In my so-called real life, I help run a customer service call center. We have an incredible amount of work to get done supervising everything, and the way that we get through it as managers is to try to make life as fun and funny as possible. When we're not cracking jokes or making each other laugh, we're trying to keep spirits high. In fact, we tend to know when we're having problems when we're not smiling at each other, and that's when it really becomes tedious, old-fashioned work. The Slayers works very much the same way. It's a fantastic show when it gets goofy and lets its characters have space to interact; when the plotlines make way for inspired lunacy that rivals the best anime out there, you almost can't help but enjoy yourself. However, at times, The Slayers lets its story arcs take the lead--and when the show gets too serious, the pacing suffers badly. In so many words, The Slayers is a D&D campaign on tequila and margaritas--it's great fun while you're out partying, but when things finally sober up, the hangover's not so fun to deal with.
The show revolves around Lina Inverse, a cute but deadly 15 year old sorceress who has already made a name for herself as a powerful adversary and somewhat flaky treasure hunter. As the series begins, Lina steals several powerful items from a bandit gang that's been terrorizing the countryside...and what harm is there in robbing robbers anyway, right? Soon afterwards, she runs into Gourry, a capable yet doltish swordsman who thinks she's a little girl in need of protection. He soon finds out that Lina's more than capable of taking care of herself, and they become a makeshift team. As the travel, they find out that Lina stole more than a few knickknacks...she has in her possession a special magic item that could lead to the end of the world in the wrong hands. Will Lina, Gourry, and their friends save the universe from ancient resurrected evil, or will they just go out to dinner instead? After all, being an all-powerful magician requires a lot of food.
The Slayers is split into two main story arcs; the first arc consumes the first 10 episodes, and the next 16 episodes comprise the second arc. In both situations, the stories are best during the first two thirds of the arcs, although virtually all of the first arc is good. Actually, things are good for an awfully long time in this show. We meet a wide variety of characters who are rounded out during the series, and the concepts are executed very well--after watching the first season of Magic Knight Rayearth, I can say that I much prefer The Slayers' take on "role-playing" anime in comparison to that sprawling epic. The secondary characters here are actually interesting and add depth to the show, and that's true of both heroes and villains. The show is also realistic to its D&D roots in that the magic use is serious and requires some actual effort, and characters who aren't vital on both sides of the conflict are prone to get killed off. Some will complain that the main characters, Lina and Gourry, don't really go anywhere in terms of development, but they act as constants in an ever-changing environment. The animation is decent throughout for a television show, but don't expect anything fancy.
So what's the problem here? So far, it sounds like a great series, and I was really hoping it would be. However, there's a major problem that occurs in two distinct spots in the show, and it is when the main bad guy comes into play. In both story arcs, the archvillain becomes too important too soon, and the last episodes of each arc are dedicated to massive battles to defeat this rival (who will remain nameless for spoiler purposes). It's a small annoyance in the first story arc, but in the second one, the final battle goes on for essentially six episodes! It would not be so bad if the humor level kept up, but when the seemingly invincible scoundrel comes on the scene, it seems that the writers decided that things needed to get really serious. As a result, this otherwise highly enjoyable and accessible show comes to a screeching halt as it ends. Although episodes 25 and 26 are actually very good, the four episodes proceeding them were so monotonous that it was a relief that the series was ending rather than a triumph, which it should have been. Meanwhile, the only other minor complaint is that Lina is the heroine, yet she uses black magic throughout the show to accomplish her ends. This may be true to D&D, but it may be disturbing or disconcerting to some that good in this particular fantasy universe can only triumph through using evil means.
What saves the show, however, are some remarkably funny, fast-paced episodes that start the second story arc. Some of these episodes are just explosively good, particularly one where our band of heroes winds up performing as themselves in a play that's not going quite according to plan. This show has moments that are just so fun that it hurts to criticize the weak parts. Nevertheless, to be fair, the ending drags for so long that it takes the show down a notch. If you like fantasy adventures with a lot of wacky humor and don't mind things getting bogged down here and there, you'll probably really like The Slayers. A quick note to those who might pick up the DVD set--it looks great, but the only chapter stops are at the beginning of each episode, making it difficult to skip around to find great scenes. It's definitely worth buying to get the series at a reduced cost, but not if you're just trying to find your favorite Slayers moments.
The Slayers - Season 1 -- violence, mild language and situations, use of black magic/occult -- B