08 Apr 2003 8:49 pm

El Hazard originally presents itself as fish-out-of-water, Tenchi-style harem show. Which is not really surprising, considering that it’s a Pioneer licensee and all. Where it diverges from Tenchi is that Makoto Mizuhara is nowhere near as wishy-washy and annoying as Tenchi Masaki. In fact, it is Makoto’s cheeful affability and likable, down-to-earth personality which proves to be his true strength, rather than some trumped up, over-the-top Deux Ex Machina delivery of a Kamehameha-like power blast to his opponents. You can save that for other harem shows in the Pioneer line (*cough* Dual *cough*).

The two looks of Makoto Mizuhara

Makoto Mizuhara

El Hazard plays with the conventions of its genre (regular people transported from Earth to this magical world and given powers in the process) and fully embraces them, crafting a highly entertaining and exceedingly captivating series. You’ve got the requisite plots-within-plots (with one group of bad guys being controlled by another group of even more contemptible villains), the exotic architectural design of the arabic-influenced land of Roshtaria, the cheerfully ominous citadels of the Bugrom empire, and, of course, the insane, cackling, somewhat cowardly but strangely effective Bugrom war-leader, Katsuhiko Jinnai, former high-school Class President and self-styled rival of Makoto’s.

Who's the insanest? I am!

Katsuhiko Jinnai

The pieces that make this series shine are the little things, such as Fujisawa-sensei’s vice-related hand-to-hand superpowers. Or cute (and somewhat chubby) cats being used as living armor. As an added plus, the fact that the main character spends much of his on-screen time in drag is singularly amusing. The women all tend to have fairly interesting characters, even if they aren’t terribly fleshed out (which is to say, they’re as fleshed out as, say, any of the female character from Tenchi, or Dual!). The exception to this, of course, would be our female lead, whose redemption and love for Makoto come from a far more believable basis than Ryoko’s (none of this “I’ll kill you! / Ooh, would you like me to massage your wounds, sweetie?” vaccilations to which our favorite green-haired demon-construct were so prone).

Despite its OVA heritage, there are still a fair number of re-used scenes (including Shayla-shayla’s “powering up!” sequence), but on the whole, the lushness of the visuals, well-portrayed characters, some really interesting plot twists, and an entertaining attention to detail more than makes makes up for any deficiencies in the animation.

Aww, ain't they sweet? Such a happy couple.

Ifurita and Makoto

Plus, I’m a sucker for happy endings.

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