#1 A lovable fantasy setting
Slayers is set in an old-school, swords & sorcery fantasy setting that takes inspiration from medieval history and mythology. Dragons, demons, sorcerers, all mixed in with the right amount of science and technology to create a fun and adventurous world.
The anime is not overly concerned with world-building, but it has the right amount of lore to it to set itself apart and keep viewers interested. By doing so, it can get away with throwing in comedic filler stories in throwaway locales, while also having recurring themes and places it can go back to whenever the main story is ready to advance again.
#2 An unbalanced party
The anime follows the exploits of Lina Inverse, a young woman who has worked her way up to becoming one of the most renowned mages of her time. She’s powerful and intelligent, but also obsessed with material wealth and easily swayed into senseless adventures by the promise of treasure.
Throughout the show’s five seasons, she is joined by an interesting cast of friends, which together make a completely lopsided and non-functioning party that frequently descends into infighting. The handsome knight Gourry needs about 80% of his brain capacity to remember everybody’s names and why he’s travelling with them, Zelgadis is a vengeful half-golem who regularly goes off to do his own (morally questionable) things, and the pint-sized Amelia is a mage obsessed with justice and punishing evildoers.
Even putting aside their incompatible personalities and ideals, that’s still a party of 1 idiot with a sword and 3 magic users. Even irregular additions like Sylphiel and Filia are variations on more sorcerers. Has the writer never played an RPG before?!
Joking aside, the main characters are all very lovable and goofy. They have enough personality and depth to remain interesting for extended character arcs that span several seasons, while also being comedic enough to fit the show’s more carefree episodes and easygoing storytelling.
#3 Stylish 90s animation
Slayers went through a lot of changes since its debut in 1995 and it has been incredible watching its evolution take place. The show always looked fine and, though it has aged, the original Slayers is still a good-looking anime that a modern audience shouldn’t pass up on. Even more impressive, however, is that Slayers has managed to cling to its look & feel for more than 13 years.
Slayers Revolution and Slayers Evolution-R released in 2008 and 2009, yet still feel in line with the aesthetic the series developed in the ’90s and early 2000s. The character-designs, the vibrant colors, the expressive comedy, and magical battles, it’s all still there. These two releases truly feel like a show from the previous decade being revitalized for the late-2000s. There are some modernized touches in there, most notably Amelia’s moe make-over, but these aren’t deal-breakers. At least, not for me.
#4 Ace voice work (eventually)
The animation isn’t the only aspect of the show that sees radical change over the years. Between 1995 and 2009, quite a lot of its voice actors have been swapped out for new talent as the old cast retired. While I can’t comment on the subbed version of the series, the dub eventually finds itself in a good place despite the rocky start.
Lisa Ortiz and Cynthia Martinez both do a killer job as Lina throughout the TV series and prequels respectively, Eric Stuart is a lovable Gourry and stays on for almost the entire franchise, and many of the supporting characters enjoy good performances as well. Zelgadis and Amelia are initially very stilted, with Zelgadis in particular whispering most of his lines, but their roles are inherited by Crispin Freeman and Veronica Taylor midway through season 1, who steer the characters in a much better direction.
Less satisfying is the change Xellos goes through. He’s a mysterious and dubious fellow, always keeping secrets and forging new plots. David Moo delivers a stunning performance as him throughout seasons 2 and 3 before being replaced with Michael Sinterniklaas. Michael is absolutely a good voice-actor, but can’t recreate the iconic sound of Xellos’ voice and that really takes away a lot from the character. Michael’s Xellos isn’t bad, but certainly more generic.
#5 Filler that is… good?
Slayers is a loooooooong series and not all of its episodes actually work towards the overarching goal of each season. There are a lot of filler episodes where the gang just arrives in a village or city and has a short, single-episode adventure unrelated to the overarching plot.
While often a frustration to anime fans, Slayers lends itself really well to these comical one-off stories and never overuses them to the point of frustration. They become a nice break from the main plot, with subjects that range from typical fantasy side-quests like saving a town from some local monster, to pure comedy episodes. My favorite by far came in season 4, where Lina and her friends arrive in a region where the various towns hold an annual competition where contestants roll giant, stone balls to the top of a perilous mountain. Chaos ensues as the main characters decide to join in and end up in opposing villages, turning this cultural celebration into a violent and destructive battle.
The filler episodes generally maintain the same level of quality as the plot-relevant episodes and it’s always a surprise what they could be about. Thanks to their weird premises and great execution, several filler episodes even ended up being more memorable than events from the main plot!
#6 Characters who start off powerful
While many series show a character getting stronger over the course of their adventure, Slayers opts to skip ahead a bit. Though Lina is quite young compared to the stuffy old mages she often meets, she’s already an experienced and formidable sorceress before the start of the series or even its prequels.
She has mastered some of the most destructive spells known to mankind and is already renowned (or feared, depending on who you ask) across the land. Gourry and Zelgadis are similarly top tier at what they do and Amelia, though initially lagging behind, is a quick learner who is soon able to hold her own without trouble. As a result, Slayers turns familiar fantasy foes like monsters and bandits into a laughingstock that get repeatedly and effortlessly trounced by Lina’s group. Real threats like demons, dragons, otherworldly horrors, and powerful villains are on the menu right from the get-go.
It accelerates the story past the token formalities straight into the exciting end-game finales with potentially cataclysmic ramifications. There’s still room for the characters to grow even further and Slayers does a great job at introducing new and interesting threats for Lina to deal with, but I appreciate not having to first sit through several episodes of watching these characters grow into the cool people they eventually become.