Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Things No One Cares About: Slayers The Hourglass of Falces

Slayers started out as a series of light novels involving Lina Inverse,a short tempered sorceress,Gourry Gabriev,the dim-witted swordsman and a rotating cast of companions. It evolved into a successful anime/manga franchise that is much more well known. I've already discussed the first two movies based on the prequel series,Slayers Special, and I finally got my hands on the last three movies so we'll look at those in more detail in the coming weeks but we're going to talk about something Slayers related I actually did read this week,The Hourglass of Falces.

Slayers manga has always sort have taken a backseat to the novel and anime components of the franchise. The longest part of the manga(Super Explosive Demon Story) only covers the first eight novels in 7 of 8 volumes. The fourth volume being an adaption of Slayers Return. The various manga projects tend to cover various side stories and alternate time lines. Luckily they usually are wrote by Kanzaka himself which at least insures great writing if nothing else.

However like Lina's companions the artist for the manga tends to rotate. You have the Rui Araizumi the Gourry to Kanzaka's Lina who is responsible for the light novels illustrations. Then there is Tommy Ohtsuka that' has drawn the Slayers Special manga,Knights of the Aqualord and a few others. Shoko Yoshinaka who worked on Super Explosive Demon Story and Kanzaka's other big franchise,Lost Universe. However for Hourglass we have yet another artist simply know as Arashi who's only other work is a hentai compilation manga. After reading this manga that fact came as no surprise to me. So enough talking about Slayers lets talk about Slayers.

The story is fairly typical and nothing special,but like most Slayers stories it is more a vehicle for the comedy more than anything. The plot concerns an island that sits between some mystical pillars that can power some weird Groundhog Day style magic. It brings up your typical letting go of the past themes that has been done pretty well elsewhere. It tries to bring up a moral dilemma of letting these people stay stuck in the time loop or actually breaking the spell and ends up coming off as silly in the wrong way.

There is also the problem of it feeling just too long even though it is only four chapters long. Sections are spent on exposition from various characters on happenings that could be summed up in maybe a panel or two. Even more ridiculous is that the last chapter just seems to start mid-battle with little lead up. It is jarring as heck and feels rushed despite the manga taking its' sweet time up to this point.

The plot usually takes a back seat to the jokes though sadly they just aren't able to handle the driving that well. There are a few good jokes but they are few and far between. This is the man who has wrote the excellent Return and Gorgeous,here he is not bringing the A-game. Most of the jokes are meh and the ones that are funny have been done better in another part of the franchise.

So the plot is passed out drunk in the back and the comedy is too short too reach the pedals. Luckily some one gave the characters the map and by god are they trying to salvage this god forsaken road trip.The advantage to having Kanzaka writing is that he knows how to write these characters. Everyone is playing the parts they need to play and their interpersonal relationships are kept intact. This is the first and I believe only project where all of Lina's companions get to team up. For me this is the first exposure I've had to Luke and Millina from the later novels and it just makes me want to read those novels even more if this is how they interact.

As for the original characters for the manga there are three and they are all terrible. The villain is poor mans version of Rezo the Red Priest from the early novels and the women who serves as his motivation is might as well be the patron saint of purity sues. She gets a rushed back story about being a prostitute who never forgot how to love. The other original character Noa is a moe blob that redefines useless. Kanzaka may have unintentionally created the first moe blob style character with Amelia way back in the 90's but she actually has character,spunk and is genuinely funny. Noa has none of that and angst about everything while declaring her own uselessness. She actually wets her self at one point and I'm just embarrassed for her. Her design actually ties in beautifully to the biggest complaint about this book:the art.

If the comedy is the driver and the characters are navigating then the art is the moron attempting to car surf. However he really can't do that well and they have to keep pulling over to pick up the idiot who doesn't look that great after making out with the asphalt. Everyone just looks ugly and off model in the book. Lina and Gourry get off by looking half way decent till they have a reaction then it's straight back to looking ridiculous. Zelgadis looks like Arashi could decide if he wanted to draw Zelgadis or Blackjack and in the end tried combining them. However this is to say nothing of the female characters and the idiocy of what happened there.

Slayers has always had a bit of fanservice here and there with Naga being the notable example. However she is played as more ridiculous and goofy parody of Ms. Fanservice. Here no one except Lina is below a C-cup and they are on full display. Amelia wears a stupid outfit that is supposed to tie into her family's habit of wearing provocative clothing that gives the artist free rein to draw panty shots galore. Noa has as the book calls them "Cow udders" and where a shirt that apparently doesn't button. It just makes the whole story feel cheaper than it all ready is.

In the end this is a really bad Slayers story that fails at almost every turn and is just shameful. It has it's moments but nothing to fully redeem it. Only read this if you really need a Slayers fix and have read everything else possible in the series.

Till next time:Stay Positive

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Things No One Cares About:Slayers Return

After the success of the first season of Slayers in 1995,we had the not without it's merits Slayers Perfect. A very different beast form the relativity lighter TV adaption that played with tone and atmosphere. A year later and we have the second season known as NEXT and it too had a movie to accompany it:Slayers Return. Like NEXT,Return takes what was a pretty good predecessor and builds a product that blows it out of the water. Everything works,my problems with Perfect are washed away,and it's insanely funny.

Return is almost a pure comedy compared to Perfect and even when things get serious the film is still laughing. It's keeping up Slayers usual schtick of parodying fantasy cliches and anachronisms while taking the piss out of Perfect as well. It takes a one core joke:What if the villains were highly incompetent and runs with it. Admittedly most Slayers villains that aren't major ones use this joke. However here it's taken up to eleven and they really do expand on how bone headed evil can be. Even the super weapon that gets awakened half way through is single minded and stupid. If for nothing else to poke fun at the fantasy genre's high regard for elves as peaceful and wise.

They also have some subtle jabs at hero tropes with only the protagonists being anywhere near competent. The townspeople hold there own against mercenaries,who are slightly competent due to them not being really evil. It takes the main villain doing a face heel turn to make him even close to useful.In the end it even subverts his side switching for a joke. The whole set up leads to quite a few big funny set pieces that I will not spoil but are up there with some of the funniest Slayers moments.

The plot is pretty typical concerning aforementioned super weapon,Naga and Lina's failed attempt to stop it's revival and failing that destroying the beast. It's noting special but most Slayers plots aren't really that ground breaking anyway. The plot is more a backdrop to the comedy and as mentioned above that's where the movie and series in general shine. Perfect took itself a bit more serious and suffered for it with a plot holes. Return keeps the plot simple and benefits greatly for it. I'll admit that it still gives no real explanation for who Naga is and why she's with Lina but even that gets a lampshade hung so it's all good.

This time around editing is much smoother and even gets in on the jokes with some very clever misdirection that leads to a hilarious reveal. The film is shorter and moves at a faster clip which is fine because Perfect did faff about a bit before really getting to the main plot. Gone are random scene ends and replaced with smooth transitions and a much lighter color pallet. It feels more like a Slayers movie,something Perfect didn't quite feel like.

In the end is this movie worth your time:Oh hell yes it is. A vastly improved sequel released alongside a vastly improved second season. Highly recommended for anybody who wants a great comedy. As a side note this is the first of the films to have the author,Hajime Kanzaka, write it. I'd say more on that but that's another review.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Things No One Cares about:Slayers Perfect

A couple of years back I finally watched Slayers at the behest of a friend and I was fine with it for the most part. After that I watched season two and was hooked on the series for life. After the abysmal third season I sat down to watch some of the movies,more specifically Slayers Perfect(released stateside as Slayers the Motion Picture) and I was yet again disappointed. The plot was weird,Naga confused me,and it just didn't feel like Slayers to me. I decided to give it a re watch because I like to re affirm my hatred. However I found that I may have been too harsh on the film.

This was the first of the five Slayers films mostly focusing on Lina's adventures before she meets Goury in the main series. Her companion is the ridiculous Naga the Serpent,Lina's self proclaimed rival. She is a butt monkey that could almost rival Goury and excels at creating golems. I tell you these things because the movie explains nothing about her outside of the rivalry. This is sort of the movie's first real problem:explanation. It just sort of drops you into the story with no real explanation of the characters or who they are. Coming from the TV series all your going to be wondering is where the hell is Lina's regular group and why this weird stripper is following Lina around.

Lina also tends to make some weird leaps in logic near the climax of the movie. Normally she is shown weighing her options and deciding what is best. Here she just decides they have to time travel with no indication of why she thinks that. Nor is there any hint from any other character that that is what they need to do. It sort of goes hand in hand with the choppy editing. Scenes just end abruptly with a black screen and poof next scene. It makes the movie feel disjointed up until the third act where the movie finally gets it together for a bit. The third act throws time travel and Goury's ancestor(?). This tends to be a sticking point for some and for a time I was in that camp. However looking back the whole time travel thing sits fine with me and makes sense. Mind you the method to actually time travel is bizarre but I just chalk it up to more bad editing As for the Goury part I just tend to ignore this since it's never brought up after this movie.

That's what the movie did wrong but what did it do right:everything else. Tone wise it's pretty dark for a Slayers movie but it oddly doesn't feel that out of place. The atmosphere matches this and the movie is fairly dark and scary. Events happen that are just plain eerie,very little background music is played and the color pallet is darker to build up the foreboding. The main villain Joyrock is as terrifying as a Slayers villain can be and has almost won by the time the plot has started. Everything just congeals into this mass of terror that even the comedy can't truly break. Don't get me wrong the comedy is great but it's more there to comfort you. It's wonderful in a weird way.

Looking back this movie was no where near the stinker I once thought it was and has a certain charm to it. It's marred by poor editing and some minor plot holes but it's worth looking past for some great atmosphere and comedy bits. Defiantly not the worst of the Slayers movies but we'll get there soon enough.
Till next time:Stay Positive