"An agitated heart calls dragons. Hate and fear create conflict." - Van Fanel
He is the son of Goau Fanel and Varie Fanel, and the younger brother of Folken Fanel. Van is the King of Fanelia and the pilot of the legendary Ispano Guymelef Escaflowne. He is also a member of the Draconian race, a mystical winged people that exist only on Gaea.
Van has brown eyes and short black hair that often covers his left eye. He wears a loose red sleeveless shirt with white fabric laces, tan pants, black boots, and a brown sword belt with the royal sword of Fanelia in a blue sheath. His hands are covered by brown gloves.
In the first episode, Van wears ceremonial dragonslaying armor: a dark gray overshirt with attached gloves and a wide turtleneck; navy shoulderpads and armor on his hands, arms, and legs; and a gold, white, and navy breastplate with ornamental red ribbons. He uses a fold-out circular shield to deflect the dragon's fire, and also carries a mechanical bow and arrow on his back.
In the second episode, he wears a coronation outfit: oversized white armor with a pointed helmet accented with gold, with a red and gold emblem in the center. The armor is worn over a black shirt, and a navy cape covers is shoulders.
Because he is half-Draconian, Van has white wings that Hitomi compares to the wings of an angel.
Van often acts brash, arrogant, irritable, and rude. He makes impulsive decisions and takes risks, and is quick to distrust others. However, this anger is only superficial; Van is a selfless person with a good heart, and he wants to do the right thing and protect those he cares about.
Van is emotionally guarded, and his outward personality acts as a barrier between his inward self and the outside world. He has trouble opening up to others, and tends to retreat behind his outward barrier rather than sharing his true emotions. He also doesn't like to fight and hates causing harm to others, yet he has a violent streak. He struggles to reconcile his attitudes on fighting with his duty as Fanelia's king and what Hitomi believes is best for him.
In the anime
15 years ago, Van Fanel was born on April 12. His father Goau died of an unknown illness when Van was only three. As a young child, Van was close to his brother Folken and mother Varie. Van was also friends with Merle from an early age, who dared him to fly from the rooftop. Folken played with him and read to him about the history of Fanelia, and Varie taught him that he was not supposed to show his wings carelessly in front of others.
Ten years ago, Folken disappeared during the Rite of Succession to become the King of Fanelia. Varie disappeared, apparently having died searching for Folken. After his parents' death, Van was likely raised by Balgus Ganesha, the master swordsman of Gaea who served the Fanelian royal family, who was also a master to the young Van in the art of swordsmanship.
Beyond the death of his parents and disappearance of his brother, not much is known about Van's childhood.
Rite of Succession and Meeting Hitomi
Soon after his fifteenth birthday, Van is called upon to slay a dragon as part of the Rite of Succession to ascend the throne and become Fanelia's king. He is eager to prove that he doesn't have the cowardice he believes his brother to have had, and informs Balgus that he will not back away from the rite. However, while fighting the land dragon, he is suddenly transported to Earth in a pillar of light, where Hitomi, running around the track at her high school to try and beat 13 seconds, crashes into him and falls backward.
Frustrated by his sudden transportation to Earth, Van reacts violently to Hitomi, Yukari, and Amano, asking them if they are devils, to which Hitomi responds that they are not demons, and Yukari is shocked to hear that Hitomi can understand what sounds like nonsense to her and Amano. Van recognizes that if he got transported to Gaea, the dragon could come too, and waits as the dragon arrives. He engages in battle with the dragon, then pursues it as it tries to chase down Hitomi, Yukari, and Amano.
At the shrine, Hitomi has a vision and warns Van that he's going to get impaled by the dragon's tail if he doesn't move out of the way. He avoids the dragon's tail, kills the dragon, and extracts the Drag-Energist from its heart. Van watches as the dragon fades. Hitomi approaches him, and he tells her he didn't need her help. Irritated by his immaturity, Hitomi slaps him, tells him she was concerned about him getting killed, and bursts into tears. Suddenly, Van's Energist reacts with Hitomi's pendant, and a pillar of light appears, transporting both of them to Gaea.
Outside Fanelia, the two are taken in by Ruhm, who transports them back to Fanelia on the back of a yak. Van explains that Hitomi came from the Mystic Moon, Gaea's term for Earth. When they arrive in Fanelia the next day, Van hops off the back of the animal and is greeted by Merle. Balgus and the three samurai generals approach him, and he shows that he has successfully completed the Rite of Succession by bringing back the heart of a dragon. Inside the castle, Hitomi witnesses Van training with Balgus. Balgus informs her that Van told him that she saved his life, and that they will do all they can to return her home.
During Van's coronation, at which he is given the royal sword of Fanelia as proof of his accession, Zaibach Guymelefs, hiding within their stealth cloaks, attack Fanelia. Balgus tells Van to escape to the shrine with Hitomi and awake Escaflowne if necessary. Van enters the shrine, cuts his finger on his sword, and lets his blood drip onto the Drag-Energist, binding himself by blood pact to Escaflowne and awaking it. He places the Energist inside Escaflowne's gem, awaking it, and jumps inside its cockpit. The Guymelefs arrive inside the shrine, and Hitomi tells Van where the invisible Guymelefs are, and he attacks them. Balgus arrives and tells Van to take Hitomi and run, and Van refuses to run, continuing to fight the Guymelefs instead. When Van leaves the shrine, Fanelia is in flames, and Balgus is impaled by a Crima Claw soon afterward, which kills him. Zaibach Guymelefs surround them, but Hitomi's agony at witnessing Balgus' death causes her pendant to transport them in a pillar of light away from the destruction before they can attack.
Hitomi and Van are transported to the forest near Fort Castelo and are separated. The Mole Man attempts to rob Hitomi of her pendant, and Van, hearing Hitomi's screams, runs toward the sound of her voice. When he gets there, he sees Allen Schezar, and, thinking he's the cause of her distress, challenges him to a duel. Allen defeats Van easily and takes the two of them back to Fort Castelo.
After Van and Hitomi awake, Van informs Allen that Hitomi is from the Mystic Moon and demands that Allen give him back Escaflowne. Allen tells him that Fanelia burned to the ground, at which Van is horrified. Allen vows to help Van if he tells Allen what happened, but before that can happen, Zaibach Guymelefs and a floating fortress arrive at Castelo. Allen tells Van and Hitomi not to go anywhere while he attends to the visiting party.
Van pleads with Gaddes to go downstairs so he can see the faces of the people who destroyed his country. He hears Dilandau call Fanelia a backwater country; irritated, he sticks up for Fanelia. Instead of responding to Van, Dilandau's attention is drawn by Hitomi whose short hair and clothes contrast those of Gaean women. Allen resolves the situation by telling Dilandau Hitomi is his new lover and kissing her on the cheek, which irritates Van and Dilandau.
Van and Hitomi return to their room in Castelo where Hitomi gives Van a reading to attempt to take his mind off of things, though he expresses doubt about cards being able to tell one's fortune. While looking at the Death card, she has a vision of Dilandau's upcoming assault on Castelo, and Van shakes her out of it. Just then, the Mole Man digs up into the floor, causing Hitomi to remark on him being the "pervert" from earlier, which confuses Van until he finds out that the Mole Man attempted to steal her pendant. He digs them a tunnel to the Guymelef storehouse. Van gets in Escaflowne with the intention of returning to Fanelia, but is stopped by Allen in his Guymelef Scherazade, who challenges Van to a fight. They engage in a brief fight, in which Van finds out that Balgus was Allen's master. Allen wins, but Van was able to inflict a significant wound on Scherazade's shoulder.
After the conclusion of their fight, Hitomi sees a vision of Castelo burning and tells Allen that they have to run away. A soldier arrives with Merle, who has been taken prisoner, and Van leaps down from Escaflowne to talk to her. He asks her what happened to Fanelia, and she tells him that it burned and she kept looking for him. He is glad she was able to return safely. Allen tells him to take Merle inside, where he takes care of Hitomi's fever while Van tends to Merle. Van notices a seed embedded in Merle's cheek, which is the source of both her fever. He walks over to Hitomi to look for a similar seed, but when he sees Allen holding Hitomi's hand, he walks away and goes down to the dungeon to look for the Mole Man. He asks the Mole Man to give him the leaves he needs to make the medicine, and makes medicine for Merle and for Hitomi, which he then gives to both of them.
Zaibach attacks and burns Castelo. Allen goes out to look for any of his wayward soldiers, and Van runs up to him, asking him where Escaflowne is. Allen tells him it's been loaded onto the Crusade, and informs Van that they'll be escaping. Seeing this action as cowardice, Van admonishes Allen for running away from his fortress after how many men were killed in the attack. Allen retorts that there's no bravery in choosing to die, and lectures Van on the importance of fighting for Fanelia's future. Van gives in, lowering his sword, and walks into Scherazade's hand. Allen promises Van he will never hand him or Escaflowne over to Zaibach. Allen takes Van to the waterfall, and jumps, landing on the Crusade.
Because they can fly, the Zaibach Guymelefs piloted by Dilandau and his Dragonslayers pursue the Crusade and attack Scherazade. Van realizes that everyone is in danger because the Guymelefs are after Escaflowne, so he jumps into the hangar of the Crusade, gets in Escaflowne, transforms it into its dragon form, and flies away to divert attention from the Crusade and toward him instead.
Reunion with Folken and first Asturia arc
While attempting to escape Dilandau and the Dragonslayers, Van loses control of Escaflowne and has to land it in a field. Unable to see the Guymelefs while they are using stealth cloaking, Van is trapped in place by their Crima Claws and beaten by Dilandau until he falls unconscious. Aboard the Vione, Folken cuts his finger on his sword and uses his blood to open Escaflowne. Van falls onto the ground and Dilandau expresses surprise that Van is the pilot of Escaflowne.
Van wakes up in a bed to the sound of Folken's whistling. He does not recognize his brother and asks how he knows one of Fanelia's songs. He dashes for his sword and asks to be taken to Escaflowne. Folken refuses, and Van, who doesn't want to become part of Zaibach, holds his sword to his throat before Folken knocks it out of his hand, telling him not to throw his life away. Folken then takes off his uniform and spreads his wings, and Van recognizes him as his brother. Van tells Folken that he always believed he had died fighting the dragon, and is disappointed and hurt to see that he defected to Zaibach. He demands answers, but Folken refuses to tell him, instead asking him to join him in Zaibach and pricking Van's neck with his metal claw, which causes Van to pass out.
Allen rescues Van from his imprisonment and they run further into the Vione. Allen tells Van where to go to find Escaflowne and Van runs toward it. On a bridge above, he sees Folken, who throws him his sword and walks away. Hitomi, having just arrived, warns Van of Dilandau's impending attack, and Van turns around just in time to block Dilandau, but ends up cutting Dilandau's cheek, inflicting a wound for which Dilandau will continually resent him. Van and the others escape the Vione and Van is reunited with Merle. Van thanks Allen and his crew for saving him, and Allen says that Hitomi is the one to thank. Van scoffs at this, which annoys Hitomi.
On the way to Palas, Merle sees Van sitting with Escaflowne and looking at the emblem of Fanelia on his sword.
Van is named the rightful successor to his country's throne by an oracle. His older brother Dune, resenting the oracle's proclamation, kills their family, establishes the Black Dragon Clan and takes the name "Folken." Van and Merle are forced to leave their country before they meet the Abaharaki on the battlefield and join them.
Similarly to in the series, Van has "dragon blood" which enables him to fly, use psychic powers, and pilot the Dragon Armor Escaflowne by sharing his blood with it.
Since his childhood, Van has been lonely and has fought alone. He shuts out the other members of the Abaharaki and makes little attempt to get along with them. Despite that, he has a soft side that he hides from others.
At the movie's opening, Van invades a Black Dragon Clan ship carrying the legendary Dragon Armor Escaflowne, killing all of the soldiers aboard and arriving at the back of the ship where Escaflowne is stored. Escaflowne awakens, but before Van has the chance to interact with it the Abaharaki caravan shoots down the ship, causing Van, Escaflowne, and Hitomi, inside Escaflowne, to fall from the sky.
Hitomi comes out from inside Escaflowne. Van asks her if she is the Wing Goddess and vows to cut down her enemies. However, Escaflowne disappears, angering Van who believes she was the one who sent it away. He moves to attack her, but Allen interrupts, having a short duel with Van before Gaddes pierces his knee with a knife, forcing Van to the ground.
The Abaharaki take Hitomi to the caravan. Allen and Van talk, and Allen asks Van if he believes she's the Wing Goddess, and he denies thinking she is. The Black Dragon Clan launch an attack on the Abaharaki caravan, intending to feign an attack and kidnap Hitomi. A beastperson and friend of Van's, Nukushi captures Hitomi and explains to him that they need Hitomi, otherwise Folken and the Clan will continue to destroy the beast villages. Van tells him to leave because he doesn't want to fight him, but Nukushi is killed when Dilandau, intending to hit Van, instead hits Nukushi by accident. Dilandau and Van fight each other using their psychic powers, which causes the ground to break open. Van saves Hitomi by sprouting his wings, but his injuries cause him to fall unconscious. Hitomi vows to stay with Van and protect him.
Hitomi takes Van to the nearby beast village of Adom, where his wounds are healed. While there, Van tells Hitomi about why Dune destroyed their country and became the leader of the Black Dragon Clan. He tells Hitomi that as the sole survivor of his clan, the only reason he has left to live is to kill his brother.
Van and Hitomi return to Torushina where they meet with Dryden, Allen, and the Abaharaki. Dryden explains that the Wing Goddess can either bring about the destruction of the world or save the world. While whittling that evening, Van tells Merle that he wants to return to Adom when the fighting is over.
When Hitomi is called by an illusion posing as Folken, Van runs out to save her, just before Dilandau attacks Torushina. Escaflowne descends and Van, despite Hitomi's protests, pilots Escaflowne to fight against Dilandau.
Van gets caught up in the battle, intending to kill Dilandau, when Escaflowne responds to his feelings of rage and is consumed by darkness, turning it black. Hitomi walks over to Van and goes into his mind, convincing him to come back and telling him he's not alone. He wakes back up, Escaflowne transforms into a dragon, and they fly up to Folken's lair.
Van and Hitomi confront Folken. Van explains to Folken that he no longer wants to fight him, but Folken still makes to kill Van with his psychic powers. Hitomi takes a hit for Van, but before Folken can kill them, Jajuka impales Folken, resulting in his demise as Hitomi and Van escape Folken's lair before it falls apart.
Van and Hitomi return to Adom with Merle, where Hitomi disappears as she is called home to Gaea.
- According to the way he holds his sword, Van is right-handed.
- During the anime's development, Van was initially named "Dai Ginga," which translates to "Great Galaxy," likely to parallel Hitomi's planned last name, "Hoshino," which means "of the stars."
- In an early design, Van's right eye was brown and his left eye was green to indicate his mixed heritage. The left eye that indicated that he was half-Draconian was covered by his hair so that his status would not be obvious.