Anyone who read my reviews of the four volumes that make up the first season of The Slayers will know that I really enjoyed it, so I for one am glad that MVM have not been resting on their laurels. Yes, with hardly a pause for breath they have launched straight into season 2, and fans will be pleased to know that the first series' blend of fantasy comedy and drama continues unabated.
The story continues straight from the last series, and starts
with Lina and Gourry journeying to the city of Xoana for the rare opportunity to
view the near legendary magical Book of Xoana. However, their visit
happens to coincide with that of Amelia, who is in Xoana as an ambassador tasked
with halting their military ambitions. However, Xoana's princess Martina
is having none of it, and unleashes a mercenary sorcerer she has hired on Amelia
- Zelgadis! Still looking for a cure for his cursed body Zelgadis is
helping Xoana in return for the book, but they neglected to tell him that it
won't help him. Before you can say 'Dragon Slave' Lina and Gourry arrive,
the old gang reunite and Lina makes an eternal enemy out of Martina.
Zelgadis decides to target an even more powerful book in his quest, an ancient
tome of forbidden knowledge called the Clare Bible, and Lina and co decide to
tag along. Their task isn't going to be an easy one though. Passages
from the book mainly exist as transcriptions copied from the original and spread
around the land, many are in the hands of bandits and sorcerers too, and none of
them are keen to give them up. Things are further complicated by the
arrival of the enigmatic priest Xellos, who seems to appear randomly to help and
hinder our heroes in equal measure. Just who is he and what is he really
after? This isn't their only problem either, Lina & co seem to attract
trouble wherever they go and are soon dragged into a power struggle between two
rival sorcerers. As the petty squabbling between the two escalates Lina
begins to suspect that someone is manipulating things from behind the scenes,
and there may be a far more deadly threat to deal with...
Fans of of the first series of Slayers will be pleased to hear that Slayers Next is pretty much a straight continuation. The series wastes no time in re-assembling the central cast and throws the viewer straight back into the familiar mix of comedy and drama that made the first series so enjoyable. There is a marginal improvement to the animation and visuals, but on the surface what you mainly get with Slayers Next is more of the same. This isn't really a bad thing though, the first Slayers series was a masterful blend of fantasy action and comedy packed with memorable characters and strong plotting. The action flew thick and
fast, both in the comedic episodes and the dramatic ones, and there were some surprisingly dark moments that ensured the series maintained a serious edge. This time there's no need to introduce the main characters, so the series can get straight on with the action.
What is interesting with Slayers Next is that whilst it
seems very similar to the first series in both style, pacing and plot, there are
in fact some subtle improvements. The series has gotten into its stride
and this shows not only in the slight refinement to the visuals, but also in an
improved English dub and a more accomplished balance of drama and comedy
throughout this volume. In the original Slayers series there seemed
to be a cycle between comedy and drama every few episodes, and it was only at
the end that there was really any attempt to use both at the same time.
This time things are a lot more flexible with the comedy complimenting the drama
far more effectively. The series continues to poke fun at itself and at
fantasy in general, particularly in the first episode where the drawbacks of
ancient magical weapons is highlighted to great comic effect. However, it
also broadens the scope of the humour, adding a bandit group which parodies
Fist of the North Star and a curse for Lina that reflects any attacks she
makes on others back on herself. It's interesting to see Lina having to
tone down her violent tendencies and rely more on her friends, and I hope that
these kinds of challenges are something the series uses more over future
This volume does retread old ground though, predictably pitting Lina & co against each other as they are separately hired as bodyguards by two squabbling sorcerers. This episode, where both sides end up using tit for tat magical vandalism on each other, is probably the franchises' weakest so far, but it does lead into an excellent mini story arc about a fallen wizard. This is where Slayers Next really comes into its own, with some superb moral drama underpinning a story that covers necromancy and the price of immortality. As is often the case with Slayers the plot's not hugely original, but the execution is excellent
and the Japanese voice acting in particular really imbues it with some emotional impact. It's not devoid of humour either, and there are some great comic moments scattered through the episodes despite the darker tone.
Slayers Next vol 1 is an entertaining and enjoyable continuation of the Slayers franchise, and you have to give credit to MVM for releasing a volume a month rather than the standard two-monthly schedule. The episodes on this volume are generally excellent and the new characters introduced, particularly the mysterious Xellos, make excellent additions to an already strong cast. There seems to be more of an overarching story this time round with a continued subplot about interference by the demonic Monster race and the presence of Xellos, so expect plenty of action, drama and comedy to come. Even if you haven't picked up the first series this DVD is still pretty accessible, it doesn't expect you to know the entire plot up to this point so if you haven't been buying it, start now!
A couple of rolling image galleries and trailers. Average.