Many '80's and '90's anime franchises lived past the end of the TV days with straight-to-video releases aimed at fans. Some of these 'OVA' or video titles were good, some weren't. Luckily the Slayers ones have always been pretty decent, but would the last ever adventure of Lina Inverse and co be as good as those that went before?
For those who are unfamiliar with Slayers, the story
revolves around the powerful but short-tempered teen sorceress Lina Inverse.
A lover of treasure and big dinners, Lina's greed always seems to get her into
trouble and forces her to be a hero even though she doesn't want to be.
It's genius is in the way it makes fun of all the fantasy clichés, but still
crams in plenty of action too! Unlike the previous Slayers OVAs and
films, which were all set before the events of the three TV series, Slayers
Premium is set afterwards. It therefore dumps Naga the Serpent, the
buxom rival sorceress and Lina's travelling companion in all the films and OVAs,
for TV series sidekick Gourry Gabriev.
The story is probably the strangest in the entire franchise, although it starts innocently enough. Lina and Gourry turn up in a town famous for its seafood, where a magical mishap from Lina causes the destruction of a strange structure in the bay. After this a strange affliction starts to grip the town, those who eat octopus begin to speak in 'octopusese', making them utterly incomprehensible to anyone else. The cause of the disease is the Intelligent Octopus, who is, errr, exactly that - a talking, scheming, intelligent octopus. He has been given power
by the holy guardian of the octopi, a mysterious demonic leviathan that is looking for a way to escape his prison beneath the waves, in order to resurrect him and get revenge on the humans who have eaten octopi for hundreds of years. Unfortunately for Lina, Gourry picks up the illness and with the ancient beast close to its return, Lina has to find a cure before she catches it too. If she catches the disease she will no longer be able to recite any spells, rendering powerless to stop the octopi! With all of her friends being struck down with the disease, does she stand any chance of avoiding it?
To be honest, the plot of Slayers Premium is a bit far fetched even for Slayers, but it is great dumb fun! For fans of the franchise this is a great ending, bringing back many favourites from the TV run. As well as the return of simple swordsman Gourry, the scheming priest Xellos, moody chimera Zelgadis and the over-dramatic healer Amelia all feature, and there is even a brief appearance for Naga too. The comedy comes thick and fast, as does the action, and
the franchises trademark self-referential gags (Slayers was doing post-modern irony a hell of a long time before Wes Craven's Scream supposedly invented it) are present and correct. For fans of the series this is a great ending, containing everything that makes Slayers good coupled with vastly improved animation. However, for those new to the franchise this is not the best place to start.
As mentioned Slayers Premium is made solely for fans and makes hardly any concession to new viewers. Many of the characters in it are
from the TV series (not available in the UK) and no effort is made to introduce them, it truly assumes that everyone watching it is a fan so will just know who they are. In fairness though the cold truth is that few non-fans are going to pick it up as there is only a single half-hour episode on the disc. You have to pretty dedicated to fork over twenty quid for 30mins...
However, it is still silly and simple enough to enjoy even if you don't know who the extra characters are, and they're pretty much peripheral anyway. It squeezes plenty of laughs and fights into its short running time and there are some great set pieces (look out for the blatant rip-off of the Kraken's attack from Clash of the Titans too!). Slayers Premium doesn't try to be clever or dramatic and is refreshingly fun because of it. It is probably the best of the Slayers titles available in the UK, but you won't get the most out of it unless you have seen the series or read the manga. It's definitely a shame it's so short, and for those new to the Slayers world it's not the best place to start, but for fans it is still a must purchase.
Better than usual, probably in an attempt to make up for the shortness of the feature. The usual cringe-worthy Slayers trailers are joined by ADV previews, an audio commentary from US voice actors Cynthia Martinez (Lina Inverse) and Crispin Freeman (Zelgadis), and an intriguing 'Behind the Scenes' talk with him. Pretty good stuff, and it is interesting to see the US voice actors at work and discussing their roles.