El Hazard: The Magnificent World, OVA
"Like a dream from a time faraway, A sweet memory lingers from the distant past, Like a kingdom that you reach, After many years of dreaming. El-Hazard is the eternal homeland, And the land of never-ending adventures. As long as there is a challenging spirit, And a readiness to fly into infinity, The gate to El-Hazard shall be opened for you, Across millions of nights!" (from the box)
El Hazard: The Magnificent World both does and doesn't live up to this lavish introduction. We are treated to a beautiful, dreamlike fantasy world, but the people in it are very much down to Earth. The plot and characters presented in this story are nothing out of the ordinary, but they fit together surprisingly well to offer a fluid and entertaining experience. Welcome to the world of El Hazard...
We begin in the basement at Shinonome High School, where an unusual ruin has been discovered. Claiming credit for its discovery is Katsuhiko Jinnai, the class president. Enter Jinnai's sister, Nanami Jinnai, who interrupts the action to question her brother about his alleged corrupt dealings in the student government election. The allegations come from Makoto Mizuhara, a friend of Jinnai who seems to always have more success with everything. Jinnai dubs Makoto as his rival, and wackiness ensues. As Jinnai chases down Makoto (presumably to cause some form of physical harm ;), the world seems to stop. Makoto, being the only one who wasn't frozen, (conveniently) wanders his way into the ruin, where he meets a mysterious woman. She tells him that she's going to send him to El Hazard with her remaining strength, and our adventure begins. After arriving on El Hazard, Makoto finds out that he is not alone. Furthermore, those who arrived from Earth seem to have extraordinary abilities. For example, Masamichi Fujisawa (a teacher at Shinonome HS) finds he has superhuman strength in El Hazard. Those from Earth spend their time trying to find a way to get back home.
|The character designs for El Hazard natives are unique and elegant.||These ladies are hot, wet, and airy. Or rather, the elements they command are.|
The story opens with a conflict between two major powers on El Hazard: the humans and the Bugrom, which are basically human-sized bugs. At the center of the human forces is the kingdom of Roshtaria, led by the beautiful Princess Rune Venus. Roshtaria holds the key to an ancient weapon of mass destruction, but it cannot be used presently because Rune's sister Fatora is needed in order to activate it, and her whereabouts are unknown. The Bugrom are after another such weapon, a demon named Ifurita. Also bearing an interest in this conflict is the little known Phantom Tribe, an unusual race of beings who are skilled at illusions. The story is El Hazard's biggest strength. It has just the right mix of drama and humor, while not venturing into the bizarre. In other words, it is well suited for all audiences. While most aspects of the story are rather unique, the humor and humorous situations are similar to the Tenchi Muyo! works, which are known for catfights and silliness. This could be considered a good thing for some, not for others.
The second series of The Magnificent World is about half as long, and focuses mainly on the relationship between Makoto and Ifurita. A new character is introduced who's power rivals that of Ifurita, and Jinnai is back to stir up more trouble. This second OVA plays much like the first, but there is a stronger emphasis on Makoto's will to return home. It doesn't hold up as a great series on its own, but it does serve as an excellent compliment to the first OVA.
The quality of animation and character design in this anime are superb. This reviewer hasn't seen a single anime by studio AIC that didn't have excellent animation. A common virtue of AIC works is fluidity of motion. This is especially apparent in fights or other such high-speed situations, obviously. A possible downfall of this is getting distracted by Ifurita's hair, and thus having to watch the scene again. The character designs of Fujisawa-sensei and the various Shinonome HS students were made to look rather common, while the designs of the El Hazard natives are unique and memorable.
The DVD provides an English stereo track, and Japanese tracks using both stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1. The Japanese audio track had the best quality, being the only surround track available. The Japanese voices are fitting in most parts, and spectacular in some. The subtitling was for the most part acceptable, though the occasional grammatical error was apparent. The English voice acting was decent, but the script left some to be desired. It is somewhat of a disappointment, because Pioneer has been known for some time to have good dubs. Though the voices fit the characters pretty well in the dub, the characters suddenly seemed like they didn't belong in this story.
El Hazard's music doesn't especially stand out, but it doesn't get in the way either. In the context of the show it fits well, and is no doubt a necessity in experiencing The Magnificent World. The packaging for this boxed set is second to none. The cover is a visual treat, as well as the inside surfaces of the box and the included insert. The menus are pretty and well animated, but language selection is a bit difficult to navigate.
Overall, this isn't one of the most stellar anime out there, but nevertheless is a worthy addition to anyone's collection. Coupled with memorable characters and great animation, El Hazard: The Magnificent World is well worth the time and money.
Distributor: Pioneer Animation Creator: AIC Released: 1995-1998
Plot: A- Character Design: A Animation Quality: A+ Music: B- Overall: B+