It has been nearly nine years since the last Slayers TV release on DVD and I was intrigued to see how Lina Inverse and the gang stood the test of time. While it's not my favorite series, Slayers is a classic anime franchise that I always looked forward to getting my hands on and watching. Slayers Revolution carries on the Slayers tradition: it sneaks in a complicated story while never taking itself too seriously. The episodes are filled with jokes and gags, but then, somewhere in all the madness, the writers slip in a captivating plot that keeps you eager for more.
The Slayers Revolution set contains the first thirteen episodes of the fourth season. The story begins after the events of the previous season, Slayers Try. Lina Inverse and Gourry Gabriev have all but rid the world of bandits, so they have decided to try their hand at battling pirates on the high seas. Their pirate-hunting careers are quickly brought to an end as they are reunited with Amelia and Zelgadiss who unwittingly help Special Investigator Wizer arrest Lina Inverse for simply being Lina Inverse.
Although Lina vindicates her name, in the next episode she is once again hunted by Wizer for destroying the magic tanks of Ravinagald. The tanks are being destroyed by someone who can cast the Dragon Slave spell - Lina's specialty. In an effort to re-clear her name, Lina and her entourage discover that there is someone else around who can cast the Dragon Slave: a diminutive, Pokemon-like, stuffed animal with ear-hands named Pokota.
From this point, Slayers Revolution slowly delves into Pokota's history and takes many twists and turns. Lina finds herself in a nostalgic, frivolous, yet in-depth romp through the Slayers world that includes an evil marquess, sword of light duels, a lost city, a fortress episode that takes a humorous swipe at RPG video games, a mysterious assassin, demon beasts, an epic battle in the finale, and tons of jokes about Lina's flat chest. The story manages to include many old faces from previous Slayers seasons such as Xellos and Sylphiel. Gourry plays the role of the viewer who hasn't watched the show in many years. He has trouble remembering each character and a quick summary is given to jog his memory. Not nearly enough background is offered for new viewers to understand the characters; however, old Slayers fans in need of a refresher will appreciate the CliffsNotes introductions.
The new additions to the cast are hit-and-miss. Duclis is a fascinating villain. His character depth piques the viewer's interest; however, much of his motivation is crammed into relatively little air time. Pokota is a solid character with surprising depth that is developed over the course of the series. When he first appeared I was afraid that he would be yet another impish character, like Xellos, who amply fills that role. While initially abrasive, Pokota's immense powers, Lina-esque explosive personality and intriguing background kept him a fresh and welcome addition to the cast.
Conversely, Wizer is a complete waste of time. He's annoying and the recurring gag of him slapping the cuffs on Lina Inverse every episode quickly wears thin. His ultimate motivation for arresting Lina is downright absurd--even by Slayers' standards.
In typical Slayers fashion, the story arc develops slowly over the first few episodes. By the fifth episode of the set, the story begins hook you in. Then the writers commit a huge party foul by nearly derailing the series with a ridiculous filler episode about a contest to roll boulders up a hill. The next episode starts off as yet more filler about a cruise ship; finally gets the story back on track around the halfway point of the episode. The time wasted on this filler could have been better used to further develop the background of Pokota, Duclis, or even Wizer to make him more interesting. On second thought, just stick to Duclis and Pokota. After the slow middle section, however, the pace quickens and the story really picks up.
By the end of the set, the story doesn't quite measure up to the previous seasons of Slayers, but still manages to be pretty good. Quite often, I found myself eagerly moving on to the next episode. Some of the plot points were not fully developed and feel rushed at the end. Because Slayers Revolution is only the first half of the season and Slayers traditionally finishes strong, I'll refrain from fully comparing it to the previous complete seasons until the next release. I was, however, pleasantly surprised that the ending to this set wrapped up so many loose ends. The final episode is satisfying and there are still enough questions left to whet your appetite for what awaits in the next half of the series.
Video: The video is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen. Slayers Revolution looks great! This is a modern release with sharp, vibrant colors that absolutely pop off the screen. There is some CGI mixed in with the traditional animation, but it blends well and never distracts from the show. I didn't notice any compression artifacts.
Sound: The English language track is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 while the Japanese track is listed as stereo. While the show is focused on the front speakers, the surrounds make good use of ambient sounds such as echoes, music and explosions. I listened to the English dub for this release. Although it has been nearly ten years since the previous release, FUNimation managed to get most of the original voice actors back together again. This dub cast was always one of my favorites and their work in Slayers Revolution is no exception. Lisa Ortiz, in particular, is outstanding with her work as Lina Inverse and is a perfect match for the feisty, confident, and slightly unstable sorceress. All of the characters, new and old, are well cast and there are no voices in the English dub that are overly grating like Naga from the Slayers OVA's.
Extras: The extras in this release are light. Textless versions of the opening and closing credits are the only Slayers related extras. There are also a few trailers for other FUNimation releases.
Bottom Line: This is classic Slayers: lighthearted, fun with surprising story depth that keeps you clicking your DVD remote to see the next episode. There were a couple of filler episodes that nearly kill the momentum of the series, but the show quickly picks up after that. Slayers fans from back in the day will find much to enjoy in this series, but new viewers should start with earlier releases--many of the jokes and character interactions will go unappreciated otherwise. Recommended.