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Slayers: Medieval Mayhem: Written by Hajime Kanzaka. Illustrated by Rui Araizumi. New York: CPM Manga, 1999. 1v. (unpaged). $15.95. ISBN 1-56219-913-7.

Fantasy; humor

Adults, teens, older kids; very mild nudity, cartoon violence

NOTE: This book collects issues #1-6 of Slayers.

Lina Inverse is a cute, bubbly sorceress. Gourry Gabriev is a somewhat dim but handsome mercenary. Together they roam the land, taking on jobs and getting into scrapes. The six chapters of this book are individual stories. In Episode 1, Lina discovers that her favorite fish is being hoarded by a local noble, Ludence, to sell to wealthy people. She and Gourry pay a visit, but after a meal of the fish and a couple of bags of gold, Ludence is confident that they won't breathe a word of his scheme to the king. Of course, Lina didn't come on the king's behalf....

The Black Fox, a handsome and talented thief, is the focus of Episode 2. The Fox has stolen the Crystal Goddess from a local rich man, and Lina and Gourry must try to retrieve it. Unfortunately for Lina, the Fox proves not only slippery but persistent; after setting eyes on the little sorceress, the Fox vows to steal a kiss from her.

In "Flaky Messengers," Episode 3, Gourry has agreed to deliver a leather bag. Only problem is, he can't remember where to take it, or even who hired him, except that the man was "a really strange looking fellow." The bag contains a box with the seal of Prince Brochian, who enjoys forcing the magician Vale to dress in increasingly stupid costumes. Brochian charges Vale with retrieving the box and delivering it to its proper recipient ASAP, lest its contents become known. Meanwhile, Lina and Gourry figure they can make more money by selling the box to someone. What does the mysterious box contain?

The two-part "Target: Gourry" has the mercenary attracting the eye of Lady Isabella, who wants to add him to her corps of handsome bodyguards. She makes an attractive offer, but Gourry isn't interested, especially because of the rumors that Isabella feeds disobedient men to a horrible beast. However, a restaurateur is bribed to drug Lina and Gourry, and of course only Lina wakes up at the table. She forgives the restaurateur (who is a really good cook) and sets off, not necessarily to retrieve Gourry but to at least get his sword, which she wants badly. Isabella won't even let her do that, and she unveils the mind-controlled Gourry. Lina defeats him easily enough, but then Isabella turns out to be a master sorceress as well!

Finally, "Werewolf Village" is plagued with a werewolf, which hasn't caused any damage yet but is scaring the villagers. Which villager is the werewolf? And how will they get that person to "come out" when the next full moon isn't due for a month? The answer involves the "Chef Gourry Special."

As may be evident from the synopses, this is a very funny series that combines absurd humor with a little slapstick. For example, Lina's spells have names like "Dare Brando" and "Bomb Split"; people often go flying into the air; Lina and Gourry are involved with good food almost to the point of obsession; and some characters have strange names, like Isabella's commander of her bodyguards, Swanky Hank. Lina is a very appealing character, full of cute attitude and self-confidence. I loved her equanimity when confronted with angry people ready to hack her into bits! Gourry is less of an individual and doesn't quite come off as the "dim mercenary" that he's supposed to be--he doesn't come off as much of anything, though he does participate in the stories sufficiently. But this is really Lina's book.

There are many excellent lines and moments. For example, a mercenary asks Lina and Gourry, "Do you have any clue as to what you're doing?" Their reply: "No, we don't." Or, consider Isabella's tower, filled with ten floors of "experts in martial arts in sorcery." How can Lina get past all those opponents? Answer: She levitates up to the 11th floor window, causing Isabella to do a spit-take when Lina appears and a pause-take when Lina explains herself. There's a running joke about Lina being flat-chested, resulting in a couple of moments of bare breasts; that's it for the "naughtiness" factor. Even the lettering can be funny.

The art is equally playful. Except for a few moments during fights (naturally), it's easy to follow and to distinguish the characters. The "medieval" aspect of the world is humorously violated on occasion with anachronistic images like goggles on thugs, Playboy Bunny ears on harem women, and "Hello Kitty" on Gourry's apron in the werewolf village.

Really an enjoyable book. Recommended for adult and (especially) teen collections; it's certainly appropriate for older children if the two or three (non-erotically presented) bare breasts aren't a concern. (I wouldn't think twice about them myself, but you never know with some parents.)

Buy it directly from CPM Manga!

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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