Review for Fairy Tail: Part 20
I’m feeling a little sheepish. I heralded the arrival of Part 19 of Fairy Tail on DVD with a whinge about missing extra features, referencing Funimation’s tendency to have extras as Blu-ray exclusives on most of their current combo releases. I thought it was the new way of doing things, leaving UK fans at a disadvantage, as Fairy Tail is DVD only here. But here comes Part 20, and the extras are back on the DVD discs. In retrospect, it’s probably more down to Part 19 being a 14 episode release instead of the usual 12 or 13. Normal service resumes here, and it’s a good thing too, as we’ve come out of our last, long stretch of filler, and from this point until the end of the series, it’s canon material all the way, aside from a couple of random filler episodes here and there.
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.
The canon material resumes, but before the next big arc, Natsu and Gray are specifically requested for a mission to help rescue a village frozen in a strange form of ice.
Funimation release the next thirteen episodes of Fairy Tail across two discs
227. Morning of a New Adventure
228. Wizards vs. Hunters
229. Art of Regression
230. The Demon Returns
231. Gray vs. Doriate
232. Voice of the Flame
233. Song of the Fairies
234. Tartaros Chapter, Prologue – The Nine Demon Gates
235. Tartaros Chapter, Prologue – Fairies vs. Netherworld
236. Tartaros Chapter, Prologue – The White Legacy
237. Tartaros Chapter, Prologue – Natsu vs. Jackal
238. Tartaros Chapter – Immorality and Sinners
239. Tartaros Chapter – Jellal vs. Oracion Seis
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 Funimation NOW.
You get a commentary here on episode 229, featuring Tyler Walker ADR Director with Nick Landis (Rala), Scott Frerichs (Hiroshi), and Alejandro Saab (Drake).
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for The Boy and the Beast.
The audio commentary on episode 237 features Tyler Walker with Ricco Fajardo (Jackal).
The Guild Pride featurette this time looks at Fairy Tail, for 6:56, but if you don’t know that guild by now, you’re definitely watching the wrong show.
You get on textless opening, 6 textless closings, the US Trailer, and further trailers for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Gonna be the Twin-Tail!!, Yona of the Dawn, Selector Spread WIXOSS, Lucky Star, Assassination Classroom, and Shonen Hollywood – Holly Stage for 49 –.
We’re back to normal, canon Fairy Tail service in this collection, albeit with one minor sticking point. The show eases us back in however, with a seven episode arc that offers the usual light comedy/action/drama with no little heart, without getting too heavy with the narrative, forcing you to take notes for twenty episodes down the line. The story with the frozen giants’ village is short and sweet, and reminded me of all that I love about this series. Mission accomplished, the Tartaros arc proper started, with four episodes of prologue before kicking off the storyline that will take us to the end of this Fairy Tail anime series, some two collections hence. And as always, it’s early days as to which way the story will go, whether or not the series will go out on a strong note.
First is that mission to Sun Village, frozen along with its gargantuan inhabitants in a strange form of magical ice, so impervious to other methods that Natsu and Gray are specifically requested for this mission. To stop them from constantly fighting with each other, Lucy, Wendy, and Erza join them, along with Happy and Charle. What they find is a village that is also now the target of a guild of opportunistic treasure hunters, as well as a dark guild, so not only must the Fairy Tail wizards free the village from the ice spell, but they have to fight the treasure hunters and the evil wizards as well. There’s a call back to the previous story arc, when one of the dark wizards is revealed to be Minerva, formerly of Sabertooth, but now teamed up with a demon called Doriate in the Succubus Eye guild. On the other hand, Flare makes a reappearance, a long haired wizard from the Raven Tail guild who previously gave Lucy a hard time in the Magical Games tournament, but who it turns out comes from Sun Village, and wants to help Fairy Tail rescue her adoptive family from the ice.
The fate of Minerva, and the source of the ice sealing Sun Village all lead into the Tartaros arc, which begins with a Jar Jar Binks trigger warning, “Yousa people gonna die?” The wizards’ lives are indeed on the line here, as Fairy Tail gets as dark and as ominous as it has ever been, beginning with some major, and irreversible changes to the magical world as the Tartaros dark guild make their presence felt. The thing about Tartaros is that its members aren’t exactly wizards as we know them, they don’t even use magic, they use demonic curses, and that instantly has our heroes on the back foot, as Tartaros launches a devastating attack on the Magical Council Era.
Tartaros wants the Magical Council’s secrets, and if they can get them, every magic user in Fiore will be at a disadvantage, unable to stop Tartaros’ rampage against humanity, and the opening four episodes of the prologue merely serve to underline just how tough this new enemy is, and to what lengths they will go to achieve their goals. At the end of the prologue, Fairy Tail come up with a plan to act against Tartaros, but that is immediately undone when it transpires that there has been a traitor in the Magical Council working against them. As this collection closes, it’s quite the cliff-hanger, with Natsu, Erza, Lisanna and Mirajane captive of Tartaros, and one of Fairy Tail’s own turned traitor, bringing a weapon into their midst.
I’m enjoying Fairy Tail again; it’s nice to see the manga balance between action, comedy and heart restored, but there is that one sticking point I did mention earlier. It’s the recaps at the head of each episode, between four and six minutes long each time, useful if you’re watching one episode a week, but tedious and pace-slowing if you’re binge watching, and I feel they are the longest they’ve ever been in Fairy Tail, an attempt to really stretch this material out until the end.