"El-Hazard: The Wanderers": Hazardous to Your Health
El-Hazard: The Wanderers has very little going for it. The plot is generic, the characters are bland, and the voice work is atrocious. The series takes thirteen episodes just to become the slightest bit tolerable, and then it wraps up with a rushed, cop-out ending. It’s a train wreck. Don’t waste your time and money on this awful show.
The story is about four humans from Earth who are teleported to the land of El-Hazard, a mystical land with various human-occupied Kingdoms as well as an entire species of humanoid insects known as Bugrom that live in a giant hive. Katsuhiko Jinnai, the antagonist of the story, ends up becoming the leader of the Bugrom army (under Queen Diva) and makes several attempts to conquer the land. This then leads to a big game of cat-and-mouse between him and his rival, the protagonist Makoto Mizuhara, that Jinnai repeatedly loses. During all of this, Makoto and the main group are also trying to find a way back home to Earth. Throw in the history teacher Masamichi Fujisawa, who gains super strength; Makoto’s childhood friend (and Jinnai’s sister), Nanami Jinnai; a Princess that acts as a love interest; Priestesses who control water, air and fire: and The Wanderers shows some small ambition to be complicated. At the end of the day, though, it’s just boring. The story has been done countless times, and this particular show adds nothing new to it. It would be a bit more acceptable if the characters were actually fleshed out and likable, but they aren’t.
Makoto Mizuhara is a high school boy with a knack for technology and science. Katsuhiko Jinnai is a high school boy who lets his ego get the better of him, trying to take over the school as Student Council President. While Makoto is nice, intelligent and rational, Jinnai is the exact opposite. Neither get any substantial development beyond that. Makoto stays the nice guy who always wins, and Jinnai stays the moron whose plans always fail because he gets in over his head. The Wanderers attempts to make this rivalry fun by making Jinnai comedic in nature, but this doesn’t work due to his overly obnoxious voice and laugh, both of which are cringe-inducing. Like Makoto and Jinnai, the other two humans from Earth, Nanami and Fujisawa, get very little development. Nanami stays the independent woman throughout the series, always trying to find new ways to earn money; and Fujisawa, with his super strength, takes care of the Bugrom.
El-Hazard: The Wanderers other characters vary in their depiction. The Priestesses are probably the best explored. Shayla-Shayla, the priestess of fire, is a red-head with a quick temper. Afura Mann, who controls the air, is calm and collected; and Miz Mishtal, the priestess of water, is obsessed with finding love. While they don’t get a huge amount of development, it does explore the past relationship between Shayla-Shayla and Afura Mann as they went through their training, and Miz finally meets the man of her dreams: the history teacher Fujisawa. In addition to this Shayla-Shayla even starts to develop feelings for Makoto, letting her tough guard down on more than one occasion to try and gain his affection. Rune Venus, the Princess of Roshtaria (the Kingdom the show centers on the majority of the time) is yet another bland character. She is kind-hearted and confused about her feelings for Makoto, which becomes the focus of her character. As for Queen Diva and the Bugrom, they are briefly explored. Queen Diva likes Jinnai and his evil plans, and the Bugrom follow his orders, despite his poor treatment of them. The Bugrom are given a bit of personality, but ultimately they are only a tool that Jinnai uses for his plans. Last but certainly not least is Ifurita, a Demon God weapon that takes the form of a human girl. She adds a bit of enjoyment with her inability to carry out a mission correctly and her ditzy attitude. Despite being a “Demon” she shows little interest in being evil and really only does so to please her “Master” Jinnai. While Jinnai disappoints in the comedic relief area, Ifurita actually succeeds for the most part.
At the very end, The Wanderers does make an attempt to make the plot interesting, introducing the “Eye of God,” a mysterious orb that orbits around El-Hazard and is connected to the Princess and Makoto. It turns out the orb is highly destructive, something Jinnai tries to utilize, which brings our characters together in an attempt to save the day. Had this been the focus of the story earlier, it probably wouldn’t have come off as rushed as it did.
Despite being a little over ten years old, the animation in The Wanderers has held up surprisingly well. It dips in quality a bit here and there, and the designs of the Bugrom are hideous, but the land of El-Hazard looks nice and there is nothing to complain about with the human characters. The music, despite being a bit quirky, is actually a highlight of the series, adding a bit of spirit into the story and its plain characters. Other than that, El-Hazard: The Wanderers is bleak. At best, it becomes faintly bearable after episode thirteen. El-Hazard may or may not have worked in OVA form, but it certainly doesn’t work in these twenty-six episodes.