Slayers Season 3 Set (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2008
What They Say
In a land far from their own, a band of adventurers stumble into a prophecy and must once again save the world... but at what price? Meet Lina Inverse, a spunky sorceress with a penchant for fire who enjoys nothing more than liberating the unearned from those less deserving. Teamed up with her not-so-heroic group of friends, this seeker of fame and fortune finds herself the unlikely savior of a story long foretold. To defeat the coming darkness, sacrifice will be asked of them all... How does one balance the worth of two worlds, when one must be saved at the cost of the other?
Contains all 26 episodes of Slayers Try!
Third time may not be quite the charm, but Slayers TRY still has enough steam to send the series out on a high note.
Much like the first two seasons, 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 audio quality itself is a tall step up even from the second season. Music and effects are very clear and make excellent use of the side speakers. And since gunpowder makes an appearance in this series we get more explosions than ever, and they sound fantastic. Even smaller ambient effects like waves and background voices sound better. This is easily the best Slayers has sounded so far.
As with the audio, so with the video, though to a lesser degree. The only persistent problems are a bit of shimmering on hair and other fine lines, and some accompanying rainbows. The later episodes also have some frequent source problems like certain shots being grainy or slightly out of focus. But problems are minor and usually non-distracting. Overall the show is bright, clear, and good to look at.
The four discs come packaged in a slim digipak case, again without a slipcover. The front of the case features Lina alongside her new antagonist and new ally. The case is laid out exactly like the second season's. The episode titles face each other on the inside flaps, so you can see them all at a glance without having to turn the package over. Inside these rest the discs themselves, discs 1 and 3 overlapping with 2 and 4, respectively. The back has a text summary of the show's premise surrounded by a good mix of screenshots 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.
The blue backgrounds of the second season are here replaced with a not particularly attractive brownish backdrop for the text. What's very peculiar is that the areas around text show macroblocking - or at least something that looks very like it. I can't remember having seen this in a menu before. I tried the discs in my old Toshiba and the effect was much reduced, and on my computer I couldn't see it at all, so apparently this will vary a great deal from player to player; but on my standard player it looks frankly awful. 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. Access times are fast. For more on the differences between setup selections and their influence on playback, see the audio portion of the review. Functional is still the operative word in this catagory.
The only extras here are a clean opening and closing sequence. Since we already had a clean opening sequence with the English angle, and the outro is just a glorified pan across a still, there isn't a lot to get excited about even in those. I'm still glad they're included, though. Subtitles are on by default for these sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I approached Slayers TRY with a mixture of eagerness and apprehension: eagerness for one last adventure with the characters I've come to love, apprehension because it would be the last adventure - at least for a good long while. There was also a good bit of curiosity. TRY seems to be the least liked of the series in general, and I wondered if I would like it as much as the others. That turns out to be a difficult question to answer, so I'll put it off for a while and talk about easier things.
Slayers TRY begins with probably the best opening episode yet. It manages to set the general scene, introduce the new main character, bring the old gang together, stage a big action scene (with appropriate large-scale collateral damage), and get the heroes off on their journey, all in just a little over twenty minutes. After catching my breath I heaved a sigh of relief. Slayers was as good as ever. And for the first half of the show it stayed that way. The gags, the food, the fireballs, the fun - it was all there, and good as new. Accompanying all of this, and indeed carrying it along, was the understated and very good musical score which I have taken far too long to mention in these reviews. The music has exactly the right kind of range for a series that's all over the emotional map. It can do bouncy comedy pieces, and relaxing pieces in a medieval style for the quieter moments; it can jazz things up for the battles and draw the tears out of your eyes during the emotional scenes. And like all seasons of Slayers the opening and ending songs make an excellent pair. Even the epilogue has a great song - with lyrics in very good English, no less. The story was no slouch, either. It was just the kind Slayers does well: early on the villain enters, hints are dropped, an appropriate sense of dread builds, and everything finally works its way to a satisfying climax. And of course plenty of slapstick to break up the tension at appropriate moments. It is Slayers at its best, in every respect the equal of the earlier seasons.
The show starts by explaining that the magical barrier around that part of the world we've seen up to now has been destroyed, and the way to the outer world has been opened up. Lina and Gourry have no sooner run into their old cronies, when they meet a stranger named Filia. Filia has some secrets to her, which we learn a little before the characters do, and is obviously hiding something. At the very least, her dragon's tail (complete with big pink bow). Filia adds a touch of class to the party, and makes for an excellent comedy foil. She's the sort of character who can sip a dignified cup of tea as food-fights erupt behind her. The only time she loses her cool is when Xellos is around, with him being a Monster and all, and more mysterious than ever. The whole cast now in place, the gang decides that the outer world must have plenty of good restaurants and sets off for uncharted waters to explore new lands and new civilizations, and probably blow up half of them along the way.
Those who are familiar with Slayers know that episodes tend to fall into two categories: road episodes, where the characters roam around finding trouble and dinner, and episodes that build drama within a dramatic arc. I usually end up liking the road episodes as much as the plot episodes, so I was looking forward to things relaxing a bit after the tight plotting of NEXT. The episodes on the first two discs turned out to be a good mix, so if you're the type to keep checking your watch during the laid-back episodes you'll find plenty to keep you interested. But what I enjoyed most was running into more of the kind of characters you meet in Slayers, and having a lot more new bad guys for the heroes to waste. Speaking of the bad guys, there's a new wrinkle this time around: they have guns; and even cannons, bombs and grenades. This shakes up the fights a little bit and makes a nice change of pace from the spell-driven combat we've seen so much of. Zelgadis even gets to do a little gunslinging, in what has got to be his single coolest scene anywhere.
So much for the first half.
The third disc is where everything changes. Looking at these episodes made me understand why this is the least popular series of the three. Slayers has always allowed itself episodes that have little or nothing to do with the main storyline: that's not why these stick out. They stick out because some of the time they just don't seem much like Slayers. I think the main reason for this is that the team is split up during these episodes. It's been obvious all along that Slayers is an ensemble piece. But I don't think I realized up to this point that the "team" or "party" atmosphere was as much of an essential as it turned out to be. Another important factor is that the material isn't as consistently good as it has been. The rate of misfires is surprisingly high. A further problem with the second half in general (though the seeds for this were sown in the first half) is that all the villains are to some degree sympathetic, and that robs us of bad guys we can root against without reservation. It even gets to a point where one of the minor villains swears revenge against Lina, who's been meaner than ever in this season, and I found myself wishing he'd succeed. (Not actually kill her, mind you, just feed her one of her own Dragon Slaves or something.) I haven't worked out if I was meant to feel that way or not. An even better example of this difference between the two halves is this. In the first half Gourry asks Lina who the bad guys are, and she say "it looks like everybody except us." In the second half Gourry asks Lina who the good guys are, and she has no response at all.
By this time the astute reader is probably glancing back at the content grade and wondering if I forgot to change it. Well, I didn't. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, even the weak episodes of the third disc have enough to like to keep them from outright badness. Despite more of the jokes missing than usual, the rate of fire is high enough to keep the laughs coming. There's even a surprisingly moving episode featuring the kind of fish-man creatures we saw in season one (although Gourry gets used as dragon bait again, darn it!). But it's hardly a letdown when Zelgadis says, "I guess the silly stuff ends with this episode," and we get to the closing arc, which is the other reason.
Slayers has always had a talent for building to a climax, and all the threads come together beautifully at the finish. The shifting loyalties are resolved, we finally get a character to root against, and the team of heroes bands together to do what they do best: save the world. To my taste a good ending can compensate for a lot, and I liked this one every bit as much as the others. At least, as an ending for this particular season. It reminds me of Banner of the Stars II, in that it works perfectly well as an ending for its own story, but isn't really the right ending for the whole saga. But with word of a fourth season in the offing, that doesn't seem so bad.
Slayers TRY is the least consistent of the three seasons, but so much of it is entertaining that that doesn't really matter. In the end I think the entertainment value of the three series is about equal, and preferring one over the other will say more about the viewer's idiosyncracies than about the relative quality of the three seasons. I've concentrated on the differences in Slayers TRY because that's the briefest way to compare it: the differences are few and small; the similarities are huge and essential, and far too numerous to talk about at length. After all's said and done, a lot has been said and a lot has been done, and most of it was very, very good.
Saying goodbye is never easy, particularly to a series that's given me so many good memories. Throughout its run Slayers has always managed to leave me with a lightness in my heart and a cockeyed grin on my face. It's not only entertained me as much as almost any other series I can think of, but entertained me in so many different ways - sometimes simultaneously. Even its faults are generally in the right direction. In looking back on my all too brief and hurried acquantance with Slayers I feel many things. But what I feel most keenly is gratitude. This is a journey I'm very glad to have taken.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and ending sequences
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: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: TV PG
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