August 20, 2000

I saw the Fox Kids version of Escaflowne yesterday, and I must say that I have mixed feelings on the experience. Seeing anime being promoted as anime is a recent phenomenon for American television. If children watch Escaflowne and enjoy it, they may seek out other anime to see what it's like. Some will ignore it, some will become casual fans, and a few will join the fandom (allowing older fans to bore them with tales of how things were when the only anime available in English were dubs from Streamline). A higher profile for the series increases the chances of merchandise and other series to come. But, as a fan, I must also consider the effect on the show itself.

Gundam Wing notwithstanding, anime generally does not make it to American TV without modification. Fox must adhere to broadcast standards, but it also wants to appeal to kids, complicating matters. Apparently, the networks are concerned that children won't watch their shows unless there is constantly something flashy to look at. Things have to be exciting and cool and action-packed at every possible moment.

At Otakon this year, someone (I think it was Gilles Poitras) commented that he enjoyed anime because it was frequently understated. Things are allowed to be quietly presented without needing a big neon sign to clue in the reader. Escaflowne was one of his examples. You can see the conflict here, right?

Some changes:

It doesn't end there, either. In the preview of upcoming episodes, they showed the usual Zaibach briefing, but with the video screen superimposing an image of Escaflowne over the image of the Emperor. It's possible that was just for the preview, but I have my doubts.

There is a bright side. Escaflowne, as far as I know, is unique in that a commercial subtitled version was available before its transition to American TV. I can't see Bandai suddenly deciding to stop selling it simply because another version exists. There is a question about how the DVDs will be produced, though. The changes to the video make it harder to simply combine the subtitled and dubbed versions on one disc. My impression is that Bandai will be selling the uncut version, which should make for some interesting times at the video store. ^_^