So far this year I have reviewed six volumes of Slayers in as many months. To say that it's getting difficult to find fresh things to say about it is an understatement, but here goes...
Following the events in Seyruun in the last volume Lina and co
are on the move once again. They're still desperately trying to find the
legendary Clare Bible, and with the somewhat dubious guidance of the enigmatic
Xellos they are leaving no rumour unfollowed. This being Slayers the
rumours rarely turn out to be what they expect, and not only does Lina have to
contend with the annoying Martina but also haunted towers, over-enthusiastic
sportsmen, stupid costumes and trying to get Zelgadis to wear a dress!
It's not all dead ends though. Xellos does actually know the location of a
complete copy of the Clare Bible, but it is transcribed onto thousands of stone
monoliths in a desert found on the other side of a dimensional portal. To
make things worse the monoliths are all in code, and there is little way of
knowing whereabouts the passage you want may be. If that wasn't bad enough
their entrance into the sealed dimension provides the perfect opportunity for an
attack on Lina! Her enemy is none other than the demon lord Gaav, one of
the most powerful of demons and one with plans to usurp those above him in the
demonic pecking order. He hasn't been able to attack her in person
previously as the other demon lords would notice, but with the magical seals in
place he is free to move in for the kill. None of our heroes stand a
chance against him, even Xellos' hidden powers are nothing in comparison to
Gaav's. There is only one spell Lina has with enough power to defeat him -
the Giga Slave - but Lina knows if she gets it wrong it could destroy the world!
Does she have the bravery and skill to try it again?
After my minor gripes last time about how the main villain hadn't been revealed this volume sets things straight. Once again Lina and co are put in a seemingly hopeless situation and once again they have to use all their powers and resourcefulness to stay alive. There are quite a lot of revelations in this volume, we finally learn who Lina's real enemy is and Xellos' true identity for example, but there is some serious drama this time out that really grabs your attention. This volume contains one of the most effective and shocking scenes in Slayers so far, when Lina is shown what would have happened if she had lost control of
the Giga Slave in the battle against Shabranigdo at the end of the last series. The scene is brilliantly done, and even though it is only a vision it does have some real emotional impact and manages to be one of the most effective horror scenes in the series.
But it's not all drama and horrific occurrences. What
Slayers has always done is mix drama and comedy, and this series has done a
great job of blending them together throughout. This volume is no
exception and not only do some comedy elements break up the dramatic episodes,
but the volume has several episodes played straight for laughs. The 'brass
racquets' episode, in which Lina is coerced into playing a magical version of
tennis against Martina, is classic Slayers, and even the creepy tale of a
haunted tower is lightened up by having the cast don animal costumes! The
cross-dressing episode is probably the comedy highlight, with our heroes
sneaking into a kingdom of shrine maidens in order to grab a peak at the holy
book kept there. Men sneaking into the city state face death if caught,
and although Gourry's girly hair makes him quite convincing in drag, Zelgadis is
anything but! Even with the predictable and somewhat hackneyed twist at
the end this episode is great fun, but this volume really comes into its own
during the more dramatic moments.
Although the balance of drama and comedy in Slayers Next has been done more successfully than in the first series, this volume is better than most. The haunted tower episode is genuinely creepy in places, with a doll obsessed sorcerer who turns people into mannequins, but there is still space for stupid costumes and sight gags without it ruining the episode. The aforementioned vision of the out of control Giga Slave is the volume highlight though, and the battle with Gaav is also impressive. The smug and enigmatic Xellos' true nature is revealed and he gets a right pasting at the hands of Gaav, whilst Lina and
co are virtually powerless against their deadly foe. Slayers Next has continually impressed me by not taking the easy option of cheap power ups and instead frequently putting the characters in difficult situations that are beyond their abilities. The result is an exciting and engaging story and a cast of well developed characters.
Slayers Next vol 3 is another step forward for the series, something which is becoming a bit of a habit. Each volume is better than the previous one and even halfway through the second series Slayers continues to stretch its cast and develop an interesting and engrossing plot that both parodies and pays homage to the fantasy role playing genre. Yes, the animation isn't as sharp as modern series, and the dub is still not great, but there is a labour-of-love magic to it that some newer series sometimes lack. If there's any drawback it's that the comedy setups can occasionally be a bit contrived, even though they are still funny. This said, Slayers Next still remains one of the best comedy drama anime available in the UK and I for one can't wait to see where it is going in the final volume!
Just trailers, even with seven episodes taking up all the space on the disc that's not good enough!