El Hazard OVA Vol. #2 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Martin Thom
Review Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2007



What They Say
The legendary Demon God, ""Ifurita,"" has awakened. Serving her new master Jinnai, she begins a campaign of devastation throughout the land of El-Hazard.

Now, despite their numbers, the priestesses are hard pressed to match the power of the furious Demon God. As Makoto springs towards her, a mysterious phenomena occurs...

A last-ditch battle upon which the land of El-Hazard is staked is about to begin!!"

The Review!
Audio:
I watched this twice. For the initial viewing, I listened to the remastered Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Unlike the first volume, the audio synched up properly with the video. The audio came through very clear, although there was little difference between it and the original 2.0 stereo track. The remastered audio sounded cleaner than the original 2.0 mix. This was most obvious during the vocal tracks (“Boys Be Free” & “Chiisana Hana”). The BGM fit well with the action of the series, enhancing the more intense moments (be they comedic or serious).

Video:
As with Volume One, the video was digitally remastered from the original print by AIC. Despite its age, the restoration resulted in an image amazingly clean and reasonably free of grain. The quality is still not quite as good as a digitally-animated series, but it is a definite improvement over the original release of the series. There is no noticeable color bleeding, and all of the images are very crisp.

Packaging:
Te cover art is gorgeous but may be a bit of a spoiler for those who have not yet seen the series. While the front shows a full body shot of the Demon God Ifurita with the ominous Eye of God in the background, the back reveals part of the fate of Princess Fatora. For the back, rather than using one of the original laser disc covers, Geneon chose one of the series’ most memorable scenes, fading into pastels all around the characters. The disc hides the creed for the series. Unfortunately, there is no insert with the chapter listings.

Menu:
The menu is very basic and easy to navigate, although it is virtually identical to the menu used for the first volume (the exceptions being some of the extras). It loops the first part of the series on the main menu screen, and provides background images from the series. A definite point in its favor is the quick load time – you don’t have to wait for lengthy animation sequences to play out every time you make a selection.


Extras:
This disc’s extras outshine those on the first disc (which included only an art gallery), but still leave something to be desired. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the extravagant extras included on some of the more recent DVD releases (such as interviews with the director and cast), but I would like to see more than we’re given. The inclusion of the non-credit opening and ending is very nice, though, and the animation during the opening has some very nice shots of the main characters and some of the landscapes. The line art included is a great bonus for fans who want to see some of the character prototypes, items, and landscapes. The best of them are the 57 images of the final designs of the characters in various poses, shown from different angles and featuring various facial expressions.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The concluding volume to the first El-Hazard storyline, this disc contains episodes 5 through 7. We finally discover what special power Makoto gained when he arrived in El-Hazard, and this ability figures prominently in the climax of the final episode. It is quickly apparent why Ifurita was sealed away for all eternity as a terrifying Demon God. Forced to obey the master of the key (the staff which is used to “wind” her), she aides the Bugrom in their campaign to take control of El-Hazard by destroying cities and armies of the Alliance with virtually no effort. Thanks to Nanami’s ability to see through the guises of the enigmatic Phantom Tribe, though, the plot quickly shifts away from the war between the Bugrom and the Alliance and begins to focus on a much more serious threat: the Eye of God. Having been exposed as a fraud in front of the Alliance leaders, Makoto is given the opportunity to speak his mind to Princess Rune Venus regarding her forced apathy towards the fate of her sister. Unfortunately, this exposure also makes it quite clear that the efforts of the Alliance up to this point have been in vain. Without two princesses of royal lineage, the Eye of God cannot be operated, leaving the Alliance virtually defenseless against the onslaught of Ifurita and the Bugrom at Jinnai’s command.

Galus disappears before the priestesses can stop him and commandeers the Eye of God, intending to use a machine from ancient El-Hazard to magnify Princess Fatora’s DNA to such an extent that he can operate the Eye of God himself. Makoto again manages to enter Ifurita’s memories, shaking her unwavering loyalty to the wielder of the key and causing her questioning her own humanity. When the initial attempt to operate the Eye of God fails, Galus flees and Fatora is captured by the Bugrom. Makoto and the priestesses of Mount Muldoon manage, along with the aid of Fujisawa-sensei, to penetrate the Bugrom fortress where Makoto is forced to face Ifurita and Jinnai.
With both princesses safely back in Roshtaria territory, Rune Venus and Fatora agree that they should destroy the Bugrom threat once and for all by activating the Eye of God. Unbeknownst to them, Galus’ seemingly failed attempt to use the Eye of God for his own plans was not quite as much a failure as it seemed. Upon activating the feared ancient weapon, the Alliance seems to have come out ahead until they realize that their ultimate weapon cannot be stopped! Makoto and company must now find a way to save El-Hazard from a destruction more disastrous than that which felled the ancient civilization. During all of this chaos, the question still remains as to how Ifurita could have known Makoto on Earth, but has no recollection of his existence when he meets her in El-Hazard. There’s also the small issue of trying to find a way back to their own world….

In Summary:
A fantastic ending for a classic series, these episodes manage to retain comedic elements even during some of the most serious scenes and still evoke strong emotions as you find yourself relating to the characters. Watching this series again after almost ten years, I was pleasantly surprised that it still lived up to my expectations, which many series have not. I recommend this disc highly to any anime fan, and hope that you may find a rekindled love for the show or get to know it for the first time.

Features
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1,Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0,English Dolby Digital 2.0,Line Arts,Non-Credit Opening & Ending

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 65” DLP TV set to 480p resolution, Philips DVP5140 progressive-scan code-free DVD player via component video cables, Pioneer VSX-D400 receiver with 5.1 channel speaker system.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 105
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: El-Hazard