El Hazard: Magnificent World
Mokoto is high school student with a knack for science. A strange discovery is unearthed beneath the school, a beautiful woman inside an artifact claiming to have waited for him for 10,000 years. Mokoto and a few others at the school after hours are transported to an alternate dimension: the world of El Hazard.
It's a wonderful and alien place, but only half as strange a his boozing teacher gaining super human strength if he stops drinking (which he rarely has the willpower to do). Mokoto looks nearly identical to a missing princess, and agrees to act in her stead until her rescue. Dressed as a girl, stuck in a strange land, with his formal rival from school ascending to command of the hostile Bugrum Empire, life sure got weird fast. Those issues seem small compared to the powerful demon awakened, capable of destroying cities on a whim. Her name is Ifurita. She's the one who found Mokoto back on earth, although she claims to have never met him. How is it all connected?
While popular in its day, El Hazard is an old school title I never got around to watching. Many old reviews look at this one through rose colored glasses. New anime fans likely wouldn't rate this one as well as I'm about to. What makes El Hazard squeak above average is the way certain older titles come together in imagination, production quality, and fun. There are multiple "versions" of this franchise, so if you want to know where to start, it's right here with El Hazard: Magnificent World. Unfortunately it's also where you should stop because everything else in the franchise has problems or strait out sucks.
It's another 90s anime with an ordinary guy transported to an alternate dimension, so it's easy to overlook El Hazard. The difference is that alternate dimension FEELS exotic and interesting. It's mostly serious, but the characters keep the atmosphere light and fun - an unusual approach in its day.
The Bugrum Empire seem typical for militant bug people villains, until ego maniac classmate Jinai becomes their esteemed leader under command of the suspiciously foxy and un-bug like queen. The Bugrum are a plot device providing comic relief more so than actual antagonists, and I couldn't help but love the guys. In keeping with the lighter atmosphere, violence is eluded to but rarely shown in detail. In one section Ifurita obliterates a village because... she's not a morning person. Such events are often glossed over even if the reality of what happened is pretty grim.
My only real problem with El Hazard is about character motivations. It rarely makes sense why people are doing things, on either side. The OVAs sits at a comfy 7 volumes (an hour each), but I couldn't help but feel it was one volume longer than it should have been. The dub is an old school Pioneer effort; good for its day, and still holds up well. It occasionally takes liberty with the script, sometimes resulting in hilarious dialog which might make the dub worth checking out for that reason alone.
El-Hazard is average in many ways, but key features make it stand out among other 1990s titles. It sports superior 90s OVA quality in design and animation. The core story is good, but bolstered substantially by the imaginative environment. Aside from that, I award bonus points because Ifurita is such a bad ass. It might not rock your world, but it's a good fun watch, worthy of its popularity in the 90s.
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