Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- 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 Roman Martel
February 16, 2002
Release Date: August 07, 2001
Overall Rating: 4.5
(on a scale of 1-5)
English Acting: 5
O.K. I want to warn you guys. I'm trying really hard to be objective. But this is up there on my list of all time favorite anime. I've been waiting for this box set to come out for quite some time, and now that it's here I can say that most of the classic anime I want in my collection has come out. What does this mean? Well it means I might not be as brutal as I normally tend to be. This might be a gushy review, so if you are in the first ten rows... you might get wet.
Technically speaking this disc is very close to top notch. The sound and picture are both very clear and well done. The Japanese 5.1 sounded very cool. The picture looks very good especially compared to the well-watched tapes I was used to seeing. The menus are very slick and capture the feel of the show perfectly. The presentation gets high marks for the nifty artwork and box used for the set. While essentially done in the same style as the Tenchi and Ranma boxsets I have, the outer cover is not the flimsy feeling plastic but a much more durable stock that frames a lovely image of Ifurita. On the back you get most of the information, except for what extras are included on the disc. The extras include cover and promotional art for the first and second OAV series, textless opening and ending credits for both series, concept art for the first series, and a breakdown of all the worlds in the El Hazard Universe (including the Wanderers and the Alternative World). I would have loved some cast interviews, especially since I think the English dubbing crew was awesome on this show (especially considering the age). All in all this is a very well done boxset.
For some reason this set seems to have some problems playing on my Playstation 2. The first disc would not play at all and the other two took a bit longer to read and play on the machine. I ended up watching the first disc on my computer. Then I took it to my parents' house (got to test it on his 5.1 set up!) and it played fine on the Panasonic they have. It might be that the Playstaion 2 has some problems reading these discs. I heard of similar things happening with the Akira discs as well, but I didn't experience any difficulties with it. So Playstation 2 owners... beware.
O.K. this is one of those series that was just totally fun from the beginning and has a perfect ending (for the first series). It is one of those series that you can use to get others into anime. Of course you have to make sure they don't mind lesbians and plenty of fan service. It's a great blend of comedy, action, and just the perfect amount of drama. And then they made the second series. Sigh. Bad move. But I'll get to that in a minute.
The story starts out typically enough. Makoto is about to be forced to expose his "friend" Jinnai in a rigged election. Jinnai, furious about this and many other imagined slights, decides to take care of Makoto, in a kinda sorta mostly permanent way. Meanwhile Nanami (who secretly has a crush on Makoto) is bringing a tasty home-made dinner to her teacher Mr. Fujisawa. Mr. Fujisawa has a little problem with the sake bottle; he can empty one in a matter of minutes and still ready to booze on. Well, these four end up getting pulled into another dimension and land in the world of El Hazard. Makoto and Fujisawa meet up with the beautiful Princess Rune Venus. Nanami gets stranded in the desert. Jinnai ends up finding a bunch of semi intelligent giant insects and their far more human queen, Diva. Fantasy and adventure quickly get underway as disguises are donned, priestesses used powerful magic to kick butt, and Jinnai laughs like an insane, power-mad lunatic... of course, he is an insane power-mad lunatic. Will our interdimensional travelers ever return to Japan? Will Jinnai conquer El Hazard? Does Makoto look like Princess Fatora or does Princess Fatora look like Makoto? And if you were Makoto or Fujisawa, trapped in El Hazard with all these beautiful women, would you want to go home?
In the second OAV series, a marriage between Mr. Fujisawa and one of the priestesses is about to take place. But Fujisawa decides (at the last minute) that he needs to find himself first. So he vanishes and our band of characters go on a quest to find him. Meanwhile Jinnai discovers a secret weapon that could be powerful enough to destroy all of El Hazard. You know he's gonna laugh like a loony, but will psycho boy use it?
Let's look at the animation style. It's done in a very similar vein as the original Tenchi OAV series. The character designs have that familiar AIC look to them. But beyond that the costume design, and overall production design is very well thought out and executed. El Hazard has a very particular look to it. I especially love the way the Bugrom's buildings, weapons and even Diva's outfit (what little there is) have a insect like look to them. The sound design also shines especially when the priestesses are kicking butt. But the two ultimate weapons featured in the first series also have some great sound design. Ifurita's Key Staff is awesome and makes some great sound effects as she dishes out pain. The look and feel of El Hazard's first OAV is top notch. But when you get to the second OAV series things take a downturn. The character designs get a different look and I wasn't too fond of them. The costumes change and everyone gets to wear some extremely goofy looking headgear. The design for the new weapon is also less impressive and even a bit clichéd. Most of the sound design remained the same in the second OAV, since it was the same universe and much of the world had already been created.
The plot seems a bit typical. And in a way it is. It definitely has the same type of Tenchi mix to it. You've got the central male character surrounded by a plethora of cute and/or beautiful girls. But the difference between Tenchi and El Hazard is that not every woman falls instantly in love with Makoto. In fact the character relationships in the first OAV of El Hazard are what make the series so fun. Unfortunately, this element is lost somewhat in the second series (and really lost in the Alternative World). But beyond the great ensemble cast, the overall plot is nothing too new. It's your typical good versus evil with some twists thrown in. It's the twists that keep you on your toes and keep you interested in the series. And I must say, I really love the end of the first set of OAVs. With an ending like that, it's really hard to top it. So the second OAV and the Alternative World really fall short in comparison. My main problem with the second OAV series is that everything seems very arbitrary and not too planned out. Lots of stuff happens but none of it is that interesting. In fact, the second series can almost be skipped altogether if you want to endure the poorly written Alternative World. There is very little that happens in the second OAV series that seems to change the characters or explore them any deeper. . It does have a few good moments but it just isn't up to the challenge of the first series
The English dub of El Hazard has been touted as one of the best dubs out there. I happen to agree with that, especially considering the age of the dub. This was recorded back when you had some really bad dub work coming out of other studios. In a way it's very similar to the Tenchi dub, so if you liked that one, you'll probably enjoy the cast for this series. What works so well is the way all the voice actors capture the relationships between the characters and all the little things that just make them that much more real. Special kudos should go out to voice actors for Alielle, Mr. Fujisawa and of course Jinnai. They do a great job and in many ways are as good as or better than the Japanese cast (in my opinion). But everyone else does a top-notch job as well. This dub seems like it was lots of fun to work on and that fun and energy really came out in the results.
El Hazard's score is a mix of traditional scoring tossed into a synthesizer with some "Arabian Nights" style thrown in for flavor. I really like the end result. It fits very well with the look and style of show. The opening theme is over the top but it works with animation and gets the adventurous spirit going. The end theme "Boys be Free" is cute to the point of painful. I'm not to crazy about the series end theme but it's not bad. Oh yes, Pioneer was still dubbing songs at this point. I'm not too big on the English song work but you got to give them credit for trying. The music for the second series seems to be lacking something that the first one had... or maybe I'm imposing my dislike for the series on the music. I did like the end theme for the second series.
I'm a big fan of this series and it's great to have it on DVD. But really, I wish the second OAV series hadn't happened. It's a real doozy of a loser, and it drags the score of this series way down. I would have given it 5's across the board if I hadn't had to sit through the second OAV again. I couldn't remember what it was all about and now I know why. But I will say that the first seven episodes remain in my top ten spots for pure entertainment in anime. The El Hazard boxset is worth seeing, and owning if it weren't for that last disc. If you've never seen the series before, check out the first couple tapes as a rental, and test it out. If you're anything like me, you'll be watching this puppy once a year and it will be great to have it on DVD.
Roman J. Martel
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