Anime box-sets for 2010: Part Three
The Slayers - The Complete First Season Box Set
- 4. (26 episodes)
- Running time:
- 575 mins approx
- Japanese 2.0, English 2.0
- Release date:
- March 15th 2010
- £39.99 - Amazon - Play - MVM
Meet Lina Inverse; teenage sorceress, bandit killer, dragon slayer and generally someone you don’t want to piss off. The trouble is, Gourry Gabriev, swordsman extraordinaire and total dimwit has never heard of her. So when Gourry discovers Lina being ambushed by a band of bandits he rushes to our heroine’s aid, not realising that it’s the bandits he should be protecting from her. You see, there’s nothing Lina likes better than separating villains and evildoers from their loot and… well, keeping it for herself. So begins the adventures of the Inverse & Gabriev, collectively known as “The Slayers” as they battle, loot and eat their way across the continent taking on crazed dragons, gangs of swordsmen, mighty sorcerers and well stocked kitchens while occasionally saving the world along the way.
Anyone who’s been watching anime for more than a decade will instantly recognize Slayers as one of the great comedic shows of the late 20th Century. Taken from a long running series of novels (over 50 have been published to date which have also been adapted into several Playstation games, numerous manga and a remarkable number of OVAs) Slayers is a thoroughly enjoyable trip through a medieval world that’ll seem incredibly familiar to anyone who’s dabbled in sword and sorcery games such as Dungeons & Dragons, World Of Warcraft and the like.
First transmitted on Japanese TV back in early 1995, making this series almost 15 years old at the time of writing this review, there were no computers involved in the creation of this show. Animation drawn and coloured by hand was the order of the day back then and compared to most anime coming out today it all looks a tad old hat but many find that to be part of it’s charm. Considering the age of the source material, this show’s held up remarkably well. While the lines aren’t as sharp - nor the colours as vibrant - as the majority of the anime being released today, there’s been no noticeable image degradation over the years. With the action being based in a medieval fantasy world, the basic set-up and plot haven’t particularly aged that much either and fortunately the humour is still just as funny as it was when it was first unleashed on the world.
Part of Slayer’s appeal is that it turns the generally accepted stereotypes of the sword and sorcery genre on its head and Lina’s role as a female sorceress is no exception. Our heroine’s certainly no statuesque, scantily clad busty beauty wielding white magic while requiring a rescue from her gallant knight on a regular basis. Instead she’s a short, feisty and incredibly powerful wielder of the dark arts (with a complex regarding her undeveloped physique) who traumatises bandits for fun before making off with their loot, It’s a good job that she can handle herself in a fight as her “Gallant Knight” is actually a complete airhead who could easily be outsmarted by your average jellyfish. The rest of the characters are just as hard to successfully categorise as the heroes may actually be villains, villains may be the heroes and it even gets to the point where some of the characters themselves aren’t even sure which side they’re supposed to be on anymore.
Slayers may be old but it’s remained a firm fan favourite for longer than a lot of anime fans have been alive and even today shows no sign of losing it’s popularity. While watching this series again for this review I was reminded of quite why it’s popularity is so warranted. Namely that, unlike many old series which can be somewhat disappointing once you’ve waded though all the nostalgia, taken off your rose tinted glasses and actually sat down to watch the thing, this is one of those rare classic series that actually is as much fun as you remembered it to be.
If there was ever an “old skool” anime that that could be used as an example of how to dub Japanese comedy into English effectively then this is it. While a lot of the humour comes from a multitude of one-liners, throwaway comments and self-referential asides, just as much comedy comes from the skill of the translators and dub cast. Lina’s dub actress, Lisa Ortiz, does an excellent job portraying our spunky young heroine, a role which would only have been made that bit harder seeing as she’s taking on a character originally voiced in Japanese by Megumi Hayashibara who’s considered by many to be the best Japanese voice actress… ever. The rest of the dub cast put in a sterling performance, pushing their roles as far as they can without dropping of into silly territory… well not too often anyway.
Surprisingly little. The first disc has a Production art & sketch gallery and some trailers but that’s ya’ lot. If there’s anything that lets this series down it’s the lack of extras.
The Slayers - The Complete First Season Box Set will be available from most high streets and online retailers from March 15th 2010.
Sherlock Hound: Complete Series
Co-written and co-directed just over 25 years ago by Hayao Miyazaki - the highly respected Director of some of the most popular and well known anime of all time - Sherlock Hound re-imagines the cast of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective stories as anthropomorphic canines - Sherlock himself as a rather cunning fox - in a Jules Verne-esque steam-punk version of 19th century Britain and clearly demonstrating the Director’s love of many things British which would be seen again in the likes of Howl’s Moving Castle and the upcoming Borrowers. Unfortunately part way through production there was a dispute with Conan Doyle’s estate that meant Miyazaki himself only managed to direct six episodes before work was temporality halted. Once the dispute was settled, Miyazaki had already started work on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, leaving the directorship of the remaining eighteen episodes to Co-Director Kyosuke Mikuriya - who coincidently also co-directed Ulysses 31. Even after the Director’s mantle had been passed over, Miyazaki’s influence could still be found pervading heavily throughout the remainder of the series.
If there’s ever been an anime that’s made it onto SFL mainly on pure nostalgia grounds alone then this has to be it. Like many other anime fans over the age of thirty, just being reminded that this show even exists took me instantly back to the 80’s when the BBC, swiftly followed by ITV, decided that the few hours directly after school ended should be for the kids and filled the airwaves with the likes of Dogtanian and the three Muskerhounds, Around the world with Willy Fogg and a number of the other Japanese/European collaborations that were popping up at that time such as The Mysterious Cities of Gold and the aforementioned Ulysses 31. As has already happened with many of the popular shows from same decade, Sherlock Hound has been pulled out of the archives, given a good dusting off and sent back out into the world on DVD. But, like most subjects of glossy-eyed nostalgia, once you watch it again without those rose tinted glasses it’s obvious that while it has all the good points you remember, it also has all those bad points you’ve conveniently forgotten.
First, the good points:
- Keeping in mind that this anime is over 25 years old, the animation’s not at all bad for it’s age. It has a very definite Miyazaki flavour to it and the action carries many of his hallmarks such as the manic car chases, grand structures and a whole plethora of flying machines.
- The dub’s not bad either. Holmes’… sorry, Hound’s voice actor seems to have gone to the “Lesley Phillips School of lovable cads” and the rest of the English, Welsh, Scottish etc accents, while not stellar, are certainly good attempts. As an interesting side note, Dr Watson’s voiced by Lewis Arquette, the father of the well-known Arquette family of American actors and actresses.
And now the bad points:
- There’s no Japanese language track or subtitles, not even those for the hard of hearing. Also, while the dub itself is good, there seems to have been little to no effort made in keeping the dialogue in sync with the lip movements.
- Extras, or a complete lack there of.
- The action is very slow… actually “glacial” would be a better term for it. Younger viewers, brought up on CBBC’s more frenetic and fast- paced, CGI heavy fare currently gracing our screens, will probably find that this show just isn’t “punchy” enough to keep them interested.
On the whole, as this series is currently available to buy for a lot less than the list price, it makes a worthy addition to the collection of any true Miyazaki fan or Studio Ghibli completist.
Sherlock Hound: Complete Series is available now exclusively from HMV.