Stories Involving Travel to Other Worlds article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 3, No. 10, September 2000
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

People have been fascinated with tales of far away places since the beginning of storytelling. Many legendary characters, like Jason of Jason and the Argonauts and the original Son Goku of Journey to the West, traveled to distant lands to prove their worth and accomplish their goals. In the 1800's, by the time the sun never set on the British Empire, the world had become much smaller. Far away places seemed closer and less exotic, and storytellers pushed the envelope of strange new lands, sending their heroes to the center of the earth, the bottom of the sea, and even to the moon. Among the classic adventure authors of this time are L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll, whose heroines literally fell into other worlds, fanciful lands separate from our own. The tales of Dorothy in OZ and Alice in Wonderland have become favorites around the world. Since the creators of manga and anime never let a good idea go by without trying it themselves, it's not too surprising to find there are plenty of stories out there which involve accidental travel to other worlds.

Due out this fall on Fox, Tenku (long u) no Escaflowne (The Vision of Escaflowne) sends its heroine, a high school girl named Hitomi, to the strange lands of Gaea. Transported via a beam of light, Hitomi finds herself on a world where the moon hangs huge in the sky alongside Earth! There, she is caught up in world-altering events instigated by the mysterious Dornkirk of Zaibach. Unwillingly and unwittingly, our heroine becomes a factor in the forces which are trying to change Gaea. Full of fantasy, mecha and magic, Escaflowne is a fantastic, well-crafted, twenty-six-episode animated series with top-notch talent, including character designs by Nobuteru Yuuki (Lodoss War (videos), X (movie)), mecha designs by Kimitoshi Yamane (Cowboy Bebop, Gundam-The 08th MS Team) and music by Yoko (first o long) Kanno (Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop). There have also been two different manga series and, more recently, a feature film based on Hitomi's animated adventures in Gaea.

Shinpi no Sekai El Hazard (El Hazard - The Magnificent World) has had multiple animated incarnations. The first version is a fairly dramatic, seven-episode video series in which mysterious, other-worldly ruins appear in the basement of Shinonome high school. Our hero, mild-mannered Makoto, is mysteriously drawn to the ruins where there appears a compelling woman who seems to know him. She gives him a prophesy and sends him to the magical world of El Hazard. Unlike Hitomi, Makoto is not the only Earthling to be transported to this other dimension. Also sucked into El Hazard are the school's comical, power-hungry student president, Kazuhiko Jinnai; Jinnai's no-nonsense, money-hungry sister, Nanami; and the often inebriated teacher, Mr. Fujisawa. The beautiful woman who sent them all to El Hazard ends up playing an important role in the world-threatening plot which follows, and has become a cult favorite among fans.

The twenty-six-episode TV remake (The Wanderers, in English) tells a similar but different story, and also inspired a manga. This time, it is a machine created by Makoto--who is quite the scientific geek in this version--which sends him and the others to El Hazard. The plot and numerous character qualities are altered, an aspect which some fans appreciate, while others abhor. The four-episode, second video series, El Hazard 2 - The Magnificent World, picks up roughly where the first series left off, promising fun and excitement to fans who prefer the videos to the TV show. The second TV show (El Hazard - The Alternative World, in English) follows after the end of the second video series. While all four El Hazards share the same basic cast of characters, the focus and tone of each story is unique, offering a diverse array of other-worldly tales to try.

Regular readers of Animerica Extra should be familiar with Fushigi Yugi (long u); it's our most popular title! Junior high students Miaka and Yui find themselves transported through an old book into a fictitious, pseudo-historic Chinese world. There, they have many dramatic (and occasionally comedic) adventures, eventually discovering they are characters of legend in this dimension. Action, adventure, and romance fill the eighteen-volume comic series by Yu (long u) Watase, as well as the fifty-two-episode TV series, nine videos, eight novels and seven CD dramas. So much to choose from!

Like Miaka and Yui, the junior high heroines of Magic Knight Rayearth are pulled into another world where they must fill the shoes of legends. With a video game-like quality, Hikaru, Fuu and Umi advance the level of their skills and powers in order to become the Legendary Magic Knights and save this fanciful world of magic called Cephiro. Along with action and adventure, friendship is a powerful theme in this series. Created by the manga artists known as CLAMP (X/1999, The CLAMP School), this six-volume, two-series manga inspired a forty-nine-episode TV show (also in two parts), and a separate video series which ran three episodes. Rayearth has many characters, settings, and story elements reminiscent of the classic other-world film The Neverending Story.

Of course, there are plenty of other other-dimension stories which have yet to be brought to the U.S. Following the Earthling-as-legend-in-another-dimension theme is the slightly obscure film Tobira o Akete (Open the Door)*. Neko is a college student who's a bit of a loner because of her telekinetic powers. She met a playboy who could teleport and wants to introduce him to another student who has a secret power. When the three meet, a doorway to a fantasy world is opened, a world in which Neko is thought to be the reborn legendary warrior Queen Neryula. An entertaining adventure ensues.

There is also the yet-to-be animated Kanata Kara by popular shojo artist Kyoko (first o long) Hikawa. Noriko, a high school girl with strange dreams, is teleported through an explosion to a fantasy world. There, she must struggle to understand the language and culture, as well as the tall, dark, handsome man named Izark who has become her protector.

The Japanese favorite Mashin Eiyuden (long u) Wataru (Legend of the Mashin Hero Wataru) has had three TV shows, two video series, and lots of video games. This eternally popular title with character designs by Toyoo Ashida (Mado (long o) King Grandzort, Magical Princess Minky Momo) sends fourth-grader Wataru into another dimension. Together with a cool, sentient mecha named Ryujinmaru (first u long) and various friends he makes along the way, Wataru has adventures and rights wrongs, working through the levels of this strange world to save the gods from the demons who would overthrow them.

Another other-dimension story is the magical-armor classic Tenku (long u) Senki Shurato (Heavenly Record of Shurato). Like Kyoji from the recent series Jiku (long u) Tensho (long o) Nazca (Nazca), Shurato is a martial arts enthusiast who finds himself transformed into a divine warrior, part of a force which opposes one of his dearest friends. Transported into a world of Indian mythology, Shurato must struggle to cope with his new situation and abilities.

Most adventure stories send their characters on journeys, but with air travel and the Internet making the world a little smaller every day, there are fewer places which seem exotic to modern readers. So it's natural that writers would want to create new worlds for their characters to explore. Are people-falling-into-other-worlds stories a genre? Probably not, considering all the different types of tales which use this particular creative device. As long as people crave adventure, storytellers will provide us with tales of mystery and imagination. Just remember to be careful around rabbit holes.

 

NOTES:
I couldn't settle on the structure of the final paragraph, so I thought I'd give you two to choose from. Here's the same one slightly rearranged:

Are people-falling-into-other-worlds stories a genre? Probably not, considering all the different types of tales which use this particular creative device. Most adventure stories send their characters on journeys, but with air travel and the Internet making the world a little smaller every day, there are fewer places which seem exotic to modern readers. So it's natural that writers would want to create new worlds for their characters to explore. As long as people crave adventure, storytellers will provide us with tales of mystery and imagination. Just remember to be careful around rabbit holes.

Please check on Tobira o Akete. I could swear it's been brought out in the US, but I couldn't find any info on it.


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