El-Hazard (pronounced "El Ha-ZARD") is an anime franchise by the anime studio AIC, and more specifically Hiroki Hayashi of Tenchi Muyo! fame.
There is also a manga adaptation, which is published in English by VIZ Media. The series is distributed in the US by Pioneer LDC, now known as Geneon. While Enoki Films held the rights over The Wanderers spin-off television series, Geneon opted out of using more "Americanized" names per the company's suggestion, instead keeping with the original Japanese.
The series began as a seven episode OVA series 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 timeline. A second four episode OVA series, El-Hazard: The Magnificent World 2 and El-Hazard: The Alternative World, a twelve episode TV series with a follow-up special later released on laserdisc, are continuations of the original OVA timeline. There is also a Sega Saturn visual novel videogame inspired from the TV series, with several possible endings.
The story focuses on four people from our world (High school students Makoto Mizuhara, Katsuhiko Jinnai and Nanami Jinnai, and History teacher Masamichi Fujisawa) who are mysteriously transported to the fantastical world of El-Hazard, which is threatened with a massive war between the human nations on one side and the insectoid Bugrom tribe on the other. To add further complexity, the quartet's transportation has a side effect, in that each of them gains a unique special ability. For instance, Katsuhiko gains the power to communicate with the Bugrom, and subsequently uses his power to become the Bugrom's military leader while his sister can see through illusions. The hard-drinking, chain-smoking Fujisawa, on the other hand, gains superhuman strength and athletic ability, but only when he's sober. Makoto's power comes much later but he learns he control the ancient technology of that world which range from minor gadgets to the most powerful weapons.
The central conflict in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World 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. The Wanderers 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 sees Makoto and the others continuing on in their lives in El-Hazard, when Mr. Fujisawa suddenly runs off, having gotten cold feet the night before his wedding. El-Hazard: The Alternative World follows up with the actual wedding, but the cast is then thrust into another world for a second time; the militant world of Creteria.
El-Hazard is a "light" series -- while it has a fair amount of character development, the series focuses almost entirely on action/adventure and comedy. Contrast this with, say, Tenchi Muyo!, which has a bit more character development and drama (especially in the later series). Unlike Tenchi Muyo!, however, El-Hazard was much more heavily influenced by western culture in terms of its plot and fantasy world design. At several points, the central protagonist Makoto finds himself forced into impersonating an El-Hazardian princess, a la The Prisoner of Zenda, and the clothing, architecture and human cultures of El-Hazard are all heavily reminiscent of stories such as Arabian Nights.
Although the original OVA series was critically acclaimed, subsequent follow-ups were almost universally panned as uninspired cash-ins. The "official" sequel to the OVAs, The Alternative World, remains infamous among fans as the death blow to the continuation of the story.