A tale of victory, defeat and the thin line that can separate them as well as how to deal with what comes after.
Story/Art: Hiro Mashima
Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan
What They Say
Grimoire Heart is in disarray, but it’s already too late! Acnologia, the Black Dragon of the Apocalypse, is on its way to unleash death magic that will consume the world. To this massive beast, the “dragon slayers” are little more than insolent insects. There are some enemies not even Fairy Tail can defeat, and after this confrontation the guild will never be the same!
Content: (please note that content portions of review may contain spoilers):
The latest challenge for Fairy Tail has been vanquished as through determination, skill and a fair amount of luck the guild has managed to defeat all of the members of Grimoire Heart who had invaded the guild’s sacred island. In the wake of the battle Makarov decides to give Hades a break and spares his life content in the knowledge that while Hades beat him, the children Fairy Tail has raised beat Hades in return and will be able to do so in the future as Makarov leaves most of Grimoire Hearts to limp away and lick their wounds -though not all of their members will choose to follow that path after recent events.
But it isn’t just the defeated guild that has to deal with events as the victorious members of Fairy Tail each have to come to terms with the outcome of the clash, primarily as it revolves around the S- Class test being cancelled due to all of the interference and as such none of this year’s applicants being passed which leaves each member who was actively participating (and maybe one or two others as well) having to deal with not having their dreams met this year. For some that reality may come harder than others as a certain hot head will need a special test to “encourage” him to accept Makarov’s decision while Cana may have find the courage to just speak her heart to the person she wants to hear the burden she has been carrying without the prize from the contest to serve as fuel. If she can find the will, her revelation may heal wounds not just for her and the father who never knew he was one, but it may serve as a final push to Lucy to reconsider her own estranged parental relationship.
Unfortunately all good things must end and that situation closes on the guilds involved in the recent conflict with all the speed, power and inevitability of a major tidal wave that sweeps over the environment leaving chaos and destruction in its wake- but rather than being a simple act of nature this wave has a name as well as a prophesized destiny. While Fairy Tail largely enjoys its win and engages in the positives of it the more sullen atmosphere on board Grimoire Hearts flying vessel gets even worse as Hades discovers that his goal of awakening Zeref has been accomplished but that the Black Wizard is far from grateful as he was happy as he was. Even worse, his awakening appears to serve as a harbinger of an even greater threat- Acnologia, an enormous dragon whose appearance signals the end of an age in the history of their word- a harbinger of which may be seen when it launches a powerful attack and Fairy Tail’s Sirius island vanishes in the aftermath taking many of the guild’s strongest fighters with it.
One ending often serves as another beginning however and events move to find that in the seven years since Sirius Island vanished Fairy Tail has become a pale shadow of its former self as the very few who remain in the guild aren’t strong enough to have prevented its slide into almost complete irrelevance and they are now at the not so tender mercy of the strongest guild currently in the area. With no work coming in and loans coming due it looks like the dwindling remaining members of Fairy Tail may just have to pack it up as the years since they lost so many of their friends all at once have taken as great a toll on their spirit as their ranks and power. But sometimes faith maybe rewarded and it may turn out that reports of the demise of their friends isn’t quite what it appears -but even if they did somehow survive will the various missing guild members find that they have lost something incredible precious in the intervening years?
This volume is a perfect example of why I keep reading shonen in general and Fairy Tail in particular as after the number of years I have been following the genre some (OK many) of the plot contrivances can give me a “been there, seen that” feeling as the continual addition of an even stronger menace that requires the cast to grow stronger/bond together/master new technique can get wearisome as battles start to lose their meaning as the nature of the fights (and often the stakes) just get larger and larger in many cases. That isn’t to say I want series based around simply winning marbles by simple skill necessarily (nor that I don’t either, depending on how it plays out) but when things get so big and there is so much action it can kind of make me lose sight of the characters, and they are the reason I read or watch a title for. I can find any number of really flashy fights or large scale destruction portrayed in any number of products available on the market but it is the characters that draw me into staying with a given series as opposed to going somewhere else and after another large fighting arc the aftermath found in this volume reminds me of everything I first loved about the series.
Fans of shonen series in general (and Fairy Tail in specific) probably won’t be shocked by the actual outcome of the fight against Grimoire Hearts (kind of hard to have a continuing series after all if the villains that look to bring about the end of the world actually win) but it is the bits after that that manage to pay off the events surrounding Cana and her quest to reveal her secret to her father which brings the most impact as Cana has to not only decide if she is going to tell him but she also has to cope with some of the regret she has over her actions made during the trial that helps expose a vulnerable and desperate side that really humanizes her. This quest also gets a boost as it helps spur another member to try to heal some old wounds but because of certain events the two stories gain more power from each other due to just how they play out compared to each other, and on top of that remorse plays more than a small role as various characters have to come to terms with their actions or inactions and deal with the weight that realization brings with it.
Also in this volume of course is plenty of humor as Natsu and some of the others aren’t all that willing to accept that this year’s test to become an S-Class wizard should end just because of the major interruptions that have taken place as even being at their physical and mental limits isn’t enough to tapper their spirit which is probably by now a running gag in its own right for the series. And if that wasn’t enough a major event happens that promises to bring big changes which does bring with it some large potential to shake things up while giving the familiar cast a new set of challenges that may be greater than just the introduction of a new and possibly world ending enemy (which happens as well anyway).
About the only downside I found to the volume is that I felt the character interactions in the post battle could have been lengthened to really enhance the emotional impact as there are two, possible three pieces that could have really been mined even more to bring a bit more richness to events. I’ll count the fate of the villains as a sort of even balance as the cliché end they find isn’t anything new or special but it does serve to get the characters out of the way while also underscoring the power and methods of one of the series most feared characters and helps to flesh him out a bit which may be the most efficient way for having done it. The final piece I am withholding judgment on is the time skip that occurs that even the author notes in his talkback section is something of a staple for shonen series as I want to wait and see just how it plays out in future volumes as it brought some real positives here but I am reserving judgment until it is apparent if this holds up or if it becomes just a gimmick that becomes cheaper as it progresses. Still, the volume is one hell of a ride and it kicks off a brand new focus for the characters so if just for that reason it is one that shouldn’t be missed by fans- and that is before one counts to richness of some of the emotional payoff to some of the other threads that had been built which creates a volume easy to recommend to just about anyone. Recommended
The fight against Grimoire Hearts has finished and now it is time for Fairy Tail to go back to one of its strengths- showing off its family bonds both among those with a blood relation and those who have been accepted into this large and often rambunctious one. The heart of the series is on full display as there are reunions that some never knew about, the promise of reunions perhaps one day coming fully to pass as well as those which all chance for are removed forever. With all this it becomes a volume not to be missed- and that is before a long hinted terror is fully revealed, a possibly even worse menace appears and the Fairy Tail fighters on the island find their world changed forever as the series moves on to a new level of adventure. Recommended.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: September 24th, 2013