Review for Slayers: Evolution-R
For reasons outside of my control, I couldn't review Slayers Evolution-R prior to its release in the UK. I've had to be just like the little people and wander into a virtual anime emporium, and part with my all too real cash. Fortunately, I've grown very fond of the Slayers franchise as I have watched its UK release since season 1, and I eagerly grabbed the final collection once the requisite confluence of a suitable sale and sufficient free time occurred. It may be a little late, but here then is the review for Slayers Evolution-R
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, and then getting in the middle of the battle between Gods and Monsters and taking on the Dragon Race in the process really ought to make an impact. Gourry Gabriev is the heroic figure, 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. Their misadventures resumed after a well-earned break in the fourth series, Slayers Revolution, and now with Slayers Evolution-R, we get to the conclusion.
The previous collection saw Lina drawn into a grand conspiracy, as she was being framed for acts of destruction that she didn't actually commit. The stuffed toy Pokota was the culprit, but he was trying to prevent the magical technology of Taforashia falling into the hands of the nation of Ruvinagald. One thing led to another, and the demon beast Zanaffar was let loose to wreak havoc across the world, calling forth one of those last ditch battles that Lina and her friends usually wind up fighting. Anyway… The thing about Pokota is that he isn't actually a cuddly toy. He's a disembodied spirit inhabiting the cuddly toy. His actual body lies in suspended animation in Taforashia, along with the rest of the population, put there when threatened by a deadly disease. The saviour who did so was none other than the red priest Rezo. The seal will stay in place until Rezo breaks his spell, or he dies. Wait… Rezo's still alive? That's the blind priest from season 1 who turned into Shabranigdo and almost ended the world before Lina and the others defeated him… That Rezo…
Thirteen episodes are presented across two discs by MVM, and you can read the synopses on the next page, or skip forward to the conclusion.
Slayers Evolution-R gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer and for this final adventure with the Slayers gang, Madman Entertainment in Australia have at last given it the native PAL treatment. No more ghosting or judder, at the expense of a 4% speed up. Slayers still gets the bright and colourful image as in the earlier series. However, brighter moments, especially during scene transitions, are prone to an odd strobe effect for a frame or two. The character designs aren't much altered, Zelgadis is a little bluer, lines are cleaner, and consistency greater courtesy of modern animation techniques. The world design is also recognisable from the earlier incarnations, but there is a tad more detail this time around. Where Slayers Evolution-R really shows its youth is in the actual animation, which has an energy, vibrancy, and more importantly scope and imagination that the earlier series simply couldn't afford. It's still a simpler animation compared to its contemporaries though, and it is still recognisably Slayers.
You have a choice between DD 5.1 English and DD 2.0 Japanese with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. It's a comfortable zone of familiarity if you have experienced the original Slayers. Both the majority of the English and Japanese casts return, and both dubs are like welcoming old friends. The audio in both versions is fine, with an upgrade in terms of clarity and fidelity down to modern technology. The music of Slayers makes a welcome return, but somehow sounds grander and fuller. The dialogue is clear in both versions, but I did have to turn the volume up a tad on the Japanese version. To be honest, what little I sampled of the English dub didn't immediately impress me with its surround presence, and it may as well have just been a stereo track.
For some bizarre reason, what has for the previous four series been always translated to 'Monster' in the subtitles, is in this collection left untranslated as 'Mazoku'.
14. Newcomer? A New Journey!
As the people of Seyruun rebuild following Zanaffar's depredations, Lina is busy researching magical items, or more specifically the jar said to contain Rezo's spirit. Surprisingly, Pokota knows of it, the Hellmaster's Jar that was used to transfer his spirit to his new cuddly body. That means going back to Gioconda's castle to look for clues. It doesn't look as if there are any clues in the ruins, but it turns out that there is an underground lab, and in that lab there is a suit of living armour that's singing to herself. Nama was a treasure hunter who grabbed the wrong treasure. Now her spirit is trapped in the suit of armour. But she does know where the jar is.
15. Oh My Head! Where's My Head?
Nama claims she knows where the jar is, but she also claims that she has amnesia. That sounds like the recipe for a wild goose chase. The first stop on the chase is a village currently being terrorised by a Dullahan, a headless knight. The ghostly knight in question, Hans, wants his head back, and he's tearing the village apart looking for it. He's not having Nama's head, but unlike the villagers, Lina and her friends aren't easily spooked. He makes them a deal, if they find his head, he'll let them partake of his extensive jar collection.
16. Partner! Sharing Mind and Body?
Now Nama's leading them up a mountain to look for a dragon. Lina doesn't even have time to gripe properly before a landslide comes and washes Nama and Amelia away. In the chaos, Amelia winds up inside Nama. Two souls in one armour are pretty crowded, especially as Amelia's passion for justice conflicts with Nama's mercenary self-preservation. It gets worse when they wind up in a village currently being terrorised by a dragon, and they wind up causing more damage than any dragon possibly could. If they are to face this challenge, they'll have to learn to work together.
17. Quality Time? A Home Life With Love?
Gourry's a dad! There they were, taking a break from Nama's wild goose chase, when Kuppi, a fish-woman that claimed that Gourry was the father to her two children, confronted him. Gourry being the upstanding man that he is, dove straight into the role of breadwinner for his new family, and suddenly Lina has to confront her feelings, confront whether she's ready to let Gourry go, confront the fact that her love rival is a halibut on legs. And Amelia likes soap operas.
18. Raider! Voice From The Darkness!
Another wild goose chase tests Lina's patience to the limit, so Zelgadis suggests restoring Nama's memory first. Everyone else gets a breather while Lina delivers some shock treatment to Nama, but it does seem to work. Soon they are following a butterfly through a swamp to another set of ruins. But this one has a jar in. And it has Xellos in. And it has the vengeful assassin Zuuma, with a new set of arms, really peeved at Lina. In a volatile situation like this, something fragile like a jar won't last long, but will Nama's curse be broken? Zuuma has a challenge for Lina, come to Vezendi or else! He also claims to have the Hellmaster's Jar.
19. Seek! Who's Being Targeted?!
Vezendi is a nice town, prosperous, and with many fine restaurants. It's therefore a cruelty that Lina doesn't even have a chance to dine before a local rich philanthropist named Lanzard Radock summons her and her friends. He has the Hellmaster's Jar, he even has Ozzel working for him as a maid in his mansion. It turns out that Zuuma gave him the jar and Ozzel, and told him to hire Lina as his bodyguard or he will die. It's obvious that Zuuma wants both Lina and Radock dead, but it's unclear as to why he's been targeted. Radock's son Abel is sceptical of the whole thing, and to make things worse, a couple of monsters, Dguld and Gduza show up attacking Amelia and Zelgadis specifically.
20. Townscape! Because It's Manmade!
It's causing more than a few headaches trying to figure out why Zuuma is being so sneaky, but it's clear that Lina is top of his list, so she feels safe in leaving Zel and Amelia to guard Radock, while she and Gourry investigate Ozzel. After all, why is she always where the jar is? Why did she ask them to destroy it, and then so fervently protect it? Why does she freak out in a jar shop? The monsters attack Amelia and Zelgadis again, pulling them into a parallel dimension to do so, making it look as if they have abandoned their posts, and at the same time, Zuuma finally reappears to attack Lina, Gourry and Ozzel.
21. Uncover! The Exposed Darkness!
Now Radock is going on a business trip. It's like he's almost inviting the assassin to strike. Lina thinks it's a good idea, to draw Zuuma out and finish him once and for all. Abel for once decides to accompany his father, to use the opportunity to get some home truths out of him. But this time, the attack comes from all quarters. An army of lesser demons attack, splitting up the party, Dguld and Gduza tackle Amelia and Zelgadis again, and Zuuma attacks Lina. Finally, the truth of Zuuma's identity will be revealed…
22. Voice! What's Inside the Jar?
Lina now has the Hellmaster's Jar, and with it comes a new member of their party, Ozzel, who obeys the Jar's owner. You'd think that they'd be one step closer to completing the quest, but they have no idea how to use the jar, how to bring back Rezo, lift the seal on Taforashia, or restore Zelgadis' body. In frustration Lina tries yelling at the jar. She wasn't expecting a reply. But Rezo's in there, and he seems willing to help them on their quest, full of wise words and advice. The trouble is, that it appears that Rezo is senile.
23. Wisdom! Seek the Time that Will Never Return!
Zelgadis gets impatient, cracks, and then steals the jar to have a heart to heart with Rezo. Less a heart to heart and more a 'turn me back to normal or I'll smash you into a thousand pieces', but the gist is the same. Catching up to him, Pokota once more has his faith in Rezo shaken, but when Lina demands to hear what truly happened in Taforashia, Pokota's faith is shattered once and for all.
24. Xeno! The Price of Revival!
What's a prince embodied in a cuddly toy to do? Pokota snatches the jar and heads straight back to Taforashia. Now that he's learned what Rezo truly wants, he can be pragmatic about it and make a deal to restore his kingdom, but Xellos is already there, and he wants the jar.
25. Yesterday's Memory! Days Regained!
Rezo's been resurrected, but at a tragic cost. While Xellos is unnerved, Pokota demands that Rezo keeps his promise, that he lifts the seal on Taforashia. Rezo agrees, indeed is remarkably accommodating and pleasant about it. The work is only half done though, as the plague is still there, needing to be cured, while after all this time, Taforashia needs to be rebuilt.
26. Zero Hour! The Destroyed One!
There had to be a catch, first Xellos and then Lina noticed that the resurrected Rezo is yet to open his eyes. That can mean only one thing. The Hellmaster's Jar that stored Rezo's spirit, stored the Dark Lord's as well. Not only has Rezo been restored, Shabranigdo has been as well. I guess it's time for the end of the world… again…
For once, I get to see the packaging of a Slayers title, and it's simple but effective. An Amaray case holds two discs, one on each inner face of the case. While the back has the technical details and the blurb, the inner sleeve offers a busy bit of character art that touches on all five series, and makes for a nice mini-poster.
The discs get static menus and jacket pictures, while the only extras are on disc 2, the textless credit sequences (NTSC-PAL so that you get the music at the correct speed), and trailers for X: The Movie and Samurai Deeper Kyo.
I have mixed feelings about Slayers Evolution-R, varying between a simple like of the show to a full-blown fan gush. Most of my complaints about Slayers Revolution can be applied to this second batch of thirteen episodes. Once more it is a love letter to fans of the first three series, Slayers, Slayers Next, and Slayers Try. It is intent on lovingly revisiting old characters and situations, knitting together the previous continuity to create and enliven the new story. There is very little that is fresh and original in this batch of episodes, but at least the cast slots better into their old roles, and it doesn't seem to be trying as hard to be Slayers as the first half did. But it does build up to an absolutely stunning conclusion, a final two episodes where the story clicks into place like the completion of a jigsaw, and the animation kicks it up a gear to theatrical quality. If you have followed the Slayers franchise from episode 1, you will be grinning from ear to ear at the show's conclusion.
I did briefly think that we were going to get something new, a new character at least at the start of this collection of episodes, when we met the animated suit of armour containing a disembodied soul by the name of Nama (nothing to do with Fullmetal Alchemist, no sir!). As it happens, I haven't yet seen any of the Slayers movies or OVAs, which is why the odd references and suspicious looks from the main characters went mostly over my head. That was until episode 15, where it becomes obvious to even the numbest of skulls that Slayers Evolution-R is still winking at the camera like crazy. Nama is indeed a familiar, if disembodied voice to fans of the OVAs and movies, and this final (thus far) incarnation of Slayers still keeps its toes firmly in the paddling pool of the past.
As for the way that the series pans out, it is typical Slayers, in that there is a fair stretch of pure comedy episodes, before things get ever so slightly serious for a major confrontation with a world-threatening villain. This half's comic relief comes in the form of the aforementioned Nama, an unlucky treasure-hunter that tried to hunt the wrong magic jar, and wound up disembodied into a suit of armour for her troubles. She may have amnesia, but she still has an annoying personality, and a tendency to lead Lina and the others on a series of wild goose chases as they look for the jar. When Lina first encounters her, her first instinct is to fight her, and as events unfold, those instincts bear out, first leading them to a village being terrorised by a headless knight, and then an episode where Amelia gets trapped in the armour along with Nama.
No series of Slayers would be complete without humiliating Gourry at least once, and while he isn't in drag in this series, he does become an impromptu father when a mermaid appears claiming child support (mermaids in the Slayers reality are giant fish on human legs, so not all that appealing). Gourry being the gullible sort he is, soon settles down to a life of soap opera histrionics, in what is probably the funniest episode in the collection. Things finally begin to get serious when Lina and the others encounter the assassin Zuuma again, leading to the lifting of Nama's curse and her departure from the story. It's a four episode stretch that gets our heroes into proximity of the Hellmaster Jar that they seek, reintroduces Ozzel, and shifts from the comedy to the more serious, as the implications of owning the jar, and the resolution of Zuuma's tragic arc are played out.
Having retrieved the jar, we get another episode of comedy to lighten the load, playing with the conceit that Rezo has gone senile while waiting in the jar, and trying to revive him, Lina and the others try anything that the voice in the jar suggests, however absurd. The final four episodes build up to the series conclusion, the restoration of Taforashia, the resurrection of Rezo, and the almighty battle with Shabranigdo to round things off in spectacular fashion. And as I've already mentioned, it's a conclusion that would do any incarnation of Slayers justice, with all of the modern production values and animation quality, combined with the special character moments and nods to continuity to make it a rousing finale.
Just like Slayers Revolution, Slayers Evolution-R is a gift for fans of the franchise, all the best bits, the best characters revisited while telling a moderately original story. For newcomers to the series, a lot of the references will go sailing past unappreciated, which is a shame. I'm reminded a lot of the Star Trek movie franchise. Slayers Evolution-R is the equivalent of Star Trek VI, a glorious adventure, which climaxed with the heroes metaphorically riding off into the sunset. Slayers Evolution-R is a great way to underline the Slayers franchise. But if in a few years they decide to make some more Slayers, I doubt that it will be appreciated in the same way.