Meet sorceress Lina Inverse -- she's short, flat-chested, brash, loud, eats like a barbarian, ridiculously powerful, and has a temper as hot as her fireballs.
She's also the lovable anti-heroine of "Slayers - The Complete First Season," a thoroughly hilarious and warped little classic anime. The first season blends fantasy spoofs and a solid little story about good vs. evil (or justice vs. evil, depending on who you ask), when our heroes aren't dressing in drag or mugging bandit gangs.
Recently Lina robbed the bandit gang known as the Dragon Fangs of several valuable items, and when the gang's few surviving members attack her, she's rescued by a handsome but dumb swordsman, Gourry Gabriev. But the bandits aren't the only ones after her loot -- the mysterious Chimera Zelgadis and his weird minions want one of the items Lina stole, while the revered priest Rezo wants to stop Zelgadis.
But after being abducted and then freed by Zelgadis (and nearly molested by a giant fish), Lina discovers that she may have her allies and enemies switched around. And as Lina, Gourry and Zelgadis are pursued by Rezo's monstrous allies, they learn the real reason that Rezo wants the statuette -- yes, it's to unleash ultimate evil upon the world, and all that.
After all that, Lina and Gourry find themselves traveling with a justice-happy princess named Amelia, just in time for a bounty to be put on their heads. To find out who their new enemy is, they have to travel to the city of Sairagg -- dodging a crazy mercenary, a manipulative wedding-happy sorceress, a seemingly unkillable wizard, a gay sea dragon, and countless mercenaries and heroes.
But Sairagg only provides more questions, as Lina and her friends -- including Zelgadis and the timid shrine maiden Sylphiel -- confront the sorceress that has a grudge against him. But they're shocked to learn that the mastermind is an old foe that they had previously killed -- and he has a whole new evil plot to destroy the world. And all that.
Spoofs of the fantasy genre are a dime a dozen. The real challenge is creating a spoof that also has a story and mythology all its own -- and "Slayers" succeeds brilliantly at doing that. Not only is the complete first season gutsplittingly funny, but it also has a really solid storyline and thoroughly enjoyable characters -- although admittedly Amelia takes some getting used to.
There are two interconnected arcs of epic battles with Dark Lords and maniacal wizard-priests, with sword duels, hidden libraries, mystical ruins, frequent explosions, devastated cities and multi-coloured trolls ransacking quaint medieval villages. It's a solid enough fantasy series, and it takes the usual fantasy tropes -- big dumb guy with magic sword, sorceress, Dark Lord, plucky princess -- and promptly turns them on their heads.
And there's a lot of humour too, raging from a horde of Lina and Gourry clones ("It's... TINY!") to a series of running gags. At least half the episodes contain and/or end with some kind of massive explosion and possible rioting. And a couple stories wedged between the two arcs are entirely devoted to comedy -- including Lina being bribed to "marry" a rich boy, and the very macho Gourry having to dress as a girl ("Somebody please take my life!").
Lina is a brilliant fantasy anti-heroine -- she's flat-chested, assertive, hypersensitive and wonderfully bombastic, and Lisa Ortiz does an excellent job. Eric Stuart is a little more awkward as Gourry, a swordsman with a childlike attitude and a tiny brain, he improves as the season goes on. Hyperactive princess Amelia is kind of annoying at first, with all her jumping and yells about justice, but fortunately she becomes more likable when they get to Sairagg ("I hate fighting this thing!").
Zelgadis is the best-rounded character of the bunch, since he starts as a semi-villain but soon reveals that his only real goal is to become a human being again. Unfortunately Daniel Cronin voices Zelgadis for the first half of the series, and makes this complex character sound like a depressed stoner. Thankfully Crispin Freeman brings more humour, anger and power to the character after that.
The complete first season of "Slayers" is a solid fantasy series that also happens to be a hysterically funny spoof. Definitely a must-see.