Slayers: Try - Volume 1
I was looking forward to this moment in January, the halfway point of the Slayers odyssey, the third series, Slayers Try. It would all be downhill from here, coasting. Except that there are now 5 Slayers series, with the recent release in Japan of Slayers Evolution-R. It could begin to feel like the 'frog half jumping across the pond' paradox, as the closer I get to the end the further it gets away. Except something odd has happened. After a lukewarm response to the first Slayers series, I fell in love with the charms of Slayers Next, and as a result, I have been looking forward to Slayers Try with eager abandon.
Lina Inverse is a powerful sorceress in a pint-sized package. She's into wealth redistribution. She takes on the toughest of bandits, the meanest of monsters, with an arsenal of powerful and destructive spells, and then liberates them from their gold, gems and magical artefacts, redistributing it into her own pocket. Somehow though, she's become one of a group of adventurers, working together to fight evil, defeat monsters, and make enough money to fill their stomachs. After all, fighting the Dark sorcerer Rezo, and the resurrected Shabranigdo tends to unite people against adversity. And if that isn't enough, searching for the Clare Bible and defeating the nefarious plans of the Monsters, taking down the Dark Demon King Gaav in the process ought to suffice. Gourry Gabriev is the heroic figure, who is a dab hand with a sword, if not too bright of intellect. Zelgadis is a powerful warrior/magic user, who in the pursuit of more power was cursed so that his skin turned to stone, and is now looking for a cure. Amelia is a trainee sorceress, and heir to the throne of Seyruun, who has an unwavering belief in goodness and justice, and who as an apprentice, continually manages to rub Lina the wrong way. Even more of their misadventures are presented in the third series, Slayers Try.
Defeating the Monsters has changed the world, the magical barrier that surrounded the land has vanished, and now travel outside is possible. But there are ominous signs on the horizon, both literally and figuratively. A glowing pillar of light heralds something dire, and there are rumours of other lands preparing to invade. As you would expect, Lina and her friends are all fired up, ready to board ship, and head out to sample all that foreign cuisine. But there is a small matter of a dragon with a prophecy, and one of Gaav's minions named Valgaav looking for revenge.
The first six episodes of Slayers Try are presented here on this disc from MVM, although the episode numbering counts the episodes in the first two series as well.
53. Hoist Sails for the Journey!
The magical barrier that has isolated the lands for a 1000 years has fallen with the Monsters, and the world lies open to explore. But the pillar of light on the horizon doesn't bode well, so a council of kings led by Philionel decide to send a peace delegation to the outside world, to explore and establish friendly relations. It explains the party atmosphere at the port city, and just why Lina and Gourry are there to stuff their faces. Zelgadis is there too, hoping a cure for his condition may lie in the unexplored world. But then a letter is slipped under Lina's door. The mysterious Filia wants to meet them to discuss a proposition. Filia turns out to be a cute blonde, with a tail sticking out from under her skirt. It's an observation that causes Gourry no end of pain, and delays their meeting. Filia has a job for them, but first there has to be a test of their powers. Suddenly, a Gold Dragon attacks. To protect the city, Lina decides to draw the dragon away in one of the delegate ships, and the three grab Amelia (who was there launching the ships as her princessly duty) and take one of the ships out to sea to fight the dragon in isolation. Except no one's told Lina that casting the Dragon Slave out at sea is a bad idea.
54. A Letter From Home!
A tsunami that wrecked the fleet and destroyed the city may be one reason to lie low, but being aboard a battered ship, aimlessly adrift, and low on rations, means that they have little choice as to where they end up. Meanwhile, in a distant land, a Monster named Valgaav waits for the Sword of Light and his destiny to arrive. He's looking for certain magical and mystical items, and his men are just to about to raid a city to plunder. Which is when Lina's ship arrives, and instead of the feast that they have been dreaming about, they get straight into a battle. The townsfolk are about to see magic of the sort that they have never seen before. It deserves a feast, but that feast is interrupted by the return of the Gold Dragon. Only the dragon is Filia, and she says that Lina has passed her test, and is ready for a quest to save the world from imminent darkness. Lina isn't in the mood until Filia shows her a letter. It turns out that the only person in the world that Lina is scared of is her own older sister.
55. Where'd That Arrogant Guy Go?
Threat, schmeat! Lina has her priorities. She and Gourry go looking for local cuisine, Amelia goes sightseeing, and Zelgadis goes breaking into old temples looking for a cure. There's another familiar face in the city as well, although he's keeping a low profile. Meanwhile, Valgaav's beastmen minions are attacking a village of Sand People, looking for another mystical sword. Filia's getting stressed, she wants the quest to start, and she can smell Monster, which isn't doing her disposition any good. Outside the city, Valgaav finally confronts the heroes, he wants the Sword of Light, and battle commences.
56. He's Out For Revenge?
Valgaav was a minion of the Demon King Gaav, and he has a score to settle with Lina. He's pretty deft too, dealing out punishment to his foes. Which is when Xellos shows up (He's the Monster that Filia was smelling earlier). An earthquake stops their battle. It turns out that pulling out the Sand People's mystical sword from a rock was a bad idea. It's the perfect trap for Lina though. Valgaav has borrowed his new master Almayce's blade, although he has been warned not to cross blades with the Sword of Light. Lina heads to the village to get her own mitts on the treasure, only to be confronted by a giant worm that has been held in check by the mystical sword. But when Valgaav and Gourry cross swords, all hell breaks loose.
57. A Wild Rumour
Filia and Xellos just aren't getting along, their Dragon and Monster natures tending to combust at the slightest provocation. This all comes to a head at an inn (where else), as Filia gets needled, teased and irritated and runs off in tears. This isn't good for everyone else, who have just ordered the Dradora Surprise to finish off a major feast, as Filia has all the local currency. Meanwhile, Filia is in trouble, she's been arrested as a Dragon Priestess, and she's due for an inquisition to check whether she is a dragon or not. It turns out that dragons are forbidden in this particular town, ever since a dragon destroyed it a thousand years ago.
58. Wandering Around?
A month has passed, and our heroes are still making the trek south to the Temple of the Fire Dragon King. It finally appears on the horizon, giving everyone cause for celebration, until they realise it's still days away. Lina needs a break, a.k.a. food, and a local town beckons. The principal sightseeing opportunity here is an ancient, sealed temple, one that Zelgadis is keen to explore. Filia is adamant that they stay away though. It's an ancient dragon site, sacred and inviolable. Which is why everyone breaks in once Filia falls asleep. Suddenly, the giant ruins complex starts moving. It turns out that it is actually ancient Dragon technology, a giant commuter train that will take them directly to the Temple. Sounds good on paper, except that over the intervening years, several towns have been built in the path of the train, and it's currently racing out of control.
Slayers Try is an anime from the mid-nineties, so there's no pixel perfect CGI perfection. This is traditional, hand painted, cel acetate animation with all the inconsistencies and flaws that implies. It looks pretty good for all that, with a decent transfer of a good clean source. There's no sign of age or print damage here, and the animation may be comparatively rough and ready, but it still has all the vibrancy and imagination that I have come to expect from anime. It isn't all that flash or high budget, but the character designs are memorable and the world design does what it needs to, to get the story across. Once again, it's a shame that the remastered Funimation version couldn't have been sourced for the UK.
You have a choice between DD 2.0 English and Japanese, along with optional English subtitles (except for the credit reels, where the subs are burnt in). My instinct as always was to go for the Japanese language option, and I wasn't disappointed. I was dreading the English track though, the mid-nineties wasn't a period known for its excellence in dubs, but I was pleasantly surprised by the English audio in Slayers Try. For one thing it's quieter than the Japanese track, and not just in terms of audio levels. For once, a dub cast plays comedy for the jokes, rather than the misapprehension that by screaming a line they make it funnier. Also, there are some occasional choice diversions from the Japanese script, responding to the onscreen action, that are actually funnier than the original dialogue. It may be sacrilege to some purists, but I think in this case it works. The sad thing is that this dub is from the old days, where technology wasn't as good as today, and the English dub feels layered on top of the anime, rather than an integral part of it. There are also a couple more nice themes to get the toes tapping, from Japanese voice of Lina, Megumi Hayashibara.
Slayers Try has extra features, which makes a change from most of the earlier discs. Behind the Scenes offers 12 minutes of the dub cast at work, as well as offering interviews, and mild spoilers for later in the series. There is a 3½-minute slideshow gallery of stills from the show, as well as a 3-minute slideshow gallery of line-art. Finally there is a 50 second snippet of bonus footage. In the original CPM release, which MVM's discs have been mirroring, there was a snippet left out of the end of the first Slayers series, an epilogue of sorts. You can now see that epilogue here, although a little more context than just Bonus Footage would have been more informative.
…And writer's block strikes again. I've written about Slayers so many times in such short order that the prospect of coming up with something new and different is remote indeed. Slayers Try, the third series picks up where the previous one left off, and if ever the descriptive, 'more of the same' was appropriate, now is the time. Slayers Try is more of the RPG comedy parody entertainment, with its group of comedic adventurers setting out on yet another absurd and bizarre quest. And once again, by the end of the opening volume, we're still none the wiser as to what that quest actually is, but Lina has managed to get into all sorts of trouble, and slapstick has transpired on a regular basis. It's all, good, light, entertaining fun, and I was chuckling merrily away to myself as I watched this show over the previous three nights. The creators have got Lina Inverse down to a fine art, and there is an instant comfort level from the first episode onwards.
Can't be going through the motions though, so they do at least change things around a bit, introduce a new character or two, change the rules. This time, Lina is exploring the wide wide world outside her usual environs. Apparently a magical barrier has collapsed, making travel abroad possible, although it does bring a new threat with it. The new main villain is Valgaav, who is apparently collecting mystical weapons for some dark purpose, and chief among his targets is Gourry's Sword of Light, instantly setting up a series of antagonistic confrontations, usually between his comedy beastmen minions and Lina's gang. New characters also include Filia, the upright Dragon Priestess, who has a tough time holding her human form. Her tail pops out when she is stressed. She also doesn't like changing into a dragon in front of people, as it involves getting naked during the process. Her straight arrow, well-meaning nature comes into conflict with Xellos, and she's constantly infuriated by Lina's venal nature.
The sense of humour is unchanged, so if you've been partaking of Slayers so far, you'll be more than happy with this. I'm still smirking at Lina's misjudged Dragon Slave spell setting off a tsunami. However, one or two creaks are beginning to show. For one thing, there is an excessive reliance on food gags. Practically every episode revolves around the gang either starving, or stuffing their faces at an inn (which must have been a joy to dub). Once in a while, as in the earlier series, was funny enough, but it's a constant running gag now, and the sheen wears off in this disc. Enough, I get the joke. Also the character designs are a little altered. The basic characters are the same, but the extreme reactions are a little more warped than the norm. Starving Gourry is literally a corpse, while malicious Lina sports a pair of slavering fangs. Even in a medium replete with chibi and SD transformations, I feel these are distortions that go a little too far, and lose the essential nature of the characters.
My biggest disappointment is one that I fully expected, so I shouldn't really complain. Still, it bugs me that Lina and Gourry's relationship has had a whopping great reset applied to it. In fact it's gone back all the way to the first season, and in some ways it's as if Slayers Next never happened. The brief moments of poignancy and shared glances are gone, and Lina and Gourry are back to being comedy combatants in a globetrotting food-eating competition. Still, if you want anime funny in a concentrated dose, you'd have to go far before finding something as consistently entertaining as the Slayers franchise. Just ignore the fact that it looks old, and you'll have a good time.