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.

Slayers: The Dynast Plot

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 review of the last volume, I said that I hoped this one would be a bit lighter in tone. It is, but only a little bit. This is still a series where not being Lina or Gourry gives you a high chance of dying horribly or being turned into a horrible monster. Indeed, one of the surprises towards the end of this book is when some of the cast we’ve met along the way *isn’t* killed off. And we also have Luke and Mileena, who are back for this book but, let’s face it, are there to be off-brand Amelia and Zelgadis – indeed, a joke in the final pages has someone mention how much Lina’s companions have changed. But honestly… I don’t think Luke and Mileena have the plot armor that Lina and Gourry do. Still, the end of the arc is still three books away, so in the meantime we have “let’s look into bad things happening” on a more mild level.

After giving her report on the previous book’s events to a very disbelieving sorcerer’s council, Lina and Gourry are forced… erm, asked to investigate a bunch of lesser demon sightings. Much to their surprise, these turn out to have been taken care of by a “white giant” on the mountainside. then, as often happens with Lina and Gourry, they run into a corpse and the murderer of said corpse, who is rather doggedly trying to eliminate witnesses. The they run into Luke and Mileena, who are with a young man, Jade, trying to save his kingdom from a very familiar person who seems to be putting poison into the king’s ear. Can our heroes manage to solve things with a lower body count than usual? Who’s destroying lesser demons up on the mountain? And doesn’t the resolution of this book seem a bit too easy to be true?

I’ve talked before about the author’s total lack of romance in the series, which seems to stem more from an inability to write it well than anything else. This comes up near the middle of the book when Lina, in a rare moment that’s just her and Mileena, asks why Mileena is always traveling with Luke. Mileena’s response is “because I’m very awkward”, which may be the most romantic thing we’ve heard in the series to date. And that’s not saying much, as you can see. As for Lina and Gourry, all I can say is that when Mileena asks about their relationship, Lina likens her and Gourry to a sex worker and her “gigolo”, which made my jaw drop but I can see her thought process. Lina’s making all the money and Gourry is the “guardian”. It makes sense if you completely remove sex or romance from the equation, and it’s clear Lina has done that.

As noted above, our heroes win, but… they win pretty easily. Even Lina suspects something else is going on here. I’m sure we’ll find out more next time. Till then, hooray for me, who managed to write 500+ more words about some very short fantasy books that are mostly fights.

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.