What They Say:
Discover a mad, magnificent parallel world in El-Hazard: The Wanderers!
Makoto always upstages Jinnai without trying, which only 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!
Having both English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, the audio tracks sound very natural. Only after watching the series, I realized I never thought about the audio, so nothing sounded unnatural or out of balance. Since so many of the scenes had epic scale visual effects, a soundtrack that does not impede the action on the screen makes the show easier to appreciate.
Originally broadcast in 1995 and 1996, the 4:3 cell animation has expected issues. Made for CRT TVs, image jitter and interlaced video can seem more invasive on HD TVs. Only a few episodes had issues that really diverted my attention, and by tinkering with my player and television settings, I was able to make it less noticeable. Colors do play a role in creating an interesting setting, and the DVD delivers by producing the rich gradients that likely look better than the original broadcast.
The five disc series comes in a standard keepcase size box with hubs on the inside of the front and back cover, and two hubs on a clear hinged leaf. Hubs are secure and still release without exerting too much stress on the discs. The discs are printed with the title logo at the top and a bed of flowers along the bottom. The front cover offers the faces of all the important humanoid characters with most reflecting their personalities from the show. The spine has the title logo bordered with single flowers, and the red anime elements branding stretches around the top of the spine and front cover. The back has a large image of the three high priestesses in an action pose, and it is bordered by two columns with three scenes each from the series. The summary is written in brown font on the light gold-green background. All text and the technical grid are easy to read. The aesthetics of the designs really work as they remain spare and clear yet offer much of the emotional resonance of the show.
Menus have original art on the left side of the screen and horizontal links on the right. To select individual episodes, users must select the submenu “Scenes.” After selecting an episode, the menu offers the Opening, Part 1, Part 2, Ending, and Next Time.
In addition to line art gallery and a full-color art gallery, the release includes two motion comics with the characters discussing the home video release of the show. One scene offers fan service that was absent from the show.
El-Hazard shows its age, but still offers a rewarding viewing experience. Looking back at an older property sometimes requires the viewer to recognize stereotypes from anime’s past. With many series, viewers have to look past awkward storylines that seem to rely on the viewer not asking too many questions. El-Hazard offers viewers an emotional adventure-romance, but getting there may take some effort.
The story begins in a science lab after school. Makoto, a guy with an interest in science, has set up several power coils in the room. He explains to his female friend Nanami that he doesn’t know what the experiment will do. In a nearby room, his teacher, Fujisawa, appears to be moonlighting as the school’s security as he sits in front of a filled ashtray, drinking. He finds Makoto and Nanami and brings them back to his room. While there, the maniacal student council president, Jinnai, sabotages the experiment. When Makoto surprises him, Jinnai crosses some wires. The next thing we know is Makoto and the others have been transported to another world but they all land in different areas.
Upon arrival, Makoto promptly saves a princess who attempts to escape from large insect creatures. He then is reunited with his teacher who now has fantastic strength. Nanami does not know that any others have transported to this world and begins her own journey. Jinnai takes his rightful place as would-be world tyrant as he teams up with the Bugrom queen, the insect race that seems to be plotting against the humanoids.
Here is the first weakness. We are not sure if there is an actual war or if the Bugrom and humans only come into conflict when they are around each other. When Jinnai first joins Bugrom, he seems to have objectives that the Bugrom Queen does not have. He wants world domination, but it seems the Bugrom tribe has less political motives. What they are remains unclear, though, so there is no internal conflict amongst the insectoids.
The second weak element is the series starts with Makoto and Fujisawa trying to find a way home by locating the three priestesses who control elements of nature. During this search, the series operates more as an episodic series where Makoto and Fujisawa must overcome some challenge established by the priestesses. We do have other side stories that develop character backgrounds, but even the primary characters remain mostly shallow. The main storyline, the characters searching for a way home, seems to end without resolution nor with the characters realizing the object of their journeys has ended.
When all seems lost, a longer arc appears and builds on the relationship the viewers have with the side characters. The Princess and Nanami have been kidnapped by Jinnai. The characters start to confront their emotions and it seems every character has a crush. While this never plays out like a harem anime, it seems Makoto has been the object of several women’s affection. Suddenly the characters have emotions and motives, and the situation seems dire. For most of the final six episodes of the series, the action builds and the humdrum series becomes something more effective than I had anticipated.
El-Hazard: The Wanderers offers viewers both the good and the bad of mid 1990s anime. While the series is uneven and leaves many plot holes, it builds to an emotional crescendo that seems naturally paced with suspense and adventure. With a touch of fantasy and romance storylines, fans will recognize prototypes of characters from similar, modern series.
Viewers willing to look past the weaknesses will be rewarded with a glimpse of one moment in anime’s varied history.
English 2.0 language with onscreen text, Japanese 2.0 language with removable English subtitles, Clean Openings and Closing, Nozomi Trailers.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (4:3)
Samsung KU6300 50” 4K UHD TV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.