Background of the Show
Slayers NEXT is the sequel to the anime Slayers. The franchise is set in a sword and spell universe, it's based on the novels done by Hajime Kazama. The story focuses around a young sorceress Lina Inverse. Greedy, intelligent, quick tempered, and extremely powerful, Lina has problems listening to authority and a penchant for collateral damage. Slayers follows Lina and her friends on her semi-serious, semi-comedic adventures.
Story - 9.5/10
One of Slayer's franchise's strengths is its story telling. Despite being a hybrid of both comedy and action, both can be seen on a regular basis without interruption. As much as "filler" becomes known as a bad word, it becomes extremely helpful in layout of the franchise as many times, the comedy takes part in certain episodes, while the drama takes part in another. The two don't interfere with each other much (the openings to minor serious points will still be silly, but when the story gets down to business, in Slayers NEXT, all the comedy vanishes) and synergize as you get excellent feelings of both. In a major sense, the show provides two sides of the same character: In one, you'll get the serious version. For example, you'll find out Lina's strength is viewed by others. At other points, the same traits will be played for laughs. Lina's power will be used for the most trivial reasons...down to and including just making fun of her breasts. Even more interesting is that neither side of these stories feel forced and are strong in their own right. The serious side of Slayers NEXT is very intriguing. At no point does it really feel laboured. It's a rare case where the story picks up steam and never slows down, if you were to watch the serious parts only. And the funny parts top it...they're actually the best part. I'm rarely a fan of slapstick, but the execution is amazing. One episode stories will pull you in despite being completely silly and having nothing to do with the actual storyline.
Animation - 8.0/10
The show's animation is what you expect from a late 1990's anime. The fluidity is generally solid, though sometimes gaps will appear (especially in some spells, such as Elmekia Lance) and the filler episodes don't show spectacular decrease in quality from the rest of the series. I will state though that there is obvious jump in animation during the most important story episodes. It is also notable that some episodes have harder solid lines on character's faces than other episodes (in particular in the first arc). This is a little distracting, but not a major drawback. Overall, it's solid and good quality, but not outstanding...with obvious exceptions in the key episodes, where it improves to excellent.
Sound - 8.5/10
This ranking incorporates many sections. I'll go through them individually:
- Songs: By far one of the highlights of the series. The opening, Give a Reason, is one of my favourite songs, flat out. Nearly pitch perfect. The ending is just as good. Megumi Hayashibara is tough to fault in either...it's hard to say that Masami Okui did much wrong in the ending either.
- Sound Effects: Passable. Many of the sound effects were borrowed from the Dragonball series, but they fit the scenario and what they are used for.
- Original Sound Track: Good. There are some excellent compositions for the show, but most are unspectacular.
- Voice Acting: Good in both languages. You really don't lose much by picking either. Slayers NEXT's dub was fairly revolutionary for its time too, as the script was given pretty careful consideration compared to many of the "massacred" scripts of the era. While dated by today's standards, they were considered better for its time.
Characters - 10/10
The incredibly unique characters is the biggest appeal for this show. The cast is varied, unique, and memorable in their own right. From Lina's spitfire personality to Amelia's justice spouting menality to Zelgadis' straight man act, almost every main character has a personality which is well written and would stand out on their own.
One of the largest appeals though is that the heroes are generally heroes in name only. The crew mostly abides by Lina's whims...the right thing to do isn't always followed. Lina herself is sometimes heroic, but is also driven by her own petty desires...such as getting a decent meal! In fact, much of the story is driven by survival...to go much detail into that would bring in spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.
Long story short: I find it difficult, even several years removed from my viewing, to find major flaws with the show. It's greater than the sum of its parts, but that's no slight on any of its parts; everything about the show is excellent. A strong contender for being the best anime of the 1990's and generally in my top 3 anime overall.
Overall - 9.5/10