What They Say:
The most epic magic tournament in history continues as Fairy Tail attempts to snatch victory from the strongest guilds in the Grand Magic Games. The competition heats up as the guilds in the competition start playing dirty, Erza takes it upon herself to challenge one hundred deadly opponents, and four dragon slayers battle it out in an epic fight unlike anything the Fiore Kingdom has ever seen – one that threatens to rip the entire arena apart.
But as the spells fly in the games, a conspiracy targeting one of Fairy Tail’s members plays out behind the scenes, and a dark, familiar magic permeates the air. With the magical world completely focused on the competing guilds, a looming threat gains power – but will anyone notice before it’s too late?
Contains episodes 165-175.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as it contains a bilingual show with the original Japanese language track in stereo using Dolby TrueHD while the English track gets the bump to 5.1 using Dolby TrueHD. The show has a straightforward approach with its audio design in its original form where it uses the forward soundstage well by covering it when the action hits with plenty of sound effects, both from the magic and the physical action, while the dialogue tends to be more center channel based. The English presentation ramps that up a few notches in volume and overall warmth while expanding it a bit with some greater clarity in placement for the dialogue. Neither track is a huge standout since it is standard television fare, but it works well and covers the bases right while avoiding any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes for this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and two on the second. The show is one with a lot of bright, vibrant colors that really do look great here overall and stand out well. There’s a healthy amount of action and activity in each episode and the bit rate goes high, but it also has a lot of still and quiet scenes where it drops down to the 5 mbps range. There’s a slight layer of fuzziness to it at times with the noise but from a standard seating distance and on a big screen, it’s pretty negligible. The show in general looks very good because of its bold colors and approach while avoiding significant problems like macroblocking, line noise and cross coloration, but there are some bad moments as well that do stand out. It’s a very good looking TV show in general and the transfer here captures it well.
FUNimation continues to do things up interestingly with this release as the slipcover is a die-cut one that has a large portion of the front of it open. The logo along the bottom helps to give it more definition while the artwork on the keepcase itself shows through very well as we get a great shot of Lucy and Natsu together with big and engaging smiles abou them that really has some great pop to it. The back of the slipcover is the same as the keepcase cover as it shows off additional character artwork with a brief but decent little concept summary that sells the show fairly well. A few shots from the show are included as well below it as well as the breakdown of technical information. It’s all laid out clearly here though the text is a bit too soft of a white against the darker background. Both have their advantage though and each works. The release does have a reversible cover where the left side features a breakdown of episode numbers and titles included in the set as well as some additional character artwork on the other side, this one doing a nice pairing Wendy with the opponent from her fight.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice as it uses the overall framing theme that we saw from the cover, with some bright colors, and wraps it around the whole menu while using clips from action and character sequences throughout the majority of it. The bottom has the navigation strip which comes up during the pop-up sequence and it uses larger characters that are done in similar manner to the logo, tying it all together rather well. While I’m not a fan of full clips being used as menus, this one at least brings in some good elements from the logo and series design to work it. The layout is quick and easy to navigate and submenus load quickly, though the discs did not read our players language presets.
The extras for this release continue to be pretty nicely done overall, particularly for English language fans, as we get a couple more cast commentary pieces for select episodes. There’s also the include of the clean opening and closing sequences where appropriate. This one also gives us something else original as we get a new video commentary with a few of the actors talking about one of the key episodes of the set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When these episodes aired back in 2013, it was certainly an interesting time for fans as we had learned that the series was ending, but also were told to hold on tight for more information. While we know now that a new series was going to kick off in 2014, albeit with a few production changes, it certainly wasn’t the smoothest of events as the first series essentially ended on the fourth day of the Grand Magic Games with more to come, essentially right in the middle of the arc. In its own way, it was certainly a cruel way to leave fans hanging, no matter how good the ending epilogue was and the thanks and promises of a future ahead in the final minutes.
Because of the nature of this set, what we largely get is another couple of “days” within the series involving the Grand Magic Games. The setup for this event was something that was kind of stunted, following on a lot of other events that hit after the seven years away, and with the group training hard in order to participate, they’ve had mixed results in making progress with their ranking within it. Even worse in a way is that Fairy Tail split themselves into two teams to deal with things, so there’s a larger number of those characters there which lets various relationships that exist between them cause some additional friction. Over the first couple of days of the games, we got a lot of winnowing down of competing teams overall and now we’re just down to the final eight teams that are competing for points and jockeying for position, which definitely keeps it a bit of a roller coaster ride with how some of them act about all of it.
Because there’s no real resolution here, which is saved for the next series that follows, we mostly get the days playing on and plenty of various events underway. There’s a few smaller areas that mix into it that teases something larger going on, such as Mystogan searching out someone that he senses in the crowd from time to time that reminds him of Zeref’s powers, and we get a little touch upon some of those behind the scenes that are working their own mission, which we saw with the aborted kidnapping attempt in the previous installment. There’s some decent bits with it overall, but there’s not much more outside of that. What we do get is a solid setup for the fights to come in this set when we get Natsu making a singular raid on the Sabertooth hotel where he challenge their leader as he’s trying to settle things. What works well is that it helps to establish his position and power in a fun way and makes a definite impression on them as a whole. And it lets Natsu have a little time to shine amid all the other competitors gaining screen time.
The events we do get that take up a lot of the time in this set are definitely fun and there’s plenty of little quirks along the way that keeps it moving right along. Ezra has a really great sequence when she takes on her event as she pretty much crushes it in a way so that nobody else can compete and they have to go to a new event to figure out how the rest of the participants from the other guilds can rank within it since she soaked up all the points. Ezra’s time is fun, but the other competitor’s didn’t do much for me overall. Similarly, we get a fight that has Wendy going up against someone, and while she’s fun to watch just because it’s out of the ordinary for her, it’s a weaker fight as there’s not much of a real threat here, though she comes up with some creative ways to to overpower her competition. When the secondary guilds go up against each other, it just doesn’t feel like it has the importance to it that really drives it in an engaging enough of a way.
While Ezra’s fight gives us things in a big way right from the start, it’s two other fights that made me really enjoy the set. The first is with Lucy as she gets to stand tall and fight with a group of others in one contained water space, a giant sphere in the middle of the arena. What makes it fun is that she uses her Zodiac Keys in a good way to make progress, but she’s facing an opponent that can just overpower her and others so easily, that she basically plays with all of them. But it’s Lucy that she essentially tortures amid the fight and dominates her so much that Lucy is just completely taken out over the course of it. It plays big to the fanservice at first, particularly since she’s down to a bikini for most of it, but as it gets more serious it definitely takes on a good tone, especially as her guild mates realize just how abused she’s getting over the course of it and how that makes them feel.
The best fight, the kind that makes you stick with Fairy Tail through thick and thin, is what we get in the last couple of episodes. It sets us in a fight between four of the dragon slayers with Natsu and Gajeel going up against Sting and Rogue from Sabertooth. All four are pretty powerful and we’ve gotten a solid look at the Sabertooth guys throughout it, so we know they’ve got the skill set to go at these two. But in proper form, it goes so big and has such a fun reveal about what Natsu and Gajeel have gone through over the course of their training, that it’s great to watch as it has all the hallmarks of a great shonen oriented fight. That Natsu does it by shoving Gajeel out of the way and leveling up to such an extent that it shocks his own guild mates is even better. Everything has the right feeling and and it brings this day to a close in a big way, though at the time you can imagine how tough it was to see that and then have to wait an age for the next series to kick off.
The first series of Fairy Tail draws to a close, though for many the second series just picks right up so not everyone really considers this the end of this series. Since there’s no conclusive ending here, we mostly just get more of the Grand Magic Games and nothing much in the way of the larger threads that are being woven through it with the bigger threat in the shadows. Which is fine overall because the action and events we get here are fun, move well and are basically a series of self contained fights. Considering how fights like these can go on for several episodes, having it tighter like this and with more variety is a big plus. There are some very fun fights here and some decent character material, Fairy Tail style, that it’s largely left me pleased, though also aware that it is all just tournament material without anything truly meaningful at the moment. Good fun and definitely some of the best fights in the show in recent memory.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Being Lucy: with Cherami Leigh, Episode Commentary (167, 169, 172), Textless Opening and Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 10th, 2015
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.