US Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment
Production Studio: AIC
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime News Network

It’s time to get sucked into an alternate world. A realm of magic, adventure, and weekly doses of badly written drama. Welcome to the world of El Hazard: The Wanderers. Hold on tight and remember to pack your soy sauce, because we are diving in head-first.

Makoto Mizuhara is really into two things science and ignoring other people’s safety. His scientific mind always teeming with new ideas. Suddenly hit with a burst of inspiration, Makoto decides to mimic an alternate dimension experiment he’s heard about.  The end result is a device, a work of scientific genius, which will be unveiled on the day of the school festival.That said, the brilliant scientist Makoto just leaves this thing running, deciding that snack time with his childhood friend Nanami Jinnai and favorite history teacher Masamichi Fujisawa was far more important than everyone else’s safety. In a tragic event nobody could have predicted, something goes terribly wrong, and the course of their lives is changed forever.

Everything goes wrong for a very specific reason named Katsuhiko Jinnai. Katsuhiko. Katsuhiko is Nanami’s brother. He’s a cruel, thin-skinned, callous, money-grubbing son of a bitch.  And, for not-at-all creepy reasons, Katsuhiko is incredibly jealous of all the attention Makoto receives from his sister. He’s out to ruin Makoto’s name, and decides destroying the (still running) dimensional device is a good start.  Katsuhiko is a surprisingly complex character. Due to motivations from childhood, he’s driven towards his goals. He brings the only real dramatic tension to series and therefore stands above as the shows best written character.

In comparison, Katsuhiko’s sister Nanami is only there to create romantic tension between Makoto and Princess Rune. Her biggest contribution to the series is during a hostage negotiation scene with her brother. Even then, Nanami doesn’t have much of a real impact.  Always on the outside, she simply wanders across the land by herself, making food and profit where she can. To her credit, though, surviving in an alien world with cooking being her only skill is impressive.  Still, this viewer wonders about her importance to the story at all.

History teacher Masamichi Fujisawa also fell into El Hazard during the accident. Unlike the young’uns, though, Fujisawa managed to gain superhuman strength and damage resistance in the process. For some reason, though, he loses his super abilities when he drinks. That said, Mr.Fujisawa is the muscle of the group. He’s there to kick butt when times get tough. He does get a few moments in the comedic spotlight, mainly in scenes involving his romance with water priestess Miz Mishtal. But, really, that’s about it. He doesn’t develop further, aside from a few surface level observations. He’s a history teacher that likes climbing mountains and lives at the school, and that’s the story El Hazard sticks to through the very end.

While El Hazard: The Wanderers is not the worst anime I have ever viewed, there were a few glaring issues that made it painful to sit through. The show suffers from a bad case of “Story of the Week” syndrome. Basically, like a cheap sitcom, each episode’s plot is completely self contained, with little to no effect on the main story. The characters didn’t try to get home, opting instead to generally meander around while hoping something helpful would happen to them.

When things needed explaining in the world of El Hazard,  a local would start to explain, only to be hard cut into a different scene, actively killing any and all exposition. The same goes for the scientific knowledge Makoto drops. Also, there were an astounding number of characters who willing to dive off of things into almost certain sudden death. These characters contained no preservation instinct whatsoever. For example, in one scene, Princess Rune dives from her airship after a sword. She speeds headfirst towards a cliff face with zero hesitation.  It’s as they were fully aware of the fact that the plot wouldn’t kill them. This leads to my biggest gripe with El Hazard: The Wanderers. The series constantly breaks the rules of its world, coming to a head in a scene where Makoto nearly drowns. For reasons, Makoto plunges into freezing cold water, which should have killed him (or at least given him a high level of frostbite).  Instead, he walks off without so much as a cold.

El Hazard: The Wanderers had a promising start, and a strong opening sequence with a catchy theme song. But even with Katsuhiko Jinnai’s over-the-top laugh (and his weird relationship with Ifurita), even considering the cute romance between Miz and Fujisawa, none of these things can pull attention away from the show’s many colossal failings. This series goes nowhere. The characters change very little, and the last episode feels padded for no reason, providing a minimal amount of closure. Still, those who really want a portal back in time for the sake of nostalgia can travel to El Hazard.