Slayers: The Slayers

By Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.

Slayers has had a very long history, both in Japan and North America. In Japan the first novel, this one, came out in 1990. It ran for ten years, then stopped, but recently put out two more novels a couple years ago. These are the ones with Lina and Gourry as the stars. In addition, there are well over 30 novels called Slayers Special (unlicensed, and probably unlikely to be), which started in 1991, and star Lina and Naga. They take place before the main series, and are lighter in tone. Not that the main series is all that dark. This is one of the earliest fantasy comedies out there, and signs of its humor are present throughout this first volume – sometimes to the book’s detriment. And then there’s the anime (based on these novels), which started in 1995, spawned several sequels, and was most old-school fans’ first exposure to the series. Oh yes, and the Slayers OAVs, which started in 1996, also brought out over here. Tokyopop licensed the light novels in the pre-light novel boom, and released about half of them before cancelling the series. Now we have these new books, with a new translation.

Light novels were shorter back in the day, and that shows with this first volume, which barely makes it above 125 pages. Given that the anime spread this out over the first ten episodes, those who saw the anime first may be startled by the fast pace of the books. They may also be startled by Lina Inverse’s first-person narration. For those who are not intimately familiar with the series, a North American anime fandom touchstone, Lina is a powerful teenage mage wandering the land, who quickly meets up with Gourry, a buff blonde swordsman who becomes her protector/punching bag/love interest. Together, they get into trouble. In this first book, that trouble is Zelgadis, a chimera who is searching for a way to turn himself human again, and his minions; and Rezo the Red Priest, a very suspicious and smiling priest (but not THAT very suspicious and smiling priest). Throughout it all, Lina deals with all of this with her magic powers and knowledge, her cunning, and Gourry’s sword, which she really, really wants for herself.

Lina’s narration is great, and really gives the novels a different feel from the anime. Her ego is huge, and she’s constantly praising herself, but she makes sure to subtly puncture it throughout. Fans of Gourry will be surprised at what they see here – Gourry is not a genius, and constantly has to have basic information explained to him, but he’s not a dimbulb either, and he definitely feels more mature than Lina. And, for that matter, more mature than Zelgadis, who may be the fandom’s most beloved character, but boy, does he get off to a bad start here, kidnapping Lina and then telling his goons to rape her. Now, the main reason he does this is so that the writer can make a dumb joke about the way fish people have sex, but it certainly reads like a joke from a different era these days. And then there’s the fights, which are well handled but which the anime, obviously, would make a much bigger deal out of.

Despite a few hiccups, I’m delighted to see the novels back in print in North America. If you didn’t read Tokyopop’s version when it first came out, be aware the 2nd novel was not adapted to the anime, so it’ll be new material to you. Enjoy one of the classic comedic fantasies.

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