Anime Reviews: Slayers
This anime classic is full of laughs and surprises, backed by memorable characters and great music, but its aged artwork may turn viewers off.
Title: Slayers a.k.a. The Slayers
Production: Kadokawa Shoten
Series Length: 26 episodes
Air Dates: 4/7/1995 to 9/29/1995
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, mild language, brief partial nudity)
Summary: Lina Inverse, the infamous sorceress otherwise known as "The Bandit Killer," greatly enjoys taking from the rich (as well as everyone else) and giving to herself. On a fairly routine destruction of a bandit hideout, she finds a strange orihalcon statue among her spoils, but she is tailed the next day by surviving bandits before she is saved by a swordsman named Gourry (whose help Lina says she didn't need). Unfortunately for Lina, there are others searching for the statue, and who would give anything to obtain it. Standing against her are Zelgadis, a mysterious swordsman whose tough skin and cold personality make him a serious threat, and Rezo the Red Priest, the most powerful magi of the age. If Lina's going to protect her loot, she's gonna have to fight to survive, too!
The Good: Fun and likeable characters; great voice acting and music; well-written story
The Bad: Bare-bones art and animation; second half features an uninspired villain; filler episodes
The Ugly: Vrumugun's English voice actor and hith lithp
Following on the heels of my Slayers NEXT review, I felt it was fitting to cover Slayers as soon as possible, if only to look at how the original series stands up in comparison to my favored season. For the most part, it still holds up well, but not without a few hitches and sputters along the way.
To begin, Slayers is nothing short of a good time, especially if you're a fan of D&D-style fantasy and comedy. The characters are, single-handedly, the greatest part about this series, as well as its many sequels. Whether you're tickled by Lina's tendency for overreaction and/or overkill, or Gourry's perpetual (selective) cluelessness, or even Zelgadis' purely straight-man approach to comic situations, chances are you'll not only have a favorite character, but a favorite foil character as well. The villains, in the midst of such a lighthearted comedy, manage to be equal-parts threatening and engaging, even if the second arc's main villain seems a bit contrived and uninspired in his concept.
As was true in my Slayers NEXT review, Slayers features an impressive vocal cast in both the Japanese and English versions, though the latter skimps a bit on its side characters. It should also be noted that Zelgadis' English voice actor changes halfway through the series, from Daniel Cronin to Crispin Freeman...not that anyone's complaining. Despite a few bumps, the English version's main characters are all given a great deal of life and exuberance and, of course, fun. Also as was in Slayers NEXT, this series brings an impressively dynamic soundtrack to the table, from its wide-ranging orchestral tracks to its fantastic pop opener, "Get Along, Try Again" by Megumi Hayashibara.
Most unexpectedly, Slayers features a very well-thought-out plot through which our heroes must navigate, throwing some surprising twists one wouldn't expect from such a light and seemingly-simple series. Even in the second half, where the villain is a bit less inspired, the storyline surrounding him and his actions is still very intriguing. Just don't go into this series expecting to not have to use your brain at all. Unfortunately, the plot does bog down in the middle with some fairly unnecessary filler episodes (4-5 episodes of filler nearly in a row, to be exact). I was amused enough, but I can see many people being very displeased by it.
Also, if Slayers NEXT had rudimentary art and animation, its predecessor makes it look like Akira, with very washed-out colors and a sketchy, almost messy, quality to the artwork and an animation budget that makes the latter episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion look fluid. The visual department is definitely a formidable hurdle to jump in order to enjoy the series.
But hey, once you do jump that hurdle, you're in for a real treat. Slayers is hailed as an anime classic by many for a reason, due to its fun and lively characters and engaging storyline. For the record, everyone I've ever talked to who's seen Slayers has had nothing but good things to say about it, and because of its popularity (both contemporary and retrospectively), many sequels and movies were made in order to keep the fires burning. Not very many series can boast such a massive franchise, because not very many series contain as much unadultered fun.
Final Score: 8 out of 10. If you can forgive its aged look and a few meandering episodes, Slayers will entertain the hell out of you, and you may even find yourself joining its devoted fanbase.