Anime Reviews:

El Hazard: The Magnificent World

(Hiroki Hayashi, 1995, Pioneer)

Created by the same writing and directing team as Pioneer's terrific Tenchi Muyo, El Hazard tells of how Japanese high school student Makoto and his friends discover mysterious ruins beneath their school. They are suddenly transported into a magnificent world populated by fantastic creatures and a princess in need of rescue. This adventure comedy transposes the familiar high school rivalry plot to a mystical kingdom. Makoto's arch rival from school, Jinnai also passes through to the other dimension and there they continue their battles; but this time Jinnai is leading a race of robotic, bug-like creatures called the Bagrom, whilst Makoto must pose as a princess to aid the human-like races of the Alliance. The Tenchi connection is clearly visible - this has the same colourful, funny, stylish and cute elements - although the emphasis here is on adventure rather than straight comedy which carries many episodes of Tenchi.

This OAV (made for video) comes across as a mixture of the Arabian Nights, 3x3 Eyes and the aforementioned Tenchi. The extravagant score ranges from electro funk to epic neo-classical as the mood of the piece changes. Pioneer has seven episodes across three tapes (two on Volumes 1 and 3 - 75 mins total, and three on Volume 2 - 90 mins total) - each retailing for £12.99. As our heroes and heroines make their way through the series they encounter the usual array of difficulties, romances, excitement and danger. There's little original here (although I can't say I've seen cats "used as living armour" before!) but it is all lavishly produced making the familiar territory more watchable than most - for boys and girls alike. Because of some sexual comedy in the first two episodes, Volume 1 has a 15-rating, the second then drops to a 12 and the last a PG! This may narrow the ideal teen market slightly for El Hazard, but it entertainingly sustains Pioneer's high standard of releases.

Rob Dyer