El Hazard is an anime franchise from the mid 90s. It was written by Tsukimura Ryoe with production by AIC. You may remember them from their work on OreImo, Solty Rei, Blue Gender, Sasameki Koto and several others I’ve reviewed. The first entry in the El Hazard franchise was Magnificent World, a seven episode OVA which gained enough popularity to spawn two tv anime series, and more OVAs. So, was this OVA actually good enough to warrant that? Let’s take a look at El Hazard The Magnificent World and find out.
We begin our story with high school politics. Because don’t all great fantasy tales begin with high school politics? Any way, student council President, Jinnai Katsuhiko is accused of using underhanded tactics, like promising clubs more funding, to attain his position. Around here, we’d just call that a campaign promise. The chief witness against him is Mizuhara Makoto. Rather than, say, call Makoto a liar, Jinnai develops the brilliant strategy of taking him hostage so that he can’t testify. Surely, nothing could go wrong with that plan. Just when Makoto finds himself cornered, everything freezes. Makoto tries to rouse Jinnai, with no success and makes his way to the recently discovered ruins in the school’s basement. A silver-haired beauty emerges, seemingly recognises Makoto and uses a magic technique to send him, as well as everyone else on the school premises that night, to the world of El Hazard. Once there, Makoto and his friends become entangled in a conflict raging betwixt an alliance of humans and the bugrom. A conflict which some third party seems to be manipulating.
Let’s look at the flaws of the narrative first. The big one has to do with the powers that our major characters develop as a consequence of crossing dimensions. For most of them, their introduction comes as a matter of plot convenience, showing up exactly when they’re needed. In the case of the teacher, the rules establishing the strength of his power are added to near the end of the series, right when the characters are in a corner. Honestly, the series could have benefited from adding some hints to Makoto’s power earlier and fleshing out the rules for Fujisawa’s before the climax. Although I will credit it for having both Makoto’s and Nanami’s abilities revealed, though at strangely convenient times, before their major climactic uses.
On the positive side, the narrative is really compelling with some strong sources of tension. The idea of modern day people being sent to a fantasy world was nothing new when this came out, but the world is well enough developed and different enough to keep it interesting. Actually, I really like the way that technology and magic get blended in this world. The plot elements are brought together really well for the climax and the story has a solid progression. I also like that the antagonistic groups are given actual motivation behind what they’re doing. The comedic elements generally work quite well, albeit being distracting at times, such as when the great Demon Goddess has to be powered by the turning of a crank as though she were a wind up soldier, during a largely dramatic moment.
This is one of those series where there are a lot of strong, compelling side characters but the protagonist, Makoto, is completely bland. This kid is pretty much the quintessential pure, in over his head and well intentioned, type of protagonist. Princess Fatora only gets a few lines of dialogue but she still manages to be more interesting than this bloke. That being said, there are quite a few compelling side characters. The priestesses, Nanami, Alielle, Ifurita, Fujisawa even Jinnai has some compelling characteristics.
As I mentioned, I like the antagonists in this. I like that Jinnai actually seems to care about the bugrom, even naming several of them, and that his alliance with them is shown as mutually beneficial instead of one of them using the other. The phantom tribe’s motivation, once revealed, is actually really strong. Then we have Ifurita and her really good arc. I also do love Alielle and how completely shameless she is when it comes to pursuing other women. She’s a delight. I also do appreciate that the women she pursues react differently to her attention based on their personalities. Shayla Shayla gets annoyed. Nanami finds it odd that she’s pursuing both of them but also seems completely not bothered by it.
Now, let’s talk about the romance element. This one is a bit mixed. The dynamic with Ifurita and Makoto actually works really well, in spite of him being blander than soggy cardboard. It makes a lot of sense for her character and actually has some really strong scenes. In contrast, the dynamic with Miz & Fujisawa seems really forced. They meet and she instantly starts planning their wedding while he just kind of goes along with it because… Bandora sacrifices the souls of children. Seriously, Fellows, if someone starts offhandedly talking about marrying you when you’ve known them for all of an hour, scarper. The love triangle they establish with Shayla Shayla and Nanami both being interested in Makoto is just pointless and takes time away from better things they could be doing. I have no idea why they even bothered with it.
The visuals in this are actually really impressive. Even by modern standards they hold up really well. The background details are strong. The El Hazard technology is really superb looking. The character designs are nicely unique, mostly. Interestingly enough, the bugrom are more varied and intimidating than the roaches from Terraformars.
That being said, there are some things that could have been better. There are a few visual effects that get recycled and the series does delve into fan-service for no real reason a couple of times. Although, to its credit, it is largely subdued about that. I’ve certainly seen much worse. It’s also a bit strange that Diva looks so humanoid and none of the other bugrom do. I’m sure it has nothing to do with AIC wanting to make her attractive.
This series did get some strong actors. Amano Yuri does really well. Sakurai Tomo, Soumi Yoko, Natsuki Rio & Kozakura Etsuko all do really well. Ootomo Ryuuzaburou gives a really interesting performance as Galus. The biggest issue is that there are some exaggerated lines, particularly from Okiayu Ryotaro. Iwanaga Tetsuya’s performance is a bit bland but so is his character. So, fair enough. The music is quite good. Nagaoka Seikou knows how to score a fantasy piece to have scale.
The big source of les-yay in this is Fatora’s lover, and generally flirtatious Alielle. I swear, she flirts or gets really touchy with half the ladies in this cast. Shayla Shayla and Nanami get the bulk of it, but Afura gets a bit of love too.
So, when all is said and done, how well does Magnificent World hold up? Well, the story is interesting and it has mostly strong characters. The art is really good. The acting and music are both strong. So, I’d say it holds up fairly well. However, it does have its issues. The fan-service scenes, the boringness of the main protagonist, the abilities that first manifest at times of dramatic convenience. It’s by no means a great OVA. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. It’s a solid series. If you’re interested in fantasy works, consider giving it a go. Next week I’m looking at a more recent fantasy work with Rokka no Yuusha.