Notice: Consider this a review of all 4 different entries of this franchise.
El Hazard (EH) uses the trope of people from our world transporting to a magical one, where they are thrown in a war for supremacy. The premise is kind of generic at first; they find some weird ancient ruins in their school that transport them to a world divided into light and dark sides. They get separated and each one ends up having to survive in his or her own way before meeting once again. And for some reason, they gain superpowers. And awaken doomsday ancient weapons. And an army of huge bugs invades. And lots of romantic comedy is thrown in just for the heck of it.
As far as variety goes, EH has a lot of different side stories or missions of sorts that need to be completed in order for the grand mission to take place. It is presented in an almost videogame way, with the characters having to learn using their powers, gathering magic artifacts, getting the approval of priestesses and dating one another … Ok, the last part is kinda irrelevant but it sure makes the whole thing feel like a date sim. Of course nothing serious ever happens; everything is left in an almost platonic level.
And this is my first grip with the anime. There is so much of it and it barely leads somewhere; practically making the whole show to feel like a run of the mill romantic comedy in a fantasy environment, with the lead boy being the archetypical useless, meek, dorky boy who can’t even breathe without feeling indecisive and yet all the girls like him for that. Even the cat was in love with him! There was even a lesbian who also hit on him because he was forced to cross dress at various moments. It was funny for a while but it grew tiresome after a few episodes, since you clearly see he has no balls and yet even female robots with the power to level cities like him.
Wait, did I just said female robots? In a medieval fantasy setting? Yes, and get ready to see a lot more weird things in it as well, such as a cat armor (a cat that protects you by wearing it, lol), a lunar cannon that fires a laser capable of blowing up cities, and an army of insectoid invaders from the dark side of the planet. If you make any sense of all that, good for you, I found them all to be random ideas thrown in at random moments. Plus, they too hardly lead anywhere half the time. This show was written on the run to the point nothing seems planned or important.
So the story is basically a pile of usually irrelevant to one another ideas that are presented in a very light and comical way. At first, I liked a lot how each one of the four people transported there had to survive on his or her own and build their own unique way of fighting. But as soon as they all met, well, it became that random thing I was talking about and there was very little to look forward to. They were moving to temples and ruins and fighting huge insects in a very typical way; the feeling of adventure and survival was lost and was replaced with a mediocre fighting shounen.
Now lets talk a bit about the 4 different entries regarding the franchise.
- The first OVA series (The Magnificent World) is the best one if you ask me. It is not too long and most of its duration is spent on introducing the characters, then their powers, then their quest, then the whole world threat. It went rather smoothly although most comical moments were too chaotic for my taste.
- But that did not end there, then we had the sequel (The Magnificent World 2) where they face yet another threat, this time in a lot less exciting manner and in lesser volume. By now they were too powerful and cheerful, and even the new weapon didn’t feel as threatening.
- Then followed a second sequel (The Alternative World), where they are transported to an alternative version of the magical world. Well, what a mess, first from our world to a magical one and then to an alternative version of it? Ok, that I admit was original. So over there they have to go through the same mess all over again since nobody knows them and each character they met up to then had a different behaviour, so it didn’t help much in knowing them. It was a lot darker and scary that the earlier entries but the ending was very rushed and messy, they just find the portal and return to the other world leaving behind the on going mission like it didn’t matter at all.
- As for the fourth entry, that would be an extended tv version of the first series (The Wanderers). It is by far the least interesting of the four entries, as the animation, the characters, the humor, everything in it were watered down to garbage and even the plot was aimless to the most part. That’s what you get when you switch from OVA to tv format; all the cool stuff are taken out.
If you see the story as a whole, not that many things happen or get resolved; we almost get a marriage at one point but that’s as far as it goes. In all the scenario is very weak and makes little use of all the interesting elements it had in it. Although the first arc with the female robot can be considered as complete, even that conflict was resolved in a simple way, leaving out much needed character development to the point where you stop caring. I mean, ok, everyones’ objective was at first to survive and find one another, and then to stop the doomsday weapon. But even when that is dealt with instead of maturing as characters the scriptwriter just chose to rehash everything with more doomsday weapons and alternative versions of the secondary cast. Big deal! That did not help to make the characters any more special or memorable and even ruined the setting.
From the entire cast I only consider two of them to be kind of interesting, none of which are amongst the people who transffered there from our world. That’s right, they were that generic and dull to the point I didn’t care about them. They were stock material, from the indecisive lead, to the lesbian fighter and the bug queen.
- The first interesting character is the elder priestess in one of the temples. She is so kind and determined, and even happens to have the same personality and voice actress as Belldandy from Ah My Goddess. Ma, she was like the mother figure tot hem all and even “almost” got married to one of them.
- The second one is the female robot. On one hand it is a fearful ancient weapon of mass destruction, on the other a tragic character who was created for the sole purpose of being a tool. She softens along the way, after she gets affectionate with the dickless harem lead, and as tasteless as that felt she does turn out to be an interesting twist to the plot. The ending sequence with her waiting for countless years is also quite dramatic and amongst the best scenes in the whole series.
The production values are ok for the time the shows were made, and this counts only for the OVA versions since the tv series looks like crap with a ton of stills and lifeless characters. Although there was a huge magical land full of wonders, I couldn’t get immerged into it with the way they kept throwing in irrelevant ideas and doing very little with most of them. The main city is supposed to feel like it’s Arabic but besides some vague oriental tunes and dresses, you don’t feel anything about it. It hardly feels magnificent as the title implies. The characters all look typical and simple too and you end up waiting for some weird erotic joke to come up and keep your eyes open. And the cat armor thing was seriously retarded. The music score is nice to listen to but atmosphere and dialogues are average at best.
In all, this is a very passable franchise that doesn’t have anything good in it other than unexploited potential. The maternal priestess, the alternative world, the doomsday robot, all those good ideas got wasted because of poor storytelling.
Vision of Escaflowne
Those Who Hunt Elves
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: OVA: 7/10, TV: 5/10
OVA: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 2/2, Visual Effects 1/2
TV: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
SOUND SECTION: OVA: 7/10, TV: 5/10
OVA: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
OVA: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 2/4, Sound Effects 1/3
STORY SECTION: OVA: 4/10, TV: 3/10
OVA: Premise 1/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
OVA: Premise 1/2, Pacing 0/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: OVA: 5/10, TV: 4/10
OVA: Presence 1/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 1/2
OVA: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 1/2
VALUE SECTION: OVA: 2/10, TV: 1/10
OVA: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 2/4
OVA: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 1/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: OVA: 3/10, TV: 1/10
OVA: Art 1/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 1/4
OVA: Art 0/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 0/4
VERDICT: OVA: 5.5/10, TV: 3/10