Recently, the first volume of the Slayers novels – which had been translated twice in the past (once by Tokyopop & now by J-Novel Club) received an audiobook review. This was ultimately the impetus I needed to get around to reading this, and this case, listening to the audiobook, read by Lisa Ortiz – the actress who voiced Lina in the English dub of the TV series.
If you’re familiar with the Slayers anime series, the first novel basically covers the “Rezo” arc – with Lina’s first meeting with Gourry after wiping out some bandits, meeting both Zelgadis & Rezo the Red Priest, and ultimately their first confrontation with Shabranigdo (which I had to look up the spelling of), which almost covers the first cour of the series (the last two episodes of the first cour are spent on introducing Amelia). It’s a lot of ground to cover, but the story moves at a tremendously brisk pace.
Revisiting the story as it was originally written surprised by how many memorable moments from the show were filler, and how many I thought were originally filler (or at least an anime original gag) weren’t. For example – Lina George-of-the-Jungling into a tree and responding by quipping “Koala”, followed by Zel dropping a “no-time-for-jokes-Dr-Jones” quip? In the book. The fight with Noonsa in the lake, complete with Zel dropping him with a combo air bubble-plus-fireball spell (complete with the other goons eating him and not saving any for Dilgear)? Anime original.
Perhaps an even bigger surprise to me is… not to drop too big a spoiler – but Lina never casts the Dragon Slave in this novel. Not even once. Zolf does, on Shabranigdo (which he no-sells), but not Lina. This, I think, is a case where the change in the anime is a marked improvement because it establishes for the audience what’s supposed to happen with that spell, so when it doesn’t when it’s cast on Ol’ Red Eyes, it hits as being much more of a big deal. That said, it leads to the minor bummer where you’ve cast Lina’s English VA to read the book, which is told in the first person from Lina’s perspective, and she doesn’t get to cast the Dragon Slave – at least not in Lina’s voice.
Speaking of which – perspective. I’ve read a fair amount of fantasy fiction in the past, but I think I’ve never read anything that is told from this perspective in this way. Specifically, Slayers is a story that is told in the first person by our skilled and competent protagonist who serves as an object of wish fulfillment… who is also a teenage girl. I’ve read some fantasy fiction with a teen girl protagonist – but those characters also had a degree of insecurity over their own competence. The ones who were confident, empowered, and capable of taking on pretty much anything the world throws at them – were either male or adult women.
This also leads to Lisa Ortiz’s reading. Specifically, because the story is told from Lina’s perspective, she’s doing Lina’s voice – and in turn, when other characters (like Gourry, Zell, or Rezo) are talking, it feels like Lisa doing Lina doing an impression of those characters. It makes for a really fun vibe for the overall story.
All of this is helped by the fact that the story is completely self-contained. Admittedly, this is partly due to the author not being sure if he’d get picked up for sequels, but still, having the story finished does also mean that if we don’t get future audiobooks, we still got a complete story.
In all, I had a great time with this book, and especially with the audiobook.
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