El-Hazard: the Magnificent World OVA Collection - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 4 - Australia / South America
  • Released By: Madman Entertainment
  • MSRP: AU$59.95
  • Running time: 355
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: El-Hazard

El-Hazard: the Magnificent World OVA Collection

By Bryan Morton     April 19, 2005
Release Date: February 23, 2005


El-Hazard: the Magnificent World OVA Collection
© Madman Entertainment


What They Say
The discovery of extraordinary ruins beneath the high school becomes the adventure of a lifetime when several students and their teacher are transported to the magical world of El-Hazard! There, each learns to cope with strange new powers and even stranger surroundings. Beautiful women, insane rivalries and bugs the size of people are everyday features in this new world that promises adventure and excitement - but no way home...

The Review!
Audio: B+
Those listening to the first series in Japanese get a choice of tracks - the original 2-channel stereo track, and a new 5.1-channel surround track that was created from scratch when the show was remastered for its Japanese DVD release. The surround track definitely has a cleaner sound to it, but while it does make some use of the rear channels - most noticeably during action scenes, as you'd expect - it's quite subtle, and barely noticeable a lot of the time.

Here's where you get one major difference from the Region 1 release: as the 5.1 track is a new recording rather than a remix, the timing of a lot of the dialog changed. On the R1 release, this caused problems with subtitle timing - there was only 1 subtitle track, timed to the 2-channel soundtrack, which apparently made using the 5.1 track an exercise in patience. This release provides two separate subtitle tracks, each timed to one of the audio tracks, which removes the timing problem. Full marks to Madman for working around this issue.

The English tracks for both series, and the Japanese track for OVA2, are standard 2-channel stereo. I listened to the Japanese stereo track for several episodes, and didn't notice any problems with it - likewise, the English track doesn't appear to be anything less than decent.

Video: B
The video for OVA1 was apparently also remastered for the Japanese release, so the picture quality is better than you would expect for a show this age. The pictures are nice & clean, with no noticeable artifacts or rainbows. While the colours are nice and vibrant, the show doesn't have the same 'sheen' that more recent digitally-animated shows have - although for many, that's a good thing. The original Japanese credits are used throughout. The video for OVA2 is showing its age a little more, but is still of good quality.

Packaging: A+
The three discs come in a digipack set, packaged within a cardboard slipcase. The artwork used is simply stunning – a watercolour image of Ifurita takes pride of place on the front of the set, with Kalia featuring on the back, along with the disc description and Mandam's usual technical information panel. Opening the set reveals two more watercolour pieces – one of Ifurita, andother of Ifurita with Makoto – and a 12-page colour booklet with episode details and another set of artwork, this time in the more familiar style of the anime. One of the best-presented sets I've seen in a while.

Menu: B-
The menus are very simple, with just a static watercolour-style image of Ifurita on main screen, and some other images of her on other screens. The simple layout makes menu navigation quick and easy, and the same menus are used on all three discs.

Extras: B-
Extras are spread across the three discs in the set:
Art Galleries – one on each disc, which together provide a huge selection of promotional art, line art and design sketches for the two series. They're presented as rolling slide shows, totaling almost 15 minutes.
OVA1 Textless OP / ED - in 2-channel stereo
OVA2 Textless OP / ED - including all 4 versions of the ED sequence. The animation is the same for each ED, but the song is sung by a different character each time.
Dimensions Descriptions - a text-only walk through the different world of the various El-Hazard series, including The Wanderers and the Alternative World.
The art galleries are the highlight of what seems a rather limited set of extras, given the profile of the show. What's here is good, but I can't help but feel there should be more of it.

Content: A(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I came to the anime party slightly late, and El-Hazard definitely predates my obsession. It's one of those titles that I've been hearing about for years, as it's a firm fan favourite and probably a classic in most people's minds - so it's possibly a bit heretical that it's taken me until now to get around to watching it. Thank-you, Madman, for a reasonably-priced release.

When high-school student Makoto Mizuhara encounters a strange woman in a shrine that's recently been discovered beneath his school, she transports him across dimensions to the world of El-Hazard, along with rival Katsuhiko Jinnai, potential love-interest Nanami and school teacher Mr Fujisawa. When they arrive, El-Hazard is in turmoil - the Allied Nations, centered on the kingdom of Roshtaria, are under threat from both the Bugrom (a nation of bugs, as you'd expect from the name) and the Phantom Tribe, blue-skinned people who live underground.

Makoto and Fujisawa emerge in Roshtaria, where Makoto's similarity to missing princess Fatora is quickly put to use - Roshtaria possesses a doomsday weapon, the Eye of God, which is key to their attempts to keep the Allied Nations together, but Fatora is needed to operate it, and with her missing the other nations have been getting restless. Jinnai, meanwhile, emerges in the midst of the Bugrom, where his thirst for power and new-found tactical genius is just what they need to succeed in their war against the humans. Nanami also emerges in Roshtaria, but is initially separated from the rest of the group and has to find ways to make ends meet before she's finally able to meet up with Makoto & Fujisawa.

Behind the scenes, the Phantom Tribe are working to manipulate both the Allied Nations and the Bugrom, seeking to find a way to get their revenge on both of the surface races for having been forced to live underground - and they may have found a way to put the Eye of God to their own use...

Of course, that's just part of the cast & what goes on in the series. There's also Rune Venus, leader of Roshtaria & one of the two members of the royal family needed to control the Eye of God; the priestesses of Mount Muldoon and keepers of ancient technology, Shayla-Shayla, Miz Mishtal and Afura Mann; ancient demon of destruction Ifurita, who is reactivated by Jinnai and sent to wreak destruction on Rohstaria; Alielle, Fatora's young - and female - lover.... The list goes on. One thing that can definitely be said about El-Hazard is that there's no shortage of things going on.

Which make it all the more surprising that it manages to not feel rushed - quite the opposite, as there are points in the series where the war between the races takes a back seat and there's time for some comic filler, such as the ongoing battle between Shayla-Shayla and Nanami for Makoto's affections, and their reaction when they realise who he's really interested in.

Highlights include just about any scene featuring Jinnai, and the relationship between Makoto and Ifurita. The structure of the series is also notable in a few ways - production company AIC have long been the masters of harem anime (most notably Tenchi Muyo!), and have annoyed people for years with their habit of dragging stories out for as long as possible (read: more profit), and for refusing to allow their male leads to settle on one woman. Not so in El-Hazard – while it has typically-AIC harem elements, the story has a proper resolution, and Makoto gets to pick his girl in one of the better endings you're likely to see.

Of course, there are two OVA series in this set, but the second gets a much poorer press than the original. In OVA2, Fujisawa - finally about to marry Miz - gets cold feet and does a runner. Makoto and company are roped in by Miz to track him down like the dog that he is, but there are Demon Gods on the loose to disrupt the search. Jinnai has released Kalia, who's not about to be put under anyone's control, while another Ifurita has also been located. While I'll admit that it certainly doesn't have the epic quality that the first series has, it's still worth a look. Think of it more as a 'bonus feature'.

In Summary:
Hype is one of those things about the anime world that you learn to be wary of - many shows that have a vocal fan base are equally loathed by other segments of the fan world. El Hazard isn't one of those shows - it's almost universally loved, and completely deserves it. The only question is, what took Madman so long? Definitely recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Galleries,OVA1 Textless OP / ED,OVA2 Textless OP / ED,Dimensions Descriptions

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28” widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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