It doesn't seem like all that long ago since we paid our last visit to the world of Lina Inverse and company... and that's because it wasn't. No sooner had MVM completed their whistle-stop tour of the original Slayers series than they've moved straight on to its immediate follow-up, Slayers Next. All things considered, this is a smart move, as evidenced by the episode numbers for this series (beginning as they do at episode twenty-seven), while even the original broadcast date for Slayers Next was only a little over six months after the first series finished its run.
If you're a fan of that first series, then the good news is that very little has changed in that intervening period which splits Slayers and Slayers Next - Right from the off, Lina and Gourry are still travelling together with that disagreeable camaraderie we've come to know and love, while it isn't too long before both Princess Amelia and Zelgadis put in appearances of their own. Indeed, these latter two characters become major parts of the show's first story arc, with Amelia running a diplomatic errand on behalf of her father while Zelgadis has found himself a new way to earn a living in the hope of returning his body to its normal state. Of course, Lina wouldn't be Lina if she didn't interfere in this state of affairs in her own unique and destructive fashion, and with the task at hand more or less resolved (if you can count razing everything to the ground as a good manner of conflict resolution, that is) the team are now well and truly reunited for the adventures to come.
With little else to do, the crew choose to follow and assist Zelgadis on that aforementioned quest to return his body to its original state, which soon puts them into an uneasy truce with Xellos, a self-titled "mysterious priest" who flits in and out of the series on a whim. Meanwhile, our heroines and heroes face off against the usual range of problems, from monsters and immortal maniacs through to more pressing concerns like finding an all-you-can-eat restaurant.
When I say that fans of the first Slayers series will be equally at home with Slayers Next I really do mean it, as this show is nothing if not an immediate continuation of its predecessor. This means that we are regaled with the same smart-alec and self-referential humour which Slayers employed so effectively (indeed, the humour is arguably even a little sharper this time around), the general break-neck pacing of each episode remains in place, and the animation is as iffy and retro as ever (and quite possibly worse aside from some nice touches in the odd episode here and there). If anything, Slayers Next actually feels a little more spritely on account of its not having to worry about introducing the main characters and their back stories, throwing us straight into the thick of things with the same kind of disregard for newcomers to the franchise as Lina herself has for persons or property in the vicinity of her more destructive spells.
When I first started watching the original Slayers series it seemed like more of a curio than anything else to me, but now as I sit here over thirty episodes down the line I have to admit that I've really warmed to it as a franchise. Yes, it's as quirky as they come, with a work and comedy ethic that might be anathema to some, and the retro animation, video and audio quality is quite a shock to the system in these days of High Definition and pristine DVD transfers, but if you can work your way past those issues then Slayers Next, as with its predecessor, can prove to be a bumper dose of light-hearted and frivolous fun to while away a few hours with.