Over fifty light novels, a handful of manga series, four anime series (with a fifth just beginning in Japan as I write this), two OVAs, four video games and five movies - I think it's fair to say that Slayers has been a successful franchise within its native Japanese market. Now, the first Slayers anime series has come to our own shores, so will it gain the same foothold amongst anime fans?
If you're looking for a western equivalent of Slayers, you'd probably be looking at something like Dungeons & Dragons, as this series drops us into a world of trolls, golems and all sorts of other nasties along those lines. However, fear not, for our job in this series is to follow the heroine of the piece, a powerful sorceress known as Lina Inverse, a sorceress always willing to fight the good fight against the forces of darkness... As long as there's sufficient money and treasure in it for her, that is. Indeed, we first join Lina after having successfully bagged herself a hefty loot of treasure, although the remainder of the gang she swiped it from are none too happy and on the look-out for revenge. Enter Gourry, a swordsman who happens to be passing by and, mistaking Lina for a young damsel in distress, rushes to her rescue. Between the two of them they fight off the attackers, and so begins a partnership of sorts as the two travel together towards their next destination.
It doesn't take them long to find another adventure to get embroiled in, as it appears that an item of Lina's treasure is rather more valuable than she anticipated, which leads to plenty of unwanted attention from Rezo the Red Priest and Zelgadis, two men who appear to be working separately, but are in fact working towards the same end... initially at least. So, factions change and all becomes clear as the peril to Lina becomes ever greater, and she learns exactly how important this mere trinket actually is.
The first thing I should probably mention about this series of Slayers is that it originally aired in Japan back in 1995 - In other words, it's a pretty old series, and boy does it show. Quite frankly, the animation quality is frequently terrible to the point of being embarrassing, and the overall "feel" of the series is of something that's way, way past its sell-by date, like that tin of rice pudding that's been festering at the back of your cupboard for far too long.
However, like that rice pudding (okay, maybe not like that rice pudding actually - Don't eat out of date food kids!) despite being old and fetid there's actually a certain enjoyable flavour to be found within this first volume of Slayers if you dare to try it. Yes, it looks terrible, with the kind of visuals that belong on VHS to make it look truly old school, and yes, the plot is often oddly paced with some big holes where common sense takes a back seat, but thankfully Slayers isn't the kind of show that takes itself seriously - Both the series as a whole and the characters within it seem quite happy to be self-depreciating, smarmy or downright disinterested in what's going on, and that "yes, this is rubbish, but so what?" attitude gives the show an almost lovable element, especially when mixed with the rather enjoyable wise-cracking optimism of Lina herself. One of the bad guys is a fish with legs, and I think that probably says it all about the extent to which Slayers aims to be a serious anime - Not very much in other words.
Of course, this "so bad it's good" theory won't hold steadfast for everybody, so your mileage may vary, and if a night of watching badly drawn anime with a stupid plot and overly cartoony characters leaves you cold, then steer well clear of this DVD. On the other hand, if a spot of retro anime watching tickles your fancy and you like the idea of sitting down to a load of old nonsense that knows its spouting rubbish, then you may find yourself enjoying Slayers a little more than you'd care to admit. I know I did.