The Slayers NEXT
Move over, Robin Hood! Lina Inverse and her team of merry adventurers are back to rob from the rich and give to...her. Now what is it that has everybody's favourite beautiful genius sorceress running around in glee? It's the Claire Bible, a mysterious spellbook that is rumored to contain the greatest of all spells, including one that could finally cure Zelgadis of his inhuman form. Is there more to this story arc than it seems? What threat do the Monsters pose, and what is their role in this adventure? Is Lina finally going to find a way to increase her cup size?
The lovable cast of The Slayers return to the anime scene with this second offering of the Slayers storyline. If you haven't heard of Lina Inverse, then you've probably been stuck in the Matrix too long - she's a talented sorceress with a really, really short temper and awesome spells to boot. Besides being able to land 747s on her chest (i.e. it's flat), she also has a near-obsession with treasure and gets a real kick out of blasting bandits, robbers and helpless people away for the sake of shiny stuff. She is aided by her self-proclaimed guardian, Gourry, whose skill with the sword is unparalleled but is also walking proof that "Common Sense for Dummies" would be a really good book idea. Rounding off our party are Amelia and Zelgadis - one a justice-speech spouting princess and the other a hybrid of a human, chimera and a rock monster.
This interestingly diverse cast would not be complete without the superb comedy that comes with putting them together in the same scene. Fans of the original series will be delighted to know that Next builds on the hilarity of the original and while making references to earlier events, still comes up with enough new comedy fodder to tickle your funny bone (then keep bashing you on the head with it). The addition of two new characters only adds to the fun - there's Martina, servant of the Monstrous Zoarmelgustar (a deity which she made up herself) and the mysterious Xellos, a practical joker who could possibly have more effect on the story than anyone realizes.
However, in a slight departure from the original, Next contains a darker and more serious plot that involves the Monsters. These Monsters are mysterious beings that prey on human fear and other negative emotions, and play a crucial part in how the later half of the series develops. In a noticeable contrast from the light-hearted filler episodes, the dramatic episodes go full force with the heavy mood and rather than weakening the plot, they highlight the seriousness of the situation and draw you into the moment. Unfortunately mood changes are not liked by all, and the fact that the story has three main arcs seperated by comedy filler episodes may turn off some potential viewers, and possibly a few fans of the original.
But when it's funny, it's *darn* funny. Besides having a wide variety of spells to slap around their "victims" with, the characters also get involved in some hilarious storylines that poke fun at everything from RPGs and fantasy settings to food and chest size. The interactions between the characters are priceless, especially between Lina and Xellos. And who can forget Amelia's justice speeches? Outta the way, Sailormoon.
In its time, Slayers Next was animated excellently and looked pretty good. Unfortunately, the wrinkles are starting to show when lined up with newer titles loaded with CG graphics. Don't let this turn you away, though - it's still a nice piece of work : the scenery is detailed, the colors are well varied and the effects can still blow you away. Character designs are simple, but that hardly matters since they're so lovable! You'd almost want to make Lina your little sister so you could hug her (and make lame jokes about her chest).
While not a die-hard Hayashibara Megumi fan, I can say that the Next opening song is one of her best. It's catchy and fits the series quite well - I was humming the tune for weeks after that. Likewise, Okui Masami surrenders no ground to Megumi with a cool pop-rock number laced with a little jazz as the ending theme.
Although containing references to the first series and some flashbacks, Slayers Next can be watched by both fans and people new to the Slayers universe (like I was). It's like a cheeky brother to Record of Lodoss Wars - it charms you with its story, knocks you out with its humor and then steals your money for the rest of the DVDs.
And besides, Lina can make me her Dragon Slave *any* time. Rrrrr.
A bit heavy on the story and somewhat darker, it's still a memorable romp through the fields of good fun and a title worth keeping. You might subtract a star if you don't like comedy anime turning dark (and back) on you, but if you just want a good laugh with a solid plot, look no further than the large fireball explosions in the distance. Fans of the first series might want to add one star. — Enoch Lau
Recommended Audience: The monster scenes are quite intense, and this series is overall quite violent. Some of it is slapstick violence, but when the plot is serious, it's not. There's also heavy use of spells, magic and plenty of occult references, so if you object to this kind of material then you'll have to pass on this one. Nudity is minimal and there's little or no rough language (I can't say for the dub).
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (26/26)
The Slayers NEXT © 1996 Kanzaka Hajime / Araizumi Rui / Kadokawa Shoten / TV Tokyo / Softx
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