The first movie set in the slayers world, and as such it's full of interesting inheritances and differences from the TV series. It's certainly better looking, but I'm not sure it's better.
Meet Lina Inverse the beautiful (but noticeably non-busty) and brilliant (but short tempered) adventuring sorceress. While still a young girl she has mastered some of the greatest magics the world has to offer and now wanders the world seeking fame, wealth power...as well as entertainment and huge servings of food. After all, a growing sorceress needs her lunch(es). She's a wonderfully complex character and deservedly popular amongst the anime community.
Her companion in these travels is not the same team as the TV series as these stories take place as a prequel to those stories. Instead she gets the overly well endowed, minimally clothed sorceress Nahga. Nahga considers herself Lina's greatest rival, Lina jokes about her being a side-kick, with the actual truth falling somewhere in between the two. The one thing that's certain is that while Nahga's magical power is huge she's not nearly as perceptive as Lina. Nor is she as careful in how she uses it, and considering that Lina is of the `oops, was that your city?' school of responsibility this should be regarded as terrifying.
Because in this land magic can be very potent indeed. Monsters and demons exist and combine both brains, brawn and extreme levels of magical power. The land itself is full of good adventuring stand-byes such as ancient relics, mysterious magics and hidden secrets. In other words there's always lots of opportunity for a wandering adventurer to do good...and perhaps grab a bit of loot on the side.
This particular story starts out like many others, with Lina simply travelling along the road when she is brutally attacked by dangerous outlaws. This proves to be a huge error on their part and gives us our first insights into Lina's character. She also meets nahga again, with something less than delight, and is dragged into visiting a mysterious island which is reputed to have the greatest hot springs in the world.
Needless to say all is not as simple as it seems. There's something suspicious not only with the hot baths but with the island itself. And part of secret seems to want to draw Lina into the heart of the problem...although whether to threaten her or enlist her help takes a while to become clear. And, when she discovers the true nature of what is going on, it becomes clear than Lina is indeed one of the very few people with any hope of saving the island.
Actually, writing that synopsis was surprisingly difficult. The reason being that the story actually wanders quite a lot. There's a great numbers of scenes, possibly intended to provide humor or display Lina's personality, that actually end up having no significance to the story at all. The true story only emerges fairly late, and this is largely because one of the protagonists simply gets around to telling her what the problem is. And the core story is actually relatively simplistic. Although slayers TV fans will enjoy a reference to that show.
And before I get into whether the scenes are enjoyable I've got to say something that's good for all the movies. As such I'll end up repeating it in each review, but so be it. And that comment is that nahga is, by and large, more irritating than amusing. And being the simplistic character she is the interaction between she and Lina is quite basic. It pales beneath the fun and hidden depth of the larger team in the TV series. Sure, I can see why they did it, the TV series had more time to work with, but even so I don't think this pairing worked nearly as well as they planned.
Still, given this, and the overly simplistic story, it's not bad. Megumi Hayashibara is doing the sub Lina (the only way to travel) and she's as brilliant as ever, giving the character of Lina great depth and energy. The various encounters give us a good feel for her character, her power, and are generally amusing in themselves. I don't like Nahga, but she's not too bad in this movie. There's a bit of humor, a fair amount of action (which starts light and builds to the conclusion) and some impressive magic. It's certainly quite easy to watch.
The animation itself is far superior to that of the TV series, although that is what you'd expect. The artwork is crisp and attractive, the colors are bright and good and the character designs are detailed and move well. The animation of spell effects is done very well, probably computer assisted, and looks properly impressive. Although major negative marks for re-wording the incantation for Lina's trademark spell...leave `taste' edits for the dub thanks. The only comment I might make is that some of the visual humor, which worked fine in the TV series, doesn't mesh as cleanly with this more complex style. Still, good solid animation that's fun to watch. Megumi is great and the other voices are solid, the music was enjoyable but not memorable or frequent.