Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 2nd 2010
The Slayers Revolution
Lina and crew are back for another round of adventure! This time Lina runs afoul of Inspector Wizer of the Ruvingald kingdom for the one charge that she cannot easily defend herself against: being Lina Inverse. Someone, it seems, has been going around blowing up newly-developed magical tanks in a style distinctive to Lina, even to the extent of using her signature Dragon Slave to leave behind crater-sized destruction. As Lina, Gourry, Zelgadis, and Amelia pursue the culprit that is giving Lina an even worse name than she actually deserves (for a change), they find themselves getting tangled up in a plot involving a manufactured arms race and vengeance being sought on behalf of a plague-ravaged kingdom which the avenger feels was abandoned by its neighbors. Add in a powerful assassin, a foe from the past popping up again, the resurrection of a mighty demon, and a sorcerer nearly as powerful as Lina and you have a recipe for destruction on a mass scale. And what is Xellos up to this time, anyway?
With the fourth TV series in this fan-fave franchise, producer J.C. Staff has wisely decided not to mess with what works: provide lots of high-spirited, typically light-hearted fun populated densely with flashy displays of powerful magic and wanton destruction. And hey, if a plot should actually happen to come along and give a reason for all of that wanton destruction, all the better, right?
Exactly. Watching Lina go overkill with her Dragon Slave never gets completely old, and seeing Gourry stop in the middle of a fight to fix his sword is nearly always good for at least a snicker. Amelia and Zelgadis also waste little time in hooking up with Lina and Gourry to add in their own antics. New this time are a pair of prominent recurring characters, one of whom provides Lina with a magical rival worthy of her power (Pokota) and the other of whom serves as a foil for her presumed misdeeds (Inspector Wizer). They are quality additions, too. Although Wizer at first seems just to be the party-killer law-and-order type (albeit a rather flamboyant one) and has some stupidly silly moments, events over the course of the series show that he has his own streak of deviousness and is not so obsessed with bringing in Lina that he does not also attend to the other business of his station; in fact, one of the series' best moments is when he surprises the audience by bringing up heretofore-unspoken accusations against one of the lead villains, accusations which are deeply connected to the plot and create something of a turning point in the story. Pokota, by comparison, turns out to be a character of a stature and prominence not suggested by his appearance, but that does not keep him from being able to match Lina wit-for-wit in insult duels or hurl around his own Dragon Slave spells.
The presence of a solid plot also speaks well for this sequel, and it is a remarkably involved one for a series like this. It brings up elements connecting it to past exploits for long-time fans (the Sword of Light, the Red Priest) while spinning off in new and rather serious directions that may not immediately be apparent and smack of modern-day storylines, such as a plague-ravaged country, war profiteering tactics, and international financial aid that gets misappropriated. It also brings a powerful new assassin and an immensely powerful demon beast into the picture, too, just to make sure that Lina and crew have some worthy challenges. And oh, yes, what would Slayers be without a trip to Seyruun at some point? On the downside, there is one thoroughly stupid side story about Rolly Polly Village which is equal parts fun and gag reflex, as is a side story about petnapping. For as serious as things get in the later stages, though, the emphasis is still on the humor and the action, and the series does not disappoint on either front.
For better or worse, the artistic standards set earlier in the franchise remain consistent, which would result in this production looking much older than its 2008 air date if not for completely-up-to-date standards on shading and use of shadow. Characters are remarkably well-rendered for as rough-edged as they look and achieve a surprisingly good level of integration with the nicely-textured background art for as sharp and colorful as they are. The explosions and magical effects are, as always, the highlights, but the series has an overall strong visual appeal despite the fact that Lina is hardly a looker (although Amelia does have a certain old-school cute about her) and the artistry has some issues with staying on model. Amongst new characters, Pokota's human appearance is rather dorky, and really, do we need a dog sorcerer wearing an old-fashioned pointy wizard's hat or a cat sorcerer wearing a jaunty little cap? The demon, contrarily, is suitably impressive. The animation is not, but that has always been the franchise's Achilles heel. No fan service will be found here unless one counts the ridiculously overdeveloped muscle men in a couple of scenes.
Osamu Tezuka's musical score often gets lost amongst all of the on-screen antics but it does a fine job of playing up the sillier moments and adequately lends its support to the more dramatic ones. It does have an unambitious, older-style synthesizer-heavy sound to it, though. The synth influence pervades through the energetic opener, while the closer has more of a light J-rock sound. Both are sung by Megumi “Lina” Hayashibara.
Appreciation for the dub will largely depend on whether or not the viewer finds Lisa Ortiz's take on Lina to be acceptable; her pitch has the potential to annoy, although she is dead-on with the delivery and style. The rest of the core cast from dubs of past installments also returns, though NYAV Post is now producing the dub on behalf of Funimation, and uniformly hit the marks with their roles; this may, in fact, be the best that a Slayers dub has ever sounded. Casting decisions for new roles are sensible, as are English script decisions. Overall, the dub loses none of the charm of the original and even adds in some welcome affectations, such as playing up the snootiness of the pet owners in the penapping episode in a way that would not translate well into or from Japanese.
Funimation's release of these 13 episodes comes on a pair of thinpacked disks in a narrow slipcase – the same format that they have used for most of their other season-length releases. On-disk Extras are limited to clean opener and closes.
While the climactic end of the series resolves the immediate plot points, it also leaves several loose threads. What, exactly, is going to be done about the Red Priest? What was Xellos really up to? Who was Ozel (the maid) working for? The storyline about the plague-ravaged kingdom has not been resolved by the end, either. That is what the 2009 follow-up Slayers Evolution-R (which is available, subbed-only, at Funimation's YouTube site) is for, however. In general, this should be a satisfyingly fun extension of the franchise for long-time fans, while newcomers will only miss a few of the references to past events and associations.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B
+ Lots of fun, sometimes very funny, English dub.
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