Did you ever think that Terry Pratchett had the comic-fantasy genre all wrapped up with his sprawling Discworld saga? Think again—dynamic writer and artist duo Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi give Pratchett a solid run for his money with The Slayers, their tale of sorceress supreme Lina Inverse.
Lina is a ludicrously powerful magic user who's more renowned for hoarding treasure, eating restaurants out of business and inadvertently leveling towns with her devastatingly powerful spells than her occasional (and often strictly incidental) world-saving. FUNimation have seen fit to re-release the full 72-episode anime TV series, the better to bring the show's throngs of fans cruising down memory lane one more time in preparation for the forthcoming new TV series Slayers Revolution.
But the thing is, The Slayers is, for lack of better words, old. Wait a minute, I can think of better words: The show is finely aged. It's a classic. It's practically an antique—yeah, okay, it's a show from before the digital revolution happened. There's no getting around the fact that it's almost 15 years old (frankly, as someone who remembers well when the show debuted, this blows my mind a bit). Its action and comic sequences actually hold up surprisingly well, but the characters' sharp, bug-eyed look is starting to look a little dated.
Despite that, The Slayers is a solidly enjoyable action comedy throughout its three lengthy seasons. Lina's powerful magic and abrasive personality are offset well by her comrades; swordsman Gourry Gabriev is as stupid as he is skilled and handsome, cleric (and secret princess) Amelia vacillates between fits of extreme cowardice and almost psychotic odes to justice, and half-human chimera Zelgadis is the show's straight man, a driven warrior who can't quite believe his companions' stupidity. The series really hits its stride in season two, Slayers Next—there's growing romantic tension between Lina and Gourry, there's a vast conspiracy by an ancient race of evil demons, and there's a welcome comic foil in Xellos, a wisecracking mage who knows a lot more than he's letting on. There are unexpected cameos by fried-chicken spokesmen, thinly veiled parodies of beloved anime heroes, magical games of tennis and perhaps the show's best episode, a comic romp where everyone has to don enchanted armor (read: funny animal costumes) to save the day.
If you can bring one strike against The Slayers, it's that it spreads out its comedy and drama a little too thinly. Lina may be a selfish, gluttonous egomaniac, but she's frequently called forth to actually save the world, and while she reliably rolls up her sleeves and gets on with the justice-doing, the show's greatest moments of tension and drama are never quite as memorable as its bawdiest, most absurd jokes. Its drama is interesting, its action is pretty exciting, but comedy is where The Slayers really excels.
Funimation's jumbo 12-disc collection is generously low-priced but disappointingly short on DVD extras. The packaging boasts digital remastering, and while the show certainly looks all right, I'm a little skeptical about just how much the 90s-era animation was cleaned up. One of my favorite aspects of this version of the series is its English adaptation—it's a product of it time, often very clunky. Sometimes it's ingratiatingly so (there's no beating Lisa Ortiz' spunky, feisty take on Lina), sometimes not so much (there's no real excuse for Xellos to sound like John Waters).
This hefty box set contains enough anime treasure to keep viewers entertained for weeks, if not months. The Slayers isn't always top-shelf fare, but it's always good for a few thrills and a lot of laughs. Its mix of swords and satire, spellcasting and pratfalls, makes it seem like it just might've taken place right down the road from Pratchett's own storied Ankh-Morpork.