Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jan 13th 2004
DVD: The Return
Lina Inverse and Naga the White Serpent are back! What begins as a routine bandit-stomping turns into the adventure of a lifetime involving magical golems, an ancient Elven weapon and even someone bent on destroying the world. It's a predicament only Lina and Naga could get themselves in to.
Slayers is, in 2004, a franchise of the past. It's something anime fans used to obsess over, like Fushigi Yugi, or Escaflowne. Back in 1997, it was all the rage; now it's but a faint memory. Slayers Return came around at the height of the show's popularity, and was an instant hit with anime fans old and new. While it didn't reach the comic heights of its sequel, Slayers Great, it was still largely regarded as an entertaining, well-animated film and a must-see for anime fans at the time. Since then, it's gathered a lot of dust. New anime fans haven't even heard of Slayers. The good news is, the film is still a heck of a lot of fun, so it just might revive interest in a long-sleeping giant. Perhaps then, ADV's DVD treatment of this film couldn't have come at a better time.
Slayers Return is the second of five Slayers movies and, despite being overshadowed by what came after it, is still a fun little romp. This series has always been at its best when it wasn't taking itself too seriously. The last half of every television incarnation always became deadly serious and ruined the tone of the show; with the theatrical films (excepting the first one, which felt bloated, self-important and overly long) , the mood is kept light. Naga proves to be an excellent foil for Lina, and the cast of characters is kept small. Admittedly, they spend a little too much time focusing on supporting cast members that will never show up again in any other incarnation of the series, but that's a forgivable offense in what is otherwise a lighthearted excursion. Fantasy comedy fans (or those of you watching Rune Soldier) will enjoy this immensely.
The storyline is suitably light, and is over soon enough. The Japanese love to cram as many plot elements as they can into a very small space, but the 60 minute span of Slayers Return seems just right. The action moves along at a reasonable clip. It's hard to get tired of slightly repetitious humor and one-dimensional characters if they're only around for a little while; the film doesn't wear out its welcome and is over as soon as it begins.
From a production standpoint, Slayers Return is probably the best 1996 had to offer. The animation is vibrant and fluid in all the right places; the budget is rightfully spared on scenes of long exposition and flashy during the action setpieces, which consume the entire last 15 minutes of the film. There's plenty of physical comedy in the interim, and it's all brought to life with solid aplomb. The music, while recycled from every other Slayers movie and OVA series, is appropriate, although if you've seen even one of the other movies, you'll know every note of the score. The character designs are unique and mostly unchanged from the first movie, although things seem more streamlined.
The dub isn't half bad. Actually, that isn't fair. Comparing this to other Slayers dubs, this is probably the best one yet. Cynthia Martinez is absolutely perfect as Lina Inverse. She has this voice nailed to the wall. Even her spell attack shouting seems right on; it's an incredible performance from a skilled actress and should be appreciated by everyone. Naga the White Serpent (while sounding a bit like Kim Cattrall's Sex and the City character) is equally excellent. Since the entire movie rides on the performances of these lead characters, the dub is a home run. The other characters waver between good and mediocre, but that's to be expected.
If you're already a Slayers fan, then you're one of a dying breed and you should embrace ADV's release of Slayers Return. The disc is light on extras, but comes at a cheap price point, so you can't expect too much. For newer fans, this movie goes down smooth and won't hurt your pocketbook, so you may want to give one of the classics a shot before diving headfirst into the flavor of the month. Anime was somehow different back in the mid-90's, and Slayers Return is a perfect time capsule back to those days. Don't miss it.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B
+ Fun movie, classic characters
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