Slayers Season 2 Set (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, April 07, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, December 11, 2007
What They Say
In a land beset by the forces of evil, a solitary light shines forth with the hope of salvation... but that's a far different story! Meet Lina Inverse, a spunky sorceress with a penchant for fire who enjoys nothing more than liberating the unearned from those less deserving. With her strapping, yet strapped for brains, faithful sidekick Gourry, her ambitious young protege, Amelia, and the ever-stoic Zelgadis, this ragtag team of misfit adventurers set out in search of a cure and end up on a quest to save the world. Together they find more trouble than they could possibly hope for, and nowhere near enough plunder!
Contains all 26 episodes of Slayers Next!
Some things old, some things new, some things borrowed - and nothing blue. This is the the kind of sequel that'll always be welcome.
Much like the first season, the language you choose at the menu will have more than the usual implications for the show. Going the Japanese route (as I did for my main viewing session) will get you Japanese opening and end credits, along with hardsubbed song lyrics that have a soft English translation running up above them, and you'll be able to see the next episode previews afterwards. An English audio selection will give you, interestingly, a clean opening sequence, and English end credits, with no previews. As usual with FUNimation releases, you can change angles during the credits, but that will have no effect on how the rest of the material plays out; nor will changing audio tracks on the fly.
The quality of the audio is a bit better for the Japanese stereo track. This time it sounds noticably more like true stereo, with some clear left-and-right use of music and ambient effects during normal sequences, and a little extra muscle in the scenes where everything goes boom. The English mix is again mono, and again has no big problems. It may even be a touch clearer than the Japanese track, but since it's several decibles louder a direct comparison is difficult.
The video is about the same as we saw in season one, except that the first disc has a couple of more problematic sections. Two or three early episodes have worse than usual artifacting triggered by very simple movements, even pans across stills. There also seems to be more shimmering in general, especially in hair, but I can't remember any outright rainbowing. The source seems a little grainy in some spots, too. But for the most part the show looks pretty nice. Colours are bright and mainly solid, and clarity is good. The first season has the edge, though.
The four discs come packaged in a slim digipak case, this time without a slipcover. On the front the villians get most of the space with only Gouury and Lina gearing up to fight them. The case works a bit better this time as things are laid out a bit more logically. Firstly, the episode titles are facing each other on the inside flaps, so you can see them all at a glance - much better than having to turn the package over. Inside these rest the discs themselves, discs 1 and 3 overlapping with 2 and 4, respectively. Again we see an improvement as 1 and 3 are now on top for easy access. The disc art is still nice to look at, and much like the cover it's the villians who get the attention. (Only Prince Phil represents the forces of good.) The back has a text summary of the show's premise surrounded by a good mix of screens and a list of extras. The technical grid at the bottom is small but readable and laid out clearly.
I suspect there will be two minds about the packaging job. One camp will be disappointed by its flimsy, "economy" feel, the other will appreciate its...well, its economy, both of space and price. I'm firmly in the second camp, but even so lamenting that the serious collectors can't get a deluxe limited edition of a longtime fan favourite. But I generally prefer an efficient design to a collectable one, and that's what I've got here. I do miss the slipcover, but the resituating of the episode info and discs makes up for it.
Menus are still images with selections at the bottom of the screen. The episode menus can only take you to the beginning of an episode - to access a particular chapter you'll have to start the episode and navigate with the remote. (To help compensate for this, there are more chapter stops than usual.) The setup menu is the intelligent sort that kicks you back to the start menu after you make your subtitle selection. For more on the differences between setup selections and their influence on playback, see the audio portion of the review. There should really be a few more choices in the extras menu on the last disc, but that's a minor issue. Functional is the operative word in this catagory.
We get a clean opening sequence here, which is a little redundant in this instance since the English angle of the opening credits was clean to start with. The back of the case is a bit misleading when it says "textless songs" in that no clean closing sequence is provided, but that one was just a modified still anyway so I don't feel like I'm missing out. The big feature is the music video of the song from the middle of the series, of which there are several versions to choose from. Ideally you would be able to select each from the menu, but they all play back-to-back from one selection. (You can, however, use the chapter skip button to move between them.) The versions are as follows: 1. Normal full version, subtitle translation. 2. Karaoke version with instrumentals and background vocals only, (useless) subtitle translation. 3. Semi-karaoke version with Lina's vocal part added, leaving the Amelia part to the viewer, subtitle translation. 4. Semi-karaoke version with Amelia's vocal part added, leaving the Lina part to the viewer, subtitle translation. 5. Full sing-along version, Japanese lyrics at the bottom of the screen, romaji at the top. Most people will prefer either 1 or 5, I think. If you watch them all at a go, I bear no responsiblity for getting the song out of your head afterwards. The last extra is slight: an untranslated selection of TV spots for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I watch a series knowing I'll have to write a review afterwards, it's almost inevitable that I'll begin to mentally write little bits of it in advance. Wonderful, witty, impeccably constructed sentences begin to form themselves in my mind, and I get a glow of satisfaction, or at least relief, that the review will be that much easier to write. In reality, of course, the actual events of the series can smash these beautiful sentences to atoms, and then I have to start the review from scratch. For example, by about the midway point in Slayers NEXT, I had a thoroughly reasoned and cleverly worded sentence all worked out about how the abscence of so-and-so from the first season was having such-and-such an effect of the dynamic of the story, only to have the character show up and ruin it all. (All of what I wrote, I mean, not the show itself.) Which goes to show at least one thing: the second season of Slayers had enough tricks up its sleeves to keep me guessing - and what's more important, very entertained.
I suppose comparisons with the first season must be made, so I may as well dispose of them as soon as possible. All the things you liked (or disliked, as the case may be) are back: food jokes, fireballs, sight gags, and good old-fashioned storytelling. And for the most part, they're as good as ever; maybe even better. If you thought the first season meandered a bit too much, you'll be pleased to learn that this time the plotting is much tighter. On the other hand, Lina can be more abrasive: the low point in this respect is an episode where she goes fishing for lake dragon using Zelgadis as an anchor and Gourry as bait. As Zelgadis himself says elsewhere: "There are lines you just don't cross" - and those are two of them. A corollary of Lina's shortened temper is an even greater number of Dragon Slaves. It gets to the point where you just know there's going to be a cutaway to a huge explosion in the distance - but it's still funny.
The series begins as it should: with a fight over food, shortly followed by the revelation that Lina is now searching for something she calls the Claire Bible. This quest sets the plot in motion and sustains it for most of the show's run. But the search for clues leads the party into situations that have to be dealt with and villains to be faced along the way. They also get to meet up with some old friends, Amelia (justice's most enthusiastic, if not most formidable, ally) and Zelgadis, who is still looking to get his normal body back, despite the usefulness of the cursed one. With Zelgadis now a permanent part of the group, he gets to be the voice of reason (such as it is) and provides the standard of normality for everyone else to deviate from. This has the agreeable effect of freeing Gourry up a little to play more comedy. For a while I wondered if the legend of Gourry's dumbness came from somewhere outside the first season, but if so I couldn't find it here. If anything he shows more cleverness than ever. He's able to sense what Lina has in mind on certain occasions and pull off some effective combination attacks; but the best example occurs late in the show, when they encounter a dragon and inquire how it can speak the language of humans. "The dragon race lives in eternity. As we cross the seas of time, we learn the tongues of other races," is the answer. Gourry immediately translates this for the rest of us. "So...you're saying you learn languages to keep from getting bored!"
The hunt for the Claire Bible keeps the series focused pretty well, but it still allows for some amusing side trips at certain points in the story. One of the great pleasures of Slayers to me is getting to meet all the wonderful oddball supporting characters along the way, people who may not have a lot to do with the plot as such, but fill out the world a bit and give the usual gang something to bounce off of for a while. It's hard not to love a story where you can run into a pair of twin girls that are apparently distant ancestors of Shampoo, right down to the chinese dresses and goofy martial arts. Or a princess who tries to gain sorcerous power from a god she invented herself. This character gets to show up quite often, due to having a grudge against Lina, and carries on the tradition of comedy minor villains with flying colours. And speaking of villians, the selection is especially good this time around. We get ones that are comic relief, ones that are to some degree sympathetic, and a couple you just want to smear the wall with. But while certain villians can turn the show darker than usual, it never loses its sense of fun and adventure. No matter how dark the road becomes, there will always be another pun or pratfall to lighten the way.
The one real change in the old characters is the development of a romantic angle in the Lina-Gourry relationship. This was something I was dreading from the moment I saw it telegraphed in the opening credits. If there was ever a pair less suited to play the lovey-dovey couple, it's those two. But dashed if it didn't go and lead to a moment of real beauty in spite of it all. I guess that's the kind of thing that's typical of Slayers: the show excels at combining things that have no right to be together at all, but somehow work anyway. After all, you shouldn't be able to tell a story that matters while putting the characters in animal costumes - no matter how paralyzingly funny Gourry's is. But Slayers can get away with that, too. And I'm beginning to wonder if anything is beyond its grasp.
In the end I think that, while comparing the two seasons may be unavoidable, it isn't going to do anybody (or the show) any favours. While I was watching I didn't get a strong impression that this season was trying to top the first. I had more the feeling that the creators had stumbled off a roller coaster, slightly dizzy, turned to each other and said with lopsided grins, "Let's do that again!" This isn't a case of a formula with larger and larger quantities added to raise the stakes. It's a case of great big world full of magic and fun that isn't about to run out of good ideas yet. Slayers is still a show that makes me laugh, excites me, moves me, and keeps me saying "just one more episode...." True, if you're the sort of fan who thinks there haven't been any really good shows since Rahxephon, then this might not be your cup of tea. But if you've seen the first season and liked it, then there's nothing I can say or do to keep you from watching this one. And that's just fine - I wouldn't dream of trying.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,"Otome no Inori" Animated Music Video,TV Spots
Sony 35" KV-35XBR88 SDTV, Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player (via generic component), Yamaha RX-V550 DD/DTS Receiver, Infinity Primus C25 and 150 speakers.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: C
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2