Slayers: Try - Volume 4
MVM have really zipped through the Slayers universe this past year, delivering twelve volumes in twelve months, three full-length series. Too much of a good thing can be problematic. Too much of a mediocre thing is Naruto filler, and Slayers is variable at the best of times. At least it's made it interesting to review, but with the penultimate volume of Slayers Try, I was beginning to feel Slayers burnout. Thankfully, MVM decided to delay the final volume by a month, so here I am, relatively Lina free and rested from the franchise, ready to approach the conclusion of the third series fresh and open-minded. There is more Slayers to come from MVM by the way, Slayers Revolution, and Slayers Evolution-R, but as those haven't even had their dubs completed by Funimation as yet, you can be fair in thinking that there will be a decent gap between Slayers Try and the next series. For which I am truly thankful.
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 final six episodes of Slayers Try are presented on this disc by MVM. Once again, the episode numbering takes all three series into account.
73. History Sealed Away!
Carrying on from the previous volume, Lina and friends have been pointed to the snowy wastes of a mountain range as the resting place of the final Darkstar weapon. They aren't expecting to find an abandoned Ancient Dragon temple. Filia has a whole lot of guilt to face as they explore, while Erulogos is hot on their trail. What they aren't expecting is that Golden Dragons will appear, looking to prevent the fifth weapon being taken.
74. A Cry To The Fallen!
The Elder of the Golden Dragons stands between them and the final weapon, while overhead, a host of dragons prepare to attack all who approach the temple. They aren't ready for the power that Erulogos, Sirius and Xellos will bring to bear. Meanwhile, in the temple, Lina is figuring out how to lower the final barrier that shields the weapon when Almayce attacks. But then Erulogos betrays Almayce. And then Xellos betrays everyone.
75. Head For The Showdown!
Xellos has taken the light bow, and is already back at the gate where Darkstar is about to make his appearance. Erulogos and Sirius are in hot pursuit, while Lina and the others have to use conventional means to get back, conventional being the levitation spell and the weird transporter device in Valgaav's secret lair. The problem is that Jillas is there, still plotting his vengeance. Actually the real problem is that no one has any idea what Xellos has planned.
76. The Forbidden Gateway Is Open!
The gates to hell open up, and Darkstar begins to squeeze his way into the world. Are Lina and the others too late? It's time for everyone to set aside their differences and work together to save the world. But there's something oddly familiar about the all-powerful demon that enters through the dimensional gateway. It all becomes clear when Darkstar heads with purpose to the Temple of the Fire Dragon King.
77. He Who Emerges From The Dark Star!
It's Valgaav, he's apparently returned from the dead, or Darkstar has taken his form. Either way, the ultimate force of destruction is following Valgaav's mission, which means the destruction of the Golden Dragons. Only Valgaav has gone beyond vengeance now. He wants to purify the whole world, to end the interminable war between Gods and Monsters, to start again and get it right. It's just that Lina and the other mortals have a different opinion.
78. Try Again!
The end… of the world?
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 weren'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.
I may have been noncommittal about Slayers Try. Certainly I felt that the third series was not as good as the second, Slayers Next, with the writers seeming to over egg the pudding, overemphasising the character stereotypes and losing some of the nuance in the process. I still believe that, and the previous two volumes have on occasion suggested to me that maybe a third series was pushing things a little too far, a case of diminishing returns. Then along comes the final volume, and Slayers Try delivers the best ending of a Slayers series yet. The six episodes on this disc are the best that Slayers has to offer, and certainly justify the effort in making the third series.
Surprisingly, it achieves this by not actually concentrating on the main characters. Slayers Try is actually the story of the guest characters, and it's Valgaav, Filia, Almayce, and Erulogos who carry the emotional weight of the story. It's all about promises and betrayal, long held grudges, and seeking redemption, all the elements of good epic fantasy tale, and Slayers Try tells it well. Valgaav is most certainly a tragic villain, his actions motivated by a long history of betrayal and cruel fate. It turns out that the truth of the matter has been hidden by the Golden Dragons, and they pay a hefty price for their actions and their subsequent deceptions. Yet it winds up that it is Filia who first learns of the true history of her people, and who then decides to seek atonement for their actions. She has come a long way from the proud priestess we first met, and her emotional journey is a sympathetic one. Also there are no villains in the true sense of the word, even Erulogos who acts most heinously, does so from the purest of intentions.
It's been a long road to get there, but when victory does arrive, it tastes of ashes. Slayers Try gets a downbeat and low key ending, where there are no true winners, only survivors, and what hope and joy does arise is a small and fleeting one. It's a particularly brave route to take with a show as carefree and tongue-in-cheek as this one, and I was highly impressed by the chutzpah that the writers had in going this way. There are some disappointments, chief among them that we don't actually get to see Lina's sister, the all-powerful sibling who set all this in motion. But by and large this as good an ending as you could have hoped for.
Don't think for a moment though that all the comedy has been leeched out of it, and it's all turned serious for the denouement, as there are still plenty of chuckles to be had, indeed given the dire stakes that the characters are playing for, what comedy there is entertains even more. It's Jillas who joins Gourry in manning the stupid contingent, and from the moment he reappears, still keen on vengeance, he's even more the comic relief than Gourry.
Slayers Try still isn't my favourite Slayers series, that would be Slayers Next, but this ending is so good that it makes investing in the series more than worthwhile. Naturally it's a must for all Slayers fans, but those who are venturing into some classic anime of yesteryear should also consider this show. When a series leaves on a high point such as this one, I'm usually eager and insistent on demanding more. Not this time though. 12 volumes in 12 months are quite enough for now. I'll be more than happy if MVM gives us a breather before they start on Slayers Revolution. But when it does eventually arrive, you can bet that it will be hotly anticipated.