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Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5(TV) (2009)
The magical mayhem of The Slayers Revolution continues in The Slayers Evolution-R! With the original cast of The Slayers back together for the first time in over a decade, Lina Inverse and her crew are reunited and doing what they do best - saving the world by almost destroying it! Lina's gang and their new ally Pokota are hot on the trail of the Hellmaster's Jar! It's no ordinary piece of pottery: it holds the soul of Rezo the Red Priest. Opening the vessel and resurrecting Rezo is the only hope Pokota has of saving his kingdom's people. With masked assassins, headless knights, and shifty Xellos in the mix, one thing is certain: destruction is guaranteed!
For more about Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 and the Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 Blu-ray release, see Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on November 23, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 Blu-ray Review
Finishing strong down the stretch, Slayers: Evolution almost rights the wrongs of its predecessor.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, November 23, 2010
Most anime fans possess at least fringe knowledge of the Slayers universe, and the myriad of media crossovers the series successfully leaped in the past two decades. Spanning over 45 volumes to date, Slayers began as a light novel series written by Hajime Kanzaka before becoming a three season (78 episodes) anime series produced between 1995 and 1997. The 13-episode set I'm evaluating today (Slayers: Evolution) offers the conclusion of a self-contained story arch that began in the subsequently released Revolution box set. Airing during 2008, this modern 26-episode collection was produced by the same studio that completed the three initial seasons during the 1990's, inviting a new generation of fans into the Slayers mythology.
After defeating the mighty Zanafarr with the sword of light, Lina and Pokota renew their search for the Hellmaster's jar, believing it holds the key to resurrecting Red Priest Rezo. In their quest, they happen upon an armor clad soul named Nama, who claims to know the location of the jar they're looking for. After a series of comical adventures, they eventually track down a container they believe to be the Hellmaster's jar, though they soon learn the real jar is in the possession of the assassin Zuuma. After learning Zuuma's given the jar to a businessman from the neighboring town, Lina and her crew accept the responsibility of protecting the man and his son, assuming this will eventually lead to another showdown with the mysterious assassin. Their plan works beautifully, allowing them to acquire the jar they've been searching for after all this time. Unfortunately, a power struggle quickly ensues over individual rights to Rezo's captured soul, since Zelgadis was transformed into a hideous chimera by Red Priest Rezo, and Pokota believes Rezo holds the key to reversing the plague on his village. As the two battle for control over Rezo's fate, the soul of the great Priest communicates details of his sordid past to the party, opening new mysteries to be solved. Can Lina Inverse get to the bottom of the situation before it's too late, or is she merely playing into the hands of her old nemesis, the great Demon King?
One of the difficult aspects of reviewing movies or series is admitting you've changed your mind about something. When I made it to the end of the Revolution box set, I couldn't help but feel a bit let down by the entire Slayers experience. I tried to enjoy the comedy by shutting down my brain and developing low expectations from the outset, but it eventually became difficult to push through the lame one-liners, drawn-out gags, and anticlimactic side stories. As you can imagine, I wasn't too thrilled to toss in the follow-up Evolution box set, since I expected 13 additional episodes of the same annoyances. What I discovered instead is an initial five episodes that mirror the tone of Revolution, but quickly give way to darker storylines during the final eight episodes. As a result, I was left with a surprisingly enthusiastic reaction that threatened to tip the scale in favor of a recommendation.
If you happen to be new to Slayers, I'd recommend you read my prior review of Slayers: Revolution before jumping back to this section, since I'll assume everyone knows the typical pitfalls and strengths in the series. What makes Evolution so much better in comparison with earlier efforts is the incorporation of a unique mystery and a genuine stab at tragedy. This isn't simply Lina and her pals goofing around while challenging each other to eating contests (though there's admittedly an episode involving a dysfunctional family of fishpeople). Instead, several members of her entourage experience outrage and grief over revelations poured out by Rezo, emerging as individuals we truly care about for a change. This is a far-cry from the superficial nature of the first 13-episode run, though one has to wonder why it took so long to finally hit a reasonable stride.
In addition to the darker tone, the writing on the final eight episodes seems a bit more polished when compared to the first 18. Mysteries are effectively established from the outset, feeding our desire to know more while forcing us to be patient in letting everything play out. Every time you suspect you're on to something, a bombshell sets you back to square one or serves as a reminder that you're far from learning the entire truth.
In the end, the key question to ask yourself is whether eight quality episodes make the whole thing worth it. Personally, I'm struggling to jump off this fence I've been riding as I write this review, since we've all endured countless anime productions over the years that started strong, but eventually derailed along the way. Slayers does the exact opposite, constantly holding its viewer at arm's reach, before finally settling down for a thrilling climax. I wish I could say the ending justifies the journey, but I'm not quite ready to make that leap.
Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 21Mbps), Slayers: Evolution arrives on Blu-ray as a high-definition upconvert of non-native source material. As a result, the improvements over the prior DVD versions are subtle in comparison with an HD-produced series, making the appreciable gains minimal. Among the primary upgrades, fans will notice increased strength in the richness of the color spectrum, creating a bold, bright picture that rarely delves into murky territory. Black levels also acquire a reasonable boost in depth (though there are still a handful of shots that appear a bit washed out), and contrast differentiation is respectable through the lion's share of the production. Unfortunately, the area where perfection is destined to elude us is in the appearance of mild stairstepping on diagonal lines and an underlying lack of crisp texturing in the animation. Throw in the occasional appearance of edge enhancement and slight banding, and you'll soon realize this won't be counted among the visual highlights in your growing anime collection.
Regarding the animation itself, Slayers has always incorporated a simplistic formula that screams low-budget television anime. Several updates have been made over the years, but we're still talking about a production that pales in comparison with the growing attention to style and detail often found in modern anime. This works to Slayers advantage when we consider the nature of this upconverted release, since it's easier to forgive source related imperfections when they're not sticking out like a sore thumb. In the end, long-time fans won't find anything off-putting about the animation itself, but newcomers to the world of anime should recognize this is far from the pinnacle of artistic design.
Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
On the audio front we have a lossless rendering of the Japanese stereo mix as well as a lossless surround (5.1) track for the English dub. Both versions offer little room for complaint when it comes to clarity and volume balance, but those hoping for an immersive experience should maintain tempered expectations. This is a given on the Japanese side of the coin, since the original source material is restricted to the primary 2 channels in the front sound stage. There's an effective use of separation between these two channels, but it's impossible not to feel a bit underwhelmed during several of the more robust action sequences. Switching to the English language track, you'll immediately notice a higher degree of open sound design that correlates with the 5.1 split, but unlike some of the more recent dub tracks on FUNimation series, we have an underlying reliance on front channel effects. This isn't as bothersome as it could be on a more impressive anime release (Eden of the East for example), so the presence of an average audio experience isn't likely to frustrate most fans.
Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only extras included on the discs are textless opening/closing songs, and a collection of trailers for other releases from FUNimation.
Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Part two of the 26-episode run takes a dramatic turn for the better, elevating the series much closer to recommended territory. One of my biggest complaints with the 13 episode Revolution set was the reliance on outlandish humor and filler storylines that left little lasting value. During the second half, the series undergoes a dramatic tonal shift into darker territory, presenting two storylines that rarely incorporate much comedy. We still find plenty of wise-cracking remarks courtesy of Lina Inverse, and the occasional episode that ventures closer to light-hearted territory, but the mystery involving Rezo's jar finally provided the lasting value I was hoping for. From a technical standpoint the series falls in line with other upconverted Blu-ray replications, offering a visual experience that demonstrates subtle improvements over the DVD counterpart, but can't approach the proficiency of higher-budget offerings in native HD. As such, a decision to upgrade from the prior DVD release might be difficult for all but the hardcore fans.
The Slayers Revolution: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with Slayers Evolution-R: Season 5 (2 bundles)
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