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!
For this review the Blu-Ray discs were used.
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.
The episodes here originally started airing in April of 2010 and they are presented in their original 1.78:1 ratio and have been upscaled for the Blu-Ray release and are 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 and it isn’t quite as apparent or often as the same issue was with the first collection.
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 each showing a slight glimmer of their magic 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 Lucy present at the bottom while the back uses a similar look to the front. Instead of a center image the back uses the space for the release’s copy with five images from the episodes present at the bottom and an image of Natsu, Lucy and Happy standing together looking out toward the viewer at the upper left. 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.
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- as 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)
Having used the excuse of taking on a job from Lucy’s unimaginably rich father to return his wayward daughter, the Phantom Guild continues its assault on Fairy Tail and as that guild’s members stand in the shadow of the ruins of their building they find that Phantom’s Master is prepared to risk the wrath of the wizard council to wipe Fairy Tail and its members off the map for good after Lucy manages to escape his grasp. To do so the Phantom Guild itself has transformed into an enormous moving giant that is preparing to use one of the magic world’s most powerful spells to remove the guild that has vexed Phantom Guild’s master for so long- and the entire city Fairy Tail is located in is looking like it will be collateral damage in the assault.
With Makarov down the task of stopping the giant falls on the most powerful members that Fair Tail has on hand as each of them is going to have to match up with Phantom’s strongest fighters, the Elemental Four, if they hope to be able to stop the completion of a spell that will rain catastrophe upon the land- and waiting in the wings after that hurdle are still Phantom’s Dragon Slayer and the master of the guild who is said to be on par with Makarov. With annihilation in sight the Fairy’s young fighters are going to have to rise up to levels they’ve never reached before in order to survive just the Elemental Four leaving the Phantom guild leader’s defeat relying on a miracle beyond the youth’s ability to create. Fortunately Makarov still has a few cards left up his sleeves in order to make sure that his guild will survive to have the torch passed to the next generation and that miracle may take the form of a hidden magic known only to a very few Fairy members which has the ability to turn the tide of even the most one sided battle.
The aftermath isn’t going to be any less stressful for all of the members either as Lucy realizes she is going to have to make a painful trip home in order to keep an event like this from ever happening again and she is going to have to rely on the strength of the bonds that she has formed to be able to remain who she is now. Lucy isn’t alone in having to face the past in this lull either as Fairy Tail’s Loke has been incredibly skittish about being near Lucy once he discovered that she is a Celestial Wizard and now Lucy will discover why as Loke decides to spend some time with her before revealing to her one of his secrets- he is dying and feels that he deserves to because of an action he took in the past- an action that caused the death of another Celestial Wizard. Is Lucy going to be able to find the strength to save Loke or will Fairy Tail lose a powerful fighter and Lucy lose a new friend when confronted both with Loke’s sin as well as the powerful judge who is set to let the death sentence play out?
And lost friends will become a problem for Erza as some she hasn’t seen in years return and bring with them all the pain that the red haired warrior has been suppressing for so many years as these friends draw Erza back to the place of her greatest sorrow- an island with a tower in the middle of the ocean where she was used as slave labor as a child along with her friends by those looking to use a new type of forbidden magic. Even worse, rather than simply being a decaying ruin where she will have to answer for the past she finds the tower now nears completion under new management- a leader Erza simply can’t bring herself to fight with her full strength.
Erza’s current friends aren’t about to let her just be taken off however and after shaking off the negative effects of the surprise attack that was used to capture Erza her teammates head off (along with a surprise tag along) to bring her back. The Erza they find on the island though shocks them as this Erza is as emotionally raw as they have ever seen her and there is a fatality to her current drive that has them worried. When Erza shares her past though is it possible that the team will understand her desire to sacrifice herself to make things right or will Natsu walk through hell in order to not lose his friend…and can hell itself even hope to be hot enough to stop the Fire Dragon Slayer’s determination to stem the number of losses in his life?
With all these trials it probably isn’t a surprise that some of the members of Fairy Tail might be considering changes in their life, and the fact that the guild’s Master Makarov is contemplating leaving his seat at the head of the group fits in with many of his recent statements as a new generation looks prepared to take Fairy Tail into the future. But when Fairy Tail holds its annual festival for the town that it is located in the event serves as a chance for perhaps the guild’s strongest member- Laxus Dreyar- to decide that he is done waiting for the guild master title to be handed to him and he arranges a contest that will force Makarov to hand the reigns to Laxus who feels that that role is his birthright as Makarov’s grandson.
In order to achieve his goal Laxus and the three powerful members of Fairy Tail that show loyalty to him above the guild set a deadly trap to try to force Makarov to announce his retirement so Laxus can shape Fairy Tail into a guild feared for its power as opposed to renown for the wild antics and destruction the members are infamous for leaving in their wake which has infuriated the youth. Will even the other Fairy Tail fighters revered for their strength be enough to overcome the powerful scion of their master or will even the addition of another Dragon Slayer still leave the group gasping when Laxus unveils his true power?
With everything on the line, the members of Fairy Tail once again are going to have to rise up to levels they never dreamed of but this time will they just come up short when their opponent has a powerful hole card capable of settling the fight once and for all- a hole card that they already saw the power of to end a previous fight against a foe much more powerful than almost all of the members of Fairy Tail are at?
Fairy Tail belongs to a collection of similar shows that generally get put under the label of shonen, a label which can carry a lot of weight –and not necessarily in a good way as shonen series are often fast paced tales with a generous (or an over abundance) of fighting episodes but almost always created with an eye toward trying to elicit emotions. Now eliciting emotions isn’t a bad thing as almost every piece of literature, storytelling or writing (including this review) are designed to elicit something in their reader but shonen stories tend to have the reputation of trying to bring out those emotions with writing that often resembles a blunt object like a sledge hammer rather than being comfortable using a more subtle, scalpel like approach to events.
One of the things I love about Fairy Tail is that author Hiro Mashima is pretty comfortable with either using the more subtle type of emotion eliciting moments or by building up to events in such a way that even a full bore, peddle to the metal explosion of blunt emotion evoking material feels almost natural most of the time, and even when it does go to a place that feels over the top the series never seems to become so thick and hammy that the emotions work against things thanks in no small part to his eclectic cast. Mashima’s skill shines through when I watch or read his work as he uses many of the same tools, clichés and situations of the genre as a whole and yet he produces some rather amazing results compared to some of the other authors in his field due to the differences he has created in both cast and tone along the way.
One big example of this is found in the beginning episodes on this set as Fairy Tail matches up against the rival Phantom and many of the moments here feel almost like they could have come from any number of shonen series with characters fighting and overcoming great odds and of course not losing. It is the characters and their actions that make things really shine though as the lead up to the fight helped establish the Fairy fighters which both builds a reason to want to see them win as well as grants leeway for some of the fights and set up in my eyes. What also helps for me is that rather than having a simple ending to the fight and then launching into the next one these series invests precious screen time in showing after effects, such as after the Phantom clash ends Lucy goes home and confronts her father over the state of their relationship as well as to show how much she has grown which helps provide a firm emotional climax to the events beyond just the physical victory. That growth is then used to help pay off her interactions with Loke as it helped to slowly build up to a very heavy emotional payoff that otherwise could have been extremely eye rolling in just how blatant the arc builds to the more than a little manipulative tugging on the heart strings.
Not content to just sit on its laurels the series then launches into a through discovery of Erza Scarlet and her psyche as well as the past that created it and the story shows some of the thought that clearly went into building her character from her first introduction. The episodes that deal with her childhood and the pain associated with it are just amazing in explaining how she became the person she is while being able to show both her pain and weaknesses while using these moments to underscore and even reinforce her strength while making her feel a lot more human in the process. There is even a nice little piece that deals with the whole comfort level many characters have with self sacrifice that really feels like it pays off beautifully at the end of the arc, though the final moments with Erza and her old friends is a powerfully moving one that helps create for a very emotional episode overall.
The last arc on the disc almost actually beats out the previous arc for me when it comes to cementing my love of the series as watching Fairy Tail go from a major celebration to a type of infighting when one member decides that he is tired of waiting for his time as guild leader to come and so he sets in motion a plan to take his dream by force. The arc works on all sorts of levels as it shows off Natsu’s belief in his fellow guild members even when it is so far misplaced that it leaves hilarious in the dust while also being rather amazing in contrasting Natsu and Laxus in that they are two young men who have a similar goal but Laxus has managed to lose sight of why he wanted to get there which is a trap that Natsu could also fall into some day adding a kind of mirror image philosophical level to the contest as well.
Watching this family fight- both in terms of guild members versus each other but also Laxus versus his grandfather- is something that is just amazing to me as it works to show not only how family can be close and support each other but also the power it can have to tear itself apart and even then the love that can still exist afterword. I especially loved how the story manages to work in the ideas of love and forgiveness without going down the overly simple road of suddenly all being forgiven after the fight and there being no consequences despite some pretty perilous actions having been initiated.
There are some of this cliché elements throughout the episodes here as Fairy Tail does manage to pick up two ex opponents to add to its fold as well as they also win some others over to their side but for most of these instances the emotional (or just attraction) bonds serve to help make these changes of heart believable rather than just something that comes after a clash of fists where the characters now suddenly understand each other and join together almost like conflict is a form of magic that binds. Fairy Tail is an amazing series that has the ability to both do things that feel unique among its peers but also use some of the same tools to come up with something absolutely amazing and worthy of having a place in an anime fan’s schedule for watching. Recommended.
Fairy Tail rolls along as the bitter battle between the titular guild and rival guild Phantom reaches its finale as the young members have to reach levels they have merely been hoping to hit in order to survive and save the city that the guild calls home. In the aftermath that follows the guild’s newest member Lucy will find that sometimes the familial ties that one chooses to create are stronger than the ones that fate dictated while another youth who has called the guild home in part because of his familial connection decides that he is tired of waiting for the elder role of leader to be passed to him and has decided to take it by force. As forces clash- many of them with internecine overtones- personal histories and dreams of the future become clearer and it is going to be up to the young generation to sink or swim in protecting the guild they cherish. Recommended.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 23rd, 203
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.