Disclaimer: The following article contains discussions of the events in the ending of The Vision of Escaflowne and contains spoilers. Please read and discuss this afterward, not before.
Jeremy: I believe that there are three important points to discuss regarding the end of Escaflowne: is the ending too obvious or perfect, too preconceived; is the idea of love conquering all a disappointing end to what is otherwise considered an original series; and, is this the end of Escaflowne?
I like the ending of Escaflowne. If some people believe that it is too pat, it's because there are really only two options that successfully end the series. The first is the manner in which it ends, with Hitomi returning to Earth. The second is where the credits would start to roll directly after the conclusion of the war, before the rebuilding scenes start. This second option allows for a "happy ending," as this would leave Hitomi in Van's arms at the close while seeing peace return to Gaea. This would also leave room for a sequel to Escaflowne. For this reason, the second option is not feasible. Escaflowne the fairy tale, the adventure, the discovery, must end. It must have a conclusion. So while the second option could have been produced, I believe the writers realized that there should not be an Escaflowne 2. The next adventure shall be for the next generation.
Though I agree that the concept of love conquering all is as old as time, it is a beautiful ending to this wonderful anime. Because Escaflowne is a fairy tale of morals and decisions, the idea that love can conquer hate is an admissible maxim. After all, in any place where knights can slay dragons in defense of princesses, the strength of love is greater than the power of hate.
Finally, this is the end of Escaflowne, and this is the end of Hitomi's adventure. In the touching last sequence between Van and Hitomi, Van tells her that though it would be all right with him for her to stay, he realizes that he can always see her in his mind's eye. I don't believe that this means that Hitomi will come and go to Gaea as she pleases. Though Escaflowne is a fable of wishes, more importantly, it is a tale of decision-making and self-confidence. Hitomi decides to return home. This decision is irrevocable. She can see Van in her memories whenever she wants, but she will never see him in the flesh again. This point is most strongly stated in the final line. "Van, I'm doing fine." This is a statement that one would say to a lost friend or a guardian angel. Both Van and Hitomi, while still sharing a special connection, have moved on with their lives and are succeeding in all that they do. Though this is a bittersweet ending, it's the truth.
Mike: Perhaps it's just pervading cynicism that makes me think that the ending to Escaflowne is too pat. As with any great fairy tale, in the end, love conquers all and everyone goes back to living their lives. The problem here is that I expected more of Escaflowne. After such a wildly inventive tale is told, I would have hoped for a more original ending. Basically, girl and boy admit they love each other, said love makes everyone get along (for the moment), then rebuilding starts. Frankly, it's just too predictable. After all of the adventure and grand self-discovery, after huge effort is devoted to discovering the underlying principles of fate and whether it can be changed, after a whole world erupts in war, I'd hoped that the ending would not be a reversion to the status quo. The characters are all basically the same but more mature. The world is the same. Practically nothing has changed. In a series where the direction of one's life is of paramount importance, I think that a major change in the way things are would have been more appropriate than just a giant rewind back to the very beginning. I like happy endings and I like the idea of love conquering all, and I really did like the ending. (Really, I did.) But I expected more than just a standard recycling, and I am thus disappointed. In any case, at least it's an ending. Though I like Jeremy's idea of stopping the series when Van destroys the Atlantis Machine and everything is just peachy-keen now that everyone is getting along, I'd rather have an ending that wraps a few things up than the slam-into-a-brick-wall ending where the story just stops and nothing is resolved.
As to the true end of Escaflowne and to whether anything else happens, I think that there are a few things left to occur. It's obvious that Hitomi and Van are in love and that Hitomi has a place on Gaea. Yes, even after she goes back to Earth, they can always see each other in the mind's eye. But I think that she has gone back to Earth knowing that she can return to Gaea and that she leaves in order to wrap up a few things on her home planet before coming back to Gaea to stay with Van forever. Escaflowne is a tale of heart-wrenching decision-making, but it's also a tale of the power of wishes and belief. Hitomi can go back to Gaea whenever she wants through the power of her and Van's wishes, and eventually she will. There's nothing left for her on Earth, but Gaea presents a realm of possibility and her true love. Throughout the series, she always made the effort to go out of her way to help people, and Van and the people of Gaea will need that help; the power of her wishes changed the course of the planet's destiny. As compassionate as she is, Hitomi will come back to make sure that those wishes continue to stay strong. Her heart and wishes will forever remain on Gaea, and eventually she will return there, too. At the end, she sees Van with the pendant and says: "Van, I'm fine." Though she doesn't say "I'll be back some day," one can hear it in the breeze because love does conquer all, and neither time nor space will keep them apart.