It’s very rare to find a true classic in any form of entertainment. The title is thrown about willy-nilly for the shiniest, newest programs, but few have the staying power to capture the imaginations of viewers three, four, even five years down the line. However, every so often, such a piece arises. It may not be the biggest title, and it certainly isn’t the most expected. Still, it has an enduring appeal that will to the audience even after a decade. The Slayers, a series based on Hajime Kanzaka’s fantasy novels, is absolutely deserving of its title as a classic, with a sharp wit and endearing characters who prove that light-hearted fantasy can work without being absolutely brain-dead.
The series revolves around Lina Inverse: a red-headed hot-head of a sorceress with a baby face, a tiny chest, and a bottomless stomach. She’s known by many names, from “Bandit Killer” to “Dragon Spooker.” The former is clearly true, as the story begins with Lina attacking (and looting) a rural bandit’s camp. She claims the usual loot: gold, jewels, an enchanted artifact or two, and a strange statue made from Orihalcon. Her escape is all but guaranteed when she is discovered by Gourry: a swordsman with a heart of gold and a head full of rocks, that mistakes Lina for a damsel in distress, then some random village kid. From that point onward, the two are always together, as they venture onward to Atlas City (with no explanation why). The journey is forced on a detour when two parties arrive at Lina’s door to obtain the odd statue: the legendary Red Priest Rezo who healed the sick worldwide, and a mysterious man named Zelgadis. Both are claiming the other wishes to revive the Dark Lord Shabranigdo, a being of such immense power that he could reduce the planet to a swirling mass of chaos. The next day, the chase is on, and the countdown to Armageddon begins to tick.
When described in plain English, Slayers’s plot doesn’t sound like anything special. If one were to look at it in the right light, the previous plot description probably sounds like a bundle of clichés from some Dungeons and Dragons player’s notebook. Indeed, the paint-by-number elements are there: the intrepid antiheroTM, the big bad demon of doomTM, the evil wizard, and a list of spells that would make the average Dragonlance fan’s head spin. However, once the show begins, and the antics begin, it becomes very clear that none of these details really matter.
Aside from the setting and the major tropes, there is very little that anchors The Slayers to the typical perceptions of fantasy. There aren’t any huge political theatrics, nor are there any real, guiding moral figures. The main characters are shady at best (with Lina herself being downright ruthless under the right circumstances) as they perform acts that make even common bandits seem honorable. I lost count of how many cities got leveled in the wake of a stray Dragon Slave, or some stray antagonist chasing the main cast. It never gets old, though. Nor do the characters’ unique solutions to their predicaments, which are often hilariously humiliating for Gourry or just plain silly in their execution. Despite the lighter tone, the series can deliver the goods outside of slapstick. Battles are always fun to watch, with heated swordplay mixed with a barrage of impressive magical attacks.
The escapade is brought to life by a charming cast that really sells the experience. Each character has his or her own quirks that leap beyond the archetype, from the fiery Lina to the stoic Zelgadis. A few aspects to the cast are a bit stale, such as Lina and Gourry’s bickering-that-hides-something-more, but these moments are quickly swept under the rug. Minor quibbles aside, the major cast, heroes and villains alike, is filled with likable, fun characters that really seem to have a presence outside of the TV series. Everybody has a reason to join Lina for the journey (or to stop), and the motivations are clear all round.
Slayers is one of those timeless classics that belongs in every anime fan’s collection. The escapades of Lina Inverse and company are a joy to watch, even fifteen years later. There are few higher words of praise that could be said about the series that haven’t already been mentioned (aside from the fact that the series is the best example of Megumi Hayashibara in her prime). And, with so many possible avenues for seeing the show now, from DVD, to the FUNimation Channel, to legal video streaming outlets like hulu and Funimation Video, there is no excuse for missing out.
Thanks to FUNimation for providing a review copy!