's affections, kisses Hitomi on the cheek in the 3rd episode so that Zaibach is unaware of Hitomi’s origins, Van looks extremely distressed at it. His face is one of disbelief and jealousy. Just two episodes later, he looks on her in awe as she adorns a more Gaean style of dress, and silences Merle as she makes a snide comment about it. When Van and Hitomi are forced to flee Asturia, Van asks her to stay with him, and he gives her a promise, one that he repeats again later on:

Van (to Hitomi): There’s one thing I know for sure. I am going to help you find your way back there [Earth], no matter what.
~Episode 8 – The Day the Angel Flew.

Van very much holds himself responsible for Hitomi, as he is the reason she is on Gaea in the first place, and his need to be able to protect her grows as the series moves further along and Hitomi becomes even more central to the events happening on Gaea. She is also the only person who ever really questions Van on what he does. When Van suggests using Hitomi’s power to help figure out where the enemies will attack from, Hitomi refuses. She yells at Van that she wasn’t some kind of tool to be used for any gains in the world, and that she has enough problems and distress due to the horrible visions she was already getting. Van takes this to heart. He then tries to acquire Hitomi’s power to see the unseen so that he can take the burden off her shoulders. When he explains this to Hitomi, he almost seems to confess how he feels, but he backs down with a look and runs off, obviously not ready to take that next step.

And his feelings don’t go unnoticed. Merle, his closest thing to a confidante, knows right off the bat that Van’s feelings for Hitomi are not just that of mere obligation or friendship. When Hitomi, upset by Van’s apparent thirst for blood, returns to the Mystic Moon, Merle confronts Van about his feelings.

Merle: You’re thinking about Hitomi, aren’t you.
Van: No, no I’m not.
Merle: That’s a lie! I’ve always been by your side Lord Van. I know you better than anyone. You’re thinking about her. [pause] You love Hitomi. You haven’t figured out how you really feel, have you Lord Van. To be honest, I’ve known for a very long time. Hitomi always said that thing right? that people return your feelings. What you feel will reach her. I know she feels the same.
~Episode 24 Fateful Decision

Van is uncertain about how he feels, and even more about how Hitomi feels. But it is apparent in every action. In episode 23, during his battle Hitomi becomes able to hear this thoughts. And the only that she hears is his need to protect her. That is his only thought and becomes the driving force for his actions.

Hitomi is a bit harder to discern until the end, but I think that the feelings were always there, it was just Hitomi was trying to grasp onto something that reminded her of home and something familiar and Van’s own doubts didn’t do much to encourage her. For most of the series, Hitomi becomes infatuated with Allen Schezar. However, these feelings are an illusion. Allen greatly resembles Amano, the boy Hitomi had crushed on back home, in fact she mistakes him for Amano when she first meets him, and it was only natural for Hitomi who was far from home and having just witnessed the complete destruction of Fanelia to want to cling to something familiar. Something safe. However, as the series go on, Allen’s own issues begin to color her perception, and as Allen begins to reciprocate her feelings, Hitomi actually begins to pull away.

The whole triangle comes to a head in episode 19. Manipulated by Zaibach, Allen and Hitomi kiss in an attempt to separate Hitomi from Van. Van of course is witness to this and most people would point to his heartbroken expression, however I would like to note Hitomi’s reaction. Hitomi up to this point has been completely oblivious to Van’s feelings, and had no reason to be ashamed of her actions with Allen. However when she notices that Van has seen her kiss Allen, she clearly looks distressed. When he runs away, she calls after him. Allen had kissed her, and she should have been ecstatic, but she calls after a guy who she previously claimed to feel nothing for. And is obviously distressed over the fact that he had seen it, despite not having any reason prior to this to be distressed by Van seeing it.

And when she thinks back on the kiss later, she instantly flashes back to Van. And that is the turning point, because in the next episode she begins to separate herself completely from Allen. When she misreads a fortune in order to insure that Allen would stay single, disaster happens, one that had she read the fortune correctly she would have foreseen. And as you see her realize this, in her guilt she begins to let go. Burdened by an attack that she feels is her fault, she stops trying to meddle in affairs and to do genuine good as oppose to being a cause of misfortune.

Most of the actions that actually drive Hitomi forward are related to Van. Most of her visions involve him in some way shape or form. She risks her life at least four times in order to save him. The first was when Van was kidnapped by Zaibach, and she risks a very heavy fall to warn Van about an attack on his life. The second, in regards to another vision, she pushes him over and hugs him on the ground to save him from a fatal hit. The third is when Van is enveloped by his own distaste and guilt in fighting and lapses into a coma. Hitomi dangerously merges her mind with his and almost dies along with him. The fourth is while imprisoned in Zaibach, Van, who has merged with the Escaflowne meaning if it is destroyed, he will be too, suffers as Zaibach tries to dismantle the Escaflowne. Hitomi instantly offers to merge with Van and the Escaflowne in order to give Van the strength to move the Escaflowne before it can be taken apart. And she does it without a thought and against everyone else’s protests about her own safety. Van comes first, and the lengths that she goes to save him just show how she subconsciously responds to him.

Probably the biggest thing to note, however, is that whereas her relationship with Allen is constantly pegged with doubt and uncertainty in regards to where she stands with Allen and her relationship with Allen, Hitomi’s feelings towards Van are constant. She believes in Van. She believes that he can do anything, and twice assures Merle, who one would think due to experience would know about Van, that Van would always be all right.

Hitomi: If anyone can do it, Van can.
~Episode 14 Dangerous Wounds & Episode 25 Zone of Absolute Fortune

Hitomi believes strongly in Van, and she trust him. This fact does not go unnoticed by others. Merle who is really the most observant person in the cast, confronts Hitomi on her own feelings. Just look at the quote from above, where Merle reiterates that Hitomi would reciprocate Van’s feelings. Her feelings also don’t get unnoticed by Allen. When Hitomi, Allen, and Van are imprisoned by Zaibach, after Hitomi once again saves Van’s lives, Allen comments on how much Hitomi believes in Van. His tone of voice along with his expression (at least in the English version) suggests that he wasn’t asking her whether she believed in Van, but rather that she loved Van. Hitomi didn’t pick up on this, but it is pretty obvious to the audience.

And in the end what drove her back to the Earth was no one else but Van. After she hears his thoughts and how much Van’s motivation to fight is based in his need to protect her, she goes back to Earth, not wanting Van to lose anymore of his humanity for her sake. Back on Earth, Hitomi becomes even more aware. Through a sort of reading, she has a vision of Van, and she sheds a tear at it. Her heart obviously realizing what she had left. And she then resolves to return, she tells her best friend sorry that she was leaving, but that she had to see “him” again. When they are reunited, he tells her that he will never let her go, she immediately embraces him.

Hitomi’s relationship with Van’s brother Folken is cause for another turning point in Hitomi’s feelings about Van. When Folken defects from Zaibach Hitomi is the one who first trusts him, much to Van’s dismay. She becomes quite determined to reconcile the two, and this stems from a need for Van to be at peace with himself. She tries to prevents Folken’s death, because she knows that if Folken dies that it would hurt Van.

Hitomi: If you die, then you’ll leave Van all alone. I don’t want to see him alone. I can’t stand the thought of him being unhappy!.
~Episode 25 Zone of Absolute Fortune

Van becomes her main motivation. She wants the war to end for Van. Because there is nothing more important to her than Van’s happiness, and she puts that before herself.

It is hard to explain the finale without having watched the entire series to understand what brought them to that point. Folken dies trying to kill Dornkirk the emperor of Zaibach, Van feels that he is dead and is overcome with grief, a grief that Hitomi feels. Hitomi in her own despair at Van’s anguish sets forth a machine that would lead to Gaea’s destruction. Van becomes locked in a battle with Allen, under the manipulation of Dornkirk’s machine. Hitomi tries to stop it and in the end just barely prevents Van from killing Allen. Van exclaims that he is going to end the world and save her. Hitomi tells him that he doesn’t have to, but he brushes her off. It is then in one powerful moment that Hitomi realizes the root of all the problems. Van is bound by her feelings, and that she just has to believe in him to set things right.

Hitomi: I can change? Conflicting emotions? I get it. My emotions bind Van. With all the care that I have for him. I trust in him. I think I…I think that I…I think I’m in love with Van. I love Van. The smell of the field. Van’s smell. I love you Van.
Van: Hitomi!
Hitomi: I’m sorry. I was the one who didn’t understand.
~Episode 26 Eternal Love

This declaration is just so poignant, so them and just pretty much sums up the entire point of the show. True love is not shown through just pure desire or attraction, but through trust and faith. Each person has to put the other person first, and Van and Hitomi certainly do that. The bond between them is not something physical, but something spiritual, something that transcends time or space. And it is because of this that in the end Hitomi does not stay on Gaea, but rather returns to Earth with the assurance that she can visit and communicate with Van at anytime. All she has to do is think of him and she is connected.

V. Why I Ship this Pairing.

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So Van and Hitomi are clearly canon, so canon that it sometimes hurts. But I am not one of those people who ships a pairing just because it is canon. I love the fact that just because Van was the person from Hitomi’s early visions, she didn’t go right to him. She wasn’t ready, and their feelings are not based on destiny. The focus is all between them.

The thing that I love about this pairing is just how much trust and faith they have in each other. I mean the theme of trust and believing in others is the core of the series, and Van/Hitomi signifies that extremely well. When they are a part they are confused and uncertain. But together they become a force to reckon with. Why else would separating them become the prime mission of Zaibach? It is their feelings, their love, that save Gaea, and that is only through the faith that they have. I love couples whose relationship is their strength rather than their crutch. I can’t really see them with anyone else, even though they end up on different worlds in the end, because it is just so perfect, and everything that they had to go through to get to that point makes it uncomfortable to read about them with other people. So while I accept other pairings, I don’t tend to like them, because to me this was it. Yes they are young, but what’s between them is unbelievably strong. I mean it goes beyond distance. Their ending may be bittersweet (although I have heard that the creators did mention that they think Hitomi would at one point return to Gaea), but it was perfect, because their love transcends distance. They just have that much faith and love in each other. And that speaks more to me than any sappy “I love you” and dramatic kiss. They don’t need promises. All they need to know is that the other is happy and they are content. If that isn’t true love, well I don’t know what is.

VI. The Fandom

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The Vision of Escaflowne has been around for awhile, and unfortunately the fandom is pretty inactive, however there is a decent amount of fanworks for the series and this couple even if it isn’t really recent. But I just want to give a few starting points.

Websites:
Escaflowne Compendium - The most definitive English language information site for Escaflowne. Good starting point if you want to know more of the basic stats on the series, as well as production notes.
{{Visions}} A Van/Hitomi Fanlisting- The official Van/Hitomi fanlisting
A site with several raw doujinshi available - All of the doujins are Van/Hitomi that are available.

[livejournal.com profile] escafans - The only really active community dedicated to Escaflowne.

Fanart:
Perfect World - A Japanese fanart site, with really nice fanart. Most of the art seems to be movie based, but still a nice collection.
Art by nimbusthedragon
Art by ZephyrZero
Art by ~robota-asabi

Fanfiction:
Arcadia by starherd
Beginnings by [livejournal.com profile] twilight_aria
Symmetria by [livejournal.com profile] sordidlilthing
Keeping Time by [livejournal.com profile] twilight_aria
Stars by Atari
Memories of Rain by Ethelewen (Warning: Deathfic for those of you who don’t like that sort of thing.)
As If by Tawnybmw

Videos:
Ordinary Day by Cailet730
Everything You Want by nomigoddess
A Piece of Gaea by Wolfchild
Glory of Love by DW Chang
Devotion by NHMK

I call out to you now with my tears.
I don't need promises or such things,
because of the precious
strength that you've given me.

~Yakusoku wa Iranai by Maaya Sakamoto

Date: 2008-01-20 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kirarakim.livejournal.com
Ooh I am really happy you ended up doing this because I failed at it

On a side note another great video is This One (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXEOW3NIec0) I believe it is by DW Chang.
Edited Date: 2008-01-20 10:12 pm (UTC)

Date: 2008-01-20 10:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] militarypenguin.livejournal.com
You have no idea how pleased I was to see this appear on my flist. :)

When they are a part they are confused and uncertain. But together they become a force to reckon with.

Their ending may be bittersweet (although I have heard that the creators did mention that they think Hitomi would at one point return to Gaea), but it was perfect, because their love transcends distance. They just have that much faith and love in each other. And that speaks more to me than any sappy “I love you” and dramatic kiss. They don’t need promises. All they need to know is that the other is happy and they are content.

Yes. Exactly. I loved that their bond was strong enough to show how necessary they were to each other and made themselves individually stronger, rather than have it consume and weaken their characters. It's part of why I loved the ending of the series, too.

Another AMV I'd recommend is Devotion (http://www.nhmk.com/dl.html) (scroll down to find it) by NHMK.

Now I'm itching to watch the series all over again...

Date: 2008-01-20 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] illianaka.livejournal.com
That was beautiful. It's been years since I saw Escaflowne, but I have the incredible urge to watch it again. You're right; this pairing made the series for me because it was so powerful and heartfelt.

Date: 2008-01-21 01:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shalei.livejournal.com
*sighs* THIS is the first pairing in my anime fandom that i guessed correctly. I, sometimes, can't help but cry when Hitomi returned to Earth =( And like you, I never get tired with Escaflowne :D

Date: 2008-01-22 01:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amothea.livejournal.com
I love your post and yes I totally ship Hitomi/Van. :)

Date: 2008-01-22 04:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stace-s.livejournal.com
I absolutely LOVE Van/Hitomi. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this! <3

Date: 2008-02-01 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hearingheaven.livejournal.com
I just read your manifesto, and I cannot agree more with all of your opinions. You basically voiced my heart out :) Thank you for writing and sharing! It's too bad that most people do not know Escaflowne due to its old release date. When I first saw Escaflowne, I fell in love with it and got my hopes up for animes that are as good or better than Escaflowne. I was wrong and it remains as one of my favorite series. When I watched the series again in my recent winter break, I cried through the ending and thought that the series is so sad - Allen's loss of his sister, Hitomi's uncertainty about her feelings, Van's resentment (not quite the word) towards Folken, Folken's innocent wish to lift the burden off Van's shoulders, Isaac's ideal ambition that turned out wrong... and so on. Anyway, I love the series, and wanted to thank you for writing and sharing the love for Escaflowne.

Date: 2008-02-01 07:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hearingheaven.livejournal.com
Oh, also..

"They don’t need promises. All they need to know is that the other is happy and they are content. If that isn’t true love, well I don’t know what is."

I finally understood how "yakusoku wa iranai" (promises not necessary) plays in the series.. I never realized it. Thank you for pointing it out.

Date: 2008-02-04 11:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarja18.livejournal.com
thank you for this great manifesto!!I immediately fell in love with those two when I first saw the anime long long ago and now I need to rewatch the whole series!I'm going to add this to my memories!!;P

Date: 2008-02-14 04:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] animus-revival.livejournal.com
Thanks for making this :) It was wonderful!

Your manifesto has reminded me why I loved/love Escaflowne so much and why Van and Hitomi's relationship works so well.

Great job! (For some reason I feel a little sad now... I think watching Escaflowne will cheer me up!)

Date: 2008-03-23 02:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragon-faere.livejournal.com
So Van and Hitomi are clearly canon, so canon that it sometimes hurts.
Oh chickie, you've broken my heart and sewn it back together again! That statement is so true for me, and I'll be damned if I don't admit the love I have for V/H. It will always hold a special place for me. ♥

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