El-Hazard, The Wanderers Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 175
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: El-Hazard

El-Hazard, The Wanderers Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     October 16, 2001
Release Date: October 16, 2001

El-Hazard, The Wanderers Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Makoto always upstages Jinnai without trying, which exasperates the delusional rivalry that Jinnai has concocted within his own brain. However, when Jinnai attempts to sabotage Makoto's invention, the machine actually opens a dimensional rift throwing Makoto, Jinnai, and several others from their high school into a land of wonder and fantasy. Will they ever be able to find their way back home? Will they want to?

The Review!
Not long after the El-Hazard OVA series became a success for Pioneer, plans were quickly drawn up to capitalize on its success and get it even more mainstream by taking the 7 OVA's, reworking things and getting it on TV as a 26 episode series. The series takes several cues from the OVA's but forges its own way with several important differences.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The disc is a basic stereo mix, with dialogue hitting the center channel and the rare bit of directionality, usually with Mr. Fujisawa and some of his antics. Music and sound effects make good use of the overall forward soundstage, but in the end directionality really is fairly minimal.

While the OVA series was almost lavishly done, the TV series went and cut some corners in design and cel quality. This translates through to the transfer here, where you can see more of the color shifts from frame to frame and more of the paint strokes as well. The show is also fairly grainy as Pioneer is likely using the same source materials they've had all along, which is what Pioneer Japan did when they release this back in 1998 for their market. Colors are decent if a bit soft and there's a few areas of some cross coloration, but not a constant amount. The first couple of episodes are grainier than the remainder, so that helps as well.

Pioneer kicks major butt with yet another fully reversible cover. The main cover has a picture of Princess Rune with her cleavage flowing over while the back provides a couple of pieces of character animation and a decent summary of things as well as the episode numbers and titles (which is a plus, as the volumes are not numbered). The reverse side has Makoto taking the center stage (with no overflowing cleavage) and a different back cover that features the three priestesses. This flip works out really well in giving people a good choice. I myself went with the Makoto cover. There's also a foldout insert that provides a number of great looking pieces of artwork with the back side listing the episode numbers and titles as well. This is a great package overall.

The menu system is pretty minimal in that it's a static screen with music playing. Episodes are quickly selected from the main screen and the layout of features and setup works well. Access times between menus is nice and fast and selections work as they should.

The only included extra here is a brief photo gallery showing off some nice artwork, some of which was seen on the insert.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The cast of El-Hazard: Wanderers is essentially the same as the OVA series. You've got your male lead of Makoto, the boy genius and all around nice guy. He's built a machine in science club that when accidentally triggered by his antagonist, class president Katzuhiko Jinnai, people who were in the school at the time find themselves transported to the strange world of El-Hazard.

Makoto finds himself waking up along side one of his teachers, the slightly scruffy and always fun Mr. Fujisawa. Jinnai finds himself stranded alone in the heart of the Bugrom empire, where he's adept at their language and ends up becoming a commanding personality in their military system and begins all kinds of assaults. Jinnai's sister, Nanami, finds herself alone as well, and ends up moving from low paying job to low paying job to help her keep some money until she can figure things out.

Makoto and Mr. Fujisawa play things out similar to the OVA, where they happen upon Princess Rune Venus and save the day, but through various miscommunications while at the castle, find themselves in the dungeon instead. The main difference with Roshtaria and the original plot is that Venus' sister Fatora does not exist here. Instead, Makoto and Mr. Fujisawa eventually get themselves out of trouble with the castle caretakers and are told to seek out the three priestesses who may know of a way to send them back to their own world.

That brings us close to episode three, which means each subsequent episode deals with a different priestess and a different bit of confusion and/or attack from Jinnai and the Bugrom. It's fairly episode early on while the two try to find their way back home, but end up discovering Jinnai's on this world as well and trying to help people along the way. It's amusing to think that by the end of this disc with its seven episodes, a lot more was accomplished in the 7 OVA's.

The TV series moves a fair bit slower but adds more time to get to know the characters that are introduced so far. It's got its pluses and minuses when compared with its original, but it's still El-Hazard at its core. If only the production values were a bit better and character animation consistency counted for a bit more. This disc is definitely a value though with the number of episodes for the price and it comes in a great package. If you're an El-Hazard junkie, you'll enjoy this release. If the OVA series was too much money for too little show, this expanded alternate variant of it may be more to your liking.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery

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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