El-Hazard: The Wanderers Collection - Mania.com

DVD Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 650
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: El-Hazard

El-Hazard: The Wanderers Collection

El-Hazard: The Wanderers Collection DVD Review

By Chris Beveridge     September 15, 2010
Release Date: September 07, 2010

El-Hazard: The Wanderers Collection
© AIC • Pioneer LDC, Inc. • TV Tokyo • SOFTX • MANNENSHA

When four people from a Japanese high school are transported to the world of El Hazard, they have a journey that includes action, romance, adventure and a boatload of fun.

What They Say
Makoto always upstages Jinnai without trying, which just aggravates the delusional rivalry that Jinnai has concocted within his own mind. However, when Jinnai attempts to sabotage Makoto's newest invention, the machine creates a dimensional rift and throws Makoto, Jinnai, and several others from their school into a strange, new world that is filled with amazing creatures, beautiful sights, and dangerous enemies. If they ever want to get home, it's going to take wits, courage, and a lot of luck! Contains the complete 26-episode series!

The Review!

El Hazard retains the two language tracks that were originally produced for the Pioneer release so we get a pair of stereo mixes encoded at 192kbps. The show doesn't have a lot of impact to it across the forward soundstage as it's pretty basic considering the time it was made and the way most setups were back then through TV speakers. The encoding is good though and the tracks come across cleanly and clearly, there just isn't any noteworthy directionality across the set or anything that really stands out in terms of the encoding. The casts for both shows are solid though and they shine wonderfully, making me wish we had access to some lossless version of them. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1995 to 1996, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is spread across five discs with six episodes on the first disc and five on each of the remaining four discs. The show is using the remastered materials from the more recent release in Japan so what we get here is definitely better than the Pioneer releases, which came about a decade ago as is. The show has much better color presentation and accuracy, as you can see from the video below, but it's also suffering in a few ways. The cross coloration seen in the original release is still here since it's in the source material and it can be a touch distracting at times. Colors are generally good and solid with only the natural grain showing up throughout. There are some film damage elements here, such as some white streak once in awhile and some speckling, along with the occasional piece of dust or dirt, but it's a good looking presentation overall for the age of the show and coming from remastered materials. 
The Wanderers TV series gets a really slimmed down release compared to the original releases as the five disc set is in one single sized keepcase with a hinge inside to keep it all tightly packed. The cover art is pretty good as it features most of the main cast of characters in the outfits they wear throughout it with the focus on Makoto and Rune in the background as they get pretty close together. The character artowkr looks good with some nice colors, though a bit dark for some of them, and it's pretty busy overall but manages to work with the ensemble cast. The logo along the bottom tends to blend into the artwork itself though as it doesn't stand out all that well. The back cover has a lot of open space to it a the top two thirds of it has the three priestesses together showing off their powers a bit while six images are arrayed on either side of them. With the same kind of framing as the front, it looks nice and is pretty open. The summary below it covers the basics well and there's a good clean listing of the discs extras and features. The technical grid covers everything in a clean and easy to read form though it does list it as a four disc release as opposed to a five disc release. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are pretty nice looking as it takes the framing elements from the cover and uses that with more artwork. The menus are all laid out the same across all five discs with the light yellow background from the cover and a vertical strip of artwork down the left side. The right side gives us the basic navigation strip with the episode submenu breaking it all down cleanly. The artwork for each of the discs main menus is different, a rarity for a lot of releases these days, and it's a nice added touch that personalizes each of them a bit. There's a simple charm to all of it that works nicely and fits in with the general theme of the show. Menu navigation is a breeze and everything loads quickly while also reading our players' language presets on each of the discs.
The extras for the release are spread across all the discs and there are some nice ones here that I'm glad to see ported over. We get the clean opening and ending sequences along with a really nice full color art gallery and a standard line art gallery. The original animated comics are included which still amuse me to this day when I read them as they poke a bit of fun at things. The original didn't have a ton of extras but I'm glad to see these make their way into this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back in the 90's when Pioneer Entertainment wanted to promote their laserdisc business more, they made a rather solid leap into the anime production world, usually contracting out work to AIC. The fruits of those initial attempts gave us such shows as Tenchi Muyo, Kishin Corps and El Hazard. And having made money on some of their properties, they did their best to pimp them as much as possible with follow-up OVA series and then rebooting them for various TV attempts. While Tenchi Muyo proved to have the best legs for various incarnations, El Hazard comes close behind it, though they didn't fare that well with a lot of US fans. Myself, other than the second OVA series, I found the subsequent TV series to be quite enjoyable and fun.
The El Hazard: Wanderers TV series gives us twenty-six episodes of fun in the magnifcent, alternative world. The series focuses on a group of kids from a high school in Japan who, though the mixture of science and stupidity, end up being transported from there to the world of El Hazard. Late night at the school, when the teacher Fujisawa was watching over things, class president Jinnai is trying to evade the troubles of his tenure by blaming it on his long time nemesis Makoto, a generally likable guy who has a talent for science and has built an interesting device. When Jinnai manhandles it in front of him, it causes anyone in the building to get sent across to the other world, though they're thrown apart as Jinnai's sister Nanami ends up a fair bit away while Jinnai lands even farther. Only Fujisawa and Makoto land near each other and pair up.
The series covers a lot of familiar ground for a good chunk of it as we have the pairing of Fujisawa and Makoto exploring the land as they end up in the kingdom of Roshtaria and help out a princess in need, which gives them a leg up on figuring out how to get home since it gives them a good connection. The main part of the first half has them going to visit the various Great Priestesses of the land who may have the information they need. There are quirks to be had, particularly the first one in Miz as she develops quite the interest in Fujisawa, but the whole arc gives us a chance to explore the world. While the pair do this, Nanami is trying to eke out a living and make money, her true vocation in life, while wondering what happened until she eventually meets up with the other two again.
With the arrival of the group in El Hazard, there are some quirks though it takes awhile for it to be apparent. Fujisawa has great strength and athletic ability – when he doesn't drink. Nanami and Makoto have their own abilities but it's nowhere near clear for awhile what they are. The most fun is Jinnai, who as a power hungry egomaniac of the highest order, lands in the neighboring kingdom of Bugrom which is ruled by a beautiful woman named Diva who has grand aspirations of her own. Within this kingdom there's a massive army of bugs that she commands and that Jinnai can understand, which is why they treat him as a leader pretty easily. Jinnai's plans for world conquest are rather simple and dim in a lot of ways, but they're comical and eventually cause him to come into contact with Makoto, who is the only one that is seemingly able to thwart his plans.
The first half of the show goes through the standard setup and then comes in with the mild twist for the second half. That is the revival of an all powerful ancient weapon in the form of the Eye of God, which is controlled by the key that is a young woman named Ifurita. Ifurita's not exactly what you'd expect for someone that has so much power at hand. Ifurita is something like a young woman who didn't quite grow up as she has a happy view of things and a great deal of innocence that comes from being so disconnected from the world. What makes her revival so unfortunate is that she's found primarily by Jinnai, though Makoto was the first one to get to her. Jinnai takes advantage of the situation and makes himself out to be her new master. Unfortunately for Jinnai, she's not exactly the sharpest of weapons and proves to be more of a liability for most of the second half until her hidden side is awoken and all of reality is threatened. You know, the predictable stuff.
What makes El Hazard work, particularly in this incarnation of it for me, is that it really manages to avoid the harem aspect for the most part. While it was very strong in the original OVA series, it's diluted a fair bit here. There are numerous women in the show, but there's really only one of them that is truly and openly interested in Makoto. Rune blushes at the right times and gets girly at others that works nicely in an innocent way and you see them getting closer and closer throughout it. With the other women, there are shades of affection for him and that helps to give it that light harem feeling, but it never becomes too much. Rune wonders about Namami, who is never really clear about her feelings, and Shayla Shayla gets all high schoolish around him a couple of times, but that's about it. Ifurita doesn't really enter into it and I love that once again Miz is all about Fujisawa since it's nice to see more than one relationship at work.
In Summary:
For those that watched the OVA, comparisons are definitely easy to make but I always feel like each show has to stand on its own. While I adore the original, there's a lot I really like here with how it all comes together. It's a lighter and more spread out experience, it's a reworked series of relationships but a whole lot of what's at the core is here. The show lacks something to really make it seem stronger at the end, but what El Hazard: The Wanderers offers is a series that's fun and light. Having owned the series a couple of times before, it definitely plays out well again and definitely has a stronger flow when taken over a couple of days rather than the bimonthly releases of yore. While the show gets the short end of the stick compared to the original by many fans, it has a lot of charm and continues to make me smile. It's the kind of show you really don't see being made all that much anymore. Not heavy on romance, not heavy on fanservice but it has a lot of fun with just the right kind of grin on its face.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Line Art Gallery, Full Color Gallery, Clean Openings, Clean Closing, Animated Comics

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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