I’ve talked about The Slayers franchise on several occasions with films and OVAs. Well, the time has come for me to talk about the anime series proper. It aired mid to late ’95 and was brought to us by E&G films. The whole series was based off of a light novel series and proved popular enough that it spawned five anime series along with video games, OVAs and films. Today, I’m looking at the first anime.
We open with a group of bandits revelling in their ill-gotten gains when a fireball rains down and our heroine, Lina Inverse, makes her appearance. She beats the bandits, helps herself to some of their treasure and goes about her life. Unbeknownst to her, one of the treasures she’s acquired is greatly desired by some powerful people and she, alongside the dimwitted swordsman Gourry, soon finds herself embroiled in a battle that could impact people all over the world.
The only real issue I have with the series is that some of the jokes don’t really hold up well. The homosexual sea dragon being a prime example. The series also does overdo it a bit with the gags about Lina being flat. To be fair to the series, most of its jokes are really funny and work well, but you do get the occasional one like that that just isn’t.
One thing I appreciate about this series is that, in spite of being primarily comedic, it does put a lot of intrigue into its plot lines. You get good hints about what’s happening but they manage to hold back just enough information to keep things interesting. The series is also good at getting just serious enough with its big moments that they’re really compelling without ever taking things too seriously. And the comedy does land pretty well a good ninety percent of the time.
A part of what makes this series work so well is that the cast is really well tailored for it. A big part of that is that the characters do have complexity. Lina is greedy, petty and arrogant but she’s also determined, surprisingly moral when it comes right down to it and can be very self sacrificing. Gourry is a moron but he can also be strangely insightful and he’s loyal. Amelia is obsessed with justice and doing what’s right but she’s also naïve, easily fooled and doesn’t always think her actions through. Zelgadis is pragmatic and opportunistic but he’s also a kind and caring person in spite of seeming stoic.
They all have facets that make them wok when the series gets a bit serious but that also work well when exaggerated for comedic effect.
Overall, this is a great looking series. Especially given the limitations animation had at the time. The character designs are great. The action sequences are superb. The backgrounds are nicely done. About the worst you can say about it is that they do recycle some sequences, most notably with spells and that there are occasionally scenes where someone’s hands or face will look awkward for a moment. And I’m not talking about the ones where it’s clearly being done on purpose for comedic effect.
The cast in this is phenomenal. In addition to legends like Hayashibara Megumi and Koyasu Takehito, yo get strong performances from Suzuki Masami, Midorikawa Hikaru, Matsumoto Yasunori & Touma Yumi. The series also has fantastic music, especially with its theme tunes. Tezuka Osamu deserves a lot of credit.
There’s not much. We have a gay sea dragon, which is played up as a joke. And that same episode features a male character with a thing for Gourry.
Areas of Improvement:
- Stop obsessing over Lia’s bust size. For one thing, the series gives her age as fifteen and fixating on a fifteen year old’s chest is just creepy and weird. For another, it’s not really a strong reoccurring gag. The occasional joke about her being sensitive about her size is fine but it doesn’t work at the frequency they use it.
- If you’re going to have a joke about a gay character, don’t use their sexuality as the punchline. It’s just not funny.
- Cleaning up the art a bit would have worked a treat. I imagine the deadlines were the main reason you occasionally get those awkward art moments but the series could have been improved a bit by taking a little more time with the art.
This anime is pretty fantastic. While it has the occasional joke that doesn’t work or art fail, it also has superb writing, phenomenal characters, a masterful vocal cast, great music and art the genuinely does hold up well. My final rating for Slayers is going to be a 9/10. I promise, the rest of this fantasy anime month will be stuff I haven’t seen and not just me re-watching series I’ve seen before but didn’t review.