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!
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 as inspiring one as some other series have managed. The audio track free from dropouts or other distortions and it gets its point across as dialogue is delivered clear so it accomplishes a fair amount for what seems to be such an audio shortcoming in terms of presentation.
The episodes presented here originally aired in the mid 2010 Japanese television season and are presented in its original 1.78:1 ratio complete with an anamorphic encode. The overall visual presentation for the discs is a decent one though not flawless due to the medium with some minor noise, and a little ghosting as well as some color banding present, dot crawl and a bit of blocking 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 Erza in a new battle costume on the first disc while the second uses an image of Natsu and Laxus battling it out.
The main menus for both discs use large images against a colorful background that has a parchment style pin up in the middle with the first disc using an image of Erza in her standard armor outfit while disc 2 reuses the discs cover art. The sub menus use a job or wanted poster type look with either individual images that look like photos that were scrapbooked onto it from different episodes or character art to add a bit of color to them. 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 and 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 present here, though 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)
Trouble doesn’t come much bigger than the mess that the main group of Fairy Tail members the audience has been following now find themselves in. As they attempt to stop Erza’s childhood friend from using the diabolical tower he has been building for the last eight years they will find themselves pitted against some of the strongest opponents they have yet met- but even worse may be the internal fight they may have with themselves when events cause some havoc to play within their ranks.
With Lucy facing off against a spell bound Juvia her loyalty to her friend is stretched to its limit as the fight looks to be one that she can’t win- and if she does the price may be too high for her to bear while a loss will mean the end of her own life. Meanwhile Gray will have to step up against a foe that has captured Natsu and taken him out of commission but will he be able to save Natsu in time…and will Natsu be able to accept any help, let alone that from someone who then would have a leg up on him in their longstanding rivalry.
The biggest fight though will revolve around Erza and her ability to come to terms with the limits she has placed on herself as she finds herself face to face with first a sword wielding member of Jellal’s assembled group before she can face with Jellal himself- a sword wielder who may even surpass the skills of the renown and feared Titania. On top of that when the tables turn and the secret of eight long years of planning revealed will Erza find that she has placed herself in exactly the position that Jellal wants- one where she is powerless to stop him and even worse where she may be the final key to his goal. When all hope looks lost and even the Magic Elders look to have been defeated and subverted will Jellal be victorious or will one Dragon Slayers absolute refusal to lose anything he cares for be enough to change the path of fate that seems inevitable?
Later, scarred and carrying their burdens from the previous fight the group will return home to discover that the wicked take no rest and those who would oppose them will not be granted any such measure either. In the midst of what should be the kingdom’s greatest annual celebration, one of Fairy Tail’s greatest and most powerful members- Laxus, the grandson of the Guild’s Master Makarov, returns and decides that it is time for him to take control from his grandfather and reshape the guild to his liking.
To this end he and the three members of his own squad take a number of Fairy Tail’s women hostage and set up a soul breaking situation that will have the various members of Fairy Tail fighting each other in a desperate battle to save their friends. But when events go out of control and the city itself is placed in peril and the guild master looks to be on death’s door will the true heart of the guild whose members recently at each other’s throat shine through or is there a limit to how much shearing the bonds of friendship can tolerate.
The batch of episodes here bring Fairy Tail to almost the end of its first year run and they cap the maelstrom of action and emotions that the series has carefully cultivated over that time periodto others . To this end the series has saved up some of its most impressive fights to mark the occasion, but perhaps even more importantly it is willing to unabashedly revel in the emotional atmosphere the stories have lead to- even if those emotions may come across as a bit overly sappy for some and seem out of place given the amount of action the series displays.
It is in this emotional heart that Fairy Tail sets itself apart from a number of other shonen style fighting series on the market as well as some series that try but can’t reach the same emotional platform as the events are rather well laid to bring out the biggest response from the viewer. To some extent this is a bit on the manipulative side given how the event are revealed, but then again all works are somewhat manipulative in that they try to elicit an emotional connection from those who use it. To this end Fairy Tail works really well at bringing the viewer along for the ride and letting them experience many of the emotions themselves without seeming to coerce them through some of the more blatant tricks that the genera is known for. Even taking that into account, be they blatant, subtle or manipulative the rollercoaster of emotions are still real and the excitement from the highs and lows and the tears that can be pulled out of the viewer due to them are no less powerful or stirring for their source and in fact they are the very reason people chose to seek out entertainment that will provide them such emotional responses.
As of this writing this set marks the end of the episodes that FUNimation licensed and while it closes on an emotional note that a number of other series can’t even dream of reaching hopefully the continuing adventures of this group will find their way back into the studios production plans in short order.
With nearly a year of episodes under its belt Fairy Tail marks the (almost) anniversary event in grand style as it brings in the threads that the series has carefully been weaving of background plots and stories while also revealing the hidden impact these events have on the characters themselves. To accomplish this the series uses some spectacular action sequences to draw viewers in and from there uses its humor and carefully crafted characters to level the viewer emotionally in a way that matches the devastation often portrayed on the screen. It is in this careful mix of action, humor and emotion that Fairy Tail creates that the series stands out as one of the most impactful tales coming out of the world of Japanese animation today and anyone who thinks of themselves as an anime fan owes it to themselves to check this series out. Recommended
Japanese 2.0 language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Tracks
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 20th, 2012
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.