Review for Fairy Tail: Part 14
Once Funimation announced that they would be entering the UK market themselves, and bringing back the fan favourite Fairy Tail after an extensive hiatus, I was looking forward to its return with eager anticipation. After all, it is one of my favourite long running shonen shows, up there with One Piece when it comes to its characterisation and storytelling. But it turns out that I would wait even longer than I thought, as when Fairy Tail resumed, it resumed with a long stretch of filler. Fairy Tail may be great show, but it doesn’t do well when it comes to episodes created by the animators to fill a gap when no canon manga is forthcoming. Finally, I can say that the Fairy Tail I have been waiting for has returned, as at the end of Part 13, we finally picked up the main story arc again, the extensive Magical Games arc.
The Kingdom of Fiore is a rather special place, a nation of some 17 million where magic exists, is commonplace, and is a commodity to be bought and sold. Those who become proficient in magic are the wizards, and together they form guilds to serve the community, or serve themselves. The most famous, and indeed the most infamous guild of them all is Fairy Tail. 17-year-old Lucy Heartfilia is a wizard, or rather she wants to be a wizard. She’s already skilled in a Celestial magic, able to summon spirits to do her bidding using Gatekeys. Her dream is to be in Fairy Tail, and when she meets a travelsick young wizard named Natsu, and his talking cat companion Happy, it seems like destiny has brought them together. Now Lucy has joined the Fairy Tail Guild, and with its unique roster of wizards, including Natsu, the ice wizard Gray Fullbuster, and the armour wizard Erza Scarlet, and the flying cat Happy, they undertake the toughest, the most challenging, and the weirdest of missions.
Funimation release the next eleven episodes of Fairy Tail across two discs. The Tenrou Island arc concluded with the strongest members of Fairy Tail trapped in a bubble of time for seven years. When they finally returned to Fiore, they learned that the guild had declined in its fortunes and reputation in the interim, that Fairy Tail was now the weakest magical guild, and the new Sabertooth guild ruled the roost. They also learned that a new annual Magical Games tournament had been created to allow guilds to increase their standing, without having to do missions or pick fights. With three months until the next games, the Fairy Tail members opted for some serious training to get into magical shape, only for Lucy and her friends, they got distracted by a welcome back party in the Celestial realm, where one day spent partying equals three months in the real world.
154. For All the Time We Missed Each Other
155. Crocus, the Flower-Blooming Capital
156. Sky Labyrinth
157. New Guild
158. Night of Shooting Stars
159. Lucy vs. Flare
162. Elfman vs. Bacchus
163. Mirajane vs. Jenny
164. Kagura vs. Yukino
Fairy Tail gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, progressively coded NTSC on these Funimation discs. The image is clear and sharp throughout, free of any obvious compression signs, and generally very pleasant too watch. It’s a bright, lively anime, and given that it’s a long running series, the character designs are understandably simplistic, the world design not overly complex. It’s full of primary colours, and the animation itself is energetic, especially through the various spell sequences. Given the number of characters, and the broader nature of the story, the repetitive nature of those spell sequences from the early episodes is a long and distant memory now. It all looks like original animation from beginning to end.
You have the choice between DD 5.1 Surround English, and DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. I sampled the English dub, and found it to be a typical anime comedy dub, high pitched female voices, and loudness and manic intensity substituting for humour. My preference as always was for the Japanese audio track with the subtitles. It too is adequate, although one slight point of annoyance for some may be the lead character of Lucy played by Aya Hirano, who simply supplies another variation of her stock Haruhi Suzumiya tsundere voice. Otherwise it’s a fairly run of the mill audio track, playing the show for laughs, with little yet to stretch the characters. More impressive is the show’s music, which with a pop Celtic theme supplements the show’s magical themes very well, although it is boosted by a wholesale plundering of the classical music archives. The subtitles are clear, well timed, and free of error throughout.
The discs present their content with static menus and jacket pictures.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Cowboy Bebop.
There is an audio commentary for episode 157 with ADR Director Tyler Walker, Larry Brantley (Chapati Lolo), and Steve Powell (Yajima).
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for A Certain Magical Index II.
Being Lucy with Cherami Leigh lasts 15:56, and follows the Lucy Heartfilia voice actor through a day at work, interspersed with an interview.
The episode 163 audio commentary features Tyler Walker with Monica Rial (Mirajane), and Elizabeth Maxwell (Jenny).
You get the new textless credits, the US trailer for this volume (Why? You already own it, trail Part 15!), and further Funimation trailers for Dragon Ball Z, Toriko, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Princess Jellyfish, Hal, and One Piece.
All long running shonen action shows need a tournament arc every once in a while; the target audience gets restive otherwise, and of course, the video game spin-offs need to have a fighting tournament game inspired by said arcs. With Fairy Tail a show about magic, the fighting action can get wholly creative, maybe even more so than Naruto with its magical ninja skills. Either way, the Magical Games are where guilds familiar and new can pit their skills against each other to gain in national standings, and with Fairy Tail languishing at the bottom following seven years without their best members, it seems a sure-fire route to regaining their reputation.
We saw the beginning of this storyline at the end of part 13, some of the preliminaries where the guild members took 3 heavily compressed months out to train up for the challenge, with the exception of Lucy, Natsu, Gray, Erza and their friends, who wasted three months at a party instead. Fortunately they get a reprieve when they run into Jellal’s new unofficial guild, Crime Sorciere. They are Dark Guild Hunters, and they’re investigating the Magical Games for a strange magic that has been sensed there, magic reminiscent of Zeref. In exchange for Fairy Tail’s help, they offer Lucy and her friends a quick power up technique to make up for lost time.
The Magical Games are supposed to be a friendly test of skill, a contest between the guilds to see which is the best, with random events alternating with battles between contestants selected by lottery. Although with over a hundred guilds entering, there is a wacky preliminary test to negotiate first, to see which of the guilds get into the top eight qualifiers. A friendly test of skill, were it not for the fact that Raven’s Tail qualify. Raven’s Tail are the dark guild founded by Makarov’s estranged son Ivan, wholly antagonistic to Fairy Tail, who during the seven year time skip somehow got recognised as a legal guild and can thus enter the games. But it turns out that their enmity to Fairy Tail is still strong, and they care less about winning than they do about hurting and humiliating Fairy Tail, which they begin by nobbling one of Fairy Tail’s team members for the contest.
Any contest against Raven’s Tail becomes more a fight for survival for the Fairy Tail team, and it’s hard to win against someone willing to cheat. There’s one nasty trick that they pull on Lucy that will have you seething at the television, if you have a heart. Of course the fights and the competitions that we get to see in this collection, two days worth out of a five day contest entertain as much as they get you invested, with as much comedy as there is action. There is also the most imaginative excuse for a swimsuit episode I have yet seen in anime.
There is the overarching storyline though, the mysterious magical energy that has caught Jellal’s attention, although this early on in the arc, we get just bits and pieces, hints mostly. The magical games take place in the capital city Crocus, sponsored by the royal family, and we learn that the captain of the royal guard is up to something for which he needs a Celestial Wizard. It quickly becomes clear that it’s not just Raven’s Tail being sneaky and nasty with Fairy Tail.
After that depressing stretch of monotonous filler, Fairy Tail is back to the canon storyline again, and the contrast couldn’t be starker. I was engaged with each episode, entertained, thrilled, excited and moved, invested in what the characters were going through, and cheering them on in the games. Compare that to the Infinity Clock arc, where I couldn’t care less about those very same characters. Fairy Tail is back at its best, and I can’t wait for Part 15 now.