By Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.
These books came out in the early 1990s, but they got a recent re-release to prepare Japan for new volumes after a long break. As a result, the afterwords from the author that we see here are new. In this one, the author talks about the struggle to make Slayers into a series… as he points out, when you defeat the demon lord in book one, where do you go from there? The answer is that awkward second book, very similar to that awkward second album. Last time I pointed out the anime skipped it, but I’d forgotten that they did circle back round to its events in Slayers Next, a full season later. It’s not hard to see why they skipped it – there’s no regulars other than Lina and Gourry, there’s less humor and more horror than you’d expect from a series like Slayers, and the pacing also feels very odd, ambling along for 2/3 of the book before realizing that it actually has to come to a conclusion.
Lina and Gourry, on vacation in the city of Atlas, are doing the usual (Lina inciting bar fights by punching out creepers, Gourry snarking at her) when they’re hired by one of the local sorcerers to be his bodyguard. The head of the sorcerer’s guild has vanished, so there’s a bit of a power vacuum going on at the moment, and protection from the other side is needed. Lina is, frankly, not all that interested, but she gets more so when they’re attacked by two demons with masks. Fighting ensues… then, when Lina and Gourry go to investigate the competition, they find, buried at the bottom of an underground lake in a crystal prison, the missing head of the sorcerer’s guild. What follows is amazing to Lina and Gourry but not to the reader, who probably guessed what was going on about Page 40. The main surprise is when one of the characters involved DOESN’T die.
It has to be said, the most annoying aspect of this book is how it handles Lina. Gourry is supposed to be the big dumb muscle, though the anime exaggerates that to the poi not of parody. Lina, though, is supposed to be the one who gets what’s really going on. Unfortunately, here she’s got to be unable to make sense of the actual power struggle among the sorcerers in order for the plot to function, and you sort of slap your head a bit when she lets the cheerful obvious bad guy out of his prison and then walks away. She’s clueless. There’s also a lot more grotesque horror than I’d expect in a Slayers book here, with graphic descriptions of body mutations and diabolical experiments. And even then, the obvious payoff – the evil sorcerer is killed in a murder-suicide by his creation – doesn’t actually happen. (The anime fixed this.)
So yeah, overall a disappointment, although Lina’s narrative voice is still a lot of fun. That said, I know the series picks up again soon, and am definitely looking forward to more.