I think I have some kind of weird pseudo-nostalgia thing going on with The Slayers. I only saw a single volume tops of both Slayers and Slayers Next back when the videos first came out, but it’s hung with me throughout the years as something I should most definitely be more familiar with. As if to answer my pleas, FUNimation put out a thick collection of the show’s first three seasons, offering up more than enough comedy/action material to remind me why this series has stayed with me for so long.
A lot of the bases were covered in Mike Toole’s Otaku USA feature (October 2009), so I’ll keep the setup brief. The fiery and somewhat abrasive Lina Inverse is a powerful sorceress known to many as the “Bandit Killer,” among other fear-inducing but otherwise unflattering names. She has simple wants and needs, most of which involve money and food in some way. These desires alone can’t sustain anything beyond the most base of comedies, though, so she naturally gets caught up in something much bigger, entangled in dire situations that promise calamitous consequences.
Joining her in her western fantasy-inspired jaunt is Gourry Gabriev, a swordsman that’s about as dumb as Lina is hungry. Actually, he’s also as hungry as she is hungry, making him an attention-deficit double whammy with a serious lack of face or name recognition skills. At least he can swing a sword decently enough, and that’s precisely what he does as he and Lina face the rising threat of Rezo the Red Priest, a sorcerer aiming to resurrect the evil demon Shabranigdo.
Their party increases and decreases in number throughout the series, regularly rounding out to a modest foursome. One of the more prominently featured protagonists is Zelgadis, a chimera who initially stands in opposition to Lina as one of Rezo’s retainers. Lina and Gourry’s own goals are often in line with or at least beneficial to his own—the search for a spell that will return him to human form and rid him of his rocky golem features—so he sticks around, for better or worse.
One of the main reasons the show really succeeds is smart writing. It may not be a high-brow affair, and cup-size jokes may wear thin after a bit, but it doesn’t lean on the same gags most would resort to in any or all of the show’s situations. Lina is crazy and reckless, but she’s actually good at what she does, and is refreshingly honest. She’s not one of those leads that talks a big game but can’t back it up with any actual skill. In a way, the same goes for Gourry; he’s more than a little dimwitted, but he’s heroic and a real clutch hitter when it’s his turn at bat.
Slayers will look at least a little dated to the anime fans of today, which is strange to say considering the first season was produced in 1995. That’s not quite “old school” by the measures of most, but I suppose it’s gradually becoming so. C’mon, kids, the show debuted just a few months prior to the airing of Evangelion; it can’t look that old, can it?
Before I start debating aesthetics with the very air around me, I’ll move on to why this doesn’t matter in the least. Whether you started watching anime two years ago or twenty, Slayers holds up not only in regards to its production, but its tone. It balances ridiculous slapstick humor with grave situations nicely, never leaning too heavily on one for too long a period of time. This carries over fairly evenly from the first season through both Next and Try, though I can’t personally speak for 2008’s Revolution and 2009’s Evolution-R.
Maybe it’s another ’90s thing, but Slayers is also one of those rare shows that has a dub I prefer over the original Japanese. I don’t say this lightly, because no matter how often I try I almost never watch more than one episode of any show dubbed, if that. It’s not some unwarranted case of snobbery that keeps me from doing so, I just find a great disconnect in so many dubs between what I’m hearing and what’s happening on screen. To put it in a more personal light, it doesn’t give me that oh-so-savory cah-toon satisfaction I crave.
Slayers does just that, from Lisa Ortiz’s pre-theme narration to the exaggerated voices of the bit players that frequently end up on the scorched end of Lina’s fireballs. A couple members of the cast fall flat—I greatly prefer Daniel Cronin’s portrayal of Zelgadis to that of Crispin Freeman, who takes over starting at episode 18—but, for the most part, everything fits. The mere fact that I just spent two paragraphs talking about the US cast should be proof enough to those familiar with my writing.
What we have here is the very definition of an all-encompassing media franchise. It may have started with Hajime Kanzaka’s light novels—first serialized in Japan about twenty years ago—but it went on to take over pretty much every other avenue available. Anime, manga, radio, games; the reason for which all comes back to character. Slayers certainly has that in its memorable lineup, and they’ll likely cast some sort of voodoo spell on you, regardless of age.
Add in the fact that all 1,725 minutes of this set can be had for an incredibly reasonable $69.98—that’s MSRP, so you’re bound to find it for cheaper pretty much anywhere—and, well, it’s tough not to recommend picking up the collection. Definitely one of my favorites.