Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment, Japan
- MSRP: Ą6000
- Running time: 135
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: El-Hazard
El-Hazard, The Magnificent World Vol. #1
By Chris Beveridge
What They SayThe Review!
I absolutely love El-Hazard. Lots of people do in fact. For instance, check out the primer we have on this site written by Sean Connolly. El-Hazard was one of the early releases in the U.S. by Pioneer and gave a lot of people an indication of the way Pioneer would be going with their titles. Their only previous releases were Tenchi Muyo! and I believe either Hakkenden or Kishin Corps.
El-Hazard showed that they had an affection for the similar storyline of Tenchi in that one befuddled male was surrounded by some very cute women who loved him. Except this time they threw a lot of women around him. The difference in this model is that the side characters also developed relationships instead of just fixating on the main character.
El-Hazard is the story of three students and one teacher from Shinonome High in Japan who get mysteriously transported to El-Hazard, the Magnificent World. All of the characters except for two end up spread out across the land, leaving the storylines to help bring them all back together.
Makato, the slightly effeminate male lead, ends up being mistaken for a missing princess of the land of Roshtaria. Through some misunderstandings, Makoto and his teacher, the always fun Mr. Fujisawa, end up going out into the world to get the three Priestesses to help unlock the Eye of God, a device which may help them all get back home.
There's a lot of insanity throughout this series. Great characters, great dialogue (this rates as my all time favorite dub, which I watch over the subtitled version). The voice actors are perfectly matched, especially the evil Jinnai whose laugh is so dead on, it's eerie. Dialogue is well written and recorded with a lot of emotion from all the actors.
Since this will be coming out in the U.S. by the end of 1999, I'll leave the story itself at that point and go into it more once we have a domestic release.
For the import version, the first volume of which contains episode 1-4, the quality is gorgeous. This is a highly impressive disc on many fronts. The video quality is very high, which is important with a show that contains so many lush settings and vibrant colors. I noticed a few sequences that contained the moire effect (where things like Venetian blinds shimmer, an NTSC problem that will only go away once we're on HDTV) and one or two very small hints of pixellation. Overall, it's an outstanding looking release.
The audio is something that makes this an interesting disc. Containing four language tracks on a dual layered disc, you have a good selection. The English 2.0 track is right off of the laserdisc master and sounds good. The Japanese 2.0 sounds identical. The Dolby 5.1 Japanese track is very very well done, though I hope some remastering is done for the U.S. version. Some sequences, notably towards the end of episode four, just sound really weak compared to the 2.0 mix. It sounded as if part of the front soundstage was sacrificed to turn this into a 5.1 mix.
Unfortunately, I'm not able to try the DTS mix. No receiver for it, but it's a definite plus for region free players who have DTS and who can understand Japanese as there are no subtitles on the disc.
I think my only gripe, and it's with Pioneer Japan, is how they're remixing opening sequences into 5.1 channels. I had the same issue with the Tenchi Muyo Ultimate collection, where the 5.1 version has one or two very outstanding sounds played throughout the opening that were not there before, thereby dampening the already gorgeous opening music.
El-Hazard suffers from this same fate. With the ability to slip back and forth during the opening, it's definitely very different from the original mix, and I'm not convinced it's for the better. Overall the 5.1 mix is very good, but the redoing or updating of the intro song is just bleah.
Pioneer LDCA... guys, please provide either a 2.0 track so we can have the original or put it as a bonus credit less opening sequence somewhere. If the U.S. release is a totally 5.1 remix for both languages, it's a disservice to fans to not provide the original 2.0 mix of the openings and endings.
If you can't wait for the U.S. release and have to see some El-Hazard, it's pretty easily to recommend these releases, especially if you love the English dub as much as I do. If you're a sub fan with now working knowledge of understanding Japanese, I'd hold off unless you have money to burn.
Japanese 2.0 Dolby,Japanese 5.1 Dolby,Japanese 5.1 DTS,English 2.0 Dolby,Gallery,Promotional spots
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.