The story focuses on three high school students, Makoto Mizuhara, Katsuhiko Jinnai and Nanami Jinnai, and the History teacher Masamichi Fujisawa, who are mysteriously transported to the fantastical world of El-Hazard. El-Hazard is threatened by a possible war between the human nations and the insectoid Bugrom tribe.
The central conflict in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World (神秘の世界エルハザード, Shinpi no Sekai Eru Hazādo, lit. "The Magnificent World of El-Hazard") focuses on Makoto, who along with Nanami, Mr. Fujisawa and human residents of El-Hazard fight against Jinnai's conquest, but other, more sinister machinations lie below the surface.
El-Hazard: The Wanderers, known in Japan as simply El-Hazard (エルハザード, Eru Hazādo), is a simplified version of the original OVA storyline, stretched to twenty-six episodes and eliminates or alters several of the OVA's major characters.
El-Hazard: The Magnificent World 2 (神秘の世界エルハザード2, Shinpi no Sekai Eru Hazādo Tsū, lit. "The Magnificent World of El-Hazard 2") features Makoto and the others continuing on in their lives in El-Hazard. When Mr. Fujisawa suddenly runs off, getting cold feet the night before his wedding with Miz Mishtal, Makoto and the others race off to find him.
El-Hazard: The Alternative World (異次元の世界エルハザード, Ijigen no Sekai Eru Hazādo, lit. "A Parallel World to El-Hazard") follows up after the actual wedding of Mr. Fujisawa and Miz Mishtal, but the cast is then thrust into another world for a second time; the militant world of Creteria.
At the crux of the El-Hazard plot line is a causal loop, or an example of the predestination paradox. The first OVA begins with Makoto meeting Ifurita for the first time on Earth. After giving him a warm greeting, revealing that she somehow knows him, she sends him to El-Hazard. Later on in the series, Makoto discovers Ifurita entombed in a labyrinth, where she had been kept since ancient times. Upon this second meeting with Ifurita, Makoto is puzzled by the fact that she does not recognize him, nor does she treat him with the same demeanor she evoked in their first encounter.
Over the course of the series, Makoto manages to free Ifurita from her enslavement to Jinnai (the "master" of the Power Key Staff, and therefore her master.) In response, Ifurita comes to love Makoto, but events involving the Eye of God (see below) force her to drift through time and space for ten-thousand years until she is eventually entombed under what would later become the site of Shinonome High School. The series then returns to the beginning, this time from Ifurita's perspective. After warmly greeting Makoto, she sends him to El-Hazard in order to trigger all of the events that, from Makoto's perspective, had yet to take place. Soon after, Ifurita is reunited with an older Makoto who has transported back to her with her key, enabling them both to return to El-Hazard together.
The Eye of God plays a prominent role in both the OVA and The Wanderers. In both continuities, it is the ultimate superweapon, created by an ancient civilization. Its basic design is that of a giant metallic orb that floats in a geosynchronous orbit within the world's atmosphere.
The Eye of God is a dimensional weapon that sends all it destroys into a vortex leading to an unknown destination. In the first OVA series, its use in ancient times is responsible for pulling the Phantom Tribe from their own world into El-Hazard.
In the OVA continuity, the Eye of God first needed to be unsealed by the Muldoon priestesses before it could be operated via the Stairway to the Sky, a tall metal tower that almost reaches the height of the Eye's orbit. Two female members of the royal house were required in order to activate the weapon, but the Phantom Tribe attempted to get around this barrier by creating a machine that would require the use of only one. The Phantom Tribe also sabotage the Eye, causing it to go out of control when the Princesses Rune Venus and Fatora use it to destroy the Bugrom. It's stopped by Ifurita, who synchronizes with the device and is ultimately lost in time and space for ten thousand years as a result.
In The Wanderers, the Eye is controlled from within rather than from the Stairway to the Sky, and the character Ifurita acts as a key to controlling the weapon. Jinnai attempts to use Ifurita to control the Eye, but once connected, Ifurita's true purpose as the Demon God is revealed, and she attempts to destroy El-Hazard. Makoto stops the Eye from going out of control and is temporarily lost, but finds his way back to El-Hazard at the end of the series.
In The Alternative World, another Eye of God appears, but this one is a shattered version of the original and does not seem to need a princess and three priestesses to unseal it. Its origin is not explained.
The series began as a seven episode OVA entitled, El-Hazard: The Magnificent World. It was popular enough to be remade into a twenty-six episode TV series, The Wanderers, set in an alternate time-line.
A second four-episode OVA series, El-Hazard: The Magnificent World 2, followed. El-Hazard: The Alternative World is a thirteen-episode TV series with a follow-up special later released on laserdisc called "A Night of Captivation, Temptation, and Purification".
El Hazard: The Magnificent World 2, and El Hazard: The Alternative World are continuations of the original OVA (El-Hazard: The Magnificent World) whereas the TV series El Hazard: The Wanderers is a standalone series.
There is also a Sega Saturn visual novel video game inspired from the TV series, with several possible endings.
Guardians of Order released the El-Hazard Role-Playing Game role-playing game based on the first OVA series in 2001 and with rules based on the company's Tri-Stat system.
"El Hazard does not even come close to representing the cream of the crop of '90s anime, nor did it establish any new trends or have a marked influence on the course of anime. It does, in fact, merely represent the popular styles and story themes of its time. Its success and popularity can be attributed to putting together a meaty enough plot with lively characters and a good amount of action to produce a highly entertaining series, one which stands with Slayers and Visions of Escaflowne at the top of the popularity curve of mid-to-late '90s fantasy anime." – Theron Martin, Anime News Network.
"Years after its original release on laserdisc in the US, I still find myself grinning stupidly at many parts of this series." – Chris Beveridge, Mania.
"Fortunately, El Hazard is remarkable when it counts, and the backgrounds and scenery will make you all but forget the average bits." – Raphael See, T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews.
"As nice as the opening piece and Ifurita's theme may be, the rest of the album doesn't quite succeed at reaching out and grabbing your attention." – Keith Rhee, about "Best of El Hazard" in EX: The Online World of Anime & Manga.