The Slayers: The Complete First Season (Digitally Remastered)
Slayers is widely known as a classic fantasy anime-or to be more accurate, a classic comedic take on fantasy anime-is based on a series of light novels by Hajime Kanzaka, which also spawned video game, manga, and OAV adaptations. Slayers stars Lina Inverse, a young, underdeveloped sorceress with a nasty temper as she travels the world in search of fame and fortune, yet somehow inevitably becomes caught up in dramatic conflicts to save the world instead. Although the series was intially translated, dubbed, and released by Software Scuptors, the series was re-licensed and re-released in DVD sets by season by Funimation. The second season, Slayers NEXT, is due to come out in December, followed by the third, Slayers TRY.
The show introduces us to its world in an iconic moment of our heroine, Lina Inverse, standing in the aftermath of one of many bandit raids-letting the audience know immediately that this particular heroine is far from your typical noble fantasy protagonist. Selfish, vain, and exuberent, she quickly goes on to encounter the well-meaning swordsman Gourry, and a series of misunderstandings leads to his accompanying her on her travels. The two of them are quickly caught up in a plot revolving around the mythical Philosopher’s Stone, legendary sorcerer Rezo the Red Priest, and the looming figure of Zelgadis Greywords who seemingly has his eyes trained on acquiring the latter.
Although Slayers presents itself and is advertised as an action-comedy, when it pulls out the big guns, it’s also extremely effective at drama and portraying character emotion, though never afraid to break up the action and remind the audience of its lighthearted roots. But stakes are genuinely raised during the conflicts, and the characters struggle with grief and hopelessness as well as laughs.
The first season can be divided into three neat story arcs, though all play into each other. The show moves at a good pace, and when the going gets serious no episodes are wasted, although it’s something of a Slayers “tradition” to sport a mid-season lull of standalone episodes to lighten the mood before the story rushes along to its real climax. It’s an engaging storyline, and the levity helps raise the appeal of the characters as they’re put through absurd situation after absurd situation, and let the audience know with a wink and a sigh that they’re just as aware of how ridiculous their fictional world-and occasionally their fictional cliches-can be around them.
Asides from being charismatic in and of themselves, the cast of Slayers also has a delightful, playful chemistry with each other. Lina and Gourry make for an excellent comedic duo, and Zelgadis plays a fantastic straight man to their antics. Amelia is also a fun addition. It’s a delight to see the main group, along with a few significant sub-characters later on, bounce off each other and drive each other crazy even as they cooperate to save the world from destruction.
But most strikingly, for a “light comedy”, Slayers paints a vast world with its own set of carefully created rules and broad history-Lina is caught up in the remnants of a war between demons and gods that once threatened to destroy the world, and is forced to clean up the wreckage of others like her unwittingly caught up in its web of intrigue. It’s a universe that one can easily become lost in, and more importantly, it’s simply fun to be able to do so.
The English language edition is a mixed bag. It could be described as “uneven” in the first half-although Lina and Gourry’s actors fit well into their roles on the onset, and most of the supporting characters are very good, Zelgadis’s English voice is passable at best-while Amelia’s is atrocious. Fortunately, both of the latter are recast in the second part of the show, rounding it out into an overall solid and enjoyable effort by the end. For the curious, the track is untouched from Software Sculptor’s original release.
For a “remastered” DVD set, I have to admit that the video quality disappointed me a little bit; it didn’t seem particularly improved from my memories of my old VHS collections of the series. Still, it’s not anything that will deter watching enjoyment. The extras are extremely sparse as well-asides from trailers and the textless opening and ending, the only thing features is an “Episode 1 Edit”, which just seems to be a sample of a clip from the first episode that can be viewed dubbed in languages other than English and Japanese. On the whole, rather underwhelming.
In essence, Slayers will always be a classic series to watch, and this is more than sufficient an introduction to the universe and the storyline. It is, of course, a bit of an aged show at this point and that fact is apparent-the colors sometimes a bit dull, the camera a little unsteady. But there’s an honest, charming appeal to it; the show feels utterly unpretentious and it’s difficult not to be carried along by the sheer force of its enthusiasm. If you’re curious about the franchise, it’s more than worthwhile to pick up and enjoy. As a rerelease, it’s adequate at best, and probably not worth the re-investment of money if you already own the show in some other capacity.
Overall Score: 8.0