By Justin Graham / April 24th, 2013
Slayers: The Motion Picture is a 1995 feature film entry in the fantasy-comedy Slayers franchise, which began as a series of novels written by Hajime Kanzaka with illustrations by Rui Akaizumi. The film, written and chiefly directed by Kazuo Yamazaki, is part of a wider body of animated works including a television series and a collection of one-shot OVA productions. Despite the breadth of the franchise, however, the film is an easy place for newcomers to jump in for a breezy, entertaining seventy-five minutes.
Slayers is focused on the exploits of Lina Inverse, a young, powerful mage that tends to solve her problems with the liberal application of fireball spells, and her erstwhile rival/sidekick Naga the White Serpent. Together, they’re a classic comedy duo; Lina, short, skinny, and self-conscious, and Naga, tall, busty, and self-absorbed, antagonize each other one moment and congratulate each other the next. The absurdity of their rivalry/friendship is a large part of what makes the film work, in addition to the general silliness of the fantasy world they inhabit and characters they meet along the way.
When Naga comes across a pair of passes to the fabled hot springs of the island of Mipross, she drags Lina along for a relaxing getaway. A getaway that, like so many of Lina’s adventures, quickly gets weird. During their stay at the resort, Lina and Naga encounter a variety of adversaries that all seek to do them in, each one claiming to be subsequently more powerful than the last foe they faced. Such adversaries include the owner of the hot spring who attacks moments after Naga expertly determines that the spring’s healing powers are phony.
And then they do battle with a stage illusionist specializing in making people relive the experiences of their home towns. Lina had previously written him off during a performance, as she considered the audience members taken in by the illusions as weak-minded. So of course she falls for it the moment she slips up and tells him where she’s from.
But these absurd encounters are only a prelude to the actual villain. Over the course of the film, Lina has a series of dreams where she experiences past moments in the life of a boy named Rowdy Gabriev. He’s now an old man that has lived an eternity ever since the elf girl he loved and the rest of her people were slaughtered by the demon Joyrock.
Though the movie does get a bit dramatic at points, such as when Lina encounters a village where all of its residents have been turned into undead, the film’s focus and strength is in the comedic interactions between its characters. Lina and Naga are in top form here, as are their actresses Megumi Hayashibara and Maria Kawamura. Kawamura in particular imparts Naga with a level of arrogant, obtuse ridiculousness countered by Hayashibara’s often frustrated Lina. Both characters are given plenty of time to show off with hilarious results.
But beyond the core characters, the world of Slayers itself is an absurdity. The antithesis of the dramatic tone of Record of Lodoss War, it presents a fantasy land filled with warriors, mages, thieves, nobles…and the vast majority of them are either fools or serve to engage the fools. Slayers is never above having fun with itself, demonstrating excellent comedic timing in both its wordplay and slapstick.
With its short running time, the film never threatens to overstay its welcome. It’s paced well, taking Lina from one ridiculous situation to the next, and always with some new twist or gag that keeps things lively. Even the final battle against Joyrock is handled in such a way that, while not comedic in itself, still compliments the pacing and tone.
Slayers: The Motion Picture has aged incredibly well and is as funny now as it was in the ‘90s. Anyone looking for some silly fantasy fun will likely find it entertaining, as it’s constantly firing on all cylinders. And for those interested, it also serves as a great introduction to the rest of the franchise.
Slayers: The Motion Picture was released on DVD by ADV Films as part of a box set also containing the complete OVA collection. It features the original Japanese with subtitles in English and Spanish as well as an English dub. The film is rated TV-PG for fantasy violence and adult humor.
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