Slayers Episode 1: High Fantasy Shenanigans

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Slayers is an iconic ’90s high fantasy anime, based on a light novel series by Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi, which began serialization in Dragon Magazine in 1989 (and is currently ongoing); it follows the exploits of a group of companions led by Lina Inverse, a powerful teenage sorceress capable of defeating even the mightiest dragons. Since it is a comedy, Slayers parodies many of the conventions of high fantasy works – the typical high fantasy production (whether it be a book, television series or film) features tales of chivalry, with usually male protagonists fighting against villainous knights-errant, dragons and other antagonistic forces that populate the genre. While Slayers does adhere to genre conventions for the most part, it upends some of them; for example, Lina Inverse happens to be a major character, a sorceress with a penchant for treasure and a self-assured, confident personality. Magic users typically played supporting roles in high fantasy, secondary to the more prominent warrior character who undertakes a mission to save a princess or country from encroaching villainy; thus, seeing Lina in a primary position as a lead character is unique, as it presents the story through the lens of a character who may have been secondary in nature in other works. The first episode introduces Lina in her element, attacking a bandit encampment; she shows no hesitation when attacking, using a powerful explosion spell to ignite the encampment and scatter the bandits. She gathers some of the treasure that the bandits stole, revealing her to be rather opportunistic – Lina does not turn down the opportunity to become rich, and is willing to anger a bandit group in order to achieve her goals. This illustrates how in Slayers, even the main characters have their faults; Lina has a mischievous, conniving personality, where she wanders from place to place in search of wealth, and she will antagonize some spurious people in order to satisfy her desires.

 

Lina’s behavior, as exhibited her in the first episode, contrasts with the somewhat dimwitted Gourry, a mercenary who arrives in the adjacent forest in order to rescue Lina; he initially believed the sorceress to be a beautiful damsel in distress, and dispatched the remaining Dragon Fang bandits in an attempt to save Lina.  When he discovers his error, he sees Lina as a little kid, thanks to her height and flat-chested physique; this, of course, upsets Lina (who takes great pride in her appearance), and it establishes the comedic tone of the series from the outset. After all, Gourry at first believed he was rescuing a stereotypical attractive damsel in distress – the “damsel in distress” trope originates from fantasy and tales of knighthood, wherein the male protagonist undertook a grand challenge to defeat a dragon (or nefarious warriors) and save a princess. Slayers dispenses with this premise by presenting Lina as more physically capable of defending herself; she can defeat bandits by her lonesome, thanks to her sorcery powers, and demonstrates her wiles by defying the bandits when they attempt to recruit her into their group. The bandits, for their part, act like typically marauders – they have a centralized authority structure with a single leader, and when they’re initially defeated by Lina at their encampment, the remaining bandits take the initiative and try to recruit Lina as a prospective member. This shows the bandits as opportunistic in nature; they’re willing to employ the very sorceress who defeated them, as they recognize her power, but also capable of continuing their opposition against her if she refuses. Gourry’s involvement ultimately leads to the complete decimation of the group; one of the bandits is even humiliated when Gourry destroys his clothes, leaving him completely nude.

 

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The episode’s second half revolves around a town’s chieftain recruiting Lina and Gourry in an effort to defeat the Dragon Fangs, the very bandit group that the two decimated in the first half; the chieftain reveals that the bandit leader kept a black dragon as a pet after paying for the creature at a fair many years ago. Thus, the remainder of the episode consists of Lina and Gourry fighting the former leader’s black dragon; however, Lina goes overboard in her final attack, the immensely powerful Dragon Slave spell, which not only kills the dragon but also completely levels the town in the process (leaving it a burnt crater). By devastating the town in an excessive display of mystical power, Lina demonstrates that she is willing to use unrestrained power when tasked with defeating a rampaging dragon; collateral damage didn’t occur to her while she prepared the spell, as she wanted to defeat her opponent by any means necessary. She appears as the imprudent figure in this story – unlike the more chivalrous knights of early fantasy, Lina is willing to display extraordinary force as a means of wiping out those she is assigned to kill, no matter what the consequences, angering the chieftain and the other inhabitants of the town. As said, Slayers is a comedy, and it subverts traditional fantasy conventions by presenting the characters as flawed; Lina is a somewhat avaricious girl who steals treasure and uses too much power in her attacks, while Gourry is a fairly dimwitted mercenary who nevertheless exhibits a desire to cooperate with Lina (despite her opportunistic behavior). With this episode as a first impression, one can imagine similar situations arising in the future; Lina doesn’t seem to have the ability to reserve her power yet, and she is willing to take any wealth she desires.

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