Review for Fairy Tail: Part 22
And with this release of Fairy Tail Part 22, we’re up to date with the US releases. That’s up to date in terms of content, not in terms of HD releases, as the Blu-rays only got as far as Part 8 in the UK. And there’s still that niggling Manga, locally authored release of Part 9 with the out of sync subtitles and awful video quality that was never corrected. But other than that, we’re up to date. For now that is, as on March 6th this year, the US gets a double header of the Fairy Tail Dragon Cry feature film (which has been announced for UK release), and Fairy Tail Zero (which hasn’t). Fairy Tail Zero is the final selection of episodes of this series so far, comprising episodes 266 to 277, a prequel story, relating the origins of the Fairy Tail guild. Hopefully Funimation will release that here too.
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.
When we last saw the Fairy Tail guild, they were in a whole heap of trouble, as the dark guild Tartaros had unleashed their plan to destroy all magic, and bring the power of demonic curses to the land. But the guild rallied, travelling to the Tartaros headquarters to free their friends. As the battle raged, the HQ was crushed, falling from the sky, but now the Fairy Tail members face the strongest demons in the Tartaros Guild, and they’re hard pressed to stand against their power, let alone stop their use of the ‘Face’ to destroy the world. Meanwhile Gray has a family reunion...
Funimation release the next thirteen episodes of Fairy Tail across two discs.
253. Tartaros Chapter – A Silver Wish
254. Tartaros Chapter – Air
255. Tartaros Chapter – Steel
256. Tartaros Chapter – Final Duels
257. Tartaros Chapter – Wings of Despair
258. Tartaros Chapter – Fire Dragon Iron Fist
259. Tartaros Chapter – 00:00
260. Tartaros Chapter – The Girl in the Crystal
261. Tartaros Chapter – Absolute Demon
262. Tartaros Chapter – Memento Mori
263. Tartaros Chapter – Soaring Above Ishgar
264. Tartaros Chapter – Drops of Fire
265. Tartaros Chapter, Finale – Where the Power of Life Lies
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 Summer Wars.
You get a commentary here on episode 253 with ADR Director Tyler Walker and Newton Pitman (Gray). There is also a commentary on episode 258 with Tyler Walker, Vic Mignogna (Mard Geer), and Janelle Lutz (Kyoka).
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Drifters.
Fairy Tail in the Booth is a disposable 3:15 of PiP actors against the characters they voice.
You get the textless credits, the US Trailer, and further Funimation trailers for Castle Town Dandelion, Ultimate Otaku Teacher, Code Geass, Snow White with the Red Hair, Sky Wizards Academy, and Psychic School Wars.
If there is a theme to this arc of Fairy Tail, it’s one of reunions and farewells. Actually that began with the Eclipse Celestial Spirits arc, where Lucy lost her Celestial Spirits, and she and her friends had to fight to regain those contracts, be reunited with her friends from the Zodiac. In the previous collection of Fairy Tail, Lucy then had to sacrifice her first Celestial Spirit, say goodbye once and for all. That theme continues here, with both Gray, then Natsu, and then the other Dragon Slayers all having their personal, final, and indeed unexpected reunions, followed by tearful farewells. That carries the emotional arc through these episodes, and if you’re a Fairy Tail fan, it will take you on quite the emotional rollercoaster, and might even wring you out. I managed to hold it all together until the final episode in this collection, and a melancholy scene between Gray and Juvia.
It’s a good thing that Fairy Tail’s customary attention to emotional weight and character development is so prevalent in this collection of episodes, as in every other respect, it’s a by the numbers big shonen action finale, with plenty of one-upmanship and levelling up. And as each subsequent arc sees the stakes raised, the enemies getting tougher, this arc is the biggest, boldest, and brashest yet, with the fate of the world, the very fate of magic itself all at stake. It’s the point in other shows like Bleach, Naruto, and even One Piece that I usually find myself drifting off at the histrionic loudness of it all. But because I actually care about the Fairy Tail characters, am invested in what they are feeling, that I remained glued to the screen through these 13 episodes, even when characters like Kyoka and Mard Geer were villain-splaining their evil plans in predictable style.
The Tartaros arc has seen the Tartaros guild of demons, led by Mard Geer, plotting to destroy all magic in the land, an elaborate scheme that had resulted in the destruction of the magic council, and the use of a secret weapon. In this collection of episodes, it is revealed just who these demons are and what their aim is, the resurrection of E.N.D. The ‘Face’ secret weapon is set on an inexorable countdown, and the Fairy Tail members have to battle to prevent its detonation. One annoying aspect to this collection is the battle between Erza and Kyoka, which covers the last few minutes of the countdown, and this takes up all of episode 259. Thereafter we skip back a few minutes to see how all the other battles are going. The problem is that even these subsequent episodes flash over to how the Erza battle is going, essentially repeating footage you’ve already seen, and you begin to suspect that episode 259 is superfluous.
Another issue is with how the arc ends, which in essence is through the serendipitous arrival of higher power. It makes you feel that despite all the effort that Fairy Tail and Tartaros put into their fight, it’s all a little meaningless. One of those higher powers is Zeref, who shows up right at the end, waving the magical equivalent of a get out of jail free card. The other is one of those reunions that I mentioned at the start of the conclusion, and thus feels less like a hand-wave. Still, Zeref’s appearance does drop the anvil of a revelation, of just what, or rather just who E.N.D is, and that makes this collection really worthwhile. It also makes the wait for more Fairy Tail anime, and not just Fairy Tail Zero even more painful with anticipation.
The main Fairy Tail storyline goes out (temporarily) on a high note. It’s an imperfect high note, but it calls to mind everything about this anime that has made it one of my favourite long-running shonen franchises. Given that it was announced last July that Fairy Tail would get a final season of anime in 2018, we shouldn’t have too long to wait for the story to resume, and hopefully Funimation will bring us Fairy Tail Zero in the interim.