When Makoto Mizuhara discovers an old monument in his school and awakens a beautiful woman, he, his teacher, his worst enemy and one of his female friends is transported to the magnificent world of El Hazard. There they discovers that they have received some special powers. Makoto and his teacher Fujisawa lands in a jungle and saves a princess from some large bugs. Makoto's friend Nanami lands in a desert. And Makoto's rival, Jinnai lands in the middle of the bug's kingdom and becomes their general, plotting to destroy Makoto and his new friends. After several having his attacks repelled by Makoto several times, Jinnai learns about an ultimate weapon, the demon Ifurita. And so everyone sets of to find Ifurita, and when she's found Makoto learns that she is the same woman that sent them to El Hazard. But the one gaining control of her is Jinnai.
The Magnificent World of El-Hazard, truly a classic for the ages! And I mean that, too. In comparison to more 'modern' shows, it's my opinion that El-Hazard still measures up to this day, and whether you've loved anime since the days of Astroboy (though I'm not sure how much other anime there was in the 60's, heh), or you've just recently started into the hobby, I'd still strongly recommend the first series of El-Hazard. Be ready for some high-fantasy with a few Final-Fantasy-esque technological advancements. If you're the mecha only type or just aren't a big fan of such things, I'd
still recommend you give this one a shot, as it tends to suprise with a little something for everybody--great laughs, sweet romance, courtly intrigue, lots of action, and a tearful ending.
El-Hazard has all the hallmarks of an excellent series. The story is deep and engrossing, and told well despite the short length. You won't feel as though you've been gypped out of closure due to the lack of episodes. At the same time, nothing is really 'glossed-over'--though the plot is involved, most everything is well explained.
The characters are memorable and dynamic. While it's true that most of them have their stereotypes, the series manages to take a little time, sometimes if only a scene or two, to paint most of them in another light--just to let you know there's more to them. There are two disctinct camps of villains as well, each with their own agenda. If you like dashing, cunning baddies with a web of secrecy, El-Hazard has that. if you prefer your enemies maniacal, biosterous, sometimes silly, and slightly insane, El-Hazard has you covered. The same goes for the protagonists. El-Hazard has your 'knight in shining armor' types; your well-meaning perverts; your innocent, 'didn't ask to be here' types; and even your 'You're such a $&(*$@, why do you have to be a good guy?' types.
The artwork won't disappoint. It's probably not the best you've ever seen, but it's certainly not the worst. What's most important is that it's an enduring enough style that it's hard to see it as 'dated'. The sound is exceptional too. The background music really helps to get you into the 'feel' of the world you're experiencing, and the opening score is powerful and memorable. The ending themes are enjoyable, too. 'Boys Be Free' ('Back in Love' in English) is performed by Alielle, is catchy, fun, and bemusedly suggestive, while 'Little Flower' (which takes over as the ending theme after a few episodes) is mellow and somber, in keeping with how it wants to make you feel by that point in the storyline.
One of the most impressive qualities of El-Hazard in my opinion is the exceptional ability of the English dub actors. Yes, we all have our own opinions, but I personally don't care for dubs, and I can count on one hand the anime I've ever seen that I could stand in anything other than the original Japanese. This is one of them. The dub actors get the inflection right and deliver some great one-liners that probably aren't what the original characters were saying, but are close enough to make the experience that much better for the non-Japanese speaker.
I'll also give El-Hazard an impressive rewatch value. This is the show I tend to use to get curious newcomers to anime started, and it never gets old after many re-watches.
To be fair since this is a review, if I were to knock anything about El-Hazard, I would have to go with some of the faster animation sequences. The art is great, sure, but whenever there's a scene where lots of people are moving really quickly all at once (IE, a fight, a bunch of people running, or some acrobatics), they tend to shift about rather strangely, making it look as though some corners were cut on the drawing board. Que sera.
All in all, El-Hazard isn't long and it's worth your time to add it in to your anime watching experience. Maybe you'll even enjoy it enough to catch some of the other series, though keep in mind that 'The Wanderers of El-Hazard' is a TV version (so it's the original story told differently). 'El-Hazard 2: The Magnificent World' is the sequel, if that's what you're looking for.
So what are you waiting for!? Check out El-Hazard, and trust me, give the English dub a try this time! ^.^
El Hazard is an anime franchise from the mid 90s. It was written by Tsukimura Ryoe with production by AIC. You may remember them from their work on OreImo, Solty Rei, Blue Gender, Sasameki Koto and several others I've reviewed. The first entry in the El Hazard franchise was Magnificent World, a seven episode OVA which gained enough popularity to spawn two tv anime series, and more OVAs. So, was this OVA actually good enough to warrant that? Let's take a look at El Hazard The Magnificent World and find out.
We begin our story with high school politics. Because don't all great fantasy tales begin
with high school politics? Any way, student council President, Jinnai Katsuhiko is accused of using underhanded tactics, like promising clubs more funding, to attain his position. Around here, we'd just call that a campaign promise. The chief witness against him is Mizuhara Makoto. Rather than, say, call Makoto a liar, Jinnai develops the brilliant strategy of taking him hostage so that he can't testify. Surely, nothing could go wrong with that plan. Just when Makoto finds himself cornered, everything freezes. Makoto tries to rouse Jinnai, with no success and makes his way to the recently discovered ruins in the school's basement. A silver-haired beauty emerges, seemingly recognises Makoto and uses a magic technique to send him, as well as everyone else on the school premises that night, to the world of El Hazard. Once there, Makoto and his friends become entangled in a conflict raging betwixt an alliance of humans and the bugrom. A conflict which some third party seems to be manipulating.
Let's look at the flaws of the narrative first. The big one has to do with the powers that our major characters develop as a consequence of crossing dimensions. For most of them, their introduction comes as a matter of plot convenience, showing up exactly when they're needed. In the case of the teacher, the rules establishing the strength of his power are added to near the end of the series, right when the characters are in a corner. Honestly, the series could have benefited from adding some hints to Makoto's power earlier and fleshing out the rules for Fujisawa's before the climax. Although I will credit it for having both Makoto's and Nanami's abilities revealed, though at strangely convenient times, before their major climactic uses.
On the positive side, the narrative is really compelling with some strong sources of tension. The idea of modern day people being sent to a fantasy world was nothing new when this came out, but the world is well enough developed and different enough to keep it interesting. Actually, I really like the way that technology and magic get blended in this world. The plot elements are brought together really well for the climax and the story has a solid progression. I also like that the antagonistic groups are given actual motivation behind what they're doing. The comedic elements generally work quite well, albeit being distracting at times, such as when the great Demon Goddess has to be powered by the turning of a crank as though she were a wind up soldier, during a largely dramatic moment.
This is one of those series where there are a lot of strong, compelling side characters but the protagonist, Makoto, is completely bland. This kid is pretty much the quintessential pure, in over his head and well intentioned, type of protagonist. Princess Fatora only gets a few lines of dialogue but she still manages to be more interesting than this bloke. That being said, there are quite a few compelling side characters. The priestesses, Nanami, Alielle, Ifurita, Fujisawa even Jinnai has some compelling characteristics.
As I mentioned, I like the antagonists in this. I like that Jinnai actually seems to care about the bugrom, even naming several of them, and that his alliance with them is shown as mutually beneficial instead of one of them using the other. The phantom tribe's motivation, once revealed, is actually really strong. Then we have Ifurita and her really good arc. I also do love Alielle and how completely shameless she is when it comes to pursuing other women. She's a delight. I also do appreciate that the women she pursues react differently to her attention based on their personalities. Shayla Shayla gets annoyed. Nanami finds it odd that she's pursuing both of them but also seems completely not bothered by it.
Now, let's talk about the romance element. This one is a bit mixed. The dynamic with Ifurita and Makoto actually works really well, in spite of him being blander than soggy cardboard. It makes a lot of sense for her character and actually has some really strong scenes. In contrast, the dynamic with Miz & Fujisawa seems really forced. They meet and she instantly starts planning their wedding while he just kind of goes along with it because... Bandora sacrifices the souls of children. Seriously, Fellows, if someone starts offhandedly talking about marrying you when you've known them for all of an hour, scarper. The love triangle they establish with Shayla Shayla and Nanami both being interested in Makoto is just pointless and takes time away from better things they could be doing. I have no idea why they even bothered with it.
The visuals in this are actually really impressive. Even by modern standards they hold up really well. The background details are strong. The El Hazard technology is really superb looking. The character designs are nicely unique, mostly. Interestingly enough, the bugrom are more varied and intimidating than the roaches from Terraformars.
That being said, there are some things that could have been better. There are a few visual effects that get recycled and the series does delve into fan-service for no real reason a couple of times. Although, to its credit, it is largely subdued about that. I've certainly seen much worse. It's also a bit strange that Diva looks so humanoid and none of the other bugrom do. I'm sure it has nothing to do with AIC wanting to make her attractive.
This series did get some strong actors. Amano Yuri does really well. Sakurai Tomo, Soumi Yoko, Natsuki Rio & Kozakura Etsuko all do really well. Ootomo Ryuuzaburou gives a really interesting performance as Galus. The biggest issue is that there are some exaggerated lines, particularly from Okiayu Ryotaro. Iwanaga Tetsuya's performance is a bit bland but so is his character. So, fair enough. The music is quite good. Nagaoka Seikou knows how to score a fantasy piece to have scale.
The big source of les-yay in this is Fatora's lover, and generally flirtatious Alielle. I swear, she flirts or gets really touchy with half the ladies in this cast. Shayla Shayla and Nanami get the bulk of it, but Afura gets a bit of love too.
So, when all is said and done, how well does Magnificent World hold up? Well, the story is interesting and it has mostly strong characters. The art is really good. The acting and music are both strong. So, I'd say it holds up fairly well. However, it does have its issues. The fan-service scenes, the boringness of the main protagonist, the abilities that first manifest at times of dramatic convenience. It's by no means a great OVA. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. It's a solid series. If you're interested in fantasy works, consider giving it a go. Next week I'm looking at a more recent fantasy work with Rokka no Yuusha.
El Hazard The Magnificent World is a seven episode OVA series released from mid-1995 to early-1996. It is also one of the first anime in the now exceedingly popular isekai genre. For the uninitiated the term isekai refers to a sub-genre of fantasy anime in which the protagonist or protagonists are originally from present day Earth, but get pulled into another world that is generally better than ours. It is one of the premier escapist fantasies that dominate today's anime landscape and as such they tend to put a spotlight on all the ways the new world is better than ours and don't focus too
much on the main character, leaving him a blank canvas onto which the viewer can project.
And with that opening paragraph I've explained El Hazard The Magnificent World pretty well. The anime doesn't break any new ground today because of how very basic it is for an isekai. Now it wouldn't be quite fair to be hard on the anime because of this, after all, back when it was new the market wasn't flooded with all sorts of other anime, manga and light novels like it. So keeping in mind the time period in which it was released does the anime hold up today, and is it still worth watching? Well, the archivist in me says yes because this anime has undoubtedly influenced many that came after, but that is not a satisfying answer since many might not care about remembering the past. Here's the long answer:
To start off, the plot of El Hazard is, as mentioned before, extremely basic. A group of students and a teacher get sent into another world called El-Hazard by a sexy anime lady that looks a bit like Griffith from Berserk. There our protagonists get mixed up in a fight between the friendly alliance and the menacing human sized bugs called the Bugrom. To help them in their fight every one of the earthlings gets some sort of superpower.
Immediately I noticed that the anime was intent on flip-flopping between almost stone-faced seriousness into goofy comedy. This mix can be made to work if done right, but El Hazard sadly does not do it right at all. Each time a comedy segment interrupts a more serious bit and vice-versa you get some whiplash from the sudden and sometimes downright weird change in tone. Luckily the middle part of the anime is mostly comedy-centered so there's not a lot of flip-flopping there. There is, however, a certain charm to this inneptitude to properly keep the tone, it's mostly a harmless blunder that makes it feel distinctly like a 90s OVA that was made on a budget. Speaking of feeling like a 90s anime, the studio behind El Hazard is the same studio behind Tenchi Muyo Ryououki and it definitely feels like it. Besides the fake harem that builds up around the main character, the character designs are extremely reminiscent of Tenchi Muyo.
Now, why did I say fake harem? Because, you see, this anime not only predates isekai but it also predates most harem shows and the tropes that formed around them in the early 2000s. The girls around our main character Makoto are not all interested in him they're there because of happenstance and don't all instantly want a piece of him.
I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk about the characters in our story for a bit. As mentioned above you have the main character Makoto who is your average slightly wimpy high school kid that we're supposed to project ourselves onto. A problem with the characters in this show, I feel, is that they don't show any form of progression as the show goes on. And it is most evident perhaps with Makoto who despite all he's been through in the end is basically the same.
Along with Makoto a few of his classmates and a teacher were transported into El Hazard. His school crush Nanami and his teacher Fujisawa are ever present in his adventures through El Hazard, but despite them being useful in the plot they don't feel like real characters. Their superpowers are always used as a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. They feel more like caricatures that exist to either serve the plot or more often than not deliver some comedic moment. Even the main villain of the series, Makoto's self-declared rival from high school, Jinnai feels like he's just a few evil laughs away from growing a moustache for the sole purpose of twirling it while pulling off some relatively well thought out plan only to be foiled by the heroes again and again.
Though to give credit where credit is due, the anime does manage to humanise the Bugrom through the various interactions Jinnai has with them. Towards the end of the series you may even remember some of their names, even though they looks mostly the same, and you get a small sense that each one of them is an individual. Whether this surprising humanisation of what would be in most other anime just a faceless and nameless monster army was fully intentional or not, I don't know but I do know that I enjoyed it.
I've mentioned above that the party winds up in the titular world El Hazard and I think that the world the anime builds is it's strong suit. Through gorgeous background art and beautifully designed environments El Hazard is made out to be a sort-of paradise world that, unlike many more generic looking isekai world, I genuinely would like to visit. Everything in the world has this middle-eastern vibe while also incorporating copious amounts of green into the designs. Most of the buildings in the world seem to be built by man with a lot of aid from nature. From fountains and indoor ponds that add beautiful splashes of blue in buildings made mostly from yellow and cream colours in conjunction with vibrant greens, to the bright blue sky and the enourmous plants and vines that some outdoor areas have the world looks stunning all around. Then there's places like the Bugrom HQ which has a distinctly insect-like precise design that could only be achieved through by a race with perfect cooperation. Here you don't see anything natural inside or outside the buildings, everything being replaced by precise angles, hexagonal designs and dark colours. It's a great contrast to the 'good' side of the world and an equal delight to witness. I think that the main reason anyone would want to watch the show is because of the world that is being built. Oh and if what I've said so far has not impressed you, El Hazard is no slouch when it comes to exciting fauna either because this world has LIVING ARMOUR CATS. Yes you heard me, the world has cats which can become living armour for someone. And they also talk. LIVING ARMOUR CATS. I still can't get over it, if you haven't noticed.
I can't quite give the same praise to the story of El Hazard The Magnificent World as I did to the world. As mentioned before, the story is quite tone deaf and doesn't know when to jest and when to be serious. Furthermore, there are some slight pacing issues here and there, which I think would be mostly due to the seven episode format since they needed to cram as much in there as possible, nevermind the fact that both the first and final episodes are double length. The characters occasionally go from location to location based on very loose reasoning just to move the plot forward. There also is never any sense of danger towards any of the main cast, all throught the story you know that none of them are going to come to any serious harm. The plot armour here is quite obvious and the anime makes no effort to hide it. But maybe I can give it some slack considering the genre and the fact that the entire anime is basically a power fantasy and as a power fantasy the anime is decent.
There is a small romantic subplot in the latter part of the anime, but it doesn't really mean much in the end. It affects nothing and the 'winner' is spoiled by the very beginning of the anime anyway. The only reason I could think of why it's even there is because having multiple girls fighting over you is one of the things that every high school boy dreams of. Oh and there's also an even less inefectual lesbian romance subplot in the anime that goes nowhere at all and just brings into the anime a character which many might find irritating based on voice alone, to speak nothing of personality.
All in all, I somewhat liked El Hazard. I didn't have the greatest expectations going in and came out relatively pleased. The anime didn't ever really bore me, but neither did it do anything too grand.
So back to my original question: 'Does the anime still hold up today and is it worth watching?'
When compared to some of the isekai anime that are released today it seems very basic, but it has something that those anime don't: a certain charm and a feeling that it was made for more than to just be another isekai anime that will hopefully sell. Maybe I am giving the studio too much credit, but I do feel like they liked working on this project and tried making it the best it could be. Now, that 'best' isn't really all that fascinating but that isn't such a big issue. I would say you should watch this anime if you're in the mood for a different kind of fantasy world, or just want to go back in time to one of the original isekai that started it all or if you like Tenchi Muyo Ryououki then you'll probably like this too. I personally enjoyed my short time with El Hazard and am glad I gave it a chance and I'm looking forward to eventually taking a look at the sequel OVA.
Watched it on anime marathon at AXN back in 2002. Started watching, and could not move from in front of my TV until it reached the end. Art, sound quality is not as good as today's anime, but storyline is amazing and its enjoyable. The entire story is linked and it is revealed at the last episode. If someone thinks it is made of misplaced events, then I should say he did not understand it properly. Its very precise, never gets boring, and best part is it has a nice flow that will keep you attached. I've rewatched it so many times, never felt boring.