Judge Sandra Dozier is pretty sure you'll be asking yourself the same question she did after seeing this mixed bag of OAVs: "Are those real?"
Our reviews of Anime Essentials: Slayers The Motion Picture (published October 14th, 2004), Slayers Gorgeous (published May 7th, 2004), Slayers Movie Box (published October 20th, 2005), Slayers Premium (published June 3rd, 2004), and The Slayers: The First Three Seasons (published August 28th, 2009) are also available.
Get ready for the funniest, quirkiest, action-packed Slayers yet!
In addition to a long-running television series, several OAVs (Original Animation Videos) have been made for the popular Slayers universe, with 1998's "Excellent" collection the latest to be released in America (as of this writing). As this was my first glimpse of Slayers, I wasn't expecting to feel totally familiar with the characters and story. Despite a promising start, I still found these episodes disappointing and, overall, a poor introduction to what is probably a fun and interesting series.
Facts of the Case
Fans of dungeon type Role-Playing Games (RPGs) will recognize the universe of Slayers right away: adventurers in search of magic, gold, and glory travel the land and take on contracts and quests. Lina Inverse, our heroine, is already quite renowned as a knocker of skulls and a pretty powerful wizard. All three OAVs focus on Lina and another character called Naga (who likes to call herself "Naga the Serpent!"). Naga is proud, well-endowed, and just a little clumsy when they first meet, but she is also a sorceress in her own right, and wants to make her reputation as Lina's strongest and greatest rival. While she's trying to do this, the two end up unwittingly teaming up on adventures together.
"A Frightening Future"
"Lina-chan's Lovely Makeover Operation"
I expected to really dig this series. I love RPGs, self-referential snarky humor, and seeing anime chicks knock the stuffing out of baddies. However, other than the very good first episode, I found the stories to be bland and even downright annoying. The last episode, in particular, had a boring premise that was irritating to start with, and then it just kept heaping ridiculous events on top of each other until I was praying for it to end.
I was also not impressed with the animation, given that these were OAV episodes. I'm used to OAVs having a somewhat higher level of animation ("theatrical quality" is the term used a lot), but I found it tapered off as the episodes unfolded. "Labyrinth" had some pretty good fire and magical fighting scenes, but things became less detailed after that point, and the other two ended up being pretty generic, more "series quality" than OAV.
I think this is just a case of the "curse of the OAV" happening here. OAVs can be a mixed bag—you might get some of the best episodes of the series, or you might get total crap.
The DVD transfer was passable—certainly not as clear as I would have expected for a fairly recent (1998) production. There is noticeable grain in the image, and a softness that appears more age-related than intentional. Colors are slightly washed out, somewhat muting the warm palette. Overall, it isn't bad and did not significantly detract from my viewing enjoyment, but I expected better. Audio is quite good, with a clear and crisp stereo soundtrack that highlights vocal performances and sound effects (which are used to great effect in this series) nicely. I wasn't as pleased with Naga's trademark laugh in the English soundtrack, but otherwise the dub performances were very, very good, especially Cynthia Martinez as Lina. Extras, while not plentiful, are very cool—interviews with the English voice actors for both Lina and Naga. You get to see them recording in the booth (an interesting glimpse at the whole process) and hear their impressions of the characters and what it's like to voice them.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The first episode and the extras on this DVD almost make up for the other two episodes. "Labyrinth" has one of the best opening sequences I have seen in a long time—I was drawn in almost instantly—and for fans, it is a special treat to see the first meeting between two characters from the original series. Lina is in fine form in this episode, and her banter with Naga had me laughing until tears were coming out of my eyes. Good stuff, very good stuff, and it makes it very clear why this series has such a strong following.
Also, Slayers does not shy away from whomping bad guys, dishing out magic for the masses, talking about magic items in specific detail, and getting into engaging action sequences. In comparison to some of the disappointingly flat adventure series out there (such as .hack//SIGN), seeing a full-out dragons and wizards story like Slayers is extremely satisfying.
One thing that sets Slayers apart is the playful way the writers have fun with the typical dungeons and dragons genre; it isn't uncommon to find characters suddenly interrupting a typical "I will unleash all the powers of (fill in horrible beast overlord here) on you!" to criticize the dress or the speech of the enemy they are facing. "So, you describe yourself as a King and talk about being noble, then you just have to mention that whole Blood of Darkness thing…no one tops vampires for being such idiotic show-offs!" Lina tells a vampire opponent in episode one.
I'd love to see more of the Slayers television series, and that is where I would recommend anyone curious about this series start. Established fans of the show will probably want to at least check this DVD out for the first meeting of Lina and Naga, and for the interesting extras with the English voice actresses. Poor writing for the other two episodes will probably mean that only die-hard fans of the show or of Naga and Lina will want to add this to their collection.
Slayers Excellent is released on parole, with no rune stones for 90 days.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Interview with English voice actress for Lina
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