El-Hazard, The Magnificent World Box Set - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 119.98
  • Running time: 245
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: El-Hazard

El-Hazard, The Magnificent World Box Set

By Chris Beveridge     August 07, 2001
Release Date: August 07, 2001


El-Hazard, The Magnificent World Box Set
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The long awaited DVD compilation of the seven original El Hazard OVA?s and the four OVA?s from El Hazard 2 is finally here!

Encounter a world of wonder and fantasy! Three high school students and one of their teachers are mysteriously transported to the magical world of El Hazard. There, they discover hidden talents, lost technology, an empire of sentient bugs, and enough adventure to fill a lifetime!

From the writer of Tenchi Muyo and the animation studio behind Bubblegum Crisis, Tenchi Muyo, and Ah! My Goddess comes another side-splitting comedy of epic proportions filled with beautiful women, strange enemies, and action-packed adventure!

The Review!
Years after its original release on laserdisc in the US, I still find myself grinning stupidly at many parts of this series. The original seven episode OVA release remains among my most favorite anime in both English and Japanese. This box set release strives to become the edition of the series to own, but depending on what you watch, it may come up short.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to OVA series one in its original language of Japanese but in the remixed 5.1 audio track. For OVA series two, we watched it in its original language of Japanese in the original 2.0 audio track. In the 5.1 soundtrack, we're treated to a much better sense of directionality and distinction among the characters voices. What may throw some people is that when this mix was created in Japan, they played with the forward soundstage quite a bit. Characters who are facing away from the screen or are situated further back on the screen than other characters have their voices lowered or even slightly muffled. Some of the action sequences benefit well from this new mix with tighter sounding special effects and a bit more thrown to the rear speakers, but not a lot. The second OVA series is your basic stereo mix and sounds pretty good if fairly unexceptional.

There are a few things to note with OVA series one 5.1 remix. Ah, those wacky Japanese. The first thing they did that I don't like is they took the great opening music and added more distinct sounds to it and ended up basically ruining it. Listen to the song in either of the 2.0 tracks for what it should be. The other thing they did in the 5.1 remix, which went by unnoticed by Pioneer until more than halfway through the authoring process (and went unnoticed by fans who bought the region 2 copies as well) is that they took a decent sized chunk of the voices throughout the first four episodes and moved them. Usually to later than originally placed by several seconds. Why? I haven't a clue. What does this mean? If you're watching the 5.1 track with subtitles, during the first four episodes where it appears they did the most changes, the subtitles are off about 15% of the time I'd guess. Some sections are worse than others. What makes the subtitles a real problem is the numerous miss-spellings of characters names and just general dropped characters. In the first three lines of the first episode, there appear to be entire words dropped.

Video:
It also appears that the remastered footage from the Japanese release from a few years back was used. The end credits on all of the episodes are in their original form with no English translation and all of the opening credits are the same with the exception of the first episode (end credits in English are provided as an extra on discs 2 and 3). While the remastered footage appears to have been used, there's some areas that are significantly worse off. During the first OVA series, you'll notice some less than stable lines in the faces of many characters when they're a medium distance away. Episode three suffers the most in terms of actual macroblocking during several daytime blue sky sequences, which is a rarity. I'm used to night blue skies doing that, but not days. The second OVA series, which was produced on a lower budget during its initial release, suffers from a fair amount of rainbowing along the characters.

Packaging:
While I've heard complaints about the digipack boxes before with Fushigi Yugi and Tenchi Muyo, I'm again in the camp of those who adore this new box. Especially in comparison to the simple three keepcase release from Japan, this set is just gorgeous and outdoes theirs at every turn. The slipcase is made of cardboard this time as opposed to the plastic kind. Pulling the box out of the slipcase you get a great looking watercolor of Ifurita. Open that up and you get the front cover artwork from the two Japanese DVD releases of the first OVA series but softened up and blended with other colors, providing a look that works much better than the region 2 releases. Open those up and you get the pocket tray and three clear plastic trays with a wide picture of the landscape of El-Hazard behind it. Each disc is colored differently with a bit of ancient El-Hazard stylings. The booklet has the chapter listings for each episode on their own page, with the last two pages listing the Japanese voice actors with their characters, the English voice actors and the creative staff. The pages with the chapter listings contain great pieces of artwork, many of which I believe came from the US and Japanese laserdisc releases of both series. The feel of the paper is pretty good too, keeping it close to the feel of the set.

Menus:
The menu system used is the same across all three discs, and while simple, is done well in the style of the show. The menu swoops into a view of the landscape of El-Hazard similar to the packaging background. Selecting a listing will swoop you to various places, such as extras taking you through the waterfall. With the menu transition animation, the access time between menus is pretty good. Language selections are easily identifiable and things are laid out in a pretty straightforward manner.

Extras:
There's a fair bit of decent extras included in this set, but not as many as the past few box sets done this way from Pioneer. The usual suspects are here in the multiple textless openings and endings. The art galleries provide some great pictures and the inclusion of the VHS versions of the credits helps to get the actors names quickly if needed. There are a bunch of other extras on the disc, but their hidden away. Check out the listing for this set in our Digital Omake section for all of them. Hidden extras don't affect our grade though.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From the first time I had seen El-Hazard, long before I became somewhat jaded with the way AIC does their shows, I fell in love with this storyline, its cast and its sense of style. El-Hazard has been a show I've rewatched many times over the seven or so years since its initial release. It's one of the few shows that I went so far as to purchase the Japanese releases as they contained the great dub. In fact, we had finished watching the second volume of that release just days before the region 1 release was announced.

El-Hazard is a decent sized cast story. The central character is a high school student named Makoto. He's being pursued at school by a cutie named Nanami whose related to Katsuhiko Jinnai, the class president who considers Makoto to be his arch nemesis. A quick series of flashbacks reveals all the ways Makoto has (unknowingly) outdone him and he considers it a personal affront.

The person who tries to keep the peace, when he's not on the sauce, is the teacher known as Mr. Fujisawa. As the series progresses, Fujisawa becomes one of the coolest characters around. The school is currently in turmoil of sorts, as an ancient room has been discovered underground. Jinnai is claiming it as his discovery, but after hours we end up having Makoto down there while avoiding Jinnai. During this time, the tomb opens to reveal a gorgeous woman who collapses into Makoto's arms. She tells him of things in her past that include Makoto whose now quite confused. With her last bit of power, she sends Makoto off to El-Hazard. In the course of doing this, Nanami, Katsuhiko and Mr. Fujisawa end up getting sent there as well.

El-Hazard is quite the different world. It's separated into a variety of kingdoms, with the principal one that our characters enter being one where small kingdoms have banded together in co-defense around one kingdom that has access to an ancient weapon called the Eye of God, which is basically a huge floating metal eye. The main other kingdom that's dealt with in this series is the Bugrom Empire, which as can be guessed, is an empire of bugs.

The Bugrom have been intending to invade the kingdom of Roshtaria for ages. Through manipulations from a group known only as the Phantom Tribe, the Bugrom empire feels that they're ready to invade. When the maniacal Katsuhiko Jinnai arrives in their empire and gains the ability to speak their language, his bizarre charisma wins over their queen and he becomes their general and quests to conquer all of El-Hazard. Jinnai at his basest.

On the Roshtaria front, Makoto and Mr. Fujisawa ended up together and ended up saving the princess of Roshtaria. In one of those amazing coincidences, we learn that Makoto looks exactly like the other princess of Roshtaria whose gone missing. They con Makoto into donning a long wig and playing the role of Princess Fatora to soothe the various smaller kingdoms as well as to go on a quest. The quest leads Makoto and Mr. Fujisawa in search of the three priestesses of Mount Muldoon, women who are required to start the operation of the Eye of God.

To combat this threat, once Jinnai learns of the presence of his most hated rival, he convinces Queen Diva to take him to where an ancient super weapon is laying dormant, so he can balance out the score. This leads to the revival of Ifurita, a cold and heartless killing machine who serves the one who awakens here. Jinnai demands mass destruction, and she heads off and begins destroying the smaller kingdoms quickly and effortlessly.

From here and beyond, the two sides rail against each other in trying to keep the upper hand while all along the Phantom Tribe plays its game of ultimate revenge upon everyone. The shows characters develop nicely and while it is a large cast, just about everyone gets a good amount of screentime. If anyone gets shortchanged, it's the two real leaders of each of the kingdoms and sometimes one or two of the priestesses.

To sidetrack for a moment, I just have to say that the ending of the original seven episode series is probably one of the best endings I've seen in anime to date.

One of the things that comes to mind upon viewing El-Hazard is that it's a Tenchi clone of some sort. Its original release certainly didn't help this image, as it took the idea of a couple of women going after one man and adding more women to the mix. But El-Hazard doesn't really fall into that trap. Makoto is the object of desire, yes. Thankfully, he's not as wishy-washy as Tenchi. He also actually makes a decision about who he wants within the original seven episodes. When the show starts, we know that Nanami has feelings for him. As we progress into the show we end up seeing the attraction one of the priestesses, Shayla, has for him in her own shy way. We also have the strange but very well done relationship that begins between Makoto and Ifurita. Of course, we also get Alielle trying to seduce Makoto when she thought he was Princess Fatora. Lesbianism runs rampant here with numerous moments of gender confusion.

If there's one reason that El-Hazard truly succeeds in its original seven episode run, it's the fact that the story has a beginning, a middle and an actual end. Of course, there's also a huge piece of convenient space between the middle and the end where more stories can take place. This is where the second OVA series occurs as well as the follow-up 13 episodes TV series, The Alternative World. While both of these follow-up series don't have the full charm of the original, they do a good job of expanding the world of El-Hazard and fleshing out the characters. OVA series 2 is often called a blasphemy, but with this being my first time seeing it, I didn't find it anywhere near as offensive as many have claimed it to be. In fact, I found it to be a fun little side-story romp that serves as a bridge to more episodes.

While many today may not find anything special with the El-Hazard dub, you need to place yourself in the mindset of the anime fans back in 1994 or so. Dubs were only then beginning and we were just getting past years of horrid Streamline dub-only releases. First with Tenchi and then even better with El-Hazard, we got voice actors who quickly understood their characters and gave performances that matched and even exceeded their Japanese counterparts for being over the top when required and subtle when necessary. Fujisawa's voice actor matches perfectly the seriousness and comical super-hero frenzy while Alielle manages to steal the show several times with some great lines that just don't work as well in Japanese. Katsuhiko Jinnai is the one that really matched and outperformed his Japanese counterpart in the manic performance and the incredibly hard to match evil laughter. So while dubs have progressed quite a bit in the time between, this was a true standout of its day and is still quite fondly remembered and listened to.

In comparing with the Japanese release, there are some things that don't fare so well here. The video falls a bit short, which is really surprising considering Japanese release has the same audio tracks as this release and a DTS track as well. The extras are pretty similar with the region 1 coming out on top with the hidden extras. The region 1 release truly wins out on packaging and price. While the set does list for 120$, the same would run about 180$ in Japan for the same amount of discs but without subtitles. Of course, discounts are easily found here as I ended up with my set for 80$.

If you're a dub fan, you're not going to find a heck of a lot wrong with this release. If you're a sub fan, it's going to depend on which audio track you listen to. While I had issues with the subtitles, I'm otherwise very pleased to have this set and it's definitely a package to show off. Your mileage may vary however.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Non Credit Openings,Non Credit Endings,Image Galleries

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.

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