What Might Have Been

I love anime character design sketches to bits. For one thing, if you enjoy drawing fanart (I do) they're very helpful for showing you the details of a character's features and clothing, so you can make your picture accurate - that, after all, is what they were intended for, but for the benefit of professional animators, not Sarah-neko the fangirl *^.^* You can find design sketches in several of the artbooks published to accompany Tenkuu no Escaflowne - but often, in amongst the sketches that determined how the cast actually looked in the series, you can find intriguing little variant and prototype versions, some of which are pretty nifty, and some of which make you thank the Muses that designer Nobuteru Yuuki changed his mind. Seeing them certainly sharpens your appreciation of how perfect the end results were - you don't know how wrong Van Fanel could go until you see him in a Disney-prince doublet and tights.

I've only seen two variant Drydens (thank you, Lizzard!), but I think they're well worth looking at. Some characters went through a good deal of evolution before settling on their final forms, particularly Hitomi and Van, who have, respectively, looked like Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi, and a hood ornament. It looks as though Nob' had a fairly clear idea all along of what he wanted Dryden to look like... with one very interesting exception.



Oh yes. Here we have the essential Dryden at his surprisingly cleanshaven best. Details are different, sure - his ponytail is at the nape of his neck, rather than high up, and it's less flamboyantly ornamented; his eyebrows don't have quite that young-Brian-Blessed quality and his features are overall a little more refined, giving him a less eccentric or dissolute demeanour, but basically it's my merchant prince looking yummy. I have a weakness for a shapely male neck, and this is an exceptionally fine specimen. Rrowr.

I think Millerna might have been more amenable to marrying this one. When looking at the full version of this sketch, you may wonder why there's a rough doodle of a Bedouin sort of person behind Dryden's head. Read on and wonder no more.



Sheik Yerbouti.

Get a load of Fassa of Arabia. *snort* I couldn't keep a straight face looking at this. Now, when you think about it, Dryden's garb as it appears in the series does have a somewhat Middle Eastern air about it, particularly the striped sash and the skirt-like lower garment, as opposed to the trousers favoured by the rest of the male cast (or the bare bum favoured by Zongi). In one image he appears smoking a hookah, too. When you think of Gaea, particularly Asturia, as being culturally about on a par with Earth's Europe, specifically Venice and the Hanseatic League, during the Renaissance, it has nice echoes; at that time, the Arab world's greater sophistication in such fields as mathematics, medicine and astronomy was becoming more widely known, and an evocation of that expansion of knowledge helps to place Dryden as a man who sees beyond the boundaries of his own society's culture and is conversant in the knowledge of many others. (E.g. hashish *^.^*)

However, obviously Nob' decided that this outfit was going too far, and I quite agree. Of the three figures in this sketch, the ones at right and left are very close to what we see in the series, although Dryden-on-the-left's ponytail is unusually short and perky, and he seems to have a bulky hood folded down around his shoulders that is absent from Dryden's normal robes. His curly-toed slippers are quite delightful in an Aladdinesque sort of way, and worlds away from the very sturdy and sensible Doc-Martens-like boots he ended up wearing. Mockers of Allen's puffy sleeves will surely be glad to see that Dryden's shirt always had straight sleeves. But the middle guy... ah, jeez, the headdress, who else is having flashbacks to the first story arc of Sailor Moon R? Tsukikage no Knight! Woo! What I especially loved about him was that the anime staff, working independently of the manga source material for most of the show, proved that it is possible to design a male superhero costume more doofily romantic than Tuxedo Kamen's. This kind of headdress (I've remembered now that it's called a burnous) just looks ridiculous on anyone who isn't actually out in the type of desert that necessitated its invention. So, all in all, I'm glad that the Arabian Nights vibe for Dryden was taken just so far and no further.

Sun-In works.

And here we have a watercoloured prototype sketch for the movie version of Dryden (see also At the Movies). Dayamn. He is sexy and he knows it. In the course of tinkering with the character design, Nob' has made two major changes that we don't see in the final cut, giving Dryden a high forehead that verges on a receding hairline (Aargh! Luke Perry Syndrome!) and... making him... blond. Isn't that disturbing? I know I'm disturbed. (Well, you've always known I was disturbed.) I'm glad he abandoned this notion and restored Dryden to his hirsute brunette loveliness. Nob' seems to have a thing about blond hair; his early drafts of Hitomi portrayed her as a blonde, and colour prototypes for the TV series show that he toyed with blondness (and surfer tans) for both Gaddes and Folken. Weirded out yet?

My, but movie-Dryden is buff in this picture. I wish he'd take that coat the rest of the way off. *ahem* *pulls self together* Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse of what might have been.