Slayers: The Long Road Home

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.

After the previous volume, which was essentially an anniversary special, Kanzaka seems to have remembered how much fun it was to write Lina and Gourry, and so has returned to Slayers once more to kickstart a new arc. That said, he knows that he’s already used up most of the plots and fight scenes that he can in Lina’s world. There’s only so many times that you can battle a Dynast General and not have it seem dull, you know? Of course, he COULD just give in and write Lina taking Gourry to meet her family, which she’s been trying to do for the last couple of books, but that would involve writing her family, and we already know that characters like Lina’s older sister Luna work better as an unseen threat. As such, this volume DOES start with a battle with a Dynast general… who promptly gives in because Lina’s reputation is Just. That. Bad. Unfortunately, when they emerge from the fight they’re not in Kansas… erm, Zephilia anymore, but in a completely different place.

As it turns out, Lina and Gourry hail from the demon lord side of the continent. There’s also a dragon side of the continent, separated by a strong barrier to keep the two sides from meeting. And now Lina and Gourry, thanks to that annoying Dynast general, are in Ceifeed lands, with no idea how to return home. They spend most of the start of the book trying to decipher the different writing system, figure out the money conversion, and slowly making their way towards a real city. Along the way they run into a spunky young girl, Ran, who may act like a hyperactive tween but also can use wind magic and has an incredibly powerful staff. Unfortunately, as they move along, it becomeds apparent that Lina’s type of sorcery is far more powerful than these foiks are used to… and they want it for themselves.

The main issue I have with this book is that it’s a setup for more books down the line. Ran is a fun character, but we learn next to nothing about her, nor do we know anything about her motivation for traveling with Lina and Gourry. The villains in this book (leaving aside the city guard guys, who are more mooks than anything else) tend to blend together like most minor Slayers villains do, but they certainly show a callous disregard for human life or property… something that becomes more understandable when you realize who they are. Other than that, this is a perfectly decent Slayers book. Lina and Gourry are always fun, and we get to see Lina trying to get past her own reputation even in a place where it doesn’t precede her. The fights are action packed, and if they ever animate Slayers again might be fun to see. It will be interesting to see where this arc goes.

Unfortunately, this book came out in 2019, and there’s no Vol. 18 on the horizon, so we may never see how the arc goes. Which is the most frustrating part of this book, to be honest.

Slayers: A Chance Encounter in Atessa

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.

The Slayers main series ended in 2000, but that does not mean that the Slayers series was abandoned by its author. There are 39 novels (!!) starring a younger Lina Inverse with her traveling partner Naga the Serpent, and these continued until 2011 (that said, don’t expect J-Novel Club to be licensing them anytime soon, I expect). There were also two new anime series, Slayers Revolution and Evolution. And then, in 2018, Fujimi Fantasia Bunko was celebrating the anniversary of Dragon Magazine and wanted Kanzaka to write a new Slayers novel in the main storyline. As such, we’re bringing the band back together, at least for this particular book. Well, the band members who weren’t horribly killed in the 2nd arc of the main series, that is. You’ll be delighted to hear that Amelia and Zelgadis are present and accounted for. And there may be someone else, but I’ll leave that a secret -desu. And the plot? Does Gourry meet Lina’s family? Ha. No. Instead, it’s elf wars!

On their way to Lina’s hometown, Lina and Gourry happen upon a city that if having a problem with bandit attacks. The trouble is, these are very well-trained and adept bandits. In fact, notes Lina, one of them seems very familiar… Meanwhile, the situation has grown so dire that Amelia arrives from Saillune to take charge, and also to fight for justice… mostly in that order, for once. There’s also an elf in town, Alaina, who would be very helpful in resolving things if she did not have severe social anxiety. (She has a terrific cap, though. Really, more characters should wear that cap and NOT be a delinquent.) As for the cause, well, it might come as a surprise to the reader of the old, 20th century Slayers novels, because we’ve had Lina hanging out and being allied with elves before… why are we getting cliched elves now?

Because it’s a Slayers novel, that’s why. This one is definitely in a much lighter vein than the previous couple of books, and the body count, while it is there, is minimal. This allows for some more amusing humor, which can stem from Gourry being dumb or Lina being narratively obtuse (her description of a “light” breakfast was pitch perfect.) As for Amelia, I was pleased to see that she really has matured as a princess and acts it. The novels never really had an Amelia problem the way the anime did, but I get the sense the author was listening to anime fans complaining, as she gets a lot of really cool things to do. Indeed, possibly more things to do than Zelgadis, who feels like he’s there because you need to have everyone there. As for the bulk of the book itself… it’s magic battles. Come on, it’s still a Slayers book. It’s ALWAYS 50% magic battles.

Good news! There is another book coming soon, written in 2019. Bad news for fans of “the gang” – it’s a Lina and Gourry solo book. That said, any excuse to reconnect with Lina is a good one, and this was a decent volume that didn’t show any rust after an 18-year break.

Slayers: The Demon 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.

And so, we come at last to the end of the Slayers novels. Well, not really. This volume came out in May 2000, and after 18 years, a new volume appeared in 2018, and another the year after that. But this book has a feel of “final” to it nevertheless, wrapping up the plot points from the second arc, bringing back a few familiar faces, and even throwing in a hint of romance that doesn’t really go anywhere (which is a step up from the series’ usual no romance at all). It has the usual strengths of the series – the fights are snappy and well-paced, Lina’s narration is fun – and the usual weaknesses – emotional depth from this author feels like he’s reading aloud from a piece of paper. Actually, the most interesting part may be one of the familiar faces. Slayers rarely goes back to look at its survivors, so seeing Rubia again was something of a surprise. Even if it feels like she’s just there to contrast with someone else. Which is true.

Lina and Gourry are finding that demons are popping up more and more often, and their attack patterns are very weird. Indeed, one of the demons seems to be … stopping the other demons from killing the two of them? Then Lina discovers that there’s a doppelganger of herself walking around, and all signs point to (for the third time) the doomed city of Sairaag as being the place to go. They’re helped here by… no, not Amelia and Zelgadis, they’re still absent, but Xellos does show up, and he is his usual self. Milgazia and Mephy are there as well. But the final battle between Lina, Gourry, and whatever it is that’s causing all this will have to be a lone one… if only as they’ve been transported to another dimension!

If you’ve been reading these books, the identity of the villain should not surprise you, and some decent effort is made to remind you of the hints from previous volumes. That said… this is a book which ends with an assisted suicide, with Lina seemingly devastated by having to be the one to do it, but again, it feels very emotionally weak. Rubia, as I noted above, was a surprise, but she’s meant to be there to show what happens when you’re able to let go and move on… even if the answer is “I’m still sad and there’s no one in my life, but I have a greenhouse now”. Possibly the biggest surprise in the book is at the end, where Gourry says he wants to go and meet Lina’s family, which is very much the equivalent of a proposal in this world. That said, it has to be undercut with him talking about wanting to taste the grapes her town is famous for, and sad trombone noises ensue.

Slayers is a series that is very much of the 1990s, and judging it by 2020 standards can seem harsh at times. It’s a classic 90s series in that it was exciting and funny and also made for a much better anime, when the emotional heft could be fleshed out and left to other writers. I wonder what the newer books feel like, with 18 years’ more experience between them? Perhaps we’ll see one day.