A few thoughts regarding Slayers Revolution

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

  • I remember being somewhat disappointed in Revolution when it first came out, but watching it directly on the heels of Try? Once you get past the jarring shift from traditional animation to CGI, it’s so much better.
  • Potoka is kind of interesting as a character because he’s clearly a hybrid of the four main characters: a hot-tempered magical powerhouse like Lina; wields the (replica) Sword of Light like Gourry; royalty like Amelia; transformed into a strange creature by Rezo like Zelgadis.
  • The character he’s most like personality-wise is definitely Lina though, while storywise he most closely resembles Zelgadis: he’s briefly an antagonist who draws Lina into the plot before allying with her, he’s very focused on his quest, and most of the more serious elements of the season have to do with him in some way–all statements true of Zelgadis way back in the first season.
  • Wizer, on the other hand, is rather Xellos-like: a pleasant demeanor hiding a scheming, gleaming stainless steel bear trap of a mind. He prefers observing to getting his hands dirty, takes pleasure in trolling people, and will never ask for help when he can trick you into helping instead. I really enjoy his and Xellos’ occasional scenes where they sort of bond over the shared experience of being the hypercompetent middle management and sometime elite field agents of their respective organizations.
  • They do an impressive job of weaving together characters and storyline elements from unrelated novels into a coherent plot, too. Well done.
  • And most blessedly of all after Try, it’s back to being a comedy series that occasionally touches on surprisingly deep pain or has an impressive action sequence, a register that just works much better with these characters.
  • Seyruun’s military (and, earlier, the pirates, though it’s not mentioned in dialogue at that point) has “Jillas cannons.” I love the idea that Jillas introduced firearms to the “inner world” behind the Mazoku Barrier and is now famous for it.
  • “Ozzel” is “Rezo” backwards, sort of. In a Japanese accent but using Romanji instead of Japanese characters (I’m guessing “Rezo” was probably treated as a foreign word/name and spelled in katakana, but I don’t actually know) it is. Anyway, I can’t remember whether I noticed that on my first watch or if it’s pointed out somewhere next season or what.
  • 13 episodes actually works pretty well as a season length for this show; it forces a brisk pace where even the one-off sillinesses inform the overarching plot–for example, the episode with chimerae made from people’s pets is also our first understanding what Wizer is trying to accomplish and how he’s doing it, as well as the first mention of Gioconda.
  • Odd coincidence: the main villain of the first arc of my Slayers d20 campaign was a warmongering duke building an army of golem tanks. The word being translated as “marquis” or “marquess” is koushaku, which is pronounced the same as the Japanese word for “duke or prince” (though it uses different kanji).
  • More on translating titles of nobility: the variations on the rank above earl and below duke in the English language–the equivalent to Meiji Japan’s koushaku–are a mess. The obvious assumption (which seems to be what the translators of Revolution did) is that “marquis” is the masculine and “marquess” the feminine term, like “count” and “countess” or “duke” and “duchess.” This is incorrect. Actually, “marquess” is a masculine title used only for British and Irish nobility, while “marquis” is the term for a nobleman of the same rank from a mainland European country. The equivalent feminine terms are “marchioness” if the noblewoman is from Britain/Ireland and “marquise” if from mainland Europe. So Gioconda’s actual title should be Marquise Gioconda.
  • So. Much. Grotesquerie!
    • You’ve got Pokota and Duclis being transformed from human into other (admittedly, Pokota is basically a Pokémon and Duclis is no more monstrous than Jillas, but it’s still distortion of their bodies).
    • A freaking living doll in Ozzel, including a head that still works after being unscrewed, arms that turn into blades, the puppet-on-strings way she sometimes moves…
    • You’ve got sentient armor that eats the wearer’s body and soul and eventually turns them into an unstoppable monster.
    • Pokota can unzip his stomach to store things in it. Yet it still demonstrably works as a stomach, including swelling comedically after he gorges himself.
    • Zanaffar gains people’s power and knowledge by eating them.
    • Duclis’ incomplete Zanaffar armor turns him from a snow leopard man into a snow leopard demon centaur.
  • And now, a brief moment of fanwank: The Sword of Light and its replica were effective on Zanaffar because its magic immunity works by shifting its astral body to the Overworld’s astral plane, and they’re based on Overworld sorcery. The Sword of Light didn’t work very well in the first season because (as Phibrizzo VERY briefly comments in Next) its power had been sealed at some point, until he unlocked it. The replica Sword of Light is possible because Darkstar isn’t actually completely dead–five tiny fragments of him remain in the five Darkstar weapons. (See also: Lost Universe. Or don’t, it’s eminently skippable.) That’s also why the weapons worked against him in the climax of Try: while casting a Mazoku’s own spell against them normally does nothing, the Darkstar weapons are part of Darkstar, and thus enable the use of his power against other parts of him. This is foreshadowing the climax of next season: sorcery drawing on a particular Mazoku can be used against that Mazoku, if and only if some part of the Mazoku wants it to work.
  • The title of this series is rather a misnomer. There is no revolution. Quite the opposite: Zanaffar was created for purposes of fighting a revolution against the gods and Mazoku, and Lina rejects it on the grounds that she personally is already an independent nation (unstated: population 2, herself and Gourry) and Zanaffar just wants to set itself up as a replacement god. Which is true–unlike Valgaav, who sought true revolution, Zanaffar’s pseudorevolutionary purpose is to recreate the existing system with itself at the top. Still, this means Lina is once again defending the status quo on the grounds that she personally is comfortable, so what’s everyone else complaining about?

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