So many classic shows originated in the 90's and to be quite honest that is probably my favorite time period in the history of anime. Tenchi Muyo!, Slayers, and Outlaw Star are just a few examples of shining nuggets of animated glory that stemmed from that era. However, let us not forget about El-Hazard.
Over the years there have been many visitations to the world of El-Hazard. Whether it's in the form of the original OVA (the subject of this review), the television series, or the sequel show, El-Hazard had quite the run. At its core El-Hazard was nothing special by today's standards. The show featured a strong harem theme with comedy thrown into the mix and some haphazard events tossed in for good measure. Despite these facts the series clicked somehow and became something special almost immediately.
At the center of everything is a young high school boy named Makoto Mizuhara. He seems to be your average seventeen year old with an innocent charm and uncanny ability to befriend everyone he meets. Well, that is to say he befriends everyone but fellow classmate Jinnai, who persists that they are rivals to the death. This is because no matter how hard Jinnai tries to succeed at something Makoto unwittingly bests him at every turn.
One night after school Jinnai confronts Makoto and just before the two come to blows time freezes and Makoto is the only one around to witness it. He heads beneath the school to some recently unearthed ruins and meets a beautiful woman who has been waiting 10,000 years for him. With a flash of magic she sends Makoto through a dimensional portal to another world very different from his own. Fortunately he's not alone.
Makoto's teacher, Mr. Fujisawa, was in the vicinity of the magic at the time and was sent to El-Hazard along with him. In practically no time they hear a scream for help in the distance and discover a beautiful girl being attacked by giant bug men (known as the Bugrom). Given his lack of drunkenness, Fujisawa leaps into action with superhuman strength and defeats the bugs. It would seem that the dimensional travel has bestowed him with special abilities. Instantly he is revered as a hero and Makoto is confused with someone named Fatora; a princess of this land.
The two are taken back to the kingdom of Roshtaria and given the royal treatment. As it turns out Fatora has been kidnapped and the royal family is on the eve of a major meeting regarding the future of the world. Somehow they con Makoto into dressing like the princess and from there all kinds of insanity breaks loose. Fatora's lover slips into his bed, he's given a living piece of cat armor, and is shipped off on a mission to seek the aid of three priestesses on top of a mountain.
In between all of this Jinnai has also appeared in El-Hazard and finds himself joining forces with the Bugrom and their queen Diva to conquer the world. Things get zanier when he realizes that Makoto traveled here as well and sets out to destroy the cross-dressing freak of nature. That's not all though. Jinnai's younger sister Nanami is another Earthling who appears on El-Hazard and this complicates issues for poor Makoto.
Throughout it all El-Hazard is one of the most revered shows in the world of anime. It was original when it came out and has been a source of influence for many series after the fact. The sense of humor, the fully realized character personalities, and the whimsical writing all come together to make a fun, memorable, and dare I say, timeless, show. If you have never seen El-Hazard before then take advantage of Geneon's re-release of their catalog title. You'll be hard-pressed to find a fantasy comedy as successful as this one.
Originally airing in 1995 El-Hazard is definitely showing its age at this point. This release is essentially a rehash of Geneon's first printing from 2001 and features video quality as such. There is shimmer, grain, compression, and dirt throughout this transfer with only a few moments of real clarity. Some colors are faded though for the most part the palette is largely intact with some vibrant sections to be found within the picture. The animation and design for the show may be stellar but this transfer is less-than unfortunately. It's passable due to the age of the material but a remaster would have gone a long way to improving the presentation.
The audio for El-Hazard offers three language tracks though they probably aren't quite what you're expecting. The disc has 2.0 English and Japanese stereo like you'd imagine it would but a 5.1 Japanese track is included as well which really surprised me. It's not often a show of this age gets a surround sound Japanese offering. The stereo tracks offer a limited presence on the soundstage like you'd expect but the 5.1 unfortunately isn't much of an improvement. The sense of immersion isn't the greatest and the rear channels are left to pick up random sound effects and atmospheric noise. The inclusion is still appreciated even if it's not entirely effective.
The only extras you're going to find on this release are an art gallery and some Geneon trailers from days of yore.
Whether it's a reprinting of the original release or not El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is a fantastic show. It has everything that you could want from anime and more. Sure the plot is a little on the light side but the characters and writing more than make up for it. This was always a fun series and the first steps here are solid proof of that. If you have never seen El-Hazard you're in for a treat. Now if only Geneon would get El Hazard: The Wanderers re-released I'd be a happy man. Highly Recommended