Review for Fairy Tail: Part 18
Things look to be turning topsy-turvy in the world of Fairy Tail, or at least I hope for my sake they are turning topsy-turvy, at least for a little while. Up until now, my understanding of Fairy Tail has been a long running shonen action show, with really great, well-written and entertaining canon storylines, interleaved with some of the worst filler episodes the genre has to offer, elevating even Naruto and Bleach filler in comparison. However, the last canon arc, the Magical Games Tournament turned out to not quite match the standards of earlier canon material. I really do hope that means that the filler episodes will now improve in comparison. I say that, as with this collection, we enter the last long filler arc in Fairy Tail, 25 episodes worth. It doesn’t bode well when the first episode of this stretch is about an annoying cat in a frog suit that gets lost.
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 thirteen episodes of Fairy Tail across two discs. And with the Magical Games tournament over, Fairy Tail victorious, and the dragon threat to the nation averted, our heroes are all set for a new adventure...
200. Droplets of Time
201. A Gift
202. Welcome Back, Frosch
203. Moulin Rouge
204. Full Effort Hospitality!
205. Signal of Rebellion
206. Library Panic
207. Hisui Rises!
208. Astral Spiritus
209. Wendy vs. Aquarius – Lets Have Fun in the Amusement Park!
210. Guild Deck vs. Celestial Deck
211. Gray vs. Cancer! Dance Battle!
212. Juvia vs. Aries! Desert Death Match!
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 Noein.
There is an audio commentary for episode 200 with Tyler Walker (ADR Director), Lydia Mackay (Ultear) and Newton Pittman (Gray).
The audio commentary on episode 205 features Tyler Walker again, this time with Cherami Leigh (Lucy), as they do a Twitter Q&A.
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Selector Infected Wixoss.
Guild Pride: Quatro Cerberus lasts 5:43, and is a redundant guide to the eponymous guild if you’re watching the show, and wholly meaningless if you aren’t.
You get the textless credits, two textless openings and five textless endings, the US trailer for this volume, and further Funimation trailers for Riddle Story of Devil, Buddy Complex, One Piece, Eureka Seven AO, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F, Full Metal Alchemist, Noragami, and Inari Kon Kon.
There was a brief moment there that I thought this stretch of filler might just be the worst yet in the Fairy Tail catalogue, and that’s saying something. The first couple of episodes round off the Magical Games arc, looking at the aftermath and Fairy Tail’s triumphant homecoming, but the first filler episode proper here, Welcome Back, Frosch may just be the most useless Fairy Tail episode to date. In the magical games arc, we were introduced to two more Dragon Slayer wizards, and their Exceeds, the magical talking cats. The most pathetic of them was Frosch, a dim-witted cat in a frog suit, with just one line of dialogue that he repeated ad infinitum. In the first episode he gets lost in a market, and his friends go looking for him. If the rest of this collection stuck to that standard, I would have taken these discs clay pigeon shooting.
Thankfully, the rest of Part 18 is a lot more watchable. After another stand alone filler episode, which chronicles Erza’s first encounter with Bisca, coupled with some pool (billiards?) silliness, Fairy Tail presents us with an anime original arc, which follows on pretty seamlessly from the Magical Games arc. In that storyline, the Celestial Spirits that Lucy is partnered with were, by attacking the Eclipse gate, key in defeating the plan to bring back the dragons. That battle had consequences which unfold in this storyline, the Eclipse Celestial Spirits arc.
All of a sudden, the 12 strongest Celestial Spirits, conforming to the signs of the Zodiac, break their contracts with Lucy, and the other Celestial Wizard Yukina. They’ve decided that they want their freedom, and that coincides with their personalities and appearances doing a complete 180. They decide that humans and Celestial Wizards in particular are their enemies, a betrayal that causes Lucy no little anguish. Naturally Lucy wants her friends back, and so does Yukina, and the guild helps her to this end. Given that genuinely achieving their freedom requires a magical ritual, it becomes a race to find and obtain the necessary Maguffin, and get to the appointed place, Astral Spiritus to stop the Liberam ritual. It comes down to one-on-one battles between the Fairy Tail wizards and the Celestial Spirits, about half of which we see in this collection.
As usual with a Fairy Tail filler arc, the balance between drama and comedy is off kilter, with this set of episodes leaning heavily on the goofy side. Lucy gets tortured (again), this time at the hands of a suddenly sadistic Virgo, Natsu has a flame battle with Loke, Wendy and Aquarius go to a funfair, Cana and Scorpio play a game of cards with rules taken from Mornington Crescent, Gray and Cancer have a dance battle (the episode that the lyric “I’m as serious as cancer, when I say rhythm is a dancer” was written for), and Levy and Capricorn go head to head on a TV quiz.
It’s not going to go down in history as one of the greatest filler arcs of all time, but in a change from the usual state of affairs, this Fairy Tail filler arc is watchable, indeed entertaining as well. I can’t forgive the awful banality of that Frosch episode though!