You’d think a guild of kick-ass wizards would come up with a better name for their group than Fairy Tail – without a quick double-take of the packaging, you might think you were getting Disney princesses instead. But no, there’s action and humour in equal measure – which makes this initial volume a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be…
What They Say:
Lucy is a 17-year-old girl, who wants to be a full-fledged mage. One day when visiting Harujion Town, she meets Natsu, a young man who gets sick easily by any type of transportation. But Natsu isn’t just any ordinary kid, he’s a member of one of the world’s most infamous mage guilds: Fairy Tail.
Audio is provided in Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 surround versions. As usual, I listened to the Japanese track for this review, and it serves its purpose well – there are no obvious encoding issues, dialogue and effects are appropriately placed across the soundstage, and while it doesn’t go out of its way to impress, it sounds good enough.
Video is provided in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect, enhanced for anamorphic playback, and for the most part it looks pretty good, with plenty of use of bright colours and reasonably well-detailed backgrounds. There’s plenty of stock footage in use, mostly around the various uses of magic here, and these scenes have had some extra effort put into making them look the part – although I suspect after a while we’ll get sick of looking at them, at least it won’t be for animation quality reasons. I wasn’t able to discern any noticeable encoding issues on my setup.
The release comes on two discs, contained in a standard-size clear “flippy” keepcase. Natsu, all fired up, and Happy grace the front cover, which is styled much like a faux leather frame, while along with the usual promotional and technical stuff, the rear features another image of Natsu and some screenshots from the show. The cover is reversible; the alternate front features a group shot of Natsu, Grey, Lucy, Erza and Happy, with an episode listing on the rear.
The main menu reuses the same images that are used for the front of the package (Natsu on disc 1 and the group shot of disc 2), and provides options for Play All, Episodes, Seyup and Extras, with an ominous piece of BGM playing. There are no transition animations as you switch between menus, so it’s all quick and easy to use.
You get a commentary track for episode 1, featuring Tyler Walker (dub ADR director), Todd Haberkorn (Natsu), Tia Ballard (Happy) and Cherami Leigh (Lucy); an episode 9 commentary that adds Colleen Clinkenbeard (Erza) to the people featured on the episode 1 track; and creditless versions of the four opening & closing songs used on the set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Young woman Lucy is aiming to become a full-fledged wizard – but to do that, she has to join a magic guild, and so she’s come to the port town of Hargeon in the hope of finding one she can sign up to. Instead, she runs into famous mage (and conman) Salamader, and while she’s wise to his use of a Charm spell to attract the ladies, when he claims to he able to get her into magic guild Fairy Tail, her natural naivety quickly takes over. Meanwhile, young boy Natsu and his talking cat Happy are also in town – and with Natsu being a genuine member of Fairy Tail, isn’t about to stand by and let any impostors sully the name of his Guild…
Natsu, of course, ends up being Lucy’s route into joining the Guild as well, and so once the joining formalities are out of the way the series moves onto more typically shounen adventure fare. Much like the early days of Naruto, the Guild’s members can choose from jobs that have been offered to the Guild, ranked according to difficulty, and we get to follow their adventures along the way. Natsu and Lucy quickly become a team within the Guild, and are joined by Gray – an ice user, and almost the total opposite to Natsu in many ways – and Erza, the Guild’s stronger woman who can call on an impressive array of magical armours to protect her while she fights. Unsurprisingly, it seems that the “better” the armour, the less of it there is, if you know what I mean…
So far, so normal – at least so far, Fairy Tail is treading the same territory as many other shounen shows before it. The formula clearly works, and what ultimately makes or breaks it is how enjoyable the characters are to watch, and how entertaining the battles can be. I’ve got no complaints on the cast front: they’re a group that work well together, with strengths and flaws that are overplayed for comedic effect, and each of the core five (if you count Happy the talking cat) have things about them that make them worth watching. I could have done without the reappearance of Plue (first seen in Rave Master, which has the same creator, as imported here as a “pet” of sorts for Lucy), but fortunately they don’t seem to be making much use of him. Yet. The comedy tends towards the slapstick, with lots of shouting to emphasise the bits you’re meant to be laughing at (think SKET Dance for similar approach) – not the sort of thing that usually works for me, but I did find myself smiling along quite often. It’s light-hearted, and it’s fun.
Even the battles aren’t too bad. There’s heavy reliance already on stock footage (although it’s stock footage that they’ve at least put some money into) to portray the casting of spells and such, but the confrontations we get in this release are all fairly short and to-the-point. The final battle on the disc, between the gang and a group of cultists led by a former associate of Grey’s, does show that multi-episode battles are going to be part of the mix, but again it’s done in a way where it wasn’t beginning to get me down – although as it ends on a cliffhanger it’ll be next volume before we get to see how long it can be dragged out for.
I always have a certain sense of dread when I start on a new long-running show – it’s a wariness borne from experience. With this first volume, though, Fairy Tail manages to be better than I was expecting, with a decent cast, a good sense of humour, and action that – so far at least – hasn’t pushed through entertaining into tedious. Although there’ll plenty of time for that to happen as the series continues, I’m sure. For now, though, I have to admit that it’s worth checking out.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: March 5th, 2012
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37” widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-22 5.1 speaker system.