MVM take a trip back to 1995 by bringing us the first UK release of the Slayers TV series. Now, very few long-time anime fans will deny that Slayers is a classic, but not all classics survive the passage of time with their appeal intact. Is this one of the few..?
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.
1 - Angry? Furious Lina's Dragon Slave
2 - Bad! Mummy Men Aren't My Type!
3 - Crash! Red and White and Suspicious All Over!
4 - Dash! Run For It! My Magic Doesn't Work?!
5 - Escape! Noonsa, the Flaming Fish Man!
6 - Focus! Rezo's the Real Enemy!
Audio for both the Japanese and English language tracks is listed as being in 2.0 stereo, but a quick check of the English track shows it to be in mono. I listened to the Japanese track for most of the disc, though, and that is in stereo, although with fairly limited use made of the soundstage. Dialogue is clear and easy to pick out, and there were no apparent dropouts or other problems.
This could be something of a can of worms. 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.
The main menu appears with a static image of Lina and Gourry in a suitable action pose, while the show's opening theme plays and rather annoying flashing 'sunrise' effect pulses away behind them. Not the best of fiurst impressions. Options are provided for Play All, Select Epsodes, Extras, and Setup. The Setup screen is rather illogically laid out (the Japanese language option is paired with No Subtitles & English language with Subtitle On, when it would have made far more sense – and saved a keypress or two – if they'd been the other way around), but otherwise the menus are quick & easy enough to use.
Two art galleries are provided – one with a set of promotional images for the series, and another with some production sketches. Not a lot, but better than nothing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Throughout the land, there's one person that even the most hardened bandit fears: Lina Inverse, the diminutive sorceress who will let nothing stand between her and a good haul of loot. She's not evil, per se, she just knows what she wants - the loot of other people. There are some who try and take her on at her own game, but they always lose. Her latest heist brings her face to face with perhaps the one man in the land who hasn't heard of her, though: brainless swordsman Gourry Gabriev, who refuses to believe that Lina isn't some damsel in distress. Lina finds his clueless nature appealing, though, and the two begin travelling together - and it's not long before Gourry gets to see Lina in action. Somewhat chaotic action.
On top of the core pairing of Lina and Gourry, we soon get introduced to other characters that will play a key role in the series – chimera Zelgadis, whose once-normal body has been transformed partly into stone; and Rezo, the legendary blind Red Priest, who by reputation is one of the holiest men in the land but who, when you meet him, appears far more ominous and dangerous. He's also the man responsible, in a classic case of "be careful what you wish for, lest you get it" for turning Zelgadis into a chimera. Along with them are various sidekicks, including hapless sorceror Zolf, clueless werewolf Dilgear, fish-man Noona, and more besides. Don't worry about paying too much attention to them. Rezo claims that Zelgadis is trying to resurrect the Dark Lord Shabranigdo, Zelgadis claims he isn't but Rezo is up to something equally nasty, and Lina just wants to make sure that the only mayhem unleashed on the land is hers. Got that? Good.
Slayers is one of those shows you'll either love or hate. If you've got a liking for fantasy or slapstick comedy, you'll be off to a good start – although those are by no means the only two groups who find it appealing. There's some more subtle humour in here as well and, as the series goes on, some underlying romantic comedy to get your teeth into as well. There's also a large group of anime fans who see around five minutes of the series before deciding they hate it with a vengeance. I'm in the "love it" category, and the appeal, to me, comes from several things that the "hate it" crowd often cite as reasons to avoid it.
First, there's Lina and Gourry themselves. They're clueless and of dubious morality, and they make a great couple – but their interactions are of the sort that can go either way, and either entertain or just grate horribly. The series also throws a lot in the pot – comedy, romance, magic, action, epic scale adventure and more run-of-the-mill stories – and the way it comes out often feels a bit… unstructured. For fans, that's part of the appeal – for detractors, it's a sign of bad planning and execution. Your mileage may vary.
But enough of the overview. This volume introduces our two heroes and their first set of adversaries, as what had seemed a simple raid on a group of bandits soon turns out to have greated implications for Lina, as one of the objects she acquires is key to the plans of both Rezo and Zelgadis. What those plans are isn't made entirely clear in these episodes, but by the end of the disc it's fairly clear which one of the two villains of the piece is the real threat. That threat takes us straight into saving-the-world territory, which given Lina's sorcery skills is right up her alley (as long as the rewards are suitably good). It is mostly just setup, though, to give you an idea of what these characters are capable of (including the first outing for Lina's trademark Dragon Slave sure-win spell), with the introduction of other key characters and the real action left for subsequent discs.
There's more than enough to give you an accurate feel for the show, though, and those love-it and hate-it feelings will certainly have developed by the end of this disc. For me, it was great fun coming back to the series after not having seen it in almost seven years – yes, it no longer looks "the part" against all the visually gorgeous computer-animated shows we're used to nowadays, but the core of the series is still sound and for the most part does what it sets out to do.
Thanks to Slayers' reputation, this disc is probably a poster-child for "try before you buy" – if you enjoy it, you're safe to buy the rest of the series, if not, there's no money wasted. It could also be argued that the price is a bit steep for a series this old, especially if, as I suspect, this is the old CPM version of the series. The bottom line, though, is that this is a classic series with lasting appeal (as witnessed by its recent revival in Japan) and is well worth checking out.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Art Gallery, Sketch Gallery
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.