Makoto Mizuhara is working on his latest experiment in the school science lab, but when he takes a break his lifelong rival Katsuhiko Jinnai shows up and attempts to destroy the device and discredit Makoto. This overloads the experiment and transports Makoto, Jinnai, his sister Nanami, and their teacher Mr. Fujisawa to the strange and magnificent world El Hazard. Makoto and Fujisawa land squarely in the Kingdom of Roshtaria, and quickly befriend the princess Rune Venus. Jinnai allies himself with the Bugrom, a race of giant insects bent on taking over El Hazard, while his sister tries to eke out her own living in the desert. Makoto searches desperately for a way to return home, all the while fighting off the Bugrom, enlisting the help of the Holy Priestesses, and stopping the demon god Ifurita from destroying everything.
I put this at dropped for after watching it whole some time ago I really disliked the series, not wishing to add to my collection. a very poor alternate version to a real masterpiece. Characters are changed and highly simplified, new pairings are made for no really valid reasons and nothing interesting is added, erasing what was already well done and making this childish and uninteresting.
All the drama and love is taken out, leaving a really poor and simplistic story. And the final episode is a very poor substitute to the beautiful end the original El Hazard has.
Funny is I saw this one first, and
that made me look for the other iterations of this series, for the images I saw were not matching this anime.
I added a real masterpiece with El Hazard: The Magnificent World...
With 2010 coming to a close, I decided I'd end this year in reviews by talking about one of my favorite anime television series of all time that's just as equally frustrating. If one anime franchise has been the very definiton of a mixed bag for me, it's been the El Hazard series, spin-offs, and sequels. Brought to us by the same production studio that brought us the Tenchi franchise, another show I've been indifferent about for almost 20 years, might have something to do with it.
To start, I'm a huge mark for both the TV show and the Magnificent World OAV (El Hazard
2 was mediocre at best and I really hated Alternative World a lot) and I have no problems accepting their differences. Most of the changes made for The Wanderers I would assume is because a lot of material from the Magnificent World wouldn't fly on television (the profanity, nudity, lesbian titillation), so I was very confused when I began watching the OAV after finishing the TV show first some 14 years ago, buying the VHS tapes from Funcoland (later called Gamestop, there's one on every corner now).
For the most part, I thought the changes were very clever and ultimately put to good use for Wanderers. I really enjoyed Ifurita as a bumbling air head as opposed to the nearly emotionless robot from the OAV. Her cold demeanor in Magnicent World made it way too predictable as to what would happen with her and Makoto near the climax. I called it way back then and I still think dark Ifurita is the glaring weakness from the OAV and put a damper on the experience for me. There are other very major changes made that affects the path of the plot to the point of a script overhaul, but seriously, if you accept the differences, you can enjoy both in their regard.
Even with comparisons aside, The Wanderers is one of the best (if not the best) fantasy anime TV series I've seen. I used to be a fan alternate demonsion-based stories until Fushigi Yugi ruined everything, and El Hazard's universe is vast with vibrant colors, other-worldly monsters, unique settings, and a fun cast of characters.
Man, do I love the character's. It follows the Tenchi protocol of harem syndrome (one doofy guy and some hot girls), but this formula worked well in the 90's, as every joke doesn't have to be perverted to a ridiculous degree. The three priestesses are all still the same, the rivalry between Shayla Shayla and Afura Mann is a little more fleshed out, Miz I think is a little wackier in this version, but it's still played for laughs. Alliele, Fatora's lesbian lover, is toned down consideralby and reduced to being a guide for Makoto and co. and has adopted a more "big sister relationship with Nanami". Makoto himself is still one of the most original male characters in a harem-ish themed show, as he actually DOES stuff and is very scientifically inclined. His brains adds a great deal of personality to him and keeps him from being "every guy" that populates harem titles. And I strongly accept a relationship with teenage shy girl Rune Venus rather than Plank-O-Wood Ifurita.
One character that stays virually the same, regardless of the version your watching, is Katsuhiko Jinnai, and thank the heavens for that. Jinnai is my all time favorite anime villain and he is a blast to watch. Petty, vindictive, psychotic, manipulative, greedy, selfish, and meglomanical, Jinnai is everything a successful franchise needs in a good villain. It's like if you took Team Rocket, combined them with Light Yagami, added a dash of Dr. Wily, and garnished it with the Ginyu Force. And that bloody laugh, man I love it! It seems like the only thing he's missing is a Snidley Whiplash handle bar moustache to twirl! I can gaurantee that anyone will get a kick out of this guy, even when babysitting the brainless Ifurita! He's the glue that holds this series and it's incarnations together.
IN CLOSING: Not many OAV to TV show transitions go really well in anime, but I think this is one of the better offerings. It seemed to be handled with a certain amount of care and detail and all the changes were overall pretty good to build a substantial television program. Even if the plot has a mild overhaul to it, I still really enjoy this version of El Hazard a lot, and while it's not quite better than the OAV, it does a few things that I really like more, and in part, keeps both of them fresh and entertaining in their own right without running too similar to one another.
OVERALL SCORE: 8 out of 10
PROS: Great story, a fun, diverse cast of characters, pretty darn funny
CONS: Some changes might anger fans of the OAV, this really shouldn't have been a franchise
P.S. If you're watching the English dub, keep an ear open for Jinnai's rap Operation: Permanent Vacation