This week I have a review of one of the OVA series to come out in the early 90s in the “Whisked Into A Magical World” genre–one that predates Magic Knight Rayearth.
Aya Sakaguchi as Ura
Ryotaro Okiayu as Katsuhiko Jinnai
Tetsuya Iwanaga as Makoto Mizuhara
Yuri Amano as Ifurita
Etsuko Kozakura as Alielle
Kikuko Inoue as Rune Venus
Kouji Ishii as Mr. Masamichi Fujisawa
Mifuyu Hiiragi as Fatora
Rikako Aikawa as Nahato
Rio Natsuki as Nanami Jinnai
Tomo Sakurai as Shayla-Shayla
Directed by Hiroki Hayashi
Written by Ryoe Tsukimura
Animated by AIC
Get from Amazon.com – Note: It is only available used – the series was brought to the US by Pioneer/Geneon, and when Geneon USA folded, nobody else picked up the license.
Makoto Mizuhara is a fairly ordinary high school student. He’s good at track, good at sports, good at lots of things, and a nice person. Katsuhiko Jinnai is the head of the student council, and he’s an absolute weasel, and he’s going to get deposed for corruption (yes, corruption can happen in student councils). This is around the same time ancient ruins are found in the school’s basement. Late one night, Katsuhiko tries take out the person who will testify against him and destroy his spot on the council, Katsuhiko by trussing him up and dumping him somewhere until the hearing is over. Yes, this is an over-reaction.
However, it’s also rendered moot when the ruins go active and whisk Makoto, Katsuhiko, Katsuhiko’s much more rational sister Nanami, and PE teacher Mr. Masamichi Fujisawa through a time-space portal to the magical land of El-Hazard. Makoto and Masamichi are deposited in the land of the humans, Katsuhiko is deposited into the land of the insectoid Bugrom, and Nanami is dropped somewhere in between.
The High Points
Because this is a series made during the early-to-mid-90s OVA boom, we’ve got good animation for most of the series, both in the backgrounds and the character animations. In particular, the animation breath a lot of life into the generic Bugrom soldiers, even though they have no humanoid facial features. I also loved the ending.
The Low Points
The series is pretty short, only 8 episodes long. It runs into a few animation hiccups near the end of the series, particularly when the Bugrom capital is destroyed–it really feels like they skimped on the animation for this segment. Additionally, I really think that the Shadow Tribe aren’t used very well in here. Their origins aren’t well explained,
No significant blood here. However, there is female nudity, both full female frontal without fine detail and topless shots with fine detail. Also, a female character attempts to make out with a male character who she thinks is a female character, and sticks her hand down the front of the male characters pants.
Originality: I can’t tell you how much this references John Carter of Mars or other similar “Teleported to a magical land” stories off the top of my head – the only one I’m familiar with that pre-dates this is Den, and this has nothing in common with Den. I do recognize a bit it borrows from Prisoner of Zenda. 4 out of 6.
Acting: The acting is solid, with no performances that I found grating. Ryotaro Okiayu’s performance as Katsuhiko stands out quite well, in my opinion. 4 out of 6.
Animation: The animation is generally solid, except for the spoiler-guarded bit under the Low Points. 5 out of 6.
Production: Sound design is excellent, and the score does a good job of bringing some Middle-Eastern elements into the music, to fit in with El Hazard’s visual style, without overdoing it. 4 out of 6.
Story: The story is fairly good, though my main complaint has to do the second spoiler-guarded problem under Low Points, and considering it relates to the Big Bad of the series, it’s a significant problem. 4 out of 6.
Emotional Response: Aside from humor I have to admit that I didn’t get much of an emotional response from this series until I got to the very end of the show, at which point it did an excellent job of playing my heartstrings like a harp (though admittedly, I’m a big softie). 6 out of 6.
Overall: I’m not going to say that this is among my top anime series, because it’s not. However, it is a decent anime series, and probably one of the better (though not the best) fantasy anime that made it to the US. 4 out of 6.
In Total, El Hazard: The Magnificent World gets 31/42.