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Anime Reviews: Slayers NEXT
While one of my favorite anime series of all time, Slayers NEXT's great characters and comedy can't hide its aging artwork and bouts of storytelling mediocrity.
Title: Slayers NEXT
Production: Kadokawa Shoten
Series Length: 26 episodes
Air Dates: 4/5/1996 to 9/27/1996
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, mild language, brief partial nudity)
Summary: Lina Inverse embarks on her never-ending quest for riches and power once again--this time, in search of a legendary artifact known as the Claire Bible, rumored to contain all the world's knowledge. Why would the almighty, beautiful, genius sorceress, Lina Inverse, need such a thing? Because trouble never takes a day off around her, of course! And more importantly, she needs to perfect a more efficient way to deal with such nuisances as demon lords and evil dragon kings, preferably without risking destroying the earth! Following vague hints given by a mysterious priest named Xellos, who seems to have plans of his own, Lina and the crew have no choice but to strap down for another adventure.
The Good: Fantastic voice acting in both languages; great music; fun characters and story
The Bad: The first half is subpar; filler episodes may test the patience of some; aged artwork; low-budget animation
The Ugly: Martina's fashion sense is the stuff of horror movies
For my first review, I figured it would be best to look at one of my favorite anime series of all time, and by far one of the most influential to my adolescence, if only to get it out of my system. First and foremost, this is, indeed, the sequel series to Slayers, so if you're planning on seeing Slayers NEXT, I recommend it as well.
To get started on the series' good points, both the Japanese and the English voice actors give great performances in their roles (with the exception of David Moo's performance as Xellos), especially Megumi Hayashibara/Lisa Ortiz as Lina and Hikaru Midorikawa/Crispin Freeman as Zelgadis. The English version may come off as sounding corny or amateurish at times, but you can tell they were putting their all into these roles, and the effort shines through the occasional awkward delivery. Also in the auditory department, the series boasts an impressive score of music ranging from light and bouncy to dark and ominous, though some tracks from Slayers are shamelessly reused. The particular highlight here is the opening theme, "Give a Reason" by Megumi Hayashibara.
As far as the characters go, much like the music, they are dynamic and fun. Our mishmash of heroes, including the power-hungry Lina, the hopelessly-clueless Gourry, the perpetually-serious Zelgadis, the always-cheery Amelia, are always finding their way into deadly situations both comical and dramatic. Series newcomers Xellos and Martina are welcome additions to the Slayers cast, as well, providing new foils and hilarity to be had. On the flip side, the main villains are noteworthy for their stark contrast to the main cast, mostly in that they're scary as hell.
For the most part, the story also dabbles in greatness in both comedy and drama--an action comedy with actual weight behind the central conflict?! Surely you jest!--though the "Let's keep on looking for the Claire Bible for 5 episodes" filler section halfway through the series may leave some viewers bored, though the notion of 3 male main characters cross-dressing to enter a city inhabited only by women ought to spark some interest. However, the first main story arc does leave something to be desired, as the initial bad guys, Kanzel and Mazenda (not a spoiler, you can tell as soon as they're on the frame), are quite uninspired and don't serve much purpose other than to provide some action to the first arc. Fairly unnecessary.
Two other things that might irk viewers are the aging 90s art style and the shoestring-budget animation. While the former doesn't bother me one bit, as the character designs are lively, colorful, and filled to the brim with classic fantasy anime tropes (to go with the similarly trope-y writing), the latter does fail to impress most times, especially when the story takes its dark turns and you want the animation to be spectacular (and, y'know, not incredibly choppy and lacking in in-between frames) to lend credence to the drama. The artwork is also, sadly, very inconsistent at times, especially in the first half--you'll understand exactly what I mean when you see it, because there's no way you could possibly miss when it happens.
But alas, despite its flaws, I can't help but love Slayers NEXT. It was one of my first anime not seen on TV, it introduced one of my favorite characters in any media (I'm looking at you, Xellos), and it's just so much fun that its shortcomings don't bother me as much as they probably should. If you're a fan of fantasy anime, or just want a good comedy experience, check out all 4 Slayers TV series, but especially NEXT.
Final Score: 8 out of 10. Slayers NEXT is an extremely fun action comedy with memorable characters and some truly hilarious moments, but a weak first half and dated animation keep it from being truly great.