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.
The feature is presented with two audio tracks- a 5.1 English track and a Stereo Japanese one. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used and it is a mostly solid, though not quite inspiring, one. Outside a little minor interference it is free from dropouts or other distortions. The track gets its point across and dialogue is delivered clear so it accomplishes a fair amount for what seems to be such an audio shortcoming in terms of presentation.
Originally starting to air in October of 2009 Fairy Tail is presented in its original 1.78:1 ratio. The encode for the discs is a decent one though not flawless due to the medium with some minor noise, dot crawl, some occasional blur in what should be solid colors, a little aliasing, as well as some color banding present at points. Fairy Tail makes use of a good deal of color and uses more broad than intricate designs which helps minimize the chances for issues to become a large problem. It is in these broad designs that Fairy Tail helps create its atmosphere of making thing appear to be from a simpler time and the video encode does a fair job of carrying its assigned load.
This review is of the DVDs only but the packaging was covered in Chris Beveridge’s review of the Blu Ray portion of the releases review.
As for the DVDs themselves, they use colorful images of Natsu and Happy on the first disc while the second has an image of the five members who will be the key players in the episodes on the disc and at least for sometime going forward.
The main menus for both discs use larger and fuller images of the ones present on their corresponding discs. The sub menus use a job or wanted poster type look with individual images from different episodes or character art. When choosing an option the highlighted one is indicated by being in a bolder black color which switches to red when selected. Each of the menus uses a different instrumental theme as its background piece. The menus are quick to respond to changes in selections as well as implementing selections when chosen.
There are the (almost) standard extras of clean opens and closings here, which are actually doubled since Fairy Tail brings in a new set during the episodes contained on these discs. The real treasure here is for fans of the English dub as FUNimation includes not just one but two episodes with audio commentary by the English dub cast.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
On a certain world where the presence of magic is not uncommon exists the kingdom of Fiore. In this rather medieval appearing culture those who can use magic can attempt to make a living using their skills, usually through the process of joining a guild to pursue different jobs opportunities. Entrance to the more popular guilds can be difficult which only deepens the prestige of joining one of these elite guilds and inspires the dreams and determination of those who work hard to get in.
Among the many people looking to pursue a living using their magic is Lucy Heartfilia, a 17 year old young woman and main female protagonist of these stories. Lucy is a Celestial Wizard, which is a special type of wizard that uses objects shaped like keys to open a door to the Celestial World and summon a being that is connected to the key after the two parties form a pact. For a Celestial Wizard the more keys they have the more power they have at their disposal and Lucy has been traveling and using her skills to acquire these items- either through some hard work, through purchasing or using her feminine charms when she can (this last one doesn’t work often).
Lucy knows that there is a limit to what a wizard, particularly a young one, can do on their own and she has dreams of joining a guild. She is a girl of big dreams which is reflected in her wish to join the guild known as Fairy Tail which is known for the power its members posses, though it is also feared for the lack of restraint and damage its members often leave in their wake. Lucy follows their adventures in a magazine that covers the exploits of some of the various bigger name guilds and is enamored with the way Fairy Tail goes about its business but she has yet to meet any member in person- though this situation is about to change in a way that will alter the course she is currently on.
As Lucy’s travels take her to the port city of Hargeon she learns that the famous wizard Salamander is in town and she goes to see him. She is completely taken in by him but discovers that this is a magic spell when the wizard is interrupted as a young man named Natsu Dragneel and his companion-a blue flying cat named Happy- stumble in but express disappointment upon seeing the wizard. She thanks Natsu and Happy by buying them a meal (which is not cheap with these two) and is going to continue on her path until she trips again across the wizard calling himself Salamander who claims he can get her into Fairy Tail. Despite her reservations she goes along just to have her instincts affirmed that the man is a complete fraud and she is in terrible danger.
Luckily for Lucy, the real Salamander is already in town and while he doesn’t care others are using his name, when he hears the pretender is claiming to be from Fairy Tail he sees this as an unforgivable insult. Lucy suddenly finds herself being rescued from “Salamander” by Salamander- who in turn is the young man Natsu who helped her, however inadvertently, earlier. While Lucy finds her head spinning due to the resolution to events with Salamander her spirit is set even further in spin as Natsu invites her to come with him and become a member of Fairy Tail.
When Lucy arrives at the guild she finds the guild house more than lives up to the group’s reputation as it is a bawdry place where fun, conflict and chaos reign in equal measure. In this environment Lucy will meet some new friends and allies, though she also may find that not all guild members have the same feelings of camaraderie to those other members in the guild. Eventually she will team with Natsu and some others to become one of the strongest teams in the guild as they are placed into a situation where the danger becomes as deathly serious as any of them can imagine. Even if she survives that, will she be able to survive her fight against poverty or even more seriously will some ambitions of one of her allies signal the end of her days in the guild before they even really get started?
Based off a long running manga series from the creator of Rave Master that is up to 29 volumes in Japan as of this writing, Fairy Tail is a series that has caught a good deal of fire in Japan. The anime is now over 100 episodes long and counting and there are two Original Video Animations produced and with a feature film on the way clearly something here has grabbed hold of its audience and left them craving more. The series goes about it business by introducing the cast a bit at a time so that the audience isn’t overwhelmed, which includes the introduction to the world the characters inhabit. The narration sets the scene well and through the process of accepting jobs and Lucy being introduced to this new system explanations of particulars of the world in the episodes seem natural and fluid, rather than just something cobbled together and forced so the audience can follow it.
Where the series really shines is in its characters and their ability to take what comes at them in stride without seeming to shift into different people. They can accept the impossible with a smile and gag but it doesn’t undercut the tension of the moment and characters aren’t suddenly forced to become a level of serious completely different from what the audience has come to accept from them. The balance between humor and tension can be a tenuous one but Fairy Tail usually navigates it with the skill of a talented tightrope walker who has taken center stage.
Fairy Tail is a remarkable return to the almost bygone days of the long running anime series that was able to use a familiar pattern and long running gags to connect stories. It also contains plenty of action to keep fans of that genera interested while not focusing too heavily on a young age group as some other series do. The stories can range between small introduction pieces or longer multi-episode arcs which may not be building to a unified whole but which can entertain anyway. Fairy Tail is a series that has a great deal of heart and some fabulous characters and its structure allows for it to have a broad range of appeal and is definitely one anime fans should give a chance as it has the ability to charm them.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Episode Commentaries
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: A-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 22nd, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.