The boys and girls of Fairy Tail are back for more adventures, which is alright by me. After finishing off their adventures on Galuna Island, the guild find themselves under attack by rivals Phantom Lord – who have a particular interest in Lucy…
What They Say:
Across the Fiore kingdom, wizards join guilds and make their pay by filling magical needs – but one guild has a reputation as the roughest, rowdiest, most dangerous of all: Fairy Tail! In the midst of a mission to break the curse over Galuna Island, Natsu and the gang face a band of deranged mages trying to resurrect the monstrous demon Deliora. Gray’s determined to put the freeze on the sinister plan in a frigid battle with a rival from his past – even if it takes his own life! Back in Magnolia, the city becomes a warzone after sorcerers known as Element 4 destroy Fairy Tail headquarters and kidnap their beloved rookie, Lucy. A bone-crunching, skin-charring fight between fire and iron erupts when Natsu squares off against another Dragon Slayer wizard!
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.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
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.
With this set, you get an Episode 15 commentary with Tyler Walker (ADR director) and Newton Pitman (Gray); an Episode 19 commentary with Tyler Walker, Tia Ballard (Happy), Monica Rial (Mirajane) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Erza); and creditless versions of the opening and closing songs. Not too shabby.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So. When we left the gang, they were on Galuna Island, dealing with Gray’s former friend Lyon and his attempt to revive big bad demon Deliora. Having taken the job without permission, there was always the chance that payback was eventually going to reach them – payback that soon arrives in the form of Erza, who’s really not happy with them, but who’s willing to at least let them finish what they’ve started before taking them back to Makarov to suffer.
That suffering gets put on the backburner for a while when, after returning to the guild house, they find that it’s been somewhat trashed by rival guild Phantom Lord, who have a long history of enmity with the ‘fairies’ of Fairy Tail. Now, they’ve been hired by Lucy’s father – head, it turns out, of a very rich family – to bring his runaway daughter back to fulfill her family responsibilities. There are two problems with this: Fairy Tail have no problem picking a fight with Phantom Lord if they want one; and with Lucy being a member of the guild, if she doesn’t want to leave, the other members aren’t inclined to just hand her over. With Phantom Lord being heavily into the darker side of the magical arts, though, it’s not exactly a fair fight.
Up-front admission: I’m surprised by just how much I enjoy Fairy Tail. It’s a shounen fighting show at heart, and as a general rule I do not get on with them – but there are several aspects of Fairy Tail, all present on this disc, that keep me coming back. First up are some great characters – Lucy’s top of my list at the moment, but Natsu, Erza, and hell even Happy in his annoying mascot way all work as characters and are interesting to watch. That list looks likely to grow, too – the Phantom Lord arc in particular does a little bit of backstory digging into the pasts of Mirajane and Elfman that does a good job of fleshing them out and making more of them than just being AN Other Guildmembers. We might run into a problem of eventually having too many characters to play with, but so far, so good.
Second, the series never forgets its sense of humour. When Naruto or Bleach get deep into fighting arcs, they get deadly serious – a real shame, as both shows can be quite funny when they set their minds to it. Fairy Tail keeps the humour going, with the characters continuing to poke fun at their enemies and each other, making mistakes and facefaults, and you’re never too far from a smile or a snicker, even when the battle stakes are high, and the cumulative value of those little bits of enjoyment when it comes to judging the worth of a series can’t be underestimated.
Finally, there’s the soundtrack, which I find to be absolutely wonderful. Some of the tunes are instantly recognisable (Land of Hope and Glory gets an outing this volume), others are original to the show, but they’re all catchy, scene-appropriate pieces that quite often had me tapping along. Again, the music makes me smile, and that can only be a good thing.
Those are general comments, but even in terms of story this volume fares well. The Galuna Island story has some neat twists and turns in it, while all the background stories in the Phantom Lord arc combine with some nicely-crazy villains and a battle that gets rapidly out-of-hand to create the sort of confrontation that you’d normally expect as a series closer. Away from the two main arcs, there are two ‘filler’ episodes in between – a magic-gone-awry tale of bodyswapping, and the story of how Happy joined the gang – that are also decently entertaining.
Wrap it up into a 12-episode package, and there’s a lot here to like, and a lot of fun to be had from watching it – and it feels decidedly strange for me to be saying that about this sort of series. Entertaining from start to finish, it’s been a genuine surprise for me, and is now one of the rare shows where I’m actively looking forward to the next volume. Go get.
English Language 5.1, Japanese Language 2.0, English Subtltles, Episode 15 & 19 commentaries, creditless opening and closing songs.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: May 21st, 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.