We've waited quite a long time for Slayers here in the UK. In America the three anime series have been out since the days of VHS, but only now is the third DVD box set being released here. Most anime companies steer clear of older titles now, so kudos to MVM for giving Slayers a go and kudos to the Japanese for reviving the franchise!
After the events of Slayers Next the fantasy world inhabited
by Lina Inverse and co has changed. A magical barrier had sealed Lina's
country off from the rest of the globe for millennia, concentrating magical
power and preventing any movement to other continents. However, Lina's
battle against the a certain demon lord at the end of the last series had caused
the barrier to collapse, allowing free travel once more. Prince Philionel
of Seyruun has planned a expeditionary voyage to bring his message of peace to
the world at large but the fleet is mostly destroyed when a Golden Dragon
attacks Lina and Gourry shortly after they had received a mysterious invitation
to join the expedition. Washed up on a strange shore Lina, Gourry, Amelia
(part of her father's expedition) and Zelgadis (hoping to find a way to become
human again in the new world) set out to explore and soon meet up with the
short-tempered priestess Filia and the enigmatic priest Xellos. However,
Filia has another reason for seeking out Lina and Gourry. According to the
prophecies of her order a great darkness is set to befall the land, and Lina
could be the one that legend suggests will save the day. Lina has no
interest in ancient prophecies at first, she just wants to sample the new
continent's culinary delights, but when the powerful demon Valgaav attacks her
her attitude changes. Valgaav has revenge on his mind, but he is also
helping Overworlder Almayce in his plans to summon the demon god Darkstar to
Lina's world. Summoning Darkstar will lead to the destruction of the world
and all that Almayce needs in order to do it is the five weapons of Light - one
of which is held by Gourry! Can Lina keep the light weapons away from
Almayce and Valgaav, and why do they want to summon such a terrible demon in the
Slayers Try was the third and final series of the original Slayers run, and it had a tough act to follow after the superb Slayers Next. This time round the creators try to expand the scope of the series, expanding the world to include new lands and new creatures. It's an interesting ploy. The story had probably gone as far as it could in Slayers Next so to continue it the writers had to try and bring in new elements that would enable some variation to what had gone before. Despite the attempted changes though Slayers Try soon falls back into the tried and tested Slayers formula, with an epic mid-series battle
followed by some comedy episodes and then the major final showdown. To start with though things are a little different. Whereas the franchise usually holds back the main villain and their evil plans until quite late on this series lays its cards on the table immediately. Valgaav and Almayce turn up on the first disc and reveal their plans, we find out about Valgaav's dark past on the second disc and by the third our heroes are divided, Filia is having an emotional crisis and Xellos is switching sides freely. The pace of the series is relentless and a lot of story is packed in, probably more than in either of the previous series. By disc two we have pretty much found out what Lina has to do, who she is fighting against and why, making the plot a lot more straightforward and taking away any real surprises.
On the plus side though the central story is very good.
Valgaav makes a strong and sympathetic villain and the introduction of the
ancient dragon race and the Overworlders adds some variety to usual character
set. The reaction of people in the new world to the main characters'
sorcery is interesting too, the shield around Lina's country concentrated
magical power and caused sorcerers' power to surge. Outside the shield
magic is much weaker and the kind of spells that Lina and her companions use
routinely are well beyond what anyone has ever seen, something that causes
people look on them with both fear and awe. It's an intriguing, if
underused, idea, but what really sets this series apart from the previous two is
that Filia, Valgaav and Xellos pretty much take centre stage. Lina and
Gourry's characters were really expanded and developed in Slayers Next
but after the big reset at the end of the series a lot of that development was
brushed under the carpet. In this series its the side characters that
undergo the most character development, and Filia in particular is the emotional
centre of the series. She starts off as a naive priestess who has lived a
sheltered existence but over the course of the series her beliefs are tested to
the extreme. She comes face to face with the horrors of the past and the
dark secrets her order are trying to keep hidden, as well as an enemy that has
every reason to hate her and everything she stands for. It was good to see
the side characters getting so much screentime and focus, and Filia's journey is
probably the best thing the series has to offer.
Despite the strength of some of the new characters and the central story there are problems though. The main one of these is the formula. Both previous series of Slayers interspersed the main story episodes with comedy episodes and featured a big mid-series battle and a final battle. Slayers Try does the same thing despite a start that hinted that it wouldn't, and because the series lays all of its cards on the table at the start story-wise things are a lot more predictable than they have been before. The last series pushed Lina's character into new areas and expanded the series boundaries, but this one steers clear of really testing the central cast or making the
kind of decisions that made the final battle in the last series so brilliant. The comedy has always been one of the franchise strong points, but there are signs this time that the creators are running out of ideas. Some episodes are reminiscent of ones from the first two series and others feature ideas that pretty much every other anime comedy has done at one point or another. They're still funny, but there are signs of tiredness creeping in that the previous series didn't have. I was also disappointed that the series doesn't really make full use of the expanded world it gave itself, despite some promising ideas the monsters are pretty much what we have seen before and a chance to really show different cultures and nations isn't really taken.
Slayers Try is still a great fantasy series that combines action, drama and comedy to generally entertaining effect. The story is good, the action is frequent and suitably impressive and the new characters are mostly excellent (Almayce is a bit dull though). There are plenty of laughs to be had throughout and the central cast are as good as ever, whilst the increased pace of things means the series remains exciting until the end. However, there are a few signs that the writers are running out of ideas and some weaker comedy episodes in the latter half of the series. Much as I love the Slayers franchise I feel that it was probably best that Slayers Try was the last of the original series. The franchise quit while it was ahead and before it became a parody of itself like so many other long running anime series, and retains enough fantastic ideas and scope to hopefully make the forthcoming Slayers Revolution reboot an excellent series. As it stands Slayers Try is a fine anime series and one that is well worth owning, it may not hit the heights that Slayers Next achieved but it delivers a highly entertaining package of great characters, a strong storyline, funny gags and some rip-roaring action. It's a worthy addition to your anime collection - roll on Slayers Revolution!
The same as the single disc releases, trailers, a couple of rolling art galleries, a deleted scene from the first series and a 12-minute behind the scenes chat with the English dub cast. Not bad.