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.

Slayers: Conspiracy in Solaria

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.

Another day, another short, mostly action-filled volume of Slayers to try to expand into a review. Lina and Gourry are still searching for a replacement for the Sword of Light, and swords that can cut through ghosts are not really on the same level. Then they hear a rumor (well, beat up a goon to obtain a rumor) that the regent in Solaria is collecting magical swords and other such weapons. Heading there, Lina and Gourry find a city that has lots of armed guards, lots of buildings they can’t enter, and a supposedly friendly regent who… is being guarded by Luke and Mileena, who are also in the city. Needless to say, not everyone is telling the truth, there’s some really creepy demon shit going on behind the scenes, and it’s going to have to come down to a lot of sword fighting and magic battles to get out of this one. Fortunately, this is a volume of Slayers, so we have just the right sort of protagonists to carry this off.

In general, Slayers doesn’t really do flashbacks or prequels – at least not in the main series. There’s a separate novel series that has not been licensed that features Lina and Naga the White Serpent having adventures before she first meets Gourry, and those also got their own anime, but for the most part the two never actually connect to each other. So it’s always interesting to hear Lina talk about these sorts of things. Here one of her minor allies is someone she’s worked with before when a city was about to be destroyed, and she allied herself with several others to stop it. Which admittedly does not sound like Lina, but then this is the novel’s Lina. We also get another mention of her mysterious older sister, and her apparent love-that-borders-on-abuse of her younger sibling. Gourry, sensibly, does not pry further into what is clearly a big trauma for Lina, but we as an audience are very curious.

Speaking of minor allies, we also have Luke and Mileena, which makes me ask… what exactly is their purpose in the story? They’re not really filling the ‘replacements for Zelgadis and Amelia’ role, and for that matter it’s puzzling as to why Zelgadis and Amelia were written out in the first place. You get the sense that the author has something in mind for them, but… given that the first arc took 8 books, and was a fairly loose arc to begin with, I suspect it may be a while. We see more of Luke’s self-declared love for Mileena, and her total disinterest in same. Luke’s sort of a muscle-bound hothead, which contrasts nicely with Gourry’s muscle-bound airhead. This especially comes up when we come across the results of another horrific experiment, one which involves a lot of dead children. It would be interesting to see this developed.

And so, having managed to save the day without destroying the city for once, our heroes are free to wander once more… well, after clearing their names and doing the paperwork. Still good, but this felt like a slighter volume than usual in the Slayers series.

Slayers: The Mystic Sword of Bezeld

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 long last, we are reading Slayers novels that are new to North America… though honestly, sales for the Tokyopop version of later novels in the series were pretty tiny, so I suspect it was new stuff for a lot of readers. This arc also was not adapted into an anime, as they did their own anime-original arc with Slayers Try, a decision not loved by the author, who hated the relationship between Xeloss and golden dragon Filia in particular. Instead, here we see Lina and Gourry, now a twosome again, trying to find a replacement for the late Sword of Light. Sadly, swords like that cannot be found just lying around, and so they’re reduced to chasing after rumors. This leads them to the titular sword, and also to a young girl being menaced by two mercs, two assassins, and seemingly the narrative. Will the sword turn out to be real? Will the sword turn out to be a trap? Will Sean once again spin out 500 words on super short novels that are fun to read but hard to review?

As noted, Lina and Gourry are by themselves at the start of this arc. That said, somehow Amelia and Zelgadis manage to get the biggest laugh in the book, as Gourry’s seeming inability to remember them leads to the illustrator drawing a spectral version of the duo stomping on his head. Instead we’re introduced to two mercenaries who, while they part ways with our heroes at the end of this book, one suspects we’ll be seeing them again soon, if only as they take up far more space on the cover than the supposed victim being attacked. Luke is, to put it bluntly, an asshole, but his heart seems to be in the right place, and honestly, snarking at Lina, the Queen of snark, is something that she could probably use. Mileena is a mage who seems somewhat stoic and mostly is there to be the sensible one and to shoot down Luke’s romantic overtures, though there’s implication that it’s not a complete lost cause.

As for the plot itself, boy, the average life expectancy of anyone in Slayers who is not a main character must be insanely low, and even if you live, you usually end up being homeless, villageless, or cityless. There’s a lot of wholesale destruction here, with villages set on fire, innocent assassins (erm, well, semi-innocent) getting possessed by mystic swords, and a monstrous demon with insane regenerative ability and also the ability to kill folks and keep them in a sort of perpetual zombie state. Good thing Lina has Dragon Slave… which is not good enough this time. And there’s also Gaav Flare, which… no longer works without Gaav, who was killed off in the last volume. Whoops. That said, the way that they do get rid of the big bad at the end is the second funniest part of the book, and also oh so very Lina Inverse.

So yeah, the usual Slayers novel. Good fights, good laughs, lotsa death, super short. Can’t wait for the next one.