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"Slayers" Try Again Before the Revolution

by on June 21, 2008

Well, after a few seasons of fun and hilarity, it’s time to say farewell to Lina Inverse and the gang. Well, for a little while anyway. A revolution is coming soon, but for now all the Slayers can do is try.

ImagePreviously, Lina Inverse, sorceress extraordinaire, had been forced to use her ultimate spell, the Giga Slave, to defeat Hellmaster Phbrizzo and save her comrades. Well, her victory has shattered the barrier covering their world, allowing the gang to explore beyond their homeland. Soon after, they run into a golden dragon named Filia who has named Lina as the one chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy and defeat the evil wizard Valgaav, who wants to kill Lina himself in revenge for destroying his mentor/surrogate father Gaav in Next. As if that isn’t enough, Xellos is back and up to his usual tricks, and a mysterious third party enters the scene as the race to find five magical weapons that can defeat the dark lord Dark Star begins. Oh yeah, and Lina will uncover the secret behind a long-forgotten war between the mysterious golden dragons and the powerful ancient dragons, and it’s not a pretty history. Lina’s really gonna get an ulcer on this one.

After the greatness that was Slayers Next, Try has a lot to live up to, but for some reason the writers decided to not adapt their stories straight from the novel, as they had with the previous two seasons, and instead take a few elements and create a whole new story. Unfortunately, they fail to capture the magic that made the previous two seasons so engaging. The kooky plots and freaky characters are few and far between, and what few there are don’t really compare to past efforts. Not one of the comedy episodes this season can even match the “Dragon meat” episode from last season, never mind the stretch of episodes in the middle of Next. Sure, there are attempts, such as Lina being shuffled into Alice in Wonderland and Amelia and Gourry starring in a sentai parody, but while these episodes offer a few chuckles, for the most part they fall flat, as they tend to ignore the nuances of the characters and simply go for the broad strokes, using only the most extreme reactions.

ImageThis is especially noteworthy in regard to the characters. Lina herself is either too goofy or too serious depending on the situation and lacks the impact she had earlier on. In the first few episodes, she’s reduced to a gag character: building a pyramid to hide from her sister, for instance, or using the Dragon Slave to knock opponents into orbit. Speaking of the Dragon Slave, Lina’s signature attack is just overused during this season. Yes, it’s funny when Lina uses it to blow something up that pisses her off, but she does it so often (I think she does it in each of the first five episodes) that it loses its impact quickly and makes it seem nothing more than a souped-up Fireball spell. Don’t even get me started on Lina’s willingness to use the Giga Slave again after she spent the entire second season finding an alternative. The other characters don’t fare much better. Zelgadis, once a stoic swordsman of magic, gets bounced around like a pinball on more than one occasion, while Amelia goes overboard on her “Hammer of Justice” speeches and Gourry doesn’t really figure in the overall plot at all. Even worse are the bad guys. Dark Star is just a mindless blob, while the various one-dimensional creatures lack any kind of memorability. The only bad guy that rises above it all is Valgaav, who’s just plain nasty, but I’m not sure if he’s so good because of the writing or simply because of the voice acting.

There’s also a noticeable disconnect from the first two seasons. Filia is a new character who travels with our heroes and irritates Xellos all the time, but her whiny attitude and tendency to go from harsh to gentle at the drop of a hat doesn’t really endear her to the audience the way Syhphiel did in the first two seasons. While I’m on the subject, the golden dragons as a whole feel out of place. I’m not sure if it’s because of the Elder’s willingness to sacrifice the good guys so long as their dimension is safe, or because of what happens to them in the latter quarter of the series, but the golden dragons in general just tick me off whenever they’re on screen. Maybe it’s the wasted opportunity, as these golden dragons seem to have no connection whatsoever to the golden dragons that appeared during the second half of Next and ended up helping Lina out.

ImageAs with the previous seasons, the visuals don’t really stand the test of time. The animation starts off relatively decently and ends with a lot of flash and bang, but overall it pales in comparison to more recent works, and the series’ limited budget clearly shows. However, the animation is still better than it was in Next and worlds better than the animation in the first season, so there is a steady improvement. All the characters stay relatively on model, and the various energy attacks all have their unique animations and special effects, which is good to see. The only problem is, once again, the Dragon Slave. It may be because of the color palette used (which is mostly tans and browns), but the Dragon Slave lacks even the visual impact it once had, as it looks washed out. Perhaps this is the result of the remastering process the series, though compared to Eva Platinum or even the remastered Dragonball Z sets, the remastering here is barely noticeable.

All of the regulars from the previous seasons return, including Lisa Ortiz as Lina, Eric Stuart as Gourry, Crispin Freeman as Zelgadis, Veronica Taylor as Amelia, and David Moo as Xellos. All do their usual exceptional work as the characters, but Moo’s Xellos hits some sore spots later on as he tries to yell in pain and fails miserably. It isn’t anywhere close to his horrible Sanji from 4Kids’ One Piece, but it still sounds bad. For the new players, Tara Jayne puts in a respectable performance as Filia, Maddie Blaustein has a lot of fun as Jillas, and Scottie Ray is simply awesome as Valgaav. Granted, it’s pretty much the same voice he’ll eventually use as the Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it’s such an awesome voice I don’t really care. In the Japanese version, Megumi Hayashibara continues to own the role of Lina Inverse, doing the best with what she can, while the other returning characters continue their greatness. Of the new characters, Filia and Jillas are voiced rather well, but Valgaav, though good, just can’t compare to Scottie Ray. Unfortunately, the music took a step down, as the opening theme “Breeze” absolutely sucks. Luckily, it’s made up for by the pretty good (if boring visually) ending theme, “Don’t Be Discouraged.”

ImageUnfortunately, we really, really got gypped in the extras department. Sure, the previous sets didn’t really have any huge extras or anything like that, but all we get here are textless versions of the opening and closing and trailers. That’s it. No retrospective featurette, no reprints of the interviews on the Central Park Media releases, nothing. I know these releases were just shuffled out the door after FUNi realized they couldn’t redub the series like they promised to do when they first got the license, but at the very least they could’ve borrowed the extras from the CPM sets. The most heinous exclusion is probably the Slayers Meet Again special, a five-minute short created for the series’ DVD release in Japan barely a year before this set was released. It was rumored that FUNimation had acquired the special when they grabbed the license from CPM, but if so, where is it? Even if it’s Japanese-only, it’d still be a welcome addition over what we got. We’d better get some good extras when the next series comes out.

Overall, Slayers Try pales in comparison to the previous two seasons, as it just doesn’t feel like Slayers. Luckily, it’s not the last we’ll see of Lina and the gang, as Slayers Revolution is currently airing in Japan and hopefully will see release later this year or early next year in the US. [/subtle hint to FUNimation]

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