What They Say:
In the Kingdom of Fiore, powerful wizards make their living by joining magical guilds and contracting out their services to become “wizards for hire.” Harnessing the forces of Dragon Fire, Ice, Weaponry, and the Zodiac, four young wizards of the infamous guild Fairy Tail team up to seek their fortunes. Growing stronger with every mission, they travel the countryside helping people and battling rival guilds, but with personalities as different as their magic skills, this team may end up doing more damage than good.
Contains episodes 1-12.
Please note: This review covers only the Blu-ray portion of the discs technical elements from this combo release.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as it contains a bilingual show with the original Japanese language track in stereo using Dolby TrueHD while the English track gets the bump to 5.1 using Dolby TrueHD. The show has a straightforward approach with its audio design in its original form where it uses the forward soundstage well by covering it when the action hits with plenty of sound effects, both from the magic and the physical action, while the dialogue tends to be more center channel based. The English presentation ramps that up a few notches in volume and overall warmth while expanding it a bit with some greater clarity in placement for the dialogue. Neither track is a huge standout since it is standard television fare, but it works well and covers the bases right while avoiding any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this set are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. The show is one with a lot of bright, vibrant colors that really do look great here overall and stand out well. There’s a healthy amount of action and activity in each episode and the bitrate goes high (hello, PS3 bitrate silliness as it reached 49.8 at one point) but it also has a lot of still and quiet scenes where it drops down to the 5mbps range. There’s a slight layer of fuzziness to it at times with the noise but from a standard seating distance and on a big screen, it’s pretty negligible. The show in general looks very good because of its bold colors and approach while avoiding significant problems like macroblocking, line noise and cross coloration. It’s a very good looking TV show in general and the transfer here captures it well.
FUNimation did things up interestingly with this release as the slipcover is a die-cut one that has a large portion of the front of it open. The logo along the bottom helps to give it more definition while the artwork on the keepcase itself shows through very well. The back of the slipcover is the same as the keepcase cover, though darker, as it shows off Natsu as the main character here with a brief but decent little concept summary that sells the show fairly well. A few shots from the show are included as well below it as well as the breakdown of technical information. It’s all laid out clearly here though the text is a bit too soft of a white against the darker background. The keepcase itself has a good piece of artwork along the front of Natsu with his flames out while Happy tags along and it uses a lighter brown for the background that makes it all feel much lighter in atmosphere. The back of the keepcase is the same as the slipcover but again it uses the lighter tone which really works well. Both have their advantage though and each works. The release does have a reversible cover where the left side features a breakdown of episode numbers and titles included in the set while the right side has a full cast shot of the primary characters all together that’s really appealing. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice as it uses the overall framing theme that we saw from the cover, with some bright colors, and wraps it around the whole menu while using clips from action and character sequences throughout the majority of it. The bottom has the navigation strip which comes up during the pop-up sequence and it uses larger characters that are done in similar manner to the logo, tying it all together rather well. While I’m not a fan of full clips being used as menus, this one at least brings in some good elements from the logo and series design to work it. The layout is quick and easy to navigate and submenus load quickly, though the discs did not read our players language presets.
The extras for this release are a bit slim, but I’m enjoying the resurgence in commentary tracks from FUNimation these days as we get more here for the show in addition to the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Hiro Mashima that began in 2006 and is at nearly 30 volumes as of this writing, Fairy Tail is an ongoing series that’s over a hundred episodes at this point that plays in the world of magic and fantasy with some hints of technology and more to keep it all very flexible. Mashima became fairly well known with his previous series, Rave Master, which unfortunately was so poorly handled here with its animation release that it definitely qualified as a disaster, which is sad since it was a fun work. There’s even a fun little nod to Rave Master here as Plue arrives in one of the early episodes. But Fairy Tail is definitely its own work and stands well on its own, earning it the run that it has so far as it definitely fits in with other shows like One Piece and Bleach.
The series, animated by A-1 Pictures and Satelight, has as its glue the character of Lucy, a seventeen year old girl who is also a celestial wizard. In this world, magic isn’t common but there are quite a few wizards out there and they form guilds with a layer of management about it in order to make sure things don’t go bad between them. There are also dark guilds out there that aren’t involved in this hierarchy and they tend to play more along the obviously evil and self-interested manner. Within the country of Fiore, which has a population of about seventeen million, Lucy has come to the guild called Fairy Tail in hopes of joining it. It’s one of the more famous one with an interesting array of characters.
Lucy is what you’d expect from a character of this type in that she’s pretty excited about everything, wants to be a part of the whole thing and loves the entire concept of the guild and the weird way it all works together. Unfortunately for Lucy, she ends up becoming involved with one of the guild members named Natsu, a fire type wizard who has as a friend a pint sized talking blue cat named Happy. He’s sort of the smarter of the two and a little bit of conscience of it all. Natsu is also a bit of a mooch so once Lucy manages to land herself into the guild in an entry level way, he puts himself into her life a bit in a friendly yet oblivious way as they eventually end up forming a team together because they do work well together.
The cast fleshes out a fair bit in these first twelve episodes, adding a couple more guild members that end up forming more of a team with them over time. Gray is the only one that has some background given to him as he’s an ice wizard and is naturally adversarial with Natsu when it comes to just about everything. He has some darker issues to his past that are explored at the end here which helps him to feel a bit more defined, which comes at the same time that he’s starting to warm up a bit to Natsu. He’s also got an amusing quirk of constantly losing at least his shirt, if not his pants. The group also expands a bit when one of the second tier Fairy Tail members returns from a mission. Erza’s considered a female monster because of her prowess and skill which keeps her distant from others to say the least. But she’s a beauty that you can’t quite get close to because of what she’s capable of.
Over the course of the first twelve episodes, Fairy Tail works a mixture of short form stories and single episode stories that shows us more of how the world works. From Lucy’s first mission that’s a simple book finding event that shows more of how varied and open ended magic is here, to a much darker story as they learn that a Dark Guild is involved in trying to revive an old demon in order to just prove something to themselves. Another arc involves a different Dark Guild that surfaces with the intention of taking out the council that oversees the public guilds by using a demon called Lullaby that sounds out its destruction. The stories have a good mixture of action, silliness and general magic that’s used to all come together well. They’re not deep stories at this point, and there doesn’t appear to be an overreaching plot at this point, but it does give us a feel for various ways in which the world works.
The animation for the series is definitely a lot of fun as it’s the kind of bright and vibrant piece that feels really alive. It’s reminiscent of One Piece in a way because of how the show handles itself with designs and the active elements and it captures it well, just taking it in a more brightly colored world. The characters fit in perfectly by being just as outgoing, especially Lucy as she’s an ideal focal point with the way she looks at the world and wants to see it all. I’m a fan of what both A-1 Pictures and Satelight has done over the last few years and what they’ve got going here is thoroughly enjoyable with how its designed. It takes Mashima’s manga and gives it the life that it deserves.
Fairy Tail is popular for a reason and you can easily see why here with these episodes. It serves as a good introduction to the world that the characters inhabit and the way the guild works, magic works and how the friendships are forming. It’s a light, fun and fairly silly piece while still keeping to some relatively serious storylines with a few cute nods and twists to some of them, especially among the first ones. I liked what I saw of Fairy Tail here and it was definitely enjoyable, but it lacks a little something meatier here to make it really work. I can see plenty of potential with it and obviously with it running as long as it has, it’s hit its stride and is looking to join other popular shonen series that have established themselves. It has all the right elements to it and this release should definitely please its fans.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 22nd, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.