EL HAZARD 2: THE MAGNIFICIENT WORLD
Whatever you liked about the first OVA, you won’t find it here. Don’t bother.
I enjoyed the first OVA, it’s nothing spectacular but it’s full of charm and adventure. It’s fun and entertaining with a charismatic cast of characters. Unfortunately, the second OVA missed the mark on those things almost completely. It’s not awful, it’s just a non-event. It’s bland and charmless with lazy writing, which is disappointing because the sequel has potential to be great if only they’d put a bit more effort into continuing the actual story.
It’s hard not to compare it to the first OVA and it just suffers by comparison in almost every regard (by the way, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this then you’ve seen the first one - if not, why are you reading a review of the sequel?). This felt like a side story not a sequel, something harmless and frivolous to watch but in no way had enough stakes or plot for a full OVA.
I was invested in the plot of the first series. It has a coherent plan and focused goals and antagonists. It has a build up and a sense of adventure. This series really just meandered around as if the writers were lost. I perhaps suspect they thought the cast and the comedy would be enough of a selling point for this series and they’re just not. They leaned into the comedy and it’s just not that funny. The comedy skits are fun when it’s an aside to the actual adventure story but when it’s the bulk of what’s happening, you’re just left thinking - this isn’t that funny and it needs to be.
In the last OVA, MAL had the nerve to call it a romance but this anime, they really made up for the lack in the previous series. This is mostly a rom-com but unfortunately it’s not a good one. The mind-boggling thing is that this no longer has the romance tag!? Also, this has somehow turned into a harem. Makoto basically somehow has three women lusting after him by the end.
Now if you need a reminder, the first series was largely a fantasy adventure. The first episode of this OVA is about a jilted bride looking for her runaway husband, which is a far cry from the war and potential apocalypse they faced in the previous series. Sure things amp up a bit by the third episode but not in any way that you would care about. It just takes too much time to get going. In the first series, it keyed in to the main plot from the get-go and it allowed the main content of the OVA to be focused on that. This doesn’t really get started till well over halfway through the run time.
My first problem with how this OVA handles characters is that I hated the way they included “Ifurita”. It just seemed like a cheap way to sort of include her but not have to explain how she got back to El Hazard. It's lazy and feels inconsequential by the end. They really wanted that character design to make an appearance but couldn't be bothered to think about a way to get her back from Earth. It was just a bit disappointing because I was hoping to see more of her in this series and see the relationship between Makoto and her develop but instead they teased it then took the possibility away. Lame. Also, the new incarnation was milquetoast.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this OVA is Kalia - she's such a bland villain. Such poor reasoning or explanation is given to the villain’s motives - I mean, she doesn’t really have any motives. I couldn’t even tell you why she’s doing this. There was a moment where I thought we were getting a back story and it just fell completely flat. She has no real character or anything remotely distinctive or interesting about her. It’s lazy writing and it’s a shame.
Jinnai was always played for laughs but they really have him as nothing but a fool in this - he might as well not be there. Believe it or not, there’s more maniacal laughter in this OVA than the last one - seemingly it’s the only consistent motif between the two series. Also, anyone watching this OVA will feel all the characters’ regret for saving the princess in the first season considering how unbelievably irritating she is in this - since when did she turn into a groping lesbian?
I sound like I hate the characters. I don't. I actually do like this cast, they’re fun together. There's some good camaraderie but with some people missing, the newly-added characters being somewhat annoying and a few of them having not that much to do (Nanami might as well not be there), it sort of took the fun out of it.
Art and animation took a bit of a nosedive this season. It’s distinctly more sloppy than last season. While the previous OVA wasn’t always top-notch quality art, it had some great moments that elevated it - this just seems basic. Although some of the sequences using their magic I actually thought improved. It was cool to see their powers take on manifestations of titans, dragons etc. but it’s nothing to shout about and is barely utilised.
HOW COULD IT HAVE BEEN BETTER?
I think what makes this OVA frustrating is there are so many things that were set up in the first OVA that could have been used as a natural jumping off point for the second series and that’s what I was expecting. By the end of the first series it leaves us with several cliff-hanger questions: What happened with the Phantom people? Will Ifurita get back to El Hazard? Will Makoto and his friends get back to Earth? Yet, not a single one of those questions is answered is this. I don’t get why they wouldn’t just build a story around one of these questions.
Personally, I think it would’ve been so much better if this season had been about taking on the Phantom people as the main villains - I really don’t know why they didn’t. They weren’t the main focus in the previous story (in fact, we barely found anything out about them) but they had interesting powers and sort of just disappeared at the end so I thought they were primed for a comeback. The series could have explored the lands underground where they live, given more detail on their backstory and how they ended up in El Hazard etc. and it would have made a much more interesting adventure that both tied in to the previous series and gave the viewer something new to see.
So, would I recommend it? Well, it depends what you liked about the first one. If you like the sense of fantasy, adventure and seeing a colourful cast of characters band together in a common goal to prevent factions from destroying the world...then don’t watch this. This has basically none of that or certainly not done with any finesse. If you loved the daft comedy moments and didn’t really care about a good plot or villains then this might be made just for you.
It’s not awful by any means but it's not good either. It’s probably best just to enjoy the first season for what it is and not bother continuing with it unless you found the first season hilarious and are dying to see these characters prat around while a vague story continues in the background.
Sadly, it had a lot of potential but it’s a disappointing sequel. It’s really not worth your time.