It's been quite a while since I last got to immerse myself in the world of Slayers, but perhaps contrary to my expectations I've actually found myself rather missing it. Thank goodness then for the arrival of volume three of Slayers Next on my doorstep to fill that small but nonetheless important gap in my anime watching life.
As has been par for the course with these new Slayers DVD releases, this volume seeks to pile on the episodes rather than tempting buyers with lots of extras, and thus this particular disc bundles together a total of seven episodes to be watched and enjoyed, making it the penultimate volume the series. Although all of these episodes deal with Lina Inverse and company's continuing search for the Claire Bible in preparation for their fight against the demon lord Gaav, a lot of the stories contained within are, to a certain extent, stand-alone offerings - Thus, we see the gang indulge in various quests towards their eventual goal, from finding a "spell" that offers up a more than slightly knowing glance at the magical girl anime genre through to a tournament of some kind of magical version of tennis. Oh, and Zelgadis dressed as a woman, if that's your kind of thing.
While the move towards episodes that don't really progress the story in any meaningful way is usually anathema to anime fans, in the case of Slayers it actually doesn't do the series any harm at all - In fact, dare I say that some of these filler-esque episodes have been the most enjoyable of Slayers Next thus far. While this franchise isn't one that takes itself too seriously by and large, it does seem to have a lot more fun when it isn't entrenched in trying to resolve or handle its major story arcs, and thus these more light-hearted episodes allow the jokes and gags to fly thick and fast - It may not be laugh out loud funny all that offering, but Lina and friend's capers are often amusing enough to at least raise a smile and keep your attention.
As we reach the last couple of episodes of this volume however, we do return to the task at hand, with our intrepid heroes coming ever closer to their goal while more is also revealed about Gaav as well as the truth surrounding their near-constant travelling companion Xellos. If you're more interested in the action-oriented side of Slayers Next, then these two instalments will likely come as a relief to you, although to be honest action-packed anime has never been the primary focus of Slayers in the first place.
From a technical perspective, and as with previous volumes, this release does as well as you could expect with its ageing material in terms of both video and audio quality - It isn't great, but it's very much watchable, and the subtitle timings for this volume seemed to be a little tighter than those seen in volumes one or two (which we occasionally a little wayward) which makes enjoying the Japanese audio soundtrack a little easier on both the eye and ear.
It's probably too late to try and sell the merits or otherwise of these classic Slayers episodes to anyone by this point in time, but if you are looking for a late entry to the series then this volume is actually a pretty good example of everything the series has to offer - In essence, a bunch of eminently lovable characters in their own various ways goofing around in the face of vast magical powers that, in all honesty, they should probably take a whole lot more seriously. Thank goodness that they don't though, as Slayers would be all the poorer without its doses of humour delivered with a nod and a wink to the audience.