The series covered in this column has some similarities to last week’s piece covering The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. It is a comedy, based on a series of light novels not translated into English. However, whereas the former is science-fiction, this series is a fantasy in the Tolkienesque, Dungeons & Dragons style of monsters, warriors and magic.
The first light novel in The Slayers was published in 1989 and many more novels, anime, manga, films video games and so on has been produced since then. The first three series, The Slayers, The Slayers Next and The Slayers Try were broadcast between 1995 and 1997. Another two series, the Revolution and Evolution-R series, were transmitted between 2008 and 2009.
The Slayers is set in a typical fantasy world full of monsters, dragons, brave warriors and powerful manipulators of magic. Amongst those who fall into the last of those categories is Lina Inverse, a teenage sorceress and central heroine of the story. However, she is not exactly heroic. She is gluttonous, bad-tempered, fleeces people out of money and magical items, annoyed by the fact she has small breasts and has little concern of the huge collateral damage her spells cause to those around her. At the start of the story Lina meets the mighty swordsman Gourry Gabriev, whose brawn is much greater than his brain. However, Lina stays with him because Gourry possesses the all-powerful Sword of Light, one of the most powerful weapons in the world.
Together Lina and Gourry travel around, with Lina wanting to find more magical items and spells to make herself even more powerful. This often means fighting powerful monsters who wish to destroy the world. Along the journey she is joined by other travellers. These include the chimera Zelgadis Greywords, who is part human, part troll and part golem and is trying to find a way of returning his body to normal; Princess Amelia Seyruun, a shrine-maiden whose belief in justice often leads to more problems than solutions; and Xellos Metallium, a priest whose true powers and motives are often shrouded mystery.
One of the central appeals of The Slayers series is that it is very funny comic treatment of the fantasy genre. The show often mocks the situations the characters find themselves in which themselves parody various elements of fantasy. While it is arguable that the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, the stereotypical roles they mock are handled well.
Lina Inverse is certainly one of the greater comic creations in anime. She arguably fits in with the British scene of humour because she, like many British comedy characters, has a flaw. In fact, she has flaws by the bucket-load. She breaks just about every deadly sin out there. She is also often callous and prone to violence. Lina tends not to be cowardly, unless there is any reference to her more talented and respected older sister in which case she completely caves in to whatever demand is required of her.
The fantasy genre is one that is hard to mock. After all, how is it possible to make comedy out of something which is arguably ridiculous to begin with? The only really successful fantasy comedy in Britain is the Discworld novels. Here, we see another series of novels which mess around with fantasy. In terms of television, animation is one of the few ways that can do the books justice, given just how over-the-top Lina and her friends can be.
The Slayers was one of the most popular anime series of the 1990s. Looking back on it you can see that the ideas and the writing gave it an enduring appeal that means it is still funny around 20 years afterwards.
The five TV series of The Slayers are all released in the UK by MVM Films.