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 Seasons 1-3 ," a thoroughly hilarious and warped little classic anime that spans three very different storylines. Each of the three seasons blends in plenty of 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.
After Lina robs a bandit gang, she finds herself being pursued by a mysterious Chimera named Zelgadis and his weird minions, and a revered blind priest named Rezo who wants to protect Lina from Zelgadis... or so he says. Fortunately she has the handsome but dumb swordsman Gourry Gabriev to help her out -- except she seems to have her enemies and her allies mixed up.
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. But even after the threat seems to be over, the two of them -- plus a justice-happy princess named Amelia -- end up with a bounty on their heads, dodging a crazy mercenary, and a new enemy lurking in the city of Sairagg...
"Slayers Next" reunites the gang somewhat explosively in the city of Xoana, where Zelgadis is seeking a cure for his Chimera body. But the gang's quest for the legendary Claire Bible is disrupted by the crazed Xoana princess Martina, a sorcerous feud that upends an entire city, the hunt for dragon cuisine, a magical tennis game, a tower of magic dolls and weird obstacles, a city that bans men, and a "mysterious priest" named Xellos who seems to have way more power than an average sorcerer should have.
But the real trouble starts when the gang makes it to Amelia's country of Sairune -- and discovers that a conspiracy of greedy royals and evil Monsters want Lina very, very dead. The gang sets out to discover the reason why on a journey riddled with Golden Dragons, malignant Monsters, and the true form of the Claire Bible. But their mysterious enemies have plans for Lina and her ultimate attack spell... which may bring about the end of the world.
"Slayers Try" has Lina and her friends set adrift at sea during a battle with a Golden Dragon... who also happens to be her latest employer, Filia. Eventually Filia reveals why she has done all this -- a prophecy foretelling a terrible disaster that may destroy the world, which only Lina's sister (or, if she's not available, Lina) can stop. Unfortunately the gang also have a new enemy -- the vengeance-maddened Monster Valgaav, and a mysterious shadowy creature who wants Gourry's Sword of Light.
But after some nasty obstacles, Lina discovers the true intent of Valgaav's new master -- to destroy the Dark Lord Darkstar (yeah, silly name), using five weapons including the Sword of Light. When a clash with Valgaav goes horribly wrong, Lina and her friends end up scattered across the continent, with only a short time to stop the insane Dark Lord from invading their world. And finding the last of the weapons to kill Darkstar will take them deep into the bloody past of the Golden Dragons...
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 are all three seasons gutsplittingly funny, but each one has a really solid storyline and thoroughly enjoyable characters -- including some moments that are beautifully dramatic and tragic too.
Each one has basically two interconnected arcs of epic battles, with plenty of Dark Lords, uberpowered Monster lords, wizard-priests, sword duels, hidden libraries, mystical ruins, devastated cities and the occasional town being ransacked by multicoloured trolls. 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, ranging from a horde of Lina and Gourry clones ("It's... TINY!") to a series of running gags ("That.... is a SECRET"). 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 -- usually they involve a more relaxed tone, with stuff about cursed jars, elderly superheroes, Gourry in drag, and the whole gang dressing up in big silly animal costumes.
Lina is a brilliant fantasy anti-heroine -- she's flat-chested, assertive, hypersensitive and wonderfully bombastic, and even her expanding arsenal of highly destructive spells doesn't make her less endearing. Swordsman Gourry is a good complement to Lina, given his childlike attitude and a tiny brain . And hyperactive princess Amelia is kind of annoying at first, but when she starts balancing out her "justice!" obsession with a healthy dose of reality, you start feeling fond of her.
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. And Xellos is a priceless character -- he flits in and out, causing trouble just for the fun of it, announcing that whatever he's talking about "is a SECRET," and sometimes he even turns against Lina and Co. Despite all that, you end up really, really liking him.
The first three seasons of "Slayers" make up a solid fantasy series that also happens to be a hysterically funny spoof, with brilliantly solid plots and likable characters. Definitely a must-see.