El-Hazard, The Wanderers Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, February 24, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002



What They Say
Jinnai continues to scheme, but the secrets of the legendary snow remain beyond his reach, and the legendary rivalry between the priestesses of Fire and Air only seem to cause him more pain!

Meanwhile, Jinnai?s absolute command of Ifurita continues to have unreliable results as her good nature and bumbling control over her power sabotage plan after plan. How will Makoto?s discovery of the Eye of God and Rune?s kidnapping complicate the situation?

The Review!
The third volume of the Wanderers brings in what you could call some filler episodes and some episodes that build up the relationships stronger, but we also start moving into the final arc of the series.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is pretty simple and straightforward with nothing going to the rear speakers and hardly any real directionality across the forward soundstage. But even so, the audio track is pretty solid with no dropouts or distortions and the dialogue and music is nice and clean.

Video:
The transfer here is pretty much on par with the first two volumes. There's a persistent level of grain throughout the episodes

Packaging:
There's no way I could not like this cover with the main one featuring the raven haird Ifurita holding her boom stick. The back cover provides another shot of her in a full body pose while giving brief summary of the episodes contained inside. There's episode numbers and titles for all seven of them and the usual deep array of production credits listed as well. The insert provides a great shot of Rune on a couch while the interior folds out to reveal a mini-poster and an accurate sized version of Jinnai's ego. The back of the insert has the episode numbers and titles again as well as an Azumanga segment. The reverse cover provides a great trio shot of Shayla, rune and Nanami while the reverse back cover gives Alielle and the armorcat a place to shine.

Menus:
The menu system is pretty minimal in that it's a static screen with music playing. Episodes are quickly selected from the main screen and the layout of features and setup works well. Access times between menus is nice and fast and selections work as they should.

Extras:
The extras for this volume are pretty minimal with just the image gallery, but with there being seven episodes here, it's not too surprising. Hopefully the new opening will get a creditless version on the final volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With seven episodes, there's a ton of things going on in here. Things open with a nice simple self-contained story about the desire to see the Legendary Snow that happens only once in centuries. The entire group heads out in search of it with even Princess Rune attending. As we see via a flashback to her past, there's some special significance to the event with her. While things go typically bad as Jinnai only hears the word Legendary, the episode does a great job of continuing to bring Makoto and Rune closer together and let the relationship evolve as it has been.

Normally I'd consider the Priestess episodes pure fluff and filler, but they did a really good job of building upon what little is known about the entire priestess gig and its origins. For little reason, we start to hear Shayla talk about her past on the streets and how she had to do it just to get enough food to live and so on. It's during a time when Shayla's off in the nearby woods that she chances upon the current Priestess of the flame practicing her abilities and she becomes entranced by the whole thing. Her tale progresses as she moves to the monastery and ends up in the same class as Afura. The two end up becoming strong rivals, mostly due to a lot of below the surface similarities. The tale then shifts to follow Afura's development until the time the two are brought back together again as full Great Priestesses along with Miz.

The remaining episodes provide a variety of things going on. Some of them are much more fillerish, as we see Ifurita losing control of a hurricane she's created and having to get Afura to help her tame it. We also get a lot more detail on Rune's past with her parents which comes back to be repeated in the present with her and Makoto, which brings them onto the Eye of God. But one of the more amusing areas is when Jinnai launches a massive attack and ends up capturing both Nanami and Rune and takes them back to the Bugrom Empire.

The entire segment dealing with the capture of Rune works great for Makoto. It's things here that help set his character apart from other AIC male's like Tenchi. While the entire Roshtarian army is off seeking the whereabouts of Rune, he just grabs a horse and heads off to find her himself without asking for any help. Of course, Fujisawa and Alielle come along, but he's taking the lead and being the almost grim and determined one. While many people may see Makoto as bland, there's enough areas that show over the episodes why the various women fall for him.

This batch of episodes was pretty good overall with lots of subtle secondary plot points being covered and pushed forward while preparing for the big finale. Things have taken quite a number of detours from what we saw in the OVA's, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they bring this to a conclusion.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 175
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: El-Hazard