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"Slayers" Premium It Is Not

The Slayers is a cult favorite, having captivated fans with the wacky adventures of Lina Inverse for years. One of the more interesting thing about Lina’s story is its oddball continuity: It seems to take place in two different universes. One exists in the movie/OAVs, which pair Lina up with the well-endowed Naga the Serpent. The other exists in the TV series, which has Lina traveling with the stupid but skilled Gourry Gabriev, the cheesy but kindhearted Amelia, and the tough but smart Zelgadis. Now, after all these years, we finally have a movie that combines the two universes. Or do we?

Slayers PremiumSlayers Premium picks up where the TV shows leaves off. Lina and Gourry–her self-proclaimed “protector”–are still traveling together, and this time they come upon a town famous for its octopus delicacies. Bad news for them: After eating a rare octopus, Gourry starts talking in some weird language that Lina can’t understand. A young girl, Ruuma, explains what’s up: A fleet of octopi have been changed via demonic powers, and anyone who eats one of those octopi begin talking in “Octopeese.” Peeved that she can’t understand a thing Gourry says, Lina decides to stop the demon and runs into Zelgadis and Amelia, who are also infected. Unfortunately, the octopi have some powerful magic behind them, including a certain female sorceress who is as powerful as Lina.

If walking, talking octopi isn’t crazy enough, I don’t know what is. The beginning is wild and wacky, with Lina and Gourry fighting over sushi, Lina blowing up buildings because she’s mad, and Gourry fearing that he’s going to die from eating the octopus. Then we get into Ruuma’s song, which has lyrics that are just as wacky as the opening (“Eat octopus, go wacko. You’ll get unemployed!”), as well as some funny antics while battling the octopus guards (Amelia even gets the standard anime tentacle treatment). I always liked Gourry, Amelia, and Zelgadis more than Naga. This is why: all four characters bounce off of each other very well, and are all very distinct.

Unfortunately, the film has some serious weaknesses. One is the failed promise to finally merge continuities: Naga has only two lines in the movie and doesn’t even realize that Lina and company are in town. Partially, this may be due to the film’s short running time; clocking in at just thirty minutes, it feels like a slighty extended TV episode. There are also wasted opportunities. Xellos’ scenes, for instance, are only expository, and he and he and Lina don’t even speak to each other once.

This isn’t to say that Slayers Premium lacks quality. The animation is pretty nice: It’s the first Slayers piece to use digital animation, and the producers use it to great effect, with some cool underwater shots and some much more powerful-looking magic attacks by Lina. The fighting is also much better, with the gang jumping about and performing some nice acrobatics as they tangle with the bad guys. Okay, so it’s not Miyazaki-worthy, but the animation is still pretty damn good.

The music, another Slayers staple, fits in with the actions on screen, with simple, light music during the opening scenes and a grand build-up score when Lina and the gang are heading underwater. Unfortunately, the movie’s theme, “Feel Well,” is not one of Megumi Hayashibara’s best. It’s a decent song, but melancholy, as though it is saying good-bye to these characters. Voice-wise, ADV surprises me: They actually went out and got Crispin Freeman to reprise his role as Zelgadis! Unfortunately, they couldn’t also get Lisa Ortiz, Eric Stuart, Veronica Taylor, and David Woo. Cynthia Martinez does capture Lina’s hyper qualities, but I just can’t get used to her voice as Lina. Chris Patton does a decent enough job as Gourry–though he doesn’t capture Gourry’s cheesiness.

The extras are impressive. We get a funny and informative commentary by Cynthia Martinez and Crispin Freeman along with a separate twenty-minute interview with Freeman. There are also trailers for this film and for Slayers: The Motion Picture, Happy Lesson, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Kino’s Journey, Aquarian Age, and Panyo Panyo DiGi Charat.

Overall, Slayers Premium fizzles, mostly due to its too-short running time. Still, for a budget title, it’s a worthy pick-up for all Slayers fans.

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