Loss, reunion and a portent of disaster.
Story/Art: Hiro Mashima
Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan
What They Say
Natsu and gang return to Earthland from Edolas, and back at home, it’s time for the annual S-class wizard promotion test! The eight participants, including Natsu, choose partners and head for Tenrou Island, where Fairy Tail’s first master was laid to rest. Only one will pass! Who will join the magical elite?
Content: (please note that content portions of review may contain spoilers):
The cast of the Fairy Tail guild from Earthland that the readers have been following have won the day and so their world will continue to be rich in magic while the world they had been transported to will have to discover just how they will move forward without the resource that has been so central to the environment they have come to know. With the threat of complete chaos on the horizon as people (justifiably) panic in the wake of this outcome, Natsu takes it upon himself to help unite the peoples of this world behind a single leader- and the best way to do that is to set that man up as a hero with Natsu taking on the role of villain in order to seal the deal.
But the cost will still be high to Fairy Tail as the actions Natsu and Mystogan may help set up the world Mystogan came from but it leaves Fairy Tail minus another key and powerful member as their “S Class” rank takes another hit. Fortunately there is a balance to things as the team returns home to find themselves in the company of an impossible member, one whose long time loss has left a hole in many hearts and the guild itself and whose return helps to sooth the loss of their old friend who stayed behind.
Time isn’t on everyone’s side though as the day for the challenge that Fairy Tail runs to choose its “S Class” members is upon them and the contest may signal the end for one member who has set her goal as either winning the rank this year or she will leave Fairy Tail altogether. When the contest location is revealed as the birth place of the guild the various contestants look forward to facing their challenge along with the partner they chose to join them but is this event going to end with joy or tears as the stakes are incredibly high and waiting in the wings is a prophecy of disaster to fall on one of the participants.
One of the great things about Fairy Tail is how the author is willing to blaze forward with a zeal and dispensing of guile into situations that other authors might try to dress up in order to either add complexity or hide a bit the somewhat overly sentimental and at times mushy emotional core at the center of the story as if he doesn’t care just how either simplistic or manipulative in playing on emotions some instances the situation can be. It is this bull in a china shop approach that is willing to just soak in some of these emotions outright that really adds a bit of flair to the series and allows for the characters to shine at their utmost. Watching as Natsu barrels forward with almost reckless abandon to do what he feels is right creates the kind of situation where one can just empathize with this almost completely emotionally honest character who answers to what he feels is right despite what anyone else may think seemingly without care for how he is seen as long as he is following his path.
In addition to the emotional heartstring pulling, Fairy Tail has an amazing and spectacular amount of action going for it as combatants with varying skills match up in face offs that can be anything from deciding the fate of the world to simple acts of exuberance that allow them to brawl in a friendly (ish) manner or compete to gain their dreams as they bounce off opponents and allies in often similar manners as the current atmosphere takes them. On top of that of course is a fair amount of fan service which a visit to a tropical location really allows for that gives a few of the women a chance to show off a bit more skin than usual along with Gray as well which, while not exactly evening the scales, shows the author is (almost) equal opportunity when it comes to pandering shots.
The volume does have a major issue that revolves around the return of a character as while it is incredibly emotional and tear inducing the more logical side of a reader may just question how manipulative the situation is and just how little explanation is given for the event and how it works out. I’d like to say that the power of the moment makes this forgivable but once the emotional rush wears off there is a feeling left of a small irritant that just seems to call more attention to it and though it isn’t painful exactly it is uncomfortable and feels clumsy and is something that just feels off and ham-fisted in its presentation. While this shouldn’t distract completely from an overall great volume- which includes some of the material around this situation- it does feel a bit under contemplated and underdeveloped and like it kind of directs the attention more toward its awkward mechanics than a story probably should to really pack its punch. Still fans of the series will probably be overjoyed at the return so if something makes people happy perhaps it is OK if it has some structural problems.
The day may have been won for the regular cast as they fought on the other world, but Natsu and company aren’t going to just abandon their old friend (as well as some new ones) without doing what they can to try to set up a situation to help mitigate the coming chaos as much as they can. While the loss of an old friend may be somewhat lessened by the (inarticulate) return of a long missed other, life in the guild still continues on as more challenges await and the reader is treated to more instances of the guild doing what they do best in their exuberance though a dire prophecy and change in power on the wizard council may signal that the days of high powered fun and frolicking at their own whim may be closing fast.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Kodansha Comica
Release Date: March 26th, 2013