Notice: Consider this review an overall criticism of the entire franchise. Reading this one is like reading a review about all the seasons. And it’s more like a retrospective text; I talk about its overall importance in anime history and less about technicals. You have been warned.
Slayers began in mid 90’s as a slapstick comedy in a Medieval fantasy setting. It was an rpg parody of sorts, as it kept using several trademarks of the genre, ridiculed by various anachronisms and mockery through exaggeration. And yes, it worked fine for its time. The humor was very fitting to the setting and usually numerous gags would appear on the same episode. Plus, although its humor wasn’t really unique or special it was still the only one famous in this sort of setting at the time. There were others but none got this much fame or weren’t that funny to begin with. Also, The Record of Lodoss War was at its prime back then and this series felt as a parody of it, thus gaining even more support.
The anime got 3 full seasons (original, Next, Try) and numerous movies and specials in a span of less than a decade. The producers did their best to milk it as best as possible, without ever trying to offer something new. Eventually, they stopped making more and it appeared like the franchise had ended its course. Yet many fans wanted another season, as the title was originally a light novel series that wasn’t fully covered. After several years in hiatus, they eventually made a fourth season (Revolution), divided into two halves; a typical method these days. The name implied it would revolutionize the market and sell out because of the endless hoards of otakus storming the stores to get a copy of it. I mean, it was yearned for so many years by so many people, so wouldn’t they expect that?
… And yet the sales were rather low and the fandom barely cared for it. So what went wrong? The formula was definitely not at fault; it was kept in the exact same way as it was in the 90’s, its humor wasn’t watered down or altered, the voice actors were the same, the artwork was the same, EVERYTHING was as it should be. So what’s the deal?
Well… that was actually the deal. It was the exact same thing as before. Nothing went forward or backward, besides some visuals improvements. People got one of the same, when all those years of waiting made them think they would get something else. This makes little sense, so I will get into more details.
First of all it’s the story. There is one; it’s not a storyless comedy (thank God) and does change its objectives every 12 episodes or so. And here is where the first brick wall popped up in the road towards Enjoyville. It is mostly fillers! Yes, it changes the objective every 12 episodes but that practically translates to 1 episode introduction of the new goal, 2 episodes of showdown at the end, and 9 episodic adventures in random areas in-between. Back in the 90’s people were far more tolerant of fillers, or stand-alones or whatever. But not anymore; now the average fan demands one of the following four three:
1) Continuous story telling
2) Gracious amounts of fan service, or
3) Deep immersion to the mood of the setting
4) All of the above in any ludicrous way we feel like it since we are ungrateful and never satisfied little bastards
And in all honesty, Slayers never had much of any of these f… three. The story is pretty simple and straight-forward, filled with random events to the most part. It never had eye-popping visuals and its erotic humor was pretty poor, and never went for bijin looks or whatever. As for the setting itself, it was a generic Medieval world, with a vague map filled with random kingdoms and ancient ruins that never had any relation to one another. Try to imagine what would happen if you pit this formula with 21st century titles, such as Full metal Alchemist Brotherhood (point 1), Queen’s Blade (point 2), or Mushishi (point 3) , or Pokemon (point 4) … just kidding.
The only saving grace the series was left with was the humor, which although it retained the same type and volume as before, it also felt outdated. Humor changes considerably as years go by; just think of all the jokes your parents are laughing with and you feel like they are not funny at all. In a similar way, the comedy of Slayers feels by today’s standards weak and repetitive. Today’s fans prefer something closer to Sayonara Zetsubo, Bakemonogatari or Gintama. Slayers’ volume and density has no chance to beat those. And let’s face it; it kept using the same gags again and again in all 4 seasons and movies and specials. That can eventually tire anyone. I mean, it’s always about Lina getting angry with her small breast, Gourry being totally ignorant, Amelia acting like a spaced-out superhero of justice, etc. Any running joke gets tiresome after awhile, and Slayers went overboard with that.
Speaking of change, the story is by far too weak, both in storytelling and actual premise. At first it looked like a great concept, as the universe of the series is actually four worlds held by pillars that were created by the Mother of Destruction, aka the Lord of Nightmares. Dragon Gods and Demons keep fighting in each one, for their dominance or destruction and there are some twists along the way. Yes, it looks mighty interesting but at the same time it happens in a totally random way and has no consistency whatsoever. I mean, in the first season they fight an arch-demon, while in the second his sub-leaders, who for some reason are harder to beat even when the heroes have acquired far more powerful spells and weapons. And as if that wasn’t enough, Revolution pretty much reuses the same story as in the first season, with only difference the addition of Lina’s never-seen-so-far sister and an irritating mascot animal. That hardly made any difference.
The characters are likable but never mature or change in any way. Lina can pretty much use her signature attack, the city-leveling Dragon Slave, every 5 minutes without any setback. A thing she does in any chance she gets, no matter how unimportant the reason may be. Yup, she overall causes more damage than the villains and that was a great joke … the first hundred times. Now it simply is tiresome. So is her small breast. Lina dear, there are many people who like them small, so get a grip. There were many chances where she could develop past those stereotypes. One case was after using her secret ultimate attack on the arch-demon that turned her hair white. A few minutes later, they turned to normal and the whole thing was scrubbed off as a joke. There was another chance in the finale of the second season, when she actually gets possessed by the Lord of Nightmares and Gourry… well, I won’t spoil it but it had me thinking the series finally got on a new track. But no, the goddamn scriptwriters decided to press the reset button and make everything appear like they never happened. And again now, her sister pops up all of a sudden and you think something will change or you will finally get to know more about her training years … and you get almost nothing. Same thing for all characters, they are there and don’t do anything character-wise. Heck, they hardly do anything story-wise and in 99% of the cases all problems are solved with a nice, cozy, warm, fluffy DRAGON SLAVE UP YOUR ASS! I like them, they are funny, but they never change and do feel rather boring by today’s gigolo-mastermind Lelouch-like standards.
Animation and sound are likable to the most part, although they never get to masterwork levels in any way. The use of colors and caricatures remains “cartoony” and that will feel cheap for most, while the backgrounds are usually typical medieval cities or ruins with occasionally some anachronisms thrown in just as an extra joke. Major battles are very well made and are full of explosions and tension-built up, although the heroes have infinite hit points and Lina can always spam spells more powerful than the arch-demons, so that makes it kinda anti-climactic. The music score is likable and Hayashibara Megumi does as usually a great job as Lina’s voice actor. They are all nice to see and hear but don’t expect any heavy work or symbolism given to any of them.
The historical value of the Slayers franchise is definitely high, as it was one of the most famous works of the 90’s and probably affected many following titles in its style of humor and character achetypes. At the same time, it lacks real development and depth, while none of its characters are anything special. It is simply a not-so-bold and almost-storyless comedy around an ever hungry, even frustrated, ever Dragon Slave spamming teenage girl with small breasts. It is good but it could have been far better.
Tower of Druaga
Ixion Saga DT
And now for some excused scorings.