A few thoughts regarding Slayers Try

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

  • This has much stronger and more realistic characterization than the first two seasons.
  • It’s also way, way less funny.
  • Oddly, even though this is the one season that isn’t even loosely based on any of the novels, it comes the closest to the novel characterizations, especially with Xellos, who is way more of a sadist than a trickster here.
  • That’s why it’s less funny: most of the humor in the novels comes from Lina’s narration rather than the characters, but the show lacks that narration, so it exaggerates the characters for humor instead. Lose that exaggeration, and you lose most of the jokes.
  • So what you end up with is an attempt at serious fantasy-drama about ethnic hatred and genocide with the occasional weirdly out-of-place joke. It just fundamentally doesn’t work.
  • But still, good characterization! Valgaav is easily the best antagonist in the series–he has an actual motivation beyond teh evulz!
  • Unfortunately it really can’t handle the themes it’s biting off, so you end up with the (hopefully unintentional) implication that you shouldn’t be like Valgaav and angry that someone SLAUGHTERED YOUR ENTIRE CULTURE AND THEN LIED ABOUT WHY THEY DID IT, you should be forgiving like Filia.
  • Hell, Lina herself endorses incremental (read: no) change as opposed to revolution. She directly lectures a victim of genocide about it. Admittedly, he’s trying to kill her at the time, but still. The show can handle moral ambiguity when it’s being silly; it can’t handle the plain truth that Valgaav is right from his perspective.
  • Because ultimately the hero is the defender of the status quo, which is to say the winners of history, the perpetrators of genocide. Any attempt by the victims to be anything other than victims will be cast as villainy, so they may as well embrace it and go full revolution–or, in 90s anime villain terms, “destroy everything so that it can be reborn.”
  • When I joke about getting to the point where my philosophy is basically that of a 90s anime villain, I’m mostly referencing Valgaav.
  • Ultimately the triumphant argument of our heroic main characters is “Well, we like things how they are, so we don’t care that our fun, happy world is built on the systematic extermination of your people, Valgaav. Fusion magic go!”
  • Yeah, fuck Try. Let’s move on.

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