Five episodes of filler, and two episodes of serious baddies - it can only be the latest volume of Slayers, and as ever I'm torn between a desire to see the story acutally go somewhere, and enjoying the comic mayhem. Decisions, decisions...
What They Say
She's unbelievable... In the aftermath of the latest battle, Lina wakes up in a strange, strange land, where the animals can talk and peoples heads are made of vegetables! Can she find her friends in this wacky wonderland? And why does that damsel in distress look so much like Gourry?
66 - Striding and Swaggering! Lamentation Without End!
67 - Disaster and Danger? This Place is a Wonder Island!
68 - Pandemonium! Terror of the Cursed Jar!
69 - Immediate Results? Love is in the Tiny Differences!
70 - The Right Person in the Right Place! Amelia in the Village of Justice!
71 - Three People, Three Ways! Where the Light Leads!
72 - A Hero's Advent? For Whom Does the Young Girl Pray?
Audio for both the Japanese and English language tracks is presented in 2.0 stereo. I listened to the Japanese track for most of the disc – there's fairly limited use made of the soundstage. Dialogue is clear and easy to pick out, and there were no apparent dropouts or other problems.
There were two versions of Slayers released in the US – the original release by Central Park Media, and a remastered version released more recently by FUNimation. Most people would have been expecting MVM to release the remastered version, but it appears that's not the case as there are no FUNimation credits on the disc, only CPM ones. The video itself is reasonable for its age – presented in 1.33:1 full-frame aspect, it's a little on the soft side but otherwise in reasonably good condition, with little in the way of obvious nicks or scratches. However, the opening and closing credits include hardsubbed song lyrics in both English and Romaji, and the overlaid episode titles used on the original CPM release (which I have here for comparison) are also present.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Menus are a mostly-static affair, with this volume featuring Gourry, Zelgadis and Jillas in a small image off to the left of the menu, with options for Play Feature, Episode Selection and Setup on the right. The opening theme for this season plays alongside. There are no transition animations between the various screens, making it all quick and easy to use.
Nothing to see here, move along…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Lina and the others arrive at the source of the beam of light - also the place where Valgaav is hoping to summon Darkstar into the world, and he's already there and preparing to unleash devastation on the world. The beam of light is being produced by a gateway, built by Almayce's people on the spot where Shabranigdo and Ceiphied had battled millennia earlier, a place of great power - but if Valgaav opens the gateway before Almayce and Lina can gather the various Darkstar weapons, there'll be no way to seal him away again...
Sticking to Slayers tradition, this disc starts with the climax to the big mid-season battle, even though it really only serves as an excuse to give Valgaav a kicking and introduce a few more Overworlders who will work 'with' Almayce (in the loosest possible sense) for the rest of the season. While the gang emerge victorious – some news that really shouldn't represent a spoiler – they do end up split up, and the next four episodes deal with their rather comic adventures while they search each other out. We get themeparks, talking fish, ghost ships and a rather good sentai parody to fill in the gap before events turn back to the serious again, with the new Overworlders deciding that a little collateral damage can be tolerated in the search for the final Darkstar weapon. Mayhem? We have it.
Personally, I've generally preferred Slayers more when it's being funny than when it's being serious, and this disc doesn't do anything to change that opinion. For this season, it really doesn't help that the 'bad' guys really have very little in the way of personality, and therefore very little reason to pay attention to them. In season one, Rezo had a very personal reason for his quest, even if he had become a bit warped along the way; in NEXT, Hellmaster's combination of childish appearance and genuinely unhinged nature made him great fun to watch. Here, though, there's none of that. Almayce is a grey area, but his new companions Sirius and Erulogos are just emotionless killing machines on a mission – there's nothing to draw you to them or make them interesting, and as a result the 'drama' episodes on this disc never really catch your attention.
Which means we're left looking to the 'filler' episodes for the real entertainment, and they thankfully deliver plenty of that. The first sees Lina unwittingly caught up in a theme-park parody of Alice in Wonderland, with Lina taking the role of Alice and trying to figure out just what the heck is going on. From there there's a quest to exorcise the former captain of a ship, whose soul has been sealed into a jar and left to roam the seas in the wreckage of his own ship; Amelia's mission to help a fish-girl and human boy find true love, despite the objections of the girl's father (and some dubious magic is involved); before finally we visit the Village of Heroes, where a bunch of geriatric wannabes are trying to portray themselves as the Power Rangers.
None of these stories can be accused of having much in the way of depth, but that's not the point – they bring a smile to the face, with the two parody episodes being particularly good as the show pokes fun at the situations that simply have to arise if you're doing Wonderland or sentai stories. Slayers humour can be a little hit-or-miss at time, but this volume gets it spot on and really did tickle my funny-bone quite well.
With only one volume to go, though, that also means that most of the humour is past us now – there's a final battle to be faced, and that will be done in a much more serious style. It's almost a shame, really – but that's the Slayers formula, and the show isn't about to break it now.
Overall, this volume is a well-balanced mix of comic and dramatic episodes, with the comedy winning out in terms of entertainment value, mainly as the season lacks any real bad guys that can be identified with. But I was too busy chuckling to really mind too much.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.