Slayers: Gorgeous Review
is an animé show with legions of adoring fans, but I confess that the more I see of it, the further from that camp I wearily trudge. Admittedly, my experience is more or less limited to the various OVAs [original video animations], and the weight of consensus seems to be that the TV series (particularly the later seasons) is vastly superior to these 'feature-length' productions which followed it… so bear that in mind. Oh, and those of you completely new to the world of Lina and Naga may wish to peek at my review of Slayers: Return for a discussion of the story concept before continuing.
Slayers: Gorgeous follows the standard formula to the letter: 1, open with a shot of our intrepid 'heroines' stuffing their faces at a local eatery; 2, cue some odd event which they can stick their noses into; 3, use this as a springboard for getting them involved with people they think they can turn a tidy profit from; and 4, allow them to knacker the whole operation in the most destructive manner possible; before 5, walking off into the sunset, the locals glad to see the back of them.
The idea here is that Marlene, daughter of the king and erstwhile princess, is now styling herself 'Mistress of the Dragons' and is training her massive army of the beasts in preparation for some manner of assault on the kingdom. Of course, Lina Inverse and Naga the Serpent are soon drawn into the conflict and (again, typically in Slayers) end up on different sides. There's some backstory that this OVA barely touches on, but it's pretty sketchy and the story doesn't really deviate from the usual mayhem.
Despite clocking in at only 60 minutes in length, this 'feature' seemed to drag on a bit towards the end and I couldn't bring myself to be very interested in the outcome. Unlike the other Slayers OVAs I've seen, this one didn't even benefit from the inclusion of likeable incidental characters to act as foils for Lina and Naga's greed and gluttony; pretty much everyone we meet deserves what's coming to them.
The news isn't all bad, however… and the fact that the show is presented in an often-crisp 16:9 theatrical aspect ratio is a relief. Alas, no anamorphic print exists for this title, so we're talking letterboxing here, with the usual 'black bars' matting the display out to full frame (4:3). Considering the brief running time, it's no surprise that Gorgeous comes to us on a single-layer (DVD5) disc, but there's plenty of spare bitrate to keep macroblocking at bay.
That said, the picture quality does compare poorly to the other Slayers OVAs I've seen... and at times comes across even worse than the handful of TV episodes I've caught over the years. The most evident problem is a pervasive 'softness' to the print, which ensures that even scenes which should look very sharp indeed come across as rather nebulous. Also, whilst most Slayers productions are notable for having a very bright and vivid palette, Gorgeous' is downright dingy in many places, which adds to the general feeling of murkiness in the video.
The above would be unfortunate enough, but the list continues; lesser issues include pronounced 'jaggies' during camera pans (particularly vertical ones) and some shimmering where characters meet background. And let's not forget the usual faint grain, which whilst present isn't actually that much of a worry. Overall, it's perfectly watchable but I wouldn't grade the video quality as being much above VHS, personally.
Thankfully, there aren't any spectacular failings to report in the audio department. Then again, nor is this a DVD that will showcase your surround speakers, if you have them. Gorgeous features a heavily 'front-and-centre' sound presentation, with almost no left/right directionality. (In fact, I'd say the only times you'll notice stereo separation are when background music is playing.)
Nonetheless, this bilingual disc offers the original Japanese Dolby 2.0 soundtrack as well as a serviceable English 2.0 dub track, and neither of these evince any problems with dialogue dropping out or competing for prominence with the sound effects/music, so that's good.
Menus & Extras
I've mentioned the extremely basic menus on these Slayers DVDs before, so hopefully no one will be shocked to learn that Gorgeous features a lifeless static main menu with short music clip looping beneath. The only benefit of putting so few bells and whistles into a disc menu is that it is very responsive, and that is borne out with this one too.
Nor will you be falling all over yourself to get at the special features, as there aren't any 'real' extras here. There are, however, brief trailers available for all of the Slayers OVAs, not to mention ADV previews for Final Fantasy: Unlimited, Angelic Layer, Azumanga Daioh, Rune Soldier, and You're Under Arrest.
Again, while the Slayers TV series may be a truly wonderful thing to behold, in my opinion this OVA (like the others I've seen) simply isn't. It will probably be better received by those who have never been exposed to Slayers before, as many of the jokes will seem fairly stale otherwise.