Anime is a constantly changing thing, and it's easy to miss a lot of older stuff as you scramble to see the latest title. However, series like Slayers are why sometimes you really need to look to the past if you want to see how good anime can be.
Following on from the last volume Lina and Gourry are pubic
enemy number one after a bounty was slapped on their heads. They want
answers, so accompanied by Amelia they start the perilous journey to the city of
Sairaag to find them. It's not going to be an easy trip either, they are
constantly harried by bounty hunters and self-proclaimed champions of justice
after their heads, plus they have to contend with the more serious threat posed
by swordsman Zangulus and sorcerer Vrumugun. Travelling incognito is
not straightforward when wanted posters are plastered across every town, city
and village in the land, so the trio have to come up with some creative ways of
getting to their destination. Cross-dressing, joining theatre troupes and
fake weddings are just some of the depths they have to stoop to, but there are
more serious problems at hand. Why are they wanted and by whom? Why
are Zangulus and Vrumugun so desperate to capture them and take them to Sairaag?
And most importantly, where's the next meal coming from?
With a new serious plotline building that sees some familiar faces return as the volume progresses, it's great to get a bit of light relief first. Most of the episodes on this disc are focused on the ludicrous lengths our heroes must go to in order to keep a low profile, and I have to say that I can't remember the last time an anime made me laugh so much! The majority of this volume has a road-trip vibe with several episodes focusing on enforced stops as they try to overcome some obstacle or other in their way. These stops are generally hilarious, in one episode a sea journey is tackled by dressing Gourry in drag
so that they can travel incognito. However, a sea dragon is terrorising the shipping routes and the port is filled with wannabe heroes trying to take it down, one of which inevitably takes a shine to Gourry. Ok, so it's not exactly original, but the glory of it is in the execution, which is absolutely superb!
The series continues to poke fun at fantasy in general,
and - even more so this time round - itself. Whether Lina and Gourry's
resigned attitude as they dispatch yet another group of heroes mid introduction
or Amelia's despair at having to fight against justice, it just keeps the comedy
coming. Despite the frequent laughs though it still manages to cram in
plenty of action and drama without losing its way, and even better manages to
keep the story moving along. Even an attack from Zangulus and Vrumugun
whilst Lina & co are performing in a play doesn't break the flow, in fact they
manage to incorporate the battle into the production with some wild ad-libbing!
The comedy remains strong throughout, even towards the end of the volume when
the serious plot begins to take hold.
Slayers seems to cycle from serious to comedy and back again, and if there's any problem it's how it can top the Shabranigdo and Rezo story from the first half of the series. It felt like a series closing storyline, what with the summoning of a near invulnerable demon lord and an awesomely powerful wizard pushed to evil by his influence. Our heroes really had to push themselves to the edge to defeat them, so how can the series outdo what it's already done? The issue seems to be that it's doing it by retreading old ground, but at the moment it's getting away with it by injecting enough variety and comedy asides to keep it fresh.
Whether it can sustain this in the final volume will remain to be seen, when the going gets more serious and the comedy is put to one side for the build up to the final battle it may lose its way. However, that's an issue to asses in the future, because as it stands The Slayers remains superb.
This volume is the best yet, and it's great to see Amelia and another familiar character join the gang as a regulars. This is by far the most entertaining and enjoyable anime DVD I have seen for ages, and the action is top-notch too. Yes, the animation is a little dated and the English dub isn't the best, but the quality of the series transcends these issues and with seven episode on the disc you're getting plenty of value for money too. The characters are excellent and the storyline fun and intriguing, plus there are some true laugh out loud moments in this volume, and that's something you can't say about too many anime titles. It's because of this I must recommend The Slayers as one of the best anime comedies available in the UK, don't let it stay in the past!