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Amazing! The Astonishing Dragon Slave?!
We start our journey to brass fanfare. Our heroine, Lina Inverse, is portrayed in still frame that scrolls across the screen from left to right, and already, there's a gag about her lack of endowment. For those at home, this is a small Japanese lesson. The word no here is a possessive. Akuma no mimi = "the demon's ear", akuma no kuchi = "the demon's fang", but no bust is, clearly, a cross-language joke to play on both of those. The picture burns through, and the title sequence kicks off. Here, we begin with Slayers Revolution! Compared to earlier seasons, an Art Shift is naturally expected. The designs and animation are very modern and fluid. To me, at least, where older animation can be painful to watch sometimes (but still very much worth doing) due to some of the lack of sophistication, the new Slayers seasons are a real treat. Of course, it's not a Slayers opening sequence without a song by the venerable Megumi Hayashibara, Lina's Japanese voice actress. "Plenty of Grit" is the Revolution opening theme, and it too is very modern in style, using the synthesizer for all it's worth. It's broadly effective at conveying the sense of adventure that Slayers captures.
Just before a minute in, we catch glimpses of the characters new to the series: the maid-like Ozzel, the beastman Duclis, the refined Lady Gioconda, and—a few cuts later, the curious, stuffed-animal-looking creature Pokota. What roles they will play in the episodes to come can't be fathomed as yet, but we will see soon enough. And only later, a bit after Zelgadiss gives a most-epic thumbs-up do we catch a shot of the assassin, Zuuma, doing battle with Gourry in melee. To a shot of the Sword of Light falling into the darkness does the opening sequence end.
Where we pick up from that is perhaps not what one would expect. Pirates, you're thinking? Pirates on the open sea? And what kind of pirates leave their treasure on the deck for any deckhand to pick up for stuff into their pockets? The captain also has this utterly non-threatening voice that fails to inspire any dread or fear, at least in this reviewer. This may be a cultural difference, but it's a part that comes across as weakly acted.
Thankfully we're not stuck with pirates and just pirates for very long. With a fireball to herald their arrival come Lina and Gourry—Lina, of course, is standing tall at the bow while Gourry is a one-man rudder crew, and naturally, a salvo of cannonballs won't deter them, either. There is, however, one shot of Lina and Gourry's boat in the midst of the salvo that seems a bit shoddily animated. Lina destroying the cannonballs with a mass Flare Arrow is but a taste of things to come, though. Boldly, Lina crashes her boat into the pirate flagship, introducing herself with an utterly egotistical description of being a beautiful genius sorceress that utterly puzzles everyone. This is where Hayashibara really shines—unlike some of her other roles (particularly Rei Ayanami), she gets to go from full-on shouting to coy, playful banter to quiet contemplation and it's all very natural. Hayashibara's performance alone is a good reason to consider the Japanese audio track. As relations between Lina and the pirate captain deteriorate, a Blam Gush from Lina sends some deckhands overboard, and she floats above the vessel, ready to dive into the fray.
Now, the Slayers world can be a bit anachronistic at times. Is that even really possible when it's not based on our world? Yes and no. Restaurants in a world that shouldn't have refrigeration (outside of the magical kind) is excusable, certainly. The gigantic telescope that Amelia uses to look upon Lina's brawl like she were a foot away might be a bit much. Nevertheless, it's effective, that's for sure.
If you're listening closely, you realize that Amelia makes a pun when commenting on Lina and Gourry's fight, going from sugoi (amazing or cool) to mugoi (cruel, merciless, brutal). Amelia and Zelgadiss are watching from afar on their own vessel, escorting the very mysterious Wizer Freion, whose motives will be revealed shortly. For the moment, he's certain he wants to meet Lina, and Amelia is all too happy to oblige, bringing her fleet into position in the name of justice! to destroy the pirate filth.
We cut back to the pirate flagship, and Lina seems to have had her way with the crew, forcing the captain to the upper deck. Gourry, too, can carve the clothes off their foes in no time, but here we have the start of a Running Gag as Gourry's sword comically breaks in two, and he hurriedly tries to forge it back together. Again, the pirate captain seems to lack all emotion when he chides his subordinate for bringing up the hostage while they're fighting.
Pity that it turned out to be a fish girl. Introducing Miss Mermaid, also known as Kuppi, who, as Lina correctly points out, is being kept as a fishnapped hostage. Kuppi, however, has heard of Lina and her reputation, which triggers a wave of recognition in the pirates. This is Lina Inverse after all, the one who destroyed Sairaag a couple times among other things, a being tantamount to the Devil himself in terms of the chaos and evil that follows her. Funny how no one thinks of her as a beautiful sorceress and instead consider her a force of nature to run very far away from. Even Lina has to idly wonder why all those dark and sinister descriptions trigger recognition when more positive ones fail. Really, Lina, do we have to spell it out? But now it's time for the Saillune navy to move in, inadvertently destroying Lina's ship and making her shriek in a way that must be heard. But Lina's wonder and joy at seeing Amelia and Zelgadiss again contrasts strongly against the girl who growled at the pirate captain when he pointed out she crashed into his ship just like hers has been crashed into. This is all part of an extremely versatile performance.
After brief moments of recognition and reunion, it's Wizer who points out that the pirates are getting away, and for some strange reason they decide to taunt Lina for being flat in the chest while they do so. Guys, come on. Did you not want to live today or something? A Dolph Zork destroys the fleeing boats, and with a deliberately cute expression, Lina poses for her victory. "You won't forget that, will you?" No, Lina. If they do swim to shore, I'm pretty sure they won't. (Eyecatch)
Only Lina Inverse would be so happy about selling a sentient fish for three silver per kilo. Right away, we get to reunion between Lina, Gourry, Amelia, and Zelgadiss. It's just...going to take a minute or two for Gourry to remember their names. Go ahead Gourry. Even if Lina just did say their names, we'll wait. ... ...
No, they're not John, either. That's Wizer Freion, special investigator—ah, that is, inspector to the Ruvinagald kingdom. Admittedly, this bout of insistent terminology must work a lot better where Gratuitous English can be invoked. But that's not the most important thing about Wizer. The cuffs that he suddenly places on Lina's wrists are. It should be noted that Masami Suzuki (Amelia) can be hard trying to sound agitated while maintaining perfectly formal Japanese. It may not entirely work. But that's okay, too, because we have a bit of absurdity to confront here. Lina's crime, for which she's been arrested, is the crime of being Lina Inverse! And no, Gourry, she doesn't want you on her defense team. It should be noted here the lengths Wizer's gone to thus far. He's persuaded (nay, tricked) Amelia's people into letting him meet Lina; he's arrested her. He seems to think she won't be foolish enough to resist, but even if she does, he's brought an army to contain her. No way she'd be so silly as to fight. ...does he really know Lina at all? This goes predictably, of course, and Lina makes her escape with ease, only having to run to avoid cannon fire. Miss Mermaid joins the party for a short time, having escaped being turned into fish paste thanks to the chaos, and Zelgadiss points out that no one would want to admit their army got trashed by a single girl, so if Lina and company can make it out of the city, they're off scot-free.
But of course, Wizer is prepared. He has this specialty turtle-shaped magic tank to confront Lina with, a piece of technology with both the strength and speed of a tortoise, and Lina, with an utterly deadpan expression, muses, "The mobility of a tortoise? In that case, let's just run away!" The total seriousness with which Wizer bemoans that they've "figured out its weakness" is priceless. So Lina and company run away, only to find another contingent of soldiers. The cannon shots of the magic tank are bearing down on them, and Gourry, in his haste to defend the group, breaks his sword on the tank's armor, getting run over for his trouble while he tries to reforge it (told you it was a Running Gag). Zelgadiss is perfectly immune to a cannon blast, but he's holding Gourry, and Gourry is just a charred husk in his hands. The pull-back on this shot (from Zelgadiss unharmed to Gourry burnt to a crisp in front of him) makes it comedic gold.
A combo of attacks from Zel, Lina, and Amelia put the magic tank out of commission, but as Lina winds up for the finishing blow, a voice is heard from above. It's Pokota, mysterious and previously unseen. To everyone's surprise, he starts casting a Dragon Slave and leaves the center of town as a crater to flood with seawater. As Lina bemoans how the "big scene" has been stolen from her, Pokota flies off, seemingly oblivious to her shouts. The ending theme, "Revolution," begins to play its opening bars while Lina shakes her fists in the air, calling out, "What about my big scene?"
Overall, the episode is well-constructed. The first half lets us get (re)acquainted with Lina and her band of merry troublemakers. The second gets us into the plot of Wizer, Pokota, and how Lina is entangled with both of them. Make no mistake: Wizer is a crafty fellow, and for someone to wield the Dragon Slave like Lina, they have to be some kind of match for her, too.
Questions to consider for episode 2:
- Why is "being Lina Inverse" a crime? What reason would Ruvinagald have to declare Lina an enemy of their state?
- Who is Pokota, and what was he doing there? What stake did he have in the battle between Lina and the Ruvinagald forces?
You did not mention Xellos!
Xellos's time will come. And it will be hilarious.
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