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DVD Cover Art for El-Hazard: The Magnificent World

DVD Cover Art for El-Hazard: The Magnificent World

I’d forgotten how much fun El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is, particularly in the English language dub.

A bit of context

I’ve started hosting friends on Saturday nights when the new Sailor Moon Crystal episodes are released. I’m not really a fan, but these friends are and they don’t have easy access to streaming internet. I’m happy to help, but I’m charging a toll of showing some of the good stuff in my collection.

I started with El-Hazard: The Magnificent World and the reaction was pretty much all I could have hoped for[1].

Laughter. Lots of it. Plus enjoyment of a good story that is tightly plotted and well told within the constraints of only having 7 episodes to work with.

Inspired by: derived or transformed?

El-Hazard is inspired by a heady mix of the 1001 Nights and E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith. “Inspired” can sometimes imply “derivative”, but that isn’t the case for El-Hazard.

Instead, there’s a real sense of “we love this stuff now let’s have some real fun with transforming it”.

What results is simply fabulous. The world building is rich, vibrant, and still looks great in a show that’s nearly 20 years old. El-Hazard is timeless in a way reminiscent of Iria: Zeiram the Animation, and for basically the same reasons.

The opening shows much of the world building, and also showcases the beautiful soundtrack.

The Dub of Genius

The dub of El Hazard is simply fabulous. It is lively, fun, and Fujisawa-Sensei always gets the best lines.

There is a real sense that the voice actors were really enjoying themselves on this one, and that enjoyment is infectious.

All too often I had to remind people to quieten down so they could hear some of the dialogue. This usually isn’t a problem with subtitles, but you need to pay attention in El-Hazard.

One thing I did notice is that the dialogue mixing on the DVD version isn’t as good as the original Laser Discs. There is a lot of background dialogue in El-Hazard from servants[2] and Ura[3] that is drop dead funny, and it wasn’t quite as audible on the DVD. That’s a shame, but the dub is still a work of genius overall even in this version.

The Story

I don’t actually want to say too much about the story for El-Hazard. It starts with mysterious ruins, school rivalries, and a sudden transportation of several characters from Japan to the world of El-Hazard.

What happens next, particularly some of the sight gags, is simply too good to spoil.

I’ve occasionally complained about loose scripting in animeEl-Hazard is an example of how to do it right and also of how wrap things up with a perfect ending once you’re done.

The Verdict

El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is still one of the best OAV series out there. It has been, and will remain, my favourite for years to come. Thoroughly recommended, and track it down if you haven’t seen it.

[1] Having finished El-Hazard last night, I’ve now moved on to Ruin Explorers. The first episode of that went down well in a room full of tabletop roleplayers. 🙂 I think that there’s a good chance the group will finish that in two weeks.

[2] “They’ll never get away with it.” “I know.”

[3] “It’s a living.”