The magicians of Fairy Tail are back, as the battle to prevent Lucy being hauled back to her father’s home continues. Ah, such loyalty to show to one of their newest members – especially since the collateral damage caused by the battle is going to take a while to sort out…
What They Say:
The guild-on-guild mayhem continues as Fairy Tail struggles to fend off Phantom Lord—whose Element 4 must be defeated in order to disable a massive magic cannon aimed at guild headquarters! With a never surrender attitude, Natsu and his friends push their powers to the limit to protect Lucy and save Magnolia from total annihilation! Then, Erza’s tortured past returns to haunt her when estranged friends ambush a well-deserved vacation. Her team tracks them down to a looming tower where a possessed wizard close to Erza’s heart puts them in a sinister game of life or death!
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 features Lucy and Plu on disc 1 while Natsu and Jellal get the prime real estate on disc two of the set. Options for Play All, Episodes, Setup and Extras. There are no transition animations as you switch between menus, so it’s all quick and easy to use.
A commentary track for episode 26 with Tyler Walker (ADR director), Andrew Tipps (ADR mix engineer) can be found on disc one, while disc two features a commentary track for episode 32 with Tyler Walker again, this time with Cherami Leigh (Lucy) and Eric Vale (Loke). There are also creditless versions of both sets of opening and closing songs used in this set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So, when we last left the gang, rival guild Phantom Lord was kicking some ass in their efforts to get their mitts on Lucy, while Fairy Tail’s erstwhile master Makarov was laid up recovering from injuries sustained in battle. Things were not looking good for the good guys, especially as Phantom had just wheeled out their big guns, in the form of the Element 4 – who, as the name suggests, had a rather good grasp of elemental magic.
But this is a shounen show, and the tides of battle have a habit of turning quickly – so between a combination of some impressive fightbacks by the Fairy Tail gang, a remarkable recovery by Makarov that lets him take on Phantom Lord’s guild leader head-to-head, and a sudden outbreak of love at first sight, all’s well that ends well. The Phantom Lord arc was pretty good, actually, with plenty of use of high-power magic making for some impressive battles, while water-user Juvia’s sudden infatuation with Gray (ice and water? They’re just made for each other) was good for a laugh. She goes on to tag along with the gang for at least the next arc, and her unreciprocated rivalry with Lucy over Gray’s affections is fun to watch. Don’t know how long she’ll be staying around for, but I’m enjoying her so far.
After a short interlude, then, we get to move on to the set’s second arc, which moves the spotlight on to Fairy Tail member Loke, who’s been acting a little strange lately. This seems to be connected to the death a few years earlier of Karen, another Guild member who tended not to treat the celestial spirits she was contracted with with any respect. One in particular, Aries, was a timid being – and was bullied by Karen mercilessly as a result. When Loke learnt of this, he took action to make sure it wouldn’t happen again – with unexpected circumstances.
This arc failed to grab me at all. In fact, when I started writing up this review, I’d skipped right over it and started talking about the 3rd arc before I released something was missing – as sure a sign as you’re likely to get that a story is lacking impact. The main problem here is that, with Loke being presented as being filled with regret (and a lot of angst) over what happened to Karen – and only indirectly as a result of his actions – we’re clearly supposed to connect and feel sorry for him. But I couldn’t make that connection, and without that the bulk of the arc becomes pretty much meaningless. The portrayal of the backstory that got us to this point was a curiosity, but nothing more than that.
Which brings us to the 3rd and final arc on the set, where the focus falls firmly on Erza – no bad thing, as she’s one of the most enjoyable-to-watch characters in the show. When she was a young girl, she and many others were held captive and used as slave labour to help build on of a series of magical towers – towers that naturally had a Sinister Purpose™. There were moments of light, though – particularly through the small group of friends she made there, of whom Jellal was the nominal leader. During an attempted escape, though, something happened to Jellal that turned him to the dark side – and now he has plans to make use of Erza one again. And they’re not plans you’d want to see succeed.
Character origin story, then. They’re usually worth watching, and so far this one is holding up to its promise well, showing how Erza transformed from meek young girl into magic-wilding warrior and reuniting her with some lost friends along the way. Obviously, the aim is to either teach Jellal the error of his ways or defeat him, and Erza’s well-motivated to do just that – he’s the boy she looked up to as a rolemodel for so long. But time has passed, there are other things to consider now as well, and seeing Erza trying to figure out what to do about her “friend” is powerful stuff. There’s an added pressure put on the storyline as well, as the Tower that Jellal has taken over is powerful enough to have drawn the attention of people who would think nothing of levelling a country to make sure that he never gets to use its power, and are making the necessary preparations. The clock is ticking.
Add in some fun from the ways that Natsu, Lucy and Gray go about trying to help, and there’s a lot to like about the arc. A few cases where plot “twists” are pulled out of nowhere, perhaps, but nothing to seriously get in the way of enjoyment. Fairy Tail at its best, really.
So. While the second arc puts a bit of a dampener on things by not quite being up to scratch, it’s bookended by two stories that are good, enjoyable fun. Fairy Tail is at its best when it doesn’t try to hard to do anything too heavy or overbearing, and while there’s potential for the Jellal arc to go down that road yet, so far it’s getting the balance just about right. Another volume that’s good fun overall, and has me looking forward to the next. Which for a shounen show, is quite an achievement.
English Language 5.1, Japanese Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Episode 26 & 32 commentary tracks, creditless opening and closing songs.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 16th, 2012
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG2
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.