A Spider's Web in Gaea

This is kind of an experiment...instead of the usual character biography, I'm gonna describe some key relationships between characters in Escaflowne. Right now I've only done the relationships among the major characters, but I'll get around to the interesting minor characters at some point. As always, I try to minimize spoilers, but obviously this will probably make more sense if you've seen at least the first few episodes. If any of the following seems a bit odd, keep in mind that there's a small amount of personal speculation included as well. {grin}


    Zaibachi:

  • Folken & Dornkirk
  • Naria & Eriya (the catsisters)
  • Folken & Naria & Eriya (ooh, a threesome)
  • Hitomi & Eriya (the blue one)

    Earthlings:

  • Hitomi & Her Grandmother
  • Hitomi & Yukari (her girl friend)
  • Hitomi & Amano (her would-be boyfriend)

Van & Hitomi: Are they friends or potential lovers? Will they get married? It doesn't really matter. When they're together, either machines get blown up or Van gets smacked around, but they're never quite as funny and engaging as Ranma and Akane (Ranma 1/2). Van hides his awkwardness towards Hitomi with a brash facade which either makes him annoying or endearing to her, depending on the background music. Hitomi's ability to sense enemy attacks and trigger cool transporter effects keeps the action lively, while her total lack of understanding when it comes to men provides ample fodder for the romance plot. There's a lot of deep spiritual bonding going on as well, but that's a little more difficult to explain.


Allen & Hitomi: Can you say "love triangle"? Just your average schoolgirl romance plot here...tall blondes get all the good dates. Hitomi worries about being this well-known playboy's latest conquest, but that doesn't stop her from enjoying his affectations and endearments. A wild bird needs to fly freely, but Allen prefers his birds to sing privately in a cage just for him. Will Hitomi protest against such unenlightened treatment, or will she revel in the courtly attentions of this Knight of Heaven?


Van & Allen: No shonen-ai (aka. homosexual) themes here, just a bit of friendly rivalry, right? Both of these dashing young fighters were trained by the renowned swordslinger Vargus (or Valgus) and their eagerness to claim the title of top student shows constantly in their dealings with each other. Hitomi's presence complicates the situation, but in an odd way: the men compete to see who is better at keeping Hitomi safe from harm. This results in some harmless dirty looks as first one nobleman and then the other rescues the distressed damsel but it eventually escalates into a more passionate conflict when they find another beautiful young source of contention.


Van & Folken: The royal brothers of Fanelia are very similar in their take-charge approach to life, in their desire to see peace on Gaea and in their fierce compassion for the people who are dear to them. Unfortunately, the last 10 years have wrought changes which make it impossible for them to understand one another. Perhaps Folken's methods are too subtle for Van to comprehend or perhaps Van's recounting of the horrors of war do not reach Folken in his sheltered new life. Whatever the reasons for their separation, had they been fighting together, I think that the House de Fanel would have been quite formidable. Van has spent the better part of his life pre-series trying to overcome his brother's bad reputation, but I think that post-series, he will focus more on using Folken's hard-won wisdom.


Hitomi & Folken: Egad, it's a love-tetrahedron! No, Hitomi is more of a complex symbol to Folken than any lover might be. On the one hand, she represents the grand potential that Van has but fails to grasp. Both Van and Folken are aware, at some level, that a working partnership involving Hitomi could bring power and ultimate victory in war. But Van's reluctance and immaturity prevent him from doing his part to make that vision a reality. Folken both regrets that failure in his brother and counts on that weakness in his opponent. On the other hand, Hitomi and her position as a living link between Gaea and Earth represent a key part of the "Holy Grail" that Folken seeks as a scientist. The best way to achieve his goals would be to study her and eventually use her, but he'll have to watch out for her winning personality. Somehow, despite the unusual circumstances, Folken never receives the harsh treatment from Hitomi that Van bears on occasion.


Van & Dilandau: Ah, the warrior's battle can be so invigorating to spectators outside of the ring of blood and flame. The battle of wits and insults between these strong and capable fighters is accentuated by their use of the top machinery that either side can produce. They may arguably be called the best singular fighters in the war, but their "private" duel has demolished the major cities of three countries (Fanelia, Asturia and Freid) as well as countless stretches of forested terrain. The aerial chase scenes and resulting ground battles are enlivened by dramatic music and deranged taunting on the part of my favorite psycho-pyromaniac and his inept but loyal squad of bishonen-in-training. Van was shocked at first by the depth of Dilly's hatred towards him, but he quickly learned to reciprocate in kind. It remains to be seen whether Van can put aside the intense emotions of war and embrace this tortured soul, but I'm looking forward to at least one more good fight to release all of those pent-up feelings of rage.


Allen & Dilandau: Since the exact ranking of Van and Allen as fighters is in dispute, this pairing could also be regarded as a matchup of the top pilots in the warring armies. Dilandau was responsible for the razing of Allen's home as well, and Allen has arrived to rescue someone from Dilandau on several occasions. Their ongoing duel involves international politics and their reputations as soldiers, although certain tongue-waggers might say that it is an argument over who's the more girlish-looking. On a more somber note, when Allen discovers a connection between Dilandau and his beloved lost sister, Serena, he achieves new levels of conflicting emotions which raise a lot of questions about justice, forgiveness and responsibility.


Folken & Dilandau: Somehow I constantly think of "Dirty Harry" and his lieutenant-boss when I think of these two. Dilandau has no respect for any authority beyond his own, and Folken seems to prefer using Dilandau's military tactics only as a last resort. On the face of it, you might sympathize with Dilly. He's an outspoken, talented young pilot who already has a small command of special troops and who gets to fly the best Zaibachi melef, which includes the state-of-the-art stealth device that Folken developed. Moreover, Folken needs the threat of violent retribution to lend weight to his diplomatic position - people are never really afraid of scientists, after all. Each man is a decent symbol of the Faustian bargain for the other. Folken has yielded his compassion and humanity to Zaibach in exchange for the opportunity to pursue his philosophical and scientific mission, the fruits of which are used by Dilly to destroy Folken's homeland, and persecute his remaining family. Dilandau has had a hard upbringing under the watchful and inquisitive eyes of Zaibach's scientific and military organizations, but in return they have given him awesome and devastating power to wield against his opponents.


Allen & Millerna: What could be more normal in a fantasy story than a romance between a knight and a princess? This romance has a lot of practical considerations that mar the fairy-tale finish. Allen had a torrid love affair with Millerna's deceased eldest sister, Marlene, several years ago. The good money bets that he is subconsciously rekindling that romance by using the youngest Asturian princess. He may just be trying to keep the long blonde hair in the family, though. For her part, she's almost too young to remember the previous affair. Besides, she's a grown woman of sixteen years and certainly capable of keeping company with any man she chooses, right? King Aston, father of all three princesses, and middle-sister Eries did not approve of the debonair Heavenly Knight when he was stationed at the palace 8-9 years ago, and try to shield Millerna from his courtly charms now. Millerna does manage to shed some of her naivete as the series progresses, but in the first half, she frequently uses Allen as an excuse to bring some adventure and purpose into her life while snubbing her family.


Hitomi & Millerna: These two give up competing actively for Allen's attentions pretty early on, right after they realize that he's perfectly willing to seduce them both at the same time! These two young women form rather a strong sisterly-bond, due to their shared exile status and their lack of any other close female ties. Hitomi is separated from her mother and has no sister, while Millerna's mother is presumed to have died many years ago and her living sister is somewhat cool and distant. The trying circumstances and difficult choices that are imposed on the girls only serve to bring them closer. Unfortunately, time was wasted on showing their pointless discussions about Allen, leaving only the barest hints of a deeper emotional relationship. Later events showed that they became quite respectful of and dependent on each other for support, but not too much development of this angle was included in the release version. I haven't seen any stories that try to explore this, or the even more vague bonds between these women and their respective female blood relatives.


Millerna & Dryden: Like any good princess, Millerna has been neatly bartered off in some unspecified arrangement that results in a betrothal between the son of King Aston's Chief Advisor and herself. Normally in such stories, the fiancee turns out to be some terrible fellow with warts, bad breath and no sense of romance. Millerna's husband-to-be is handsome, intelligent, arrogant, sensitive and is the inheritor to probably the greatest fortune in Asturia (less than or greater than the King's? we don't know). He becomes involved in the adventure midway, but his excellent manners, connections and resources make him a welcome addition to the team, and a worthy rival to Allen in Millerna's heart. Unfortunately he proves woefully inadequate to the extraordinary situations that come up once they're all back in Asturia and he loses some faith in himself. They make a good peacetime couple, but of course, the series is set in wartime, when dashing warriors outshine cunning merchants in the eyes of impressionable young girls.


Allen & Dryden: From the moment of introduction, it was quite obvious that these two charismatic men would not get along. Aside from the romantic competition centered on Millerna, there was also a certain amount of professional rivalry in the matter of team leadership. Van was an able fighter, but he sorely lacked Allen's knowledge of military strategy and politics. In turn, Dryden's understanding of history and human nature proved quite useful in deciphering the secrets of Atlantis and in forging necessary alliances. Pride and arrogance prevented both men from easily yielding the mantle of leadership to someone more qualified. Moreover, once it came out that Dryden was a fervent admirer of Allen's estranged father, there could be no partnership between them. The situation became quite fuzzy in the later episodes, so no real resolution was achieved. I would like to see Dryden's triumphant return, if only to have the pleasure of watching a battle of witticisms and insults at court.


Hitomi & Merle: Another slow-to-form sisterly relationship, but this one is a bit different than the one between Hitomi and Millerna. Hitomi's developing partnership with Van did cause Merle some pain, partly because Merle felt useless and excluded and partly because she could see the strange changes in Van that Hitomi's actions were causing. Oddly enough, Merle realized that Hitomi and Van shared a special bond before they knew it themselves, and she was the one who finally encouraged Van to seek out his lady love. To some degree, she acted as Hitomi's protector and confidant. Merle was always the first to raise the alarm whenever Hitomi went missing, which occasionally corresponded with Van's disappearances. Hitomi's feelings towards Merle are a good deal less complex since there are clear "big sister-little sister" overtones to their shared conversations. I suspect that Hitomi developed some respect for Merle's role as Van's only childhood friend, while Merle eventually learned to trust and accept Hitomi as the only person capable of making Van happy in a way that she could not. It's very interesting to read stories that feature a grown-up Merle and/or Hitomi, but I'd like to see more interplay between them.


Van & Merle: Mother, sister, lover - these are the three close relationships that men share with women, and in some strange way, Merle tries to be all three for Van. After his mother abandons him, Merle is very protective of and proprietary towards Van, keeping track of his movements and soothing his hurts, both emotional and physical. Throughout their mutual childhood, she acts as his playmate and constant companion, even when it proves embarrassing to the young king. In a bittersweet yet comedic treatment, Merle frequently expresses her pre-adolescent desire to someday marry Van and continue her childish romance into the distant future. Naturally, Van simply accepts all of this emotional input and occasionally reciprocates in kind. He does feel fiercely protective of Merle, but his concern for her welfare is overshadowed by his perceived failure to adequately protect his subjects from the dangers of the world. In some ways, Merle is a constant reminder to Van of his failed responsibility to the Fanelian people and of his immaturity and lack of personal experience. To his credit, he does not put her aside in his quest for strength and revenge, but it takes quite a while for her precocious wisdom to reach his stubborn ears.


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