What They Say:
Forced to face her demons at the Tower of Heaven, Erza is in real danger of becoming a live sacrifice in Jellal’s demented plan – which spells disaster for Fairy Tail’s strongest team! As the Council prepares to wipe out the island with the Etherion beam, Erza’s allies endure a heart-wrenching battle to get her back!
Big surprises await the comrades as they return for Magnolia’s annual Harvest Festival. But the celebrations are cut short when Master Makarov’s grandson hotwires a contest to determine who’s the fiercest wizard in a supercharged scheme to take over the guild!
Contains episodes 37-48.
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 continues to do 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 Erza 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 and Laxus together as the two of them go at it. 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 length shot of Erza in her slimmed down outfit as she wields two swords from one of the bigger scenes for herin this set.
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 one 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)
While it may have taken awhile, I really have tos ay that Fairy Tail has grown on me. There was some level of fun to it over the first three sets as we got the basic characters, the settings and the kind of loose and free style when it comes to how magic operates in this world. What made it harder to get into is that while they did spend time with individual characters along the way to go into their back story, it really felt like an ensemble piece in a big way where you could have characters off screen for awhile and not used for the current storyline. It kept me from really connecting with any of the characters, leaving it to be a fairly superficial experience overall. Not bad, as I enjoyed it, but it didn’t really engage me completely like this set managed to.
Similar to the previous two sets, this one starts off in the middle of the story that that began in the last volume, though at least the second one here does bring things to a sense of closure as it doesn’t bleed heavily into the next round of episodes, which as of this writing are unlicensed. The second half of the story from the previous set involving Erza’s attempts to stop Jalell is certainly well done as we see how big his plan really goes as he intends to revive Zeref using the right kind of sacrifices after manipulating the situation in a way nobody expects. There’s a bit more personal material that gets dealt with as the final fights from what started before is dealt with, but largely it goes towards Erza confronting him as the Council gets ready to simply level the whole place. And of course, Natsu gets involved as well as he refuses to leave her behind and he just adds that extra bit of uncertainty to events while not being a radically big element to it. It really does keep tis focus on Erza.
There isn’t too much fallout from this arc but it resolves well while leaving some dangling plot threads that can be dealt with later, and are actually touched lightly upon at the very end of the set as an idea of where the show can go from here. One of the things that has been awkward about the series is that while it’s had some good arcs that have been well contained, it hasn’t felt like it really wants to tell a larger story. Part of it is being spoiled by shows like Bleach, One Piece and Naruto where there is so much going on with an overreaching storyline that it feels like Fairy Tail needs one to really move to the next level. Making that break and just enjoying it for what it does is important and these arcs are what does that for me.
The other arc on this release is one that I really enjoyed since it touches on something that has been bubbling under the surface for awhile. When everyone returns to Fairy Tail, they discover that the rebuild is done and it’s a pretty amazing place, the kind of thing fantasy game players used to dream up all the time with what they’d build for their guild. While some like Natsu is concerned about the changes, most are pretty excited about it and it definitely changes the mood a bit for the better. There’s a kind of excitement here that works and you even get the Master who is pretty keen on it all. With the guild having been good before, now it has a lot more going for it and a kind of public relations accessibility that makes the guild even more popular with the locals.
Which is important since a big festival is around the corner and the guild always does a lot with it. What throws everything off though is that Laxus has decided now is the time that he’s going to take over the guild from his grandfather. There’s a good bit of history between the two and we’ve gotten a few smidgens of it over the course of the series, but it gets explored a bit more here with what happened in the past and why he’s so angry with everyone at this point. With his power level, he’s definitely dangerous and when he decides to get a gang together called the Thunder Legion, he’s ready to lay a big trap to try and take over and run the guild the way he thinks it should be run. With his belief that the guild is weak, he and his group definitely has a lot going for it.
Over several episodes, it works the trap that Laxus has set for the guild and it’s rather fun to watch unfold as one of his group uses a certain type of enchantment that keeps various people trapped in different places. Even worse, it ends up setting the guild members against each other in order to move further on so they can save the citizens of the town since they’re getting caught in the crossfire. While Laxus and his motivations are part of it, it pretty much lets a variety of Fairy Tail members get involved before it ratchets up the intensity. Laxus is well played here and there are other characters that make out good by it as well. It brings some good stuff to resolution though and gives us an arc that deals with the internal workings of the guild and gets everyone on the same page moving forward from here.
Fairy Tail has a good set of episodes here as it deals with the bigger story from the previous set and some internal issues that have finally come to the surface. The first storyline comes to conclusion well as it starts to set up more of the bigger picture with the series, or at least a storyline that’s still to come, while the second arc here deals with the more personal side of the show. I really liked the changes made to the guild while everyone was gone and it’s filled with good action that goes big but never over the top. It’s fun, it has its sense of style (even if Lucy continually looks like a cheerleader) and just hits all the right marks here. This is a fun release that builds on what’s come before and lays down more of what’s to come. I’m finally starting to get these characters to grow on me, which seems kind of wrong to say at this stage, but it’s a big positive in my book.
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: March 20th, 2012
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.