I know I’ve told the tale many times, about how Sailor Moon was my gateway into Yuri. But it was not my gateway into anime. My first anime was back when I was watching Star Blazers after school and instinctively understanding that anime was a black hole into which all my time and money would go, so I avoided it like the plague. A decade later, I was teaching martial arts and hanging with a group of other MA teachers. We’d get together and watch crappy movies and stuff and one day one of them brought along Tenchi Muyo, the TV series, and for some reason, we all got hooked on it. We watched that and the movies…I’ll never forget how filthy the third movie made us all feel. ^_^;
Because, or perhaps despite the fact that Tenchi was one of my gateway anime, I somehow managed to skip El Hazard…until now. Of course I had *heard* of El Hazard. I knew of Fatora and Alielle. But I had never actually watched the anime.
When I announced on Twitter that I was about to embark upon watching Magnificent World, I was inundated with “OMG, that was SO AMAZING! Best EVAR!” responses. I asked those folks when the last time they actually watched this anime was, knowing full well the answer would be, for most, several years ago – or never since they first watched it, when it was their gateway. I knew, based on my many years of experience with anime fans, that these folks loved their *memory* of El Hazard, not necessarily the reality of it.
Let me say this. I enjoyed Tenchi Muyo. It was my first experience with harem anime, a genre I dubbed “dorky boy and beautiful babes.” But I am fully aware that it wasn’t high art, either, and if I sat down to watch it now, I’d probably give myself a headache from rolling my eyes. ^_^
Sean, who really understands my opinions on this kind of thing, got it right. El Hazard is good for what it is – a Tenchi-like harem anime in a fantasy, rather than scifi, setting. He understood how I manage my expectations of anime. He explained what I could reasonably expect to enjoy. He was pretty much right on, so cookies for him, when I see him on Saturday. ^_^
So, all that having been said as preface – El Hazard – Magnificent World was not bad. It had some elements that were interesting and some that were not as much to me as to others.
The basic plot is self-fulfilling. Average (but not below average) Makoto is sent to an alternate universe by the goddess Ifurita in order to save her from something that hasn’t happened yet. Along with Makoto, his self-proclaimed rival Jinnai, a childhood friend Nanami and a hapless teacher Fujisawa also find themselves in the Magnificent World. Makoto learns that he is the dead ringer for the missing princess, Fatora, and is thus requested to take her place until she can be found.
The bad guy is hopelessly obvious, the plot is a lot of sound and fury and really very little happens, but entertainingly enough. There’s enough silliness to appeal to the physical comedy crowd, a little bit of falling on naked women for the harem crowd and Jinnai laughs maniacally a lot, which seemed to be appealing to many who professed love for the series.
I was told that I would like the three priestesses, as they are “strong” female characters. And it made me wonder that they are considered strong, when they are obviously the weakest characters in the series. They scream and fight quite a bit – but they are weak in the sense that they lose more than they win and they go completely mushy for Makoto or other potential romantic partners. That is not how I define “strength.” I liked Diva and her bugs, and above all I liked Jinnai’s relationship with the Bugrom, which was surprisingly sincere.
Which brings us to Fatora and Alielle, who are both more interesting for what they are not, than for what they are. We are introduced to Alielle as the missing Fatora’s lover – it’s instantly apparent that no one really takes her seriously in this regard. It’s only after she then expresses interest in other women, that we are forced to reevaluate her. Yes, we have to admit, guess she’s actually “that way.” But because she is so diminutive, we’re never really going to take her seriously…ever. I believe this is quite intentional. If she were drawn as an adult, say like Shayla-Shayla, we’d be forced to see her and Fatora as an *actual couple*. And that is not done, so by drawing her (and voicing her) so childishly, we can nod, amused and certain that they are cute together, but not much more. Fatora, when she finally shows up is not the blueblood princesss we expect, but a total jerk, which pleased me no end. I think she and Alielle make a fine couple. ^_^
The main romance does not suck. And in this OVA at least, at the very end, in the still art that accompanies the credits, we are able to see something that utterly, completely lacks in today’s harem anime – some representation of Makoto and Ifurita as a totally normal, functional couple. They touch, they put their arms around one another and, we presume with the final panel, they kiss. It would have been even nicer to see them do so in the anime itself, but I’m glad to see it at *all* so I won’t quibble. :-) The fact that in a bad mood Ifurita can destroy the world is sort of passed over, but we’ll pretend that being a high school boy’s girlfriend is all a goddess could ever wish for and they live happily ever after. The End, until the next OVA.
This box set is not bad, considering it’s old. Old enough to be from Pioneer, not even Geneon. The packaging is nice, there’s a bit of artsyness to it and unlike the old cardboard box with 6 DVDs model, it doesn’t take up too much space on the shelf.
Compared with Tenchi, Makoto is less of a loser, the service is mild by today’s standards. The most eye-rolling handwave is that no one can see Makoto is a guy until his long wig comes off and then suddenly it’s instantly apparent he’s male! The romances are not icky, there’s less haremization of all the females. And Fujisawa, who today would be a creepy perv is just a plain old respectable drunk, who really gives a shit about his students.
I’m probably not running back to The Magnificent World as a comfort anime, but it had some good elements and was reasonably entertaining – as anime should be.
Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri – 6
Service – 4
Overall – 7
Sincere thanks for the generosity and kindness of Okazu Superhero Eric P. for sponsoring today’s review and letting me catch up on this classic Yuri anime!