Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nostalgia Nugget - The Demise of El Hazard

AIC and Pioneer created Tenchi Muyo and El Hazard and got two popular shows out of the deal. Both series were ended with enough wiggle room to create more adventures and explore the worlds. Instead the studios took a different path that ended up degrading the memory of these stories. In the case of El Hazard it was fatal.

A second Original Animated Video was commissioned after the popularity of the first. It was released in 1997 and called El Hazard the Magnificent World 2. Elements of the story were funny, with Mr. Fujisawa getting married to the priestess Miz, and Nanami and Mokoto trying to adapt to life on a new world. But the main thrust of the story has to do with Jinnai finding another ancient weapon and trying to destroy the kingdom of Roshtaria again.

This is a case of serious rehash, with very little material that wasn’t already explored before. The relationship between Mokoto and Ifurita is abandoned and we get more of what we saw before, but with less comedy and less adventure. Even the English dub cast can’t do much with this. It’s a poor sequel that did nothing to further the story; just let the wheels spin some more.

Next up was a television series in 1995 called El Hazard: The Wanderers. I had hoped this would be a series of adventures that follows Mokoto in his quest to find a way to get back home. Instead it’s a retelling of the first story! It starts with the four humans at the high school, and follows as they get sucked into El Hazard.

What’s the point of that? Well a few things are changed. First off all the characters got a lot cuter and lot dumber. Mokoto who was always a little dense when it came to women is downright moronic here. He’s good with machines and creates the machine that sucks them into El Hazard. Ifurita is around, but she's a total ditz and doesn't show up till around halfway through the series. Jinnai is crazier, but stupider turning him into a villain who is not threatening at all. Really suffering is the Princess Rune Venus, who was noble but soft hearted in the original story. Here she’s younger, dumber, and so cute you want to slap her. All the sexual jokes and comments are gone. Alielle is still around, but she’s just a servant in the castle. She really serves no purpose at all other than to make obvious comments and act cute.

Again the English voice actors make this worth watching, but barely. They get into the parts and have some funny lines. My favorite moment is when Mokoto gets so fed up with Jinnai’s threats that he mocks him, even down the laugh. But the series is so bland in the adventure and comedy department that it feels like a waste. Tenchi Muyo had a similar transformation when it was brought to television, but it managed to work because the main villain was a real threat and the adventure worked most of the time.

Finally the creators went back to the original continuity with a new television series El hazard: The Alternative World in 1998. This picks up after the second OAV with Fujisawa and Miz married and a new priestess being trained in the ways of water manipulation. The series stars off well with a lot of the old humor coming back and Alielle’s horny brother showing up. Ifurita even has a cameo appearance, driving Mokoto to find a way to get to her.

Then it all derails as our main cast including Alielle, the three priestesses and the novice and the Jinnai are transported to another world! Seriously? Of all the adventures you could come up with this is where you decide to go? What about the Phantom Tribe? What about finding clues to getting back to earth? Nope. We go with another world and more fish out of water antics. The new world isn’t terribly interesting, kind of a steam punk world combined with 1600’s look to the armor and weapons. The resolution of the story is rushed and lame. Even lamer is the tepid romance between Mokoto and the novice priestess. The final episode turns into one series of endless jokes about Fatora and Alielle trying to grope and rape the rest of the females in the cast. I think it was supposed to be funny, but I found it to be a rotten cherry on this nasty Sundae.

That series pretty much killed the show and El Hazard hasn’t had any new adventures. In a way I’m glad. If that was all the creators could come up with, than I’ll just watch the first series and enjoy that. But it annoys me that this story with so much potential was so mutilated in its other incarnations. Comparing to the other AIC juggernaut Tenchi Muyo which not only got two theatrical films, one direct to video film, and three television series up to 2002, I wonder if maybe El Hazard got off easy.

Check out the full review of the original show here.

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