Slayers: Delusion in Crimson

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.

It can be somewhat annoying to come at the Slayers novels from someone who grew up with the anime and realize how a huge chunk of them are Lina, Gourry, and one-off characters. Zelgadis and Amelia stuck around for a bit, as did Xellos, but they’re gone now. We’ve had Luke and Mileena come in with an attempt to add a new supporting duo to the cast, but they’re more of the ‘we keep running into each other’ sort than actual party members. They’re also not in this particular book either. We do get a villain from two books ago… but she doesn’t appear, she’s just an offscreen catalyst. It can be rather disheartening. Where’s the wacky fun times? Where’s Lina accidentally destroying things? Where’s Gourry being rock stupid? But this isn’t the anime, these are the light novels. And because of that we get something here which the anime almost never tried to do unless it was a huge world-shattering crisis: we get a straight up tragedy.

Lina and Gourry arrive at a city that is telling any and all sorcerers to report to the local sorcerer’s council at once. Doesn’t say why, and does not appear to be from the government. Lina, who has just been through sorcerers trying to take over a city a book or so ago, thinks we’re seeing much the same thing here, and she’s mostly correct. She teams up with Aria, a young woman who is trying to rescue her sister from the lord who killed her fiancee and forcibly married her, and Dilarr, a passing adventurer who just seems to like Aria, though he does find Lina somewhat terrifying, to her displeasure – her reputation is now that death and disaster show up whenever she arrives. Sadly, this book does not really change that reputation. Once they arrive at the city where Aria and her sister Bell live, we get a Chthulhian nightmare featuring lots of monstrosities and lots of death.

Despite the fact that these books frequently seem as if they’re written without an outline by the author simply going to the typewriter and typing till he stops, there is some decent character work here, particularly in regards to Aria’s sister Bell. Set up as the unwilling victim through most of the book, the reality is far darker than we’d expect. The second ‘series’ of light novels were never adapted to the anime, and this one shows why – the sister who is forcibly married after her fiancee is killed sends her little sister off to safety because she loves her, but also has hatred in her heart, as her sister is safe and can be happy while Bell is trapped. It’s a very real look at family dynamics that can stem from a family member being abused. Unfortunately, Slayers is still a fantasy, not a realistic look at power dynamics and coping mechanisms, so we get a massive bloodbath.

As Lina and Gourry walk away at the end, both are subdued and disturbed, and the reader has to agree. This is on the darker side of the Slayers novels, a series which is already much darker than its anime equivalent. I hope the next book has a bit more jollity.

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