Reflecting on Reflect, or,
An Essay About What The Heck Is Going On In This Series That You Might Not Have Spotted Yet.
by Stefan Gagne

For the last two years, I've been studying film in college.  Film's an interesting medium, in that on the surface level it can be as entertaining as all get-out, and if it's well made, it's gonna have tons of stuff going on under that surface.  Thematic elements.  Ideas.  Issues to deal with.  Symbols.  You don't even have to reach as far as Freud to find them, that's the fun part, they're right in your face if you know how to look.  Maybe the camera always looks at this one person from above, making them seem small and oppressed, always in danger.  Perhaps there's a repeated phrase between two characters to link them, or two scenes that are awfully similar to make them parallel.  The key is to watch a movie, laugh and cry with it, indulge in the action... and always keep an eye out for the subtle meaning.  Seeing through all the layers makes it not just entertaining, but deeply complicated and satisfying.
I know this is the sort of thing my English teachers were almost begging me to do for years.  Every class asked similar questions.  What does this mean?  Why is this character doing this, not just motives, but ideologically?  What does this say about us as readers and what we hold valued?  Reading into text, film text, or written text is all the same in many senses, but I never believed deep meaning in layers actually existed.  I could write papers, and 'BS' them all the way through and get A's but I never really saw anything in the books I read, until I started looking at film through my classes.  It wasn't easy to accept, say, James Cameron's 'Aliens' as anything other than a great action movie, but after awhile I learned to see this stuff and... well, the whole world changed.  I could see the meaning in a lot of things now.  Not 'you're reading too far into it', far reaching, silly meaning but actual meaning that the director/author probably meant to put there in the first place, and express to the audience/reader in a subtle way.
By now, I've probably alienated or confused most of my audience with jargonic rhetoric.  The point I'm trying to express here is simple, however; Slayers Reflect is an extension of the idea of creating a work with surface level fun and enjoyment of fiction, and incorporating themes that persist through the entire series.  This is also a method I've employed in recent fanfic work like 'Ranma 1/2 : The Ends' and 'Hiroshi and Daisuke are Dead'.  I'd like to run down an analysis of Reflect #4, similar to how I do in my classes on those insane five page papers I have to write every few weeks, and see if I can point out some stuff along the way that you might not have noticed.  I debated if I should do this, since it seems (and probably is) pretty pretentious, but I just couldn't resist.  I'll warn you now, if you haven't read up to and including #4, this is going to be loaded with spoilers; there may be one or two spoilers that hint at future directions, but only in the sense that they're interpretations of what's transpired already.  So, here we go.

There is one large running theme through all of Reflect, and that's the notion of a mirror self.  Not an opposite, precisely, but a 'worst within', as judged by the Lord of Nightmares (#0) to be a counterbalance for anybody who seeks out the lores.  Obviously, Lina's mirror self is our newly uncovered villainess, the twisted and disturbed Lina Inverse from a parallel history.  However, I've designed it so each of the six main characters -- Lina, Gourry, Zelgadis, Amelia, Naga and 'Melvin' -- will bump into their own mirrors.
Lina's mirror represents the one time her luck ran out.  Lina, as Zelgadis notes (#1) lives care free, and often acts without thinking.  The mirror Lina also points this out, that she's only after the Mirror Lores because it seems like a good idea at the time.  This foolhardy attitude is what cost Mirror Lina everything she had.  However, it's not because she used the Giga Slave against Shaburanigdo, which was her last resort; it's the culmination of a life's luck and wild living, how she gets away scott free every time after struggling briefly.  At one point, without learning to mature and take responsibility, that luck will run out.  The Giga Slave was simply the fruition of the ending to Lina's careless life, the riskiest bet she had made to date, which did not turn out well.
As a result, Lina was stripped of every aspect that enabled her to live without growing up.  Her magic burned out, defenseless save a sword; and with the Mazoku ruling her world, with everything hanging on her casting of the spell tainting the world, with all her friends gone, she truly has nothing left.  The worst within, the worst possible outcome, presents itself to Lina in the Oracle Mirror as her careless probing of the mirror and straying thoughts lead her to see this nightmare, break the mirror, and unleash it into this world.
In a way, Naga here represents what Lina would be if she had never seen this vision, which has clearly sent her into a depressive spin.  Lina tosses off a comment that Naga is 'lucky' she could sleep through Gourry's awful driving, in a way noting that she can even sleep through dreams that Lina is being plagued with.  Naga later in the restaurant notes that Lina needs to live like her, not caring what the future holds because she doesn't know what it might hold.  Naga lives the wild lifestyle to the hilt.  However, as we'll hopefully see in later episodes ^_^ Naga's mirror self is not exactly the same as Lina's.
For Naga and the others, the direct way to establish their mirror selves would be if evil twins popped out of mirrors for each of them, but that's just not feasible.  The more interesting way to accomplish this is to have most of them simply meet people who share similarities, but bring out the worst elements of their personality, their background, their past.  People who they could have developed into if certain events or changes didn't take place.  For Lina, if she hadn't gotten the Giga Slave right, she'd turn into her worst self through the tortures of the Mazoku and countless (and thankfully nameless) other horrors.  We've met one other mirror self, however, which is a LITTLE less obvious, and that's Gourry's; The Goon.
The Goon, as is read, comes from the same country Gourry does and believes in the same honesty and integrity he does.  However, Gourry interprets this as 'if you take a job, do your best' and doesn't apply any other discriminators.  When he has the dream sequence, remembering a young girl named Angie, he doesn't see her as having an assigned job in life because of who she is.  He sees her job as a thing she selects, and accepts her openly as a like mind, someone else who wants to be a 'swordsperson'.  So, Gourry becomes a character we can approve of because he accepts others.
The Goon, however, holds so tightly to the gender roles he's learned (and by route of flashback, almost everybody else in Testabourne has learned) that his view is 'if you take the job you're supposed to, do your best'.  He believes in honesty and integrity, but also that people have a place and they need to know their place.  If you break out of what you're supposed to be, like the dissenters that ran off to be married or refused to sack poor people, then you're violating your integrity.  He sees anybody who doesn't play their part as expected under his expectations as being flawed.  So, he demands obedience and submission of Lilly, who offers it because she wants to play her part in the Testabourne way as well.
A key thing to notice here is worked into the dialogue; words like 'Supposed to' and 'Having a job to do'.  More often than not these phrases are used together, but work contradictory.  Lina uses this to explain why she needs to go alone to meet her mirror self, and by following her 'supposed to', she comes into risk.  Thankfully, Naga who was 'supposed to' stay at home broke her expectations and saved Lina's life.  Naga sees her job, as mentioned in the restaurant scene, as being there to keep Lina sane and well, a protective (if slightly demented in her application of annoying Lina to get her out of a depression) job.  To do her job well, she needs to save Lina from the dark forces that wanted to destroy her, not just in the inn (where she saves Lina, but by virtue of being a living distraction) but also at the hilltop.  Also note that the Mirror Lina sees this world as 'supposed to be burned', that this world is the mistake and hers is the reality; a view that is unlikely to be shared with anyone else.  Her assertion that she'll fix this mistake, put everything back 'right', is similar to the Goon's pretension to be able to project his suppositions onto everybody as well.  This assumption is shown to be destructive and unapprovable to the reader.
Gourry lacks these assumptions, and he like Naga sees his job as being to keep Lina from harm.  Gourry has throughout Slayers served as Lina's protector, with a heavily implied and rarely realized romantic tone to it.  But the problem is that Gourry's job is more than he realizes, not just physical protection, but emotional protection as well.  Zelgadis comments (#3) that if Gourry would do his job, Zel wouldn't need to play crutch to Lina's crisis.  Gourry is, in Zel's opinion, supposed to be there for Lina when she needs help, but he's just too clueless to realize when Lina truly needs help. ....or is he?  Occasionally, he saves the day not only physically, but with the rarely placed good idea, such as using his running gag explanation of Zel being the real leader to help Lina deal with a placative Amelia.  Gourry, as he himself says, is not a bright man.  But he tries hard, and often, knows just what to do.
Then there's the fun dream imagery, and the issues surrounding Xelloss.  Xel is a Slayers staple, in the fansubs of Next and Try; secretive, always amused, helpful and harmful at the same time.  And what's more, he's been in this series since #2!  It's not really a spoiler, since you can track him easily by his signature, almost like a vocal fingerprint : secrecy.  He loves to provide help, but withhold key information.  "That is a secret."  When the map salesman is asked various sensitive questions, it is a secret.  When Melvin asks who the mysterious man he bumps into is, that is a secret.. and when Melvin returns to the group, the man who has taken his place seems to be quite secretive and smiling as well.  There are no coincidences here.
What are Xelloss's motives?  He's a very random person, and his behavior matches that.  He interrupts Lina and Gourry's dreams, to tease them, or to save them from being ambushed and killed.  But when he first arrives in Lina's dream, he presents her with a puzzle; the memories of Shaburanigdo and the Giga Slave, plus how lucky she is, how unlucky she is.  This is his way of expressing a warning about Lina's mirror self.  Lina is lucky, the Mirror Lina is unlucky, and their luck changed at that one specific point.  He shows the casting of the Giga Slave, but not the results; the memory skips forward to an ultra-happy, successful moment that only one Lina saw.  He couples that with a return vision of the pillar of Mirror Lores, seen by Lina in Silverquick's dream (#0), to point out -- your worst within is coming.  This is her.

He also interrupts Gourry's dream for similar reasons.  Gourry has a memory, spooled of childhood where his acceptance of everybody leads him to trouble, running from a mob of people similar to the Goon.  He protects the girl Angie, an analog to Lina, a girl who wants to be what she wants to be but can come under fire as a result.  People who pose as a friend, want to be a friend, but will not be a friend for long when they realize you don't agree in full compliance to their views.  When the memory shifts, and he sees a vision of the Goon reaching for Angie, but the Goon has long blonde hair, similar to his own.  The Goon repeats a statement he made about Lilly, that she knows what job she's supposed to take, with new emphasis on SUPPOSED.  Xelloss warns Gourry that the Goon is playing a mirror role to him, what he might have been in he never developed that universal acceptance.
Finally, in the spirit of never doing anything simple when it can be so much more fun ass-backwards, Xelloss sends Melvin home... and takes his place in the group.  He's no actor and he knows it, and does little to hide his identity save tossing in an 'Um' and mocking mentions of running out of allergy pills.  Just to make matters weirder, he sends messages to Lina, his primary object of curiosity, through dreams and even through the mail!  In a way, this freewheeling attitude towards amusing himself and keeping others out of the loop is going to land him in hot water later.  But as for how, that is a secret.
It seems that most of these characters, particularly Lina, Naga and Xelloss, are being punished / will be punished for living in immaturity.  They fail to take anything seriously, get into a lot of trouble, and act on impulse (such as Naga's usual method of finding out information by throttling someone).  However, the Mirror Selves show that while that lifestyle isn't going to get them where they'd like to be, I'm not intending to express that Lina needs to be constantly responsible and cautious and mature.  That would get her to the polar opposite.  Instead, the middle ground is key; having the spark of life that Naga wishes Lina would recover (#4, Restaurant), but also having the sensibility Zelgadis knows Lina needs to learn (#1).  Through these dark experiences, each character meeting the living equivilant of a wake-up call, they'll learn, grow, and emerge out the other side as stronger people.

Before I close, I'd like to point out some of the visual elements worked into the series as well.  I wrote a non-linear story for class a semester back, entirely in HTML.  Originally, it was going to have lots of multimedia whiz-bangs and graphics, but ultimately I ended up sticking to one formula; the story itself, and non-distracting visual elements that just enhance the 'feeling' of that particular page.  The same formula is being used here, giving new page colors for the foreground and background and occasionally a tiled background.
In #4, Midnight in the Hideout of Goon and Evil refers to the midnight conflict that occurs at the climax.  The whole story is framed in black, the night images persisting even in day scenes.  First place is murky and gray in text, with a gray shadowed picture of Xelloss in the 'Dropcap' letter position; his role unknown and mysterious, and capturing Lina's attention through the entire page.  The next page has red lettering, suggested to me by a friend who was prereading (Thanks, Morri) to imply the blood and intensity of the battle that will occupy the central point in the page; the dropcap features Lina and Naga in spellcasting poses, attacking.  (Actually, I might replace that with a different battle/magic Lina and Naga picture.  They look too insanely happy for what's going on...)  Next page, the confrontation against Mirrored Lina (Lina Inversed? as Zelgadis put it) is the primary element, still in the midnight black, but now with the start white letters to match the white hair of Mirror Lina.  There is also a cheesily Photoshopped picture I made, to emphasize the hair and the eyes, while playing down the face and clothes; an interesting bit of trivia to note is that after the fight with Shaburanigdo (The Slayers vol. 3, from Software Sculptors) Lina's hair DOES turn white, but is back to normal when she recovers by the next tape.  The final page, the group has emerged from the darkness of night and the dark elements of the plot to a brief moment of levity, comedic descriptions of the town after the battle, and a bright white background.  The first sentence even mirrors the one on the previous page, describing the light and how it relates; the dropcap has Lina and Gourry in an entirely too cute position, to celebrate their victory and newfound knowledge of the events behind it.
Okay.  Now that I've shown the evidence in the text (and a lot of conjecture) of what's going on underneath the spells, the breast jokes and Gourry getting smacked all the time, here's what I suggest and by all means, feel free to take your own path... head back and re-read what you've read.  Keep a look out for parallel words, ideas, and things relating to the images of reflections and mirrors.  Check out the page colors and how they relate, and so on.  You might see something a little bit differently.
And even if you don't, you just re-read a really killer anime fanfic and had a good time doing it.  Now, I step off the ego soap box, and say; thanks for reading the series.  I love to write it for ya guys.


Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.