A few thoughts regarding Slayers Next

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the second season, called Slayers NEXT. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • The first season was pretty good, but this is so much better
  • Next is more thematically coherent than the first season; for example, secrets and deceptions are major themes throughout, and show up even in the traditional four-episode silliness break just past the season midpoint:
    • In the first episode, Amelia is hiding her purpose in Xoana, while Martina and King Xoana are lying to Zelgadis about what’s in the Book of Xoana.
    • The second episode introduces Xellos, who is secrecy and manipulation incarnate. And also the best character in all of anime, just FYI.
    • The Atlas City mini-arc is ultimately about finding the Pledge Stone, which is hidden in plain sight from the first episode of the arc.
    • The Seyruun mini-arc, however, is when the deception really breaks out, from Phil’s faked death, to Alfred’s lie, to the misdirection about what the Mazoku are after, to Lina faking her own death, and of course the growing mysteries of increasing Mazoku involvement in human affairs and what’s going on with Xellos.
    • Then in said traditional four-episode silliness break, we have in rapid succession the lost book of spells that are really just dances and a mask-themed Mazoku, everybody disguising themselves as dolls to infiltrate the tower of a Mazoku that disguises herself as a doll, Xellos trolling Lina and Zelgadis with the racket-switching and the fake clue to the Claire Bible, and the City of Women Who Are All Actually Men–and it’s very likely that basically all of this is just Xellos leading them around to take out Gaav’s minions.
    • In the Claire Bible mini-arc we again have Auntie Aqua as a disguise for something much more powerful, plus the brief but very funny bit where she pretends to be Zoamulgustar, the revelation that dragons can take human form, the reveal of Xellos’ true nature and power (including cutting him open–twice!–to reveal that there’s nothing inside–his disguise is all he is), and of course Phibrizzo tricking everyone with his human form.
    • And then in the final arc we have the disguised Gourry, the false Sairaag, and the Giga Slave being a summoning rather than an attack, culminating in the Lord of Nightmares manifesting to look like Lina.
  • And of course Martina, who parodies the “obsession” theme that ran through most of the first series, and in particular is a ridiculous comedic version of the somewhat more serious (though still pretty funny–this is Slayers after all) Zangulus and Vrumugun from the first season.
  • Speaking of “somewhat more serious,” this season is way darker and more violent than the first, closer to the novels in tone, though still lighter than them. (Mostly because Xellos is more of a trickster in the TV series; in the equivalent novel stories he comes across as a sadist–anime!Xellos and novel!Xellos both enjoy confusion and pain, but anime!Xellos seems to prefer the former while novel!Xellos goes for the latter.) But there’s some seriously brutal violence on display here, much less cartoonish than the first series, especially once Gaav shows up.
  • It’s present with Sylphiel in the first season, but man does this series do grief astonishingly well for a light comedy. Here we have Amelia grieving over her father and Lina grieving over Gourry, and all three are consistent with how real people deal with grief while also being idiosyncratic to the particular character.
  • Holy shit is the music good. Not just “Give A Reason”–though that is undeniably one of the classic anime OPs–but the background music in the episodes as well. The last three episodes in particular–near as I can tell, they are fully scored with unique music that did not appear prior in the series, and it’s really good. I think my favorite is the way the music kept hinting all season at the rising triplets that served as a leitmotif for the Dragon Slave in season 1, but never quite playing it, the closest being the harder, minor-key version which was played for the Giga Slave in the first season and the Ragna Blade this season–until finally at the climax of ep 51 it bursts out in all its glory when Lina finally casts the Giga Slave again.

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