This one is kind of personal for me. El Hazard: The Magnificent World was an OVA I watched fairly early in my days of being an anime fan. I enjoyed it then and still consider it a favorite now. Hell, I wrote an entire article on the franchise! I just wish this wasn't just yet another middling entry into the El Hazard franchise.
EL HAZARD: THE MAGNIFICENT WORLD (Shinpi no Sekai El Hazard), adapted from the OVA by Kidetomo Tsuburu. First published in 1996 and first published in North America in 2002.
Makoto Mizuhara is your average high schooler. He's nice, he's popular, he's not bad at chemistry, and when he first meet him he is being chased around his high school by former student council president Katsuhiro Jinnai. Jinnai is ruthless, ambitious, and egotistical, and he blames Makoto for pretty much all his failings in life. The only witnesses to this ridiculousness are Jinnai's sister Nanami and Mr. Fujisawa, a teacher and professional drunkard. The chase is interrupted when a massive earthquake swallows them up and transports them to the magical world of El Hazard. Most of the gang end up teaming up with the lovely princess Rune Venus and a trio of elemental priestesses, all of whom are trying to defend the land against the large, insect-like Bugrom who fight under Jinnai's command. Now both sides are fighting to be the first ones to reach an ancient weapon known only as the Demon God Ifurita.
Even more so than my review of Escaflowne, it's going to be really hard for me to be impartial here. The original OVA works in part because it takes a lot of common elements, shakes them up with a vaguely Arabian theme, and makes it all work in a harmonious manner. It's a sort of alchemy that's hard to recapture (as the many sequels demonstrate), and that goes double for a comic version. This doesn't even have the excuse of being a previous concept like Escaflowne's manga; this one came out between the release of the final episode of the original El Hazard OVA and the premiere of The Wanderers TV series. That means that it's in a bit of a no-man's-land as far as continuity goes and is free to pick and chose whatever bits from both it likes, and that pick-and-choose quality leaves the adaptation as a whole feeling muddled.
I don't mind that they tried to condense the story; lots of TV-to-manga adaptations do that, and I'd sooner have it condensed than stretched out with filler. He doesn't mess too much with the events of the story as a whole and he even managed to capture some of the humor of the show, which is always a plus. I definitely don't mind that they went with a version of Makoto that's closer to the TV show than the OVA, as the show did try a bit harder to give Makoto something resembling a personality by making him a bit of a science geek and a bit more aware of the harem-like hijinks going on around him. It's just a shame that Makoto's tiny bit of development comes at the cost of the rest of the cast.
Some simply get shorted on screentime like Mr. Fujisawa does. Others get overly simplified, as Jinnai is turned from a well-balanced comic villain to a Snidley Whiplash-esque buffoon. Sadly, it's the supporting female cast that gets the worst of it. It seems Tsuburu decided to stick with the show's interpretation of Princess Rune Venus. That means she's little more than a wibbly little damsel there only to become Makoto's love interest. Even Diva, Queen of the Bugrom, gets a similar treatment, as she becomes little more than Jinnai's ditzy sidekick. Tsuburu might have had his choice of what bits and pieces of characterization he wanted for the cast, but most of the time he chose very poorly and it really damages what is otherwise a fun adventure story.
Again, Tsuburu doesn't mess too much with the look of El Hazard, save for the fact that this is one of the last works Viz released flipped. Most of the character designs are in line with the ones used on the TV show, and he gives them a rubbery sort of broadness that works really well with the more comic characters. The panels are surprisingly large and spacious, but Tsuburu tends to settle for halos of speedlines instead of actual backgrounds. El Hazard is supposed to be a vast and exotic world, but you can't really tell that from this adaptation. The action is crisply rendered and the only thing that gets in its way are the huge, translated sound effects. Overall, the art is consistent if not terribly remarkable.
It seems even the folks at Viz were aware of the confusing quality of the El Hazard continuity, as there's a character guide in the back that details some of the differences between the OVA, TV, and manga versions of the main cast.
The El Hazard manga isn't necessarily a bad adaptation, just an uneven and uninspired one. The few changes that are made are to the story's detriment and the artwork is merely ho-hum. Even for a franchise that's mostly made up of forgettable entries, this one may be the most forgettable and unnecessary of them all.
This series was published by Viz. This series is complete in Japan with three volumes available. All three were published and are currently out of print.