Deary me...when I first watched this series I found it somewhat disappointing. However this time I watched it much more carefully. And as a result I've changed my opinion on the show...now I actively dislike it.
It all begins well enough. It seems that the climactic battle at the end of the slayers next series has shattered a magical barrier that restricted travel. And so the kingdoms of the known slayers world, with the kingdom of Seyrune at the forefront, are ready to explore the new world. And thus the crew is assembled again, albeit for very different reasons. Reasons that fade as a dragon attack, and a rather badly timed spell, force them to flee the port on board the last surviving sailing ship.
This is not to be a pleasure ride however. Lina is informed that she's been given central place in a new prophecy that has some wise and powerful individuals rather worried. It seems that a powerful evil force...in fact a really powerful evil force, is destined to rise and put the future of the world at risk. And while these people aren't exactly sure what to make of Lina, or how she could actually have anything to do with saving the world, it seems she may be important. And indeed she is, for various other players in the prophecy come looking for her...and it's not exactly clear who is on what side and for what purpose.
So what do I think went wrong? Well, let me embarrass myself some more by admitting I was a role-player. Role-playing games have the concept that the level of power grows over the course of the game. Sadly a lot of well known role-playing games start to collapse at this point, as the power level grows to be `silly'. You end up with huge forces, immense magical powers and fights to protect reality / the world / the universe. Along the way all the humor, fun and character...not to mention challenge, is lost.
And I think that's what happened here. In each series the power level has grown to be more cosmic, but the heart of slayers has been lost. The fun of slayers was in the fact that all the members of the team were interesting individuals, that it was fun watching them solve problems, make plans and eventually defeat the enemy. And along the way there was some character work and human stories to keep their personalities growing in complexity.
Well, forget that here. Lina is little more than an onlooker for almost all of this series. The players are gods, demon lords and dragon lords. And while Lina is incredibly tough for a human she's just irrelevant at this level. Heck, Xellos even says this, stating, "I suppose you just want to be around until the end. I think this is a bit out of your league you know". Lina is not at the core of her story, she's not leading, planning or deciding and her powers are not enough to effect the outcome. Does this mean the rest of the team get a chance to shine? Afraid not, they're even less relevant than Lina.
In order to test my hypothesis I actually recorded what Lina did during the 26 episodes. I don't think she made any important decisions, but that's hard to argue, so instead I counted her spell usage. Her most powerful spells are the Dragon Slave, Ragna Blade and Giga Slave (in that order). This is the order, and outcome, in which she casts spells during the series.
So there you go, that's the complete list...notice the low number and lack of effect? My perceptions proved right, she does relatively little and with even less success. If they'd told the story without the slayers team it would have been better, but since they're the hero's (in theory) they have to be dragged in. What's even worse is what they are doing, and Lina's one success, don't actually make that much sense. Something they themselves even comment on during the show. Then again, even the comedy relief seems to be able to outsmart them.
This is enhanced by the fact that the writing is fairly weak. The personalities of the team actually go backwards from the style shown in slayers next. Lina is a shrieking harridan, Gourry is simply stupid and Amelia and Zelgadis largely fade from view. And while Xellos is still entertaining the other `forces' who decide the fate of the story are, by and large, pretty dull. The plot has huge holes in it, the core of it is very simple, and the conclusion is sudden and pretty lame. Even the `humor' stories, a slayers tradition, are corny and more about making fun of people or telling silly stories. They do nothing to inject a sense of character, or actual humor, into the series.
It's highly likely I'm being very harsh on this. While I found it an immense disappointment there almost certainly are worse anime than this. And there are some good scenes and moments to be had. Likewise if you get a kick out of awesome powers at work and magic on a thermo-nuclear scale then there's lots to watch here. It's even possible that the element of tortured villain and doomed romance might appeal to some. But I wanted more of what made slayers so special, more of the team and more of Lina being cool and clever. And I got none of that here.
It also seemed to me that the animation moved a step backwards as well. Or it could be that there are so many `epic' scenes that the problems show up more clearly. Regardless it did seem that some of style was reduced, there were moments of sloppiness in the animation and more still frames than was really comfortable. Then again, slayers has never been about high quality animation. The character design for some of the new characters was a bit dodgy, especially the depiction of dragons. The action was almost completely `energy' attacks and as a result had little tactical interest. The voices seemed below par, but that might have been the writing as well. The opening and end music is great (I really like the opening) but there didn't seem to be as much ambient music during the series. Actually the opening animation sequence was good too, with more personality than most of the series.