Anime, Reviews

Anime Review: Slayers Season 4 (Revolution/Evolution-R)

2015’s revival of Ushio and Tora by Studio MAPPA is not the first revival of an older anime and manga series in the 21st century. In 2008, JC Staff revived the classic fantasy anime series Slayers, with a fourth season after an almost decade gap. The series was was released as a split-cour show, with the first 12-episode cour being subtitled “Revolution”, and the second “Evolution-R”. When the show originally was announced, the big question that fans had was would this show come back with a Dragon Slave sized blast, or would it fizzle like a wet firework?

The show starts off fairly well – Lina and Gourry are still traveling together, and much as with Slayers Try, they have moved on to hunting pirates after having wiped out much of the world’s population of bandits. However, after Lina and Gourry are framed for the destruction of a nation’s Magic Tanks (on the grounds that the damage was done with a Dragon Slave, and that a Sword of Light was also involved). Lina and Gourry know this wasn’t them – they were out at sea, and also Gourry hasn’t had his Sword of Light since the events of Try.

After fairly quickly getting the Band back together, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, and Zelgadis discover that the person responsible is a person named Pokota, an animated plush stuffed animal with tremendous magical power. Our heroes must hunt down Pokota and find out his game – a plan that will ultimately lead them back to the antagonist of the first half of season 1 – Rezo, the Red Priest.

Probably the biggest point of note when watching this series is that this is the first Slayers anime to be animated on the computer. The animation has the same sort of bright, flat color shading that I’ve noticed among a lot of J.C. Staff’s digicel work. Not all of their shows have this problem, as I don’t remember this being an issue on A Certain Magical Index, for example. However, here it feels jarring.

The show, narratively, is structured similarly to the first two seasons of The Slayers. The first half of the series focuses on our protagonists facing a particular evil plot (Rezo in season 1, the assassination attempts against Phil in season 2). Then, the second half of the season the heroes discover a secondary, or in some cases larger plot that builds off of the earlier threat (Copy Rezo in Season 1, Gavv & Hellmaster Phibrizzo in season 2). In this case it’s the Magic Tanks in Revolution, and Evolution-R builds off of that with Pokota’s backstory and how it connects to Rezo.

That said, the second half of the season (and the tail hand of the first half) feels a little heavy on the fanservice – not in terms of risque material, but in terms of calling back to earlier material. Revolution wraps up with another fight against “a” Zanifar (as opposed to the tail end of Season 1 where there was only one Demon Beast Zanifar – and it couldn’t be destroyed, only imprisoned), with the antagonists having a way to make multiple Zanifars. Evolution-R has the return of Rezo, through his soul being trapped in a jar, and with it another fight against a fragment of Shabranigdo.

The one bit of fanservice that feels like it works is with a semi-appearance of Naga the Serpent – in the form of a suit of armor that has had Naga’s soul implanted in it. Naga ends up amnesiac, but rather than being an obnoxious use of this particular trope, it ends up working. Naga’s amnesia ends up opening up some interesting jokes and character beats, from Lina’s history with the character in the OVAs, to the occasionally mentioned fact that Naga and Amelia are sisters, in spite of the two never meeting face to face prior to this series.

I ended up listening to the dub for this series as well, and Funimation managed to get most of the main cast together, with Crispin Freeman still doing an excellent job as Zelgadis, with his dark, threatening growl counterbalanced by some of the utterly absurd moments that Zel ends up running into. The supporting recurring characters, such as Naga, Sylphiel, and Rezo are re-cast. Well, that’s not entirely accurate – Rezo is semi-recast, as Liam O’Brian, who plays Rezo here, played Rezo in one episode of the dub of Season 1. All in all, the dub is very listenable. The Japanese voice acting track is also great, with all of the cast being back there, including Megumi Hayashibara returning as Lina in one of her first roles in her return, and she steps into the role as if there hadn’t been 10 years between Try and Revolution.

The show does make for a satisfying conclusion to Slayers as an anime series, since I doubt we’ll get a 5th season, and it definitely is worth watching if you watched the first 3 seasons, but the level of call-backs makes it a little less worth picking up if you’re new to the franchise.

Slayers Revolution and Evolution-R are available from in a single boxed set.