Slayers Season 1 Set -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: B-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 575
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Slayers

Slayers Season 1 Set

By Ben Leary     February 21, 2008
Release Date: August 21, 2007

Slayers Season 1 Set
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
In a land of fantasy and fairytale, magic rules and one can prosper by the point of a sword. But somewhere between the realms of good and evil, a band of misfits stumble upon an artifact which could prove the undoing of all...

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 Gourry, a dashing swordsman of unrivaled skill - and stupidity - they must take on the forces of the demon lord and his countless servants, seeking to save the world and hoping for fame and fortune along the way.

Contains all 26 episodes of season one.

The Review!
A band of unlikely adventurers, a cross-dressing dragon, demon chickens, and more food jokes than you can shake a fork at - they're all back.

I opted for the Japanese language track this time, for a couple of reasons. Not only did I not care to listen to the mono English audio, but neither did I want to miss one of the signature roles of a legendary voice actress. I admit I also had a few reservations about trusting my first viewing to a recording that recasts no less than four (!) characters at different points of the show. And in this case the choice of audio has even more influence on how the show plays out for you, over and above the performances. I've seen some confusion in discussions on this release back when it first came out, so I want to set the record straight on this once and for all. If you choose the Japanese track you get the whole package - unedited Japanese credits (complete with song lyrcs hardsubbed in Japanese at the bottom of the frame and the translation up above them), next episode previews, and a brief epilogue at the end of the show. The English option, on the other hand, will get you an all-English credit sequence (the earlier episodes have a special title screen where the text is laid over a still of Lina casting a spell, the later ones use the Japanese title screen with the English word at the top - every episode title in the original version starts with an English word, by the way - and the Japanese text awkwardly boxed out and the English title overlaid in its place), no episode previews and no epilogue. All of this is determined by the audio choice you make from the menu - changing tracks on the fly will have no effect.

At last moving on to the actual audio quality, the Japanese track is an unimpressive but serviceable affair. The side speakers are used only occasionally for music and very loud effects, such as powerful spells being cast, towns being destroyed, and Lina eating dinner. Everything else stays squarely centered; no "thrown" voices or flyby effects here. But everthing is clear and problem-free, and most importantly, music, sound effects and voices all stay separate. The English version is...mono - rather oddly, for a recording that's only a dozen years old. In addition to that the volume level is inconsistent between discs: for the first disc the audio is noticably louder than the Japanese track, but on the final disc it's a touch lower. Another minor problem is that the sound elements don't separate as well as they should. Late in the series two charaters are trading dialogue as they fight, and the sound effects get overwhelmed by the voices, which robs the battle of a lot of its punch. But it's still adequate, and dub-only fans should find it at least passable.

Since I seem to have set the record for longest audio section in a review, I might as well make it unbreakable by giving a quick summary. If you're coming into the show fresh and you can watch your anime subtitled at all, then do so here. The English option is just too inconsistent, from the changes in the dub cast down to the title screen, and has too many omissions to hold a candle to the uniformly good Japanese version. But none of the problems are so huge that dub-exclusive viewers should give this title a miss. It just looks that way when you try to type them all out.

Again we have variations based on the language option you pick, though, thank goodness, not as many in this area. For all but a couple of areas in the show, it's a good-looking affair. Colours are well-saturated with no bleeding; and surprisingly there are no rainbows either. Problems are minor and nothing unusual: some jagged lines during pans, minor noise along darker colours. By and large none of them are distracting: you'll only see these things if you're looking for them. For an episode-per-disc count as high as this (all 26 episodes have been squeezed onto four discs) with a source that probably wasn't in great shape to begin with, the show looks remarkably good. It's the opening credits that show the effects of cut corners. Quite a bit of artifacting is visible around the text and during the strobe effects as the spells fly back and forth. The closing credits are a sequence of stills and so fare much better, with just a bit of shimmering along hair. The English credits have less artifacting but are much darker than the originals and have a rougher, grainier look to them, in addition to cross-colouration. But the overall good far outweighs the bad. I unfortunately can't do a direct comparison to the earlier release by CPM, but I don't see any of the bland look I've heard complaints about with that set, so I'm inclined to think this is the best Slayers is going to look on this side of the Pacific, short of a remastering at the source.

The four discs come packaged in a slim digipak case with a slipcover. The front of the slipcover has a nice layout of character art with most of the main cast (no Amelia?) in typical and engaging poses. The art fills up the space nicely without looking crowded and leaves room for the title at the top. The back is decorated with some stills from the show bordered in gold, which run below and along the writeup, and just above the company logos and technical grid (a bit small, but it's got all the info). The cover of the digipak duplicates that of the slipcover. Opening it up, we find the episode titles from the first two discs; the other two are located on the back of the case, which is a bit awkward. When we come to the discs themselves, we find them bright and colourful with well-printed character art. Amelia even makes up for her absence from the cover by striking the "ally of justice" pose: her's may be the last disc you put in the player, but it's the first that grabs your eye. The disc are arranged so that they overlap, two per case section. Somewhat oddly, the discs are arranged with the first and third discs underneath their fellows, so that you have to remove discs three and four to get at them. Even weirder is that the first flap - the underside of the cover - has a half-sleeve in it, as if it was meant to carry a booklet or at least an insert; but it's empty.

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.

Finally something simple to talk about. 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. Functional is the operative word in this category.

In addition to the clean opening and closing sequences (always a treat) we get an extra that I can't remember seeing on an anime disc before, and one I rather like the idea of. It consists of two extended clips from the first episode, Lina's first meeting with Gourry and the dragon slaying, set to four separate language tracks, in addition to the regular English and Japanese ones: Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and Italian. It's a bit much to take them all in during a single sitting like I did. Better to split them up. But it is quite interesting to hear the different takes on the characters - I just wish you'd been able to turn on the subtitles. If you only watch one of these, make it the Italian. That version has really good performances from everybody and an absolutely perfect Gourry. I also recommend giving the Mandarin version a spin, as it has a very funny Lina.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Slayers is a show that tends to provoke a strong reaction one way or another. As someone who got into television anime relatively late I've heard a great deal of good and a great deal of bad about it. I approached it with interest and a measure of trepidation, but also with a good deal of curiosity about the strange and irresistible quality it apparently has, the power of drawing every viewer to one extreme or the other. And also, curiosity about which extreme it would draw me to. I now have my answer. The long and the short of it is: I loved it.

While I think I can see the reasons the show's detractors have for disliking it, I shall put them off for the moment and concentrate on what there is to enjoy. In the first place the show is pure entertainment. If the keywords of The Incredibles were explosions and hugs, the keywords of Slayers are pratfalls and fireballs. It aims to amuse, dazzle and excite the audience; and it has no other object. For that I respect it, almost as much as I respect it for achieving that object so completely. To say that Slayers is not highbrow is a bit like saying Shaquille O'Neal is not a midget: it may be technically true, but it doesn't even begin to describe the way things are. The show throws in everything but the kitchen sink for the sake of a good time, but it is a very good time. Some episodes have as much slapstick as a Looney Toon, but those episodes are as funny as a Looney Toon - and I mean one of the really good ones, too.

Some of the reports that reached me suggested that the series was a kind of parody of the Dungeons and Dragons style of fantasy. I found this to be extremely misleading. The general plot of the show is quite serious. It's simply carried out with a light heart and a quick wit, in addition to the appropriate gravity. Slayers simply enjoys itself as it tells the story, and if it gives a few of the genre cliches a good natured kick in the pants along the way, where's the harm in that? It contains elements of satire here and there, but it goes well beyond parody to create something that has a life of its own. A near but not exact parallel would be the film Support Your Local Sheriff. The difference is that Slayers has a greater emotional range and can play the lighter and graver emotions, the comedy and the drama, the action and the mystery off one another with almost unbelievable dexterity. You know you have something when a show can be exciting, funny, and moving during the course of its run. But when a show can be exciting, funny, and moving all in the same scene, that's when you know you have a real winner on your hands.

This is the kind of show where much of the effect depends on the interaction of the two leads, and the dynamic between them is excellent. Lina the sorceress takes the comic's role, and plays it to the hilt - Gourry the swordsman gives her the straight-man she needs to really shine, while managing to score a good share of the laughs in his own right. There's a lot of talk in the show (and outside it) that might lead you to think Gourry is stupid. Don't you believe it. Sure, he may have a terrible memory, and he can't follow Lina's magi-babble, but he's quite good at sizing up his opponents, and is far less likely than Lina to do something that gets him in trouble. He also has a good sense of responsibility, something Lina totally lacks, so he appoints himself as a big brother to her to try and keep things under control. He does not, of course, always succeed. But as good as this pair is things get even more fun as other characters are thrown into the mix. There's also Amelia, the self-appointed "ally of justice" with an over-developed sense of the dramatic. She's the sort of character who will shin up a tree just so she can jump down and make a flashy entrance...and invariably klutz out on the landing. The other major character, Zelgadis, provides a necessary steadying influence, giving the show a standard of seriousness and, such as it is, normality for all the screwballs to bounce off of. He also adds to the dramatic complexity by having his own agenda and raising questions as to which side he's ultimately on.

While it should be clear by now that I enjoy all this very much, it still remains that quite few other people don't, and for all I know there are good reasons for this. Some people can't watch or read fantasy at all. Some people have no taste in slapstick. Others can't watch a work of pure entertainment; they need tougher meat to chew on. I also get the impression that the show proved to be so hugely popular that it generated a kind of backlash against itself after it was all over. Finally, there's the possibility that it simply overstayed its welcome with three whole seasons. Any of these can be legitimate reasons for disliking the show; if you think any of them may apply to you then you may want to stay away. But I for one am very glad to have made the journey, and I will eagerly look forward to more.

In Summary:
At a time when the US anime industry is in turmoil, it seems appropriate to return to a series that helped anime become popular in the first place. While it may not be for all tastes, it's easy for me to see why it became such a fan favourite; it certainly made a fan out of me. It's a show that keeps a lot of plates in the air - one moment you're laughing at a joke or a pratfall, the next you're thrilling as swords clash and spells sear the air; then you're filled with dread as the major villains appear...only to have the carpet yanked out from under you by a gag that comes out of nowhere. The story sticks to a lot of the genre basics, but it's well-constructed and told with such gusto and visual flair, not to mention enough plot twists and changing loyalties, that it always stays fresh and has that great "one more episode" pull during the longer arcs. I applaud Funimation for bringing Slayers back into circulation. This isn't a show to be forgotten. If you don't fall into any of the disqualifying categories mentioned above, this is a good show to pick up as a permanent fallback for all-around entertainment, or as a pick-me-up amid all the current industry woes. Against Lina Inverse and company the blue devils don't stand a chance.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing sequences,Episode one alternate language edit

Review Equipment
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.


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