El-Hazard, The Wanderers Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002
What They Say
Makoto to the rescue! Makoto leads the priestesses and Mr. Fujisawa in a raid against the Bugrom to rescue Princess Rune and Nanami, but when they get there, they discover a kingdom in turmoil and the hostages escape on their own! Jinnai becomes enraged and unleashes the power of the Eye of God, which awakens an ancient evil - will anyone survive her rage?
The final volume of El-Hazard: The Wanderers does a rather good job of bringing things to a conclusion. While it didn?t quite ?get me? as the first OVA ending did, I found myself appreciating this series more and more on its own merits.
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.
The transfer continues to be pretty much on par with the previous releases. Some of the episodes feature more grain than the others, such as the first one appearing mostly grain free only to have the second episode have some heavy sequences with it. Colors look good, but the increased resolution of DVD continues to show off the flaws of the show, such as seeing the cel paint shift and more and more of the little bits of dirt and specks being noticeable.
The final cover for the series has a great picture of Makoto and Rune with their hands together and a swirl of wind around them. It?s a great shot of the two and a nice way to cap off the series. The back cover gives us another shot of Rune but with Shayla and Nanami this time. We get the brief summary of the disc and the episode numbers and titles for the last six here. The reverse cover, as this is another clear keepcase, provides a great image of Ifurita and Makoto. It?s unfortunate I?m such an Ifurita fan that I have to reverse the cover as I really like the Rune image, but Ifurita always wins out. The back cover provides a shot of Makoto and Rune embracing with the same information as the original back cover. A great insert is provided with a shot of Makoto and Rune on the front that folds out to reveal both of them in front of Roshtaria. The back side lists the chapters as well as having a great picture of Nanami.
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.
The extras for this volume are pretty minimal with just the image gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final volume having the final six episodes of the series, there?s little real room for fluff and filler here. And thankfully they avoid forcing any of that in here. In fact, these final episodes are pretty hectic all around with characters scrambling everywhere and fighting off two major problems.
The main thrust of the first half of the episodes deals with Rune having been kidnapped by Jinnai (as well as kidnapping Nanami, though she just gets dropped in a cell and pretty much ignored) and fleeing back to the Bugrom kingdom. Jinnai gets to do a lot of posturing and threats about everything, but with the Great Saint River between the two kingdoms, he feels safe. The Bugrom?s ability to navigate the air currents is far superior than any of the aircraft that Roshtaria has, which is proven after several are lost trying to cross to rescue Rune.
This brings things back down to the personal level, where Makoto makes up his mind to set off and do it himself. As expected, everyone else falls into line to help with the exception of Afura, who refuses to cross the Great Saint River due to their obligations/beliefs as Priestesses. Miz and Shayla opt to go with the others though, and they begin their adventure to cross the river (which has many perilous moments that are rather well done) as well as crossing into the Bugrom landscape itself. This is the first time any of them has seen the land and it?s really a shock to them with how it looks and feels. The one thing with Bugrom though is that they are everywhere. So it doesn?t take long before they?re attacking the group.
While having the entire cast together is good, they?re generally too powerful of a group, so the obvious ploy is to split everyone up to some extent. Things tend to focus on Shayla and Makoto, both of whom wind up arriving at the Bugrom capital unscathed but expected. The series of events leading up to the rescue, from the down and out between Shayla and Ifurita to the swordfight between Jinnai and Makoto with Rune as the prize on a kite, is a lot of fun to watch. The episodes flow by nice and fast and actually surprised me with the direction it takes.
Refusing to face defeat, Jinnai takes Ifurita up to the Eye of God and plugs her into the system so they can go and defeat Roshtaria once and for all. Unknowingly though, Ifurita has a separate series of commands to follow should she actually be plugged into this rather ancient piece of equipment, and it?s just such commands that bring complete and utter destruction of the entire world into play.
One of the things that I really enjoy about the entire El-Hazard world is that the central character of Makoto isn?t your typical 90?s male anime character. While he?s not a big brawler badass or anything, he?s not the personification of the geeky wimpy male who doesn?t know how to deal with women around him. The character does end up with a number of women attracted to him, but a number of them aren?t and in fact find secondary characters to be more their type. The romance between Miz and Fujisawa is a solid cornerstone of this series. But with Makoto, it?s easy to see why people such as Shayla, Rune and Nanami all fall for him. He?s a nice guy, but he doesn?t just take whatever comes at him. He?s decisive and takes action when necessary without the whole inner monologue of ?Should I do this??.
When Jinnai tosses him a sword and challenges him for Rune, his hesitation isn?t about fighting, but about what he?s fighting for. It?s at that moment, when his face is not on the screen, just his hand and the handle of the sword, that you know his feelings for Rune are cemented and the two are meant for each other. This is something rarely done in general, as it?s easier to keep a series going with the tension rather than the payoff. But El-Hazard gives you that payoff both in the OVA?s and the TV series. While I do prefer the romance in the OVA?s with Ifurita, I found that the reworking here with a younger Rune works quite well too. Letting the two of them actually feel the same about each other and both knowing it is a rarity in anime.
At the end of the series, I realized just how much fun I had with it and regretted not watching it a few years ago when I had all the laserdiscs (still wrapped in their limited edition slipcase no less). While it won?t get the respect that the OVA?s do, I think it fits the bill as a good little gem that I?ll be rewatching again sooner rather than later.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery
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.
Running time: 150
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2