What They Say:
In the Kingdom of Fiore, powerful wizards make their living by joining magical guilds and contracting out their services to become “wizards for hire.” Harnessing the forces of Dragon Fire, Ice, Weaponry, and the Zodiac, four young wizards of the infamous guild Fairy Tail team up to seek their fortunes. Growing stronger with every mission, they travel the countryside helping people and battling rival guilds, but with personalities as different as their magic skills, this team may end up doing more damage than good.
The episodes included here are presented with two audio tracks- a 5.1 English track and a Stereo Japanese one and both are presented in Dolby TrueHD. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used and it is a mostly solid- though not particularly inspiring- one. The track was found to be without dropouts or distortions while listening but even by stereo standards the track doesn’t try much to create a sense of depth to add a feel of dimension to the animation which really makes things seem somewhat more flat than they should be in some of the more dramatic action scenes. Despite this, the track gets its point across and the dialogue is delivered clear and it accomplishes a fair amount for what seems to be such an audio shortcoming in terms of presentation overall.
Originally starting to air in October of 2009, Fairy Tail is presented in its original 1.78:1 ratio and it has been upscaled for the Blu-Ray release where it is presented with an AVC codec. The encode for the discs is one that shows off the colors that are present well without any particular ones feeling too bold or washed out and the colors are solid throughout the presentation. The visual design also uses more broad than really intricate designs which helps minimize the chances for video issues to become a large problem. It is in these broad designs that Fairy Tail helps create its atmosphere of making thing appear to be from a simpler time and the video encode does a fair job of carrying its assigned load, though it certainly isn’t without flaws.
Noticeable in the presentation is some minor dot crawl, ghosting and banding present at times and there is a bit of a soft look to the presentation overall. In addition there are some times where the CGI used is incredibly obvious and there are some point where artifacts can appear on the screen. Finally when watching the material on a 4K TV through a PS3 there are periods where some odd artifacting appears underneath the subtitles, but given the appearance of this on a number of other discs I’ve watched it seems to be a product of the TV more than the discs themselves.
The release comes packaged in a Blu Ray “fat pack” case that contains four flipper insert trays allowing for each of the four DVDs and four Blu-Rays to each have their own hub to set on with no disc overlapping being present. The cover for the release features the main four Fairy Tail cast members plus Happy in a box frame with the title written in Red below them with the entire image surrounded by a brown background that looks sort of leather-ish with a boarder on the outer edges being present at the edge of the sleeve.
The spine continues the leather look with the title, collection and an image of Natsu and Happy present at the bottom while the back uses a similar look to the front. Instead of a center image the back saves uses the space for the release’s copy with five images from the episodes present at the bottom and an image of Natsu and Grey standing together looking out toward the viewer at the top. The very bottom of the sleeve is saved for the copyright and technical information with both DVD and Blu-Ray discs getting space to show off their specs. This release also came with an O outer sleeve that replicates the sleeve images.
The discs themselves can be differentiated between DVD and Blu Ray easily as the DVDs get character images on them while the Blu Rays use the leather like background from the sleeve with each getting a different image of Happy on them with the Fairy Tail Guild logo behind him. While this works to differentiate the DVDs and Blu Rays from each other, the lack of really having a major difference with characters on the Blu Rays feels far more mundane as all the images use Happy makes relying on the disc numbers more important to tell the discs apart and it feels slightly annoying in presentation to me, though not bad exactly. Originally released as a pair in two sets the discs here are presented with the odd number disc having eight episodes on it while the even discs have four each as they were in that initial release.
The menus are all basically the same in function and look in that they present a near full (widescreen) image that has a bit of a frame around its outer edges with a few seconds of video from the various episodes in the series present on each disc cycling through quickly as an instrumental theme plays in the background. For functionality the menu is simple in that selecting each option pulls up what looks like a larger version of the Fairy Tail job board that the menu options rest at the top of. In order to show what option is currently selected the selected item either is highlighted red or- in the case of audio- it also has a box to the left side that gets filled in yellow to distinguish what is currently the selected option. It frankly isn’t my favorite menu ever in that there is an odd sound, almost like a synthesized sound of metal drawing across metal, that sounds with every option change and sometimes figuring out what option is highlighted isn’t nearly as easy as it should be, particularly on the audio selection menu. Still the menus are quick to respond to changes in selection so once you manage to (hopefully) get what you wanted it will be implemented with a minimal lag.
There are the (almost) standard extras of clean opens and closings here, which are actually more than just a single helping as Fairy Tail likes to change them somewhat frequently across these episodes so there are a few to enjoy in textless form. The real treasure here is for fans of the English dub however as FUNimation includes not just one but two episodes with audio commentary by the English dub cast in each set, leaving four chances for English dub fans to listen to the voice actors talk about the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Set in a world where magic is possible (and vaguely middle ages looking for the most part), the Kingdom of Fiore is a land where a portion of its population is able to use magic and they ply that trade by accepting various jobs from citizens to accomplish tasks those without such gifts can achieve. In order to help facilitate the ability to best find work, most magicians join guilds as the reputation that these collectives have can attract some incredible challenges with amazing rewards as their compensation. Even within the guild structure though there are a few guilds whose reputation precedes them and many aspiring magic users dream of entering those guild’s ranks.
One such magic user is Lucy Heartfilia, a 17 year old who has the ability to use special keys to summon magical beings to aid her in battle and she falls into trouble at the start of this series. While tracking down new keys Lucy comes across a magician who claims to be Salamander, one of the more infamous members of the magic guild Fairy Tail that has gained a level of infamy in that they are recognized for the power of their members as well as a seeming reckless abandon that has them take on some of the biggest challenges available and generally leaving an even bigger swath of destruction in their wake. Fairy Tail’s attitude has absolutely won over Lucy and the chance to join the guild of her dreams has her go along with Salamander despite his slimy actions but Lucy is bailed out when she discovers that the red haired youth named Natsu Dragneel and his partner, a blue flying cat named Happy are actual members of Fairy Tail (and the red haired youth is the real Salamander of that guild) as the pair take great offence that someone is claiming to be a member of their guild. When events play out in typical manner for Fairy Tail (ie massive damage is done to a town that simply had the misfortune of being where Fairy Tail encountered some trouble) Natsu runs off and brings Lucy with him to the guild she has dreamed of.
Lucy finds that she is quickly welcomed in by the guild and she also discovers that the members of the guild often form teams to take on more challenging jobs. Natsu and Happy invite her to form one with them and the trio takes on a couple of jobs that may be a bit more emotionally satisfying than financially rewarding though as Natsu tends to act on a sense of heart more than with an eye toward making money which at times makes the cash strapped young woman more than a little frustrated.
Lucy also discovers that many of the characters that she has read about in the various magazines that cover the famous guilds are now in front of her and that magazines have left a bit out as they haven’t covered the freewheeling, often joyous to excessive degree nature of her new guild very well or any of the chaotic nature that it is rife with inside its walls as brawls can erupt at the drop of a hat- or the mere possibility a hat may one day drop somewhere within a thousand miles of the guild. As Lucy tries to become accustom to her surroundings she learns of the long rivalry between the fire using Natsu and the ice magician Gray Fullbuster who clashing whenever they meet. Lucy also learns of the wizard Erza Scarlet whose strong personality and dominance on the physical side have her able to stop the two with just a glance as well as pretty much everyone else in the guild as she attempts to keep Fairy Tail somewhat in control when she appears.
When Erza takes on a task and asks Natsu and Gray along what may become Fairy Tail’s strongest team is formed (with Lucy and Happy trailing along as well) in order to fight a powerful former guild with eyes on revenge who have obtained a cataclysmic weapon that may change the balance of power throughout the land. This team though may be torn apart when Natsu decides he wants to move ahead faster on his own in his guild status and he undertakes a dangerous mission on an island that will place him at odds with Gray and Erza. The fall out may be worse than feared possible though when Natsu, Lucy and Happy (along with a dragged along Gray) discover a nightmare that the first three can’t imagine and which Gray has been unable to forget as the monster they find has left an emotional scar on him that he has never made it past.
In the face of a possible apocalypse will this team be able to reform and fight some powerful enemies hoping to use the monster for their own reasons or will the youngsters find that their story ends here? With their faith in themselves and an indomitable spirit the youths will face off against everything facing them as they try to become the strongest fighters in all the land while dealing with their sometimes tragic pasts with more than a little help of their friends but is there a chance the impetuous youths will bite off more than they can chew in their zeal to prove themselves?
Based off the now somewhat long running manga by Hiro Mashima, Fairy Tail is probably one of the more successful manga franchises currently running in Japan as it has seen the author getting his own magazine for his characters to run wild in, complete with some spinoff titles, original anime adventures coming packaged with some of the manga volumes (in Japan), a movie and now also a second television series continuing the adventures from the manga.
It isn’t hard to see why the series has become as popular as it has either as Mashima works hard to make sure that the sense of fun his characters exhibit is rarely far from the forefront much of the time and on those occasions when it does take a break it is almost always done to give his cast a chance to express some of their deeper emotions –often related to their own troubled pasts- that provides the audience a chance to really connect with the characters in a deep way and share in both joys and sorrows that they go through.
What Mashima also manages to really well is connect his characters to a period in youth that many viewers can resonant with as his characters are passing from childhood to adulthood and are attempting to be adults while still retaining an energy and enthusiasm that is often associated with youth, or at least with a period in life before an individual becomes more cynical -or patient- and so doesn’t project as much energy in every move they make. This allows the author to connect with a wide age group, from those looking toward that period of life, those experiencing it as well as those who lived through it perhaps many years ago and who may relate to parts of the characters, be it through lived experience or as an idealized time of youth.
Mashima also adds a fantastic touch in that the guild house of Fairy Tail feels at times almost like a version of the tale of Peter Pan where the youth are usually allowed to run wild with only Erza serving as a kind of Wendy reigning them in as otherwise they simply act with an abandon rarely allowed in society. On the other hand there is the (not subtle) father figure, the permissive Makarov who from time to time does step in when guild rules are broken or one of the members (all of whom he sees as his children) are injured making him the kind of permissive parent many probably wish theirs was like as he allows the kids a lot of freedom but he ultimately will be there when needed.
This also plays into the characters themselves as Natsu is introduced as being on his quest to find the dragon that raised him while Gray is also shown to be an orphan who lost his family as well as the teacher who became his surrogate family later. In addition other’s having similar stories in their past but now all the Fairy Tail members have a family which they have chosen for themselves and which they will defend to the end which plays into the human need for belonging that so many people feel at times in their lives.
Of course the material also works on the surface when the stories can explore simple gags or incredible action sequences where the characters have to overcome incredible – or seemingly impossible- odds that can create an incredible thrill and adrenaline rush that helps at times to cover over some of the clichés that appear at times in the writing.
And there are moments where the writing can feel like it comes up short as the series attempts to pace things so that the main characters get introduced in a way that doesn’t feel overly rushed but the sheer number of guild members and speed at which they get put into place feels left me feeling at times like I was being thrown head first into a world where everyone else already knows the rules and set up and that I was trying to play catch up. In fairness that is actually a fair bit of what Lucy is used for as having things explained to her also works to do so for the audience and the sense of being overwhelmed at times is also reflected by the young woman who just joined the guild and she is used as a key to giving the audience their introduction to events.
Still, as Shonen series goes Fairy Tail does a great job of making its cast burst with passion and purpose while limiting the amount of eye rolling that can come with such a situation which I appreciate as I have seen many series that like to take things so over the top they lose me as I feel like they are either talking at me or trying to hit me over the head with their message rather than just letting me get whatever I will out of it.
The very successful Fairy Tail manga gets its manga adaptation and it brings the colorful and often reckless members onto TV screens. Whether it be fighting imposters, ape like creatures or large death dealing demons the cast of Fairy Tail burst forward with energy and a spirit that often orders on indomitable as the youth attempt to make their first major steps into an adult world filled with an amazing number of challenges and dangers. As the cast clash with events many will discover that the parts of their past they had thought left behind are not going to stay there and so rather than running away they are going to have to face things head on- no matter the outcome. With a fantastic cast, incredible action and an amazing sense of humor, Fairy Tail barrels forward in a manner that manages to feel like more than just the sum of its parts as the foundation is laid for even more amazing adventures to come.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentaries, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 30th, 2013
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Samsung 50” LED 4K Ultra HD TV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.