With the UK release of Slayers Revolution following just a few months after that of Slayers Try, it's easy to forget that there was a gap of more than ten years between their respective releases in Japan. The last anime outing for the franchise was 2001's straight-to-video special Slayers Premium, so is Slayers Revolution a long awaited return for a much-loved franchise, or a cynical attempt to wring some cash out of the remaining loyal fanbase? The answer is probably a bit of both.
Slayers Revolution reunites us with everyone's favourite
overpowered teen sorceress Lina Inverse and her dumb-but-noble bodyguard
swordsman Gourry Gabriev as they take part in a pirate hunting mission. It
seems Lina's bandit hunting has pretty much wiped them out on land, so she has
taken to the seas to keep up her income flow. Her latest target has also
attracted the attention of the Royal Navy of Seyruun though, and a meeting with
their flagship reunites Lina and Gourry with justice-obsessed princess Amelia
and the taciturn golem Zelgadis. On their return to shore Lina is
unexpectedly confronted by Ruvingald kingdom's special investigator Wizer Frieon,
who attempts to arrest her on the totally undeniable charge of being Lina
Inverse! It seems that someone has been systematically wiping out the
kingdom's military assets with high-powered spells, and Lina's past escapades
and short fuse have made her prime suspect. Desperate to clear her name
Lina decides to hunt down the real culprit and force him to confess to Wizer,
who has taken to following her in order to get the damning evidence he needs.
Lina thinks she has found the perpetrator in the form of the strange creature
called Pokota, but getting him to confess isn't going to be easy. Not only
is he surprisingly elusive and a powerful sorcerer but he also has a personal
mission that he refuses to be swayed from. If this wasn't enough for our
heroes the appearance of the demonic priest Xellos and the potential
resurrection of a monster with near limitless destructive capabilities most
The return of Slayers was, for me, a welcome one. I was always a fan of the franchise, and after occasional signs of it treading water during Slayers Try I was looking forward to a reboot. First impressions of Slayers Revolution are good too. The visuals and animation have been given an overhaul for the new series, with computer animation bringing a sharper and more vivid look to the familiar characters and settings. The music is decent and the original Japanese voice cast are reunited to great effect, whilst the English dub
is far less grating than it has been in the past. The story wastes no time in reuniting the franchise's central characters (really, it takes about four minutes), and the trademark mix of comedy and action is in place almost immediately. It really feels like the series has never been away when you watch it, and to an extent that's probably its main drawback.
Slayers Revolution picks up exactly where Slayers
Try left off, and whilst that means that it's action packed, fun and
occasionally dramatic, it also means that it plays it safe. Anyone who has
watched any of the previous Slayers series will know exactly what to
expect from this new incarnation. There's the usual build up to the
enigmatic villain punctuated by some slapstick and daft comedy, there's the
usual bad guy fighting for a sympathetic cause, the usual new character with a
tortured past and the usual conspiracy that is bigger than it first seems.
It's all well executed, the comedy frequently hits the mark and the plot is
decent enough (and thankfully missing some of the stupider side stories the
older series' had), but it's all well within the franchise's comfort zone.
The new characters are ok, Wizer is a buffoon who may be more competent than he
seems, but whilst Pokota has a decent back story his design seems really out of
place and undermines some of his more emotionally charged scenes. He seems
like a mascot character, and to be honest Slayers has got through three
series and numerous films without needing one.
There are some interesting plot elements to the story though which tie it nicely to the events of the first series. Pokota's story is inexorably linked to Lina's own, and her past actions have had a significant impact on his future. It's kind of inevitable that Lina and co will end up helping Pokota, but the story leads to it in a measured enough way that it doesn't seem forced. The action flies thick and fast throughout with plenty of opportunity for Lina to show off her trademark spells (and a number that she's not used in the anime
before), and deliver more over-the-top pyrotechnics than you can shake a wizard's staff at. The cast all come together well and the whole package is highly enjoyable, but there's no risks. The previous series' were at their best when they pushed the characters in new directions - Lina losing her magic, Amelia facing the news of the supposed assassination of her father - but this one doesn't do any of that. It relies on Pokota to be the emotional hook of the series, and he's not as good at it as Filia was in the last series.
Slayers Revolution promised much with its title, but instead of a new dawn for the series we get a continuation of the status quo. It's still a superior fantasy comedy - as I mentioned above it's well executed, with excellent animation and bright, vivid artwork - but it could have been a lot more. There are missed opportunities to push the limits of the story, and it's disappointing to see the excellent Xellos reduced to little more than a cameo role. The series would suffer more from these issues if it wasn't for its sense of humour. Its knowing digs at its own shortcomings are often a saving grace and makes the series a lot more entertaining than it might otherwise have been. There are some strange inconsistencies in the story though, not least of which when Lina and co know nothing of the legend of the demon beast Zanaffar and destruction of the magical city of Sairaag even though the went there and faced the demon in the first series. In fairness the story is at its mid-way point, unlike the previous series this new one is split into two 13-episode mini-series so it could still go in unexpected directions and tie up loose ends in the next half. Whilst there's nothing really wrong with this series on this evidence it needs to up its game if it is to top what has come before, but I suppose we'll see when Slayers Evolution-R hits the UK in 2011.
Textless opening/closing sequences, trailers. Surprisingly sparse.