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.

Slayers: Hatred in Selentia

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.

At last, I have something to talk about. That is not a good thing. The Slayers novels are fast-paced, action-packed, have some interesting fantasy plotting, and Lina and Gourry are fun, but let’s face it, the reason this series is beloved is that the anime took the characters and fleshed them out, made them human. Character development and deep emotional pain is not something that Kanzaka specializes in or is good at. And that’s going to be a problem with this book, whose second half relies entirely on the death of a beloved character and said death driving another character to an extended murder spree, one that I suspect may continue in the next book. There’s just one problem. The emotional impact is taken as read. The author assumes we will be devastated when this character dies, but mostly we’re merely surprised at how fast and pointlessly it happened. And the roaring rampage of revenge is more of a mildly simmering rampage of revenge. Slayers runs on snark and fighting. When there isn’t either of those, it gets into trouble.

Lina and Gourry come to Selentia, a city where religion is the biggest mover and shaker. There’s a high priest as well as four other slightly lower priests. Unfortunately, the high priest has just burned to death in an “accident” that no one thinks is an accident. Lina and Gourry are hired by the Sorcerer’s Guild to investigate, and find that there’s a lot of motive but not a lot of evidence. That is until we get more killings happening. What’s more, Luke and Mileena are here again, being hired bodyguards for one of the priests. Can Lina and Gourry figure out what’s happening and stop it before the entire city turns into a blood-soaked canvas? Answer: no.

Kanzaka apologizes to readers in the afterword for Amelia and Zelgadis not being in this, but for the wrong reason. He states that if they’d been there, they could have healed the fatal wound and thus avoided everything that came after. That said, I think the bigger problem is: this should have been Zel and Amelia, not Luke and Mileena. After being introduced in Book 9, the two of them have had “replacement scrappy” written all over then, despite occasional attempts at depth. Frankly, if Kanzaka had simply used Amelia and Zel in Book 9-14, and had Amelia killed off and Zel go on a rampage, the impact would have been much greater because we actually care about them. And, see, I say that, but I can’t bring myself to believe that either. Because Mileena’s death is so fast, so lame, and so emotionally void that it took me a while to realize it had happened. Kanzaka cannot write depth. And that means this book winds up suffering terribly, because it’s where depth is needed the most.

This second “arc” in the S;layers series will end in the next volume, and I suspect will wrap up Luke’s plot as well. I hope it’s filled with cool action sequences and magical battles. Because really, why else would you read this?

Slayers: Presages of Incarnation

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.

One thing that I don’t think I’ve talked about in these reviews of very short, action filled Slayers light novels is the way that, if you aren’t a major character in the book, your life expec–

“We’ve done that.”

Really?

“Yes.”

Erm… OK, well, I can mention the way that, despite being very short books, these still manage to have over half their content filled with battle seq–

“We’ve covered that as well.”

Ah. Erm… passionfruit?

“We’ve done the passionfruit.”

Sigh. Once again, I want to note that these are good books. I enjoy them, I want to read more of them, but… what the hell is there to review? Maybe if I was reading the omnibuses, OK, but I–

“You’ve actually whined about this before as well.”

SHUT UP! Look, let’s just go to the recap summary, OK?

After the events of the last book, our heroes join up with Milgazia, the ancient dragon, and Memphys, the arrogant elf, to discuss the events of the last few books, and how they’re all pointing to one thing: another Incarnation War is coming. Then, as with many, many other books in this series, some demons show up, try to kill Lina, and blow up the inn she’s staying at, leaving her to take the blame. Because let’s face it, while the books are more serious than the anime, that’s only by a bit. What’s worse is that they immediately have to return to the city they just left. Remember when I said that things ended a bit too well? Well, I was right. Turns out there’s a new Demon along the lines of Xellos in town, and Xellos is Mr. Not-Appearing-In-This-Book so can’t help out. Can Lina and Gourry join forces with the rest of their allies and find a way to survive this?

I think I may have talked about THIS as well in past reviews, but the Slayers books ran concurrently in Japan with a series called Slayers Special, which featured the adventures of Lina before she met Gourry, which is to say with Naga the Serpent. These also got made into several anime. They are highly unlikely to be licensed over here, and seem far more episodic than the main series. I mention this because it was nice to see Lina actually remember Naga, even though her name is very deliberately not said. The reason she comes up is that Memphys’ attitude is very familiar, as is Lina’s contempt for it. Turns out that our arrogant elf is actually covering up some shyness, adn the one who told her to act like a cut-rate Naga the Serpent was… well, was Naga the Serpent. Honestly, the best joke here is that anyone would take Naga’s advice at all.

So we’ve got two books left in this second arc, and I assume they will tie very closely together. As for this one, it feels like a prologue more than anything else. And oh, look, I’ve hit 500 words. Bye.