Well, I am ending this year with two smaller reviews covering my favorite genres when it comes not just to anime, but fiction/media in general. I have stated this before but it bears repeating, but I love fantasy and science fiction works. They can offer so much different and varied stories that it is hard not to get attached to. So, when it comes to fantasy, I am covering an entry in a particular well-known franchise:
Slayers the Motion Picture (1995 film)
Director: Kazuo Yamazaki and Hiroshi Watanabe
Writer: Kazuo Yamazaki
Studio: JC Staff
Now this is the first movie/special made for the Slayers franchise right on the heels of the first season of the TV series airing back in 1995. I remember watching at least the first season back in college some years ago and I loved it. So I sought out some more of it and came across the ‘movies’ but I would consider them to be more like specials that are longer length episodes. The first one is actually based on a side story series that got adapted. As such, it exists outside of the continuity of the TV series.
Well, the story starts off with Lina Inverse, the main character, out in the world. She is one of my favorite fantasy characters in anime. Putting aside my love for redheads, she manages to be fun and engaging in spite of the fact her character is informed by gags-her short stature and figure which when mentioned ignites her short fuse temper. She is also quite excellent when it comes to magic, but it often involves massive destruction in its wake. Shortly after her introduction, we meet the other main character of the TV specials: Naga the Serpent. She is loud, bodacious and full of herself. She acts as an ally (sort of) when it comes to Lina. Also she’s likely the character to bring the Great Noblewoman’s Laugh to prominence. But yeah the two meet up and find out about some famous hot springs on Mipross Island. A great adventure ensues.
Basically The Motion Picture is a loose adventure quest, fairly standard material in a fantasy story. Granted, it goes the route of doing a series of short vignettes relying on situational comedy for about half of the special as Naga and Lina make their way to the island’s famous hot springs. Of course, it does sprinkle in dream sequences involving a young swordsman and also a mysterious frog critter lurking about the place, perhaps keeping an eye out for our heroines. It helps that the humor and charm of our two leading ladies to keep it from going stale. The great thing is that the seemingly disparate parts do come together by the end, leaving the viewer with a feeling of satisfaction.
The animation is quite excellent. Even on the old DVD that I got for 4$ at a local store, there’s never a moment where the animation derps out. I really wish this and the other Slayers specials/OVAs would get the Bluray treatment someday though that might be a pipe dream. I also must note the great orchestral music by Takayuki Hattori (who also did music for Nadesico and the Battle Athletes OVA). It fits the adventure fantasy story to a tee.
Lastly the English dub is a great classic late 90s ADV dub. Matt Greenfield handled both the direction and scripting of the dub which lends itself to some liberty with the script (some jokes are added for extra humor in spite of not fitting at all with the setting) but it works well with regards to the story. They did try to get Lisa Ortiz (Lina’s English voice actress for the TV series) but they couldn’t get the scheduling to work. So they ended up with Cynthia Martinez, who plays the character slightly more perky but acquits herself well. The cast is peppered with ADV regulars from that time, like Brett Weaver, Phil Ross and the like but there are two standout performances in the dub. First there is Kelly Manison who just about steals the show with her portrayal of Naga, really nails the part and then some. The other is Tristan MacAvery in the role of Joyrock, who for early ADV dubs was the go-to guy for villainy (Gendo Ikari, anyone?)/ Bit of a bummer he no longer voice acts but thankfully he has had spiritual successors in John Swasey, Jason Douglas and to a certain extent David Wald. Despite its age, the dub holds up well enough.
Overall, if I had to pinpoint a starting point for anyone interested in checking out the Slayers series, this is a good place to begin. It’s not too long and it’s great fun to be had on a rainy afternoon. Sure it’s not too deep or profound, but it’s a fun ride of entertainment nonetheless.
Anyway, I am closing out the year around the weekend of December 16-17th with a science fiction piece, also on an entry from another well-known franchise:
Til next time, dear readers.