Story/Art: Hiro Mashima
Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan
What They Say
In the final matches of the Grand Magic Games, a wounded Erza struggles against the sadistic Minerva, who can twist space itself; Gajeel sinks into the shadows against a powered-up Rogue; and Laxus faces down impossible odds against Jura, the world’s fifth-strongest wizard. But as the Games end, the kingdom prepares for a day Natsu never thought he’d see: the return of the dragons!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The Fairy Tail fighters trapped under the castle try to make their escape as the Lucy from the future claims to attempt to lead them out without encountering the Royal Guards- only to discover they run right into a platoon where future Lucy says the Guards should not be. As they look around they discover that they are also missing two people as both the princess and captain of the Guards have vanished leaving the group to have to go through the soldiers the hard way…but that way may be incredibly hard as the previously defeated Kingdom Executioners have found their feet and second wind.
On the surface however the games continue and those matched up against the Fairy Tail members there are discovering that the seven years missed by the group and their early poor start in the games isn’t indicative of the level of competition they will face now as each Fairy fighter is practically a genius and very, very capable of rising to the moment- particularly when facing opponents who manage to elicit an emotional reaction in each Fairy.
As Gajeel matches up against Rogue, Gajeel confronts not just a far more powerful youth than he remembers but one who seems to be possessed both with a new identity but also with a new magic- one even the observing Mavis is unfamiliar with and which seems to be operating to its own purpose. While this dark creature thinks it has the upper hand however it might find that it is coping with a force even it doesn’t understand as Gajeel has seen Natsu take on a new power and he is dying to catch up with Salamander- and while he also has a few regrets about how he treated the youth Rogue once was he is certainly not going to lose to this person before him right now.
The other arena combatants certainly aren’t going to have a walk in the park either as Laxus matches up with the wizard said to be the strongest human in the land in a fight that will push both fighters to their limits while Grey and Juvia will find that they can’t take their opponents separately and are at a disadvantage fighting against a pair with far more experience fighting as a pair. And as a crowning event a bruised and battered Erza matches up with an opponent who seems to have the upper hand but who has made a fatal mistake- she angered Erza. As the youth clash they are watched over by their Guild’s founder who watches with pride as the Guild’s pride march through their struggles to a new future. But at the end of their path lies a fighter –Sting- who has yet to face anyone in the contest and who is waiting to take on all of the exhausted Fairy Tail fighters at once. Is this youth able to live up to his belief in his power or is something unbelievable going to happen? And will an impossible end to Sting’s match signal the start of an unstoppable nightmare to come?
The 38th volume of Fairy Tail has a particularly weird dynamic going on in it as there are a number of different fights all going on at once as the story uses them to bring a conclusion to the current set up while also seeding hints of just what the next stage in the Fairy Tail saga will be. It’s pretty amazing that a number of these conclusions each could have been a full manga volumes worth of fighting and yet many of the matches wrap up in a chapter or two while also allowing for cut-ins to show what is going on elsewhere at the same time.
It feels really odd to see at times some of the Fairy fighters face up against characters that have either shown off their fighting skills earlier or been talked up for many chapters now and then watch the fight be over so incredibly quickly. It is almost like the need to get through this tournament setting is dictating the pace rather than the pace being a natural outflow from the match up and the desire to show the clash between seeming pairs of unstoppable beings. To that end only Erza’s fight really feels like it resonated with me and provided a full emotional payoff to the size of the fight with her opponents, something that also was helped by (a bit of a manipulative frankly) insert of Mavis quietly encouraging on all of her Fairy decedents to move into their future.
Despite the pace of the fights I think what most created a disconnect with me and the volume overall though was the juggling of so many events at once and a sense that the overall flow may have gotten away from even the author a bit as he has to bring back the Assassins that the rescue group under the city had beaten as well as a hoard to troops to tie up that group of Fairys while the events of the surface still need to play out. This left me in the weird place of not really being able to shift seamlessly from event to event and it left one very powerful moment that occurs feeling like it was less than it should have been as the story seemed to shift more from a natural rhythm to a “must do these actions to get to the next stage in the tale” mechanic that just didn’t pay off terribly well for me.
Additionally the lack of even having a moment to appreciate what has been done over this tournament arc before launching into the next phase makes events feel a touch anti-climactic as the rush forward really stands in contrast to the sheer revelry shown after the first night of the games where Fairy Tail had so much time to explore their determination and wild nature. When combined with the bursting of all the hinted at plot points the volume feels overburdened and undercooked to me in a number of places and while aspects of it were great the overall whole just wasn’t as satisfying as some of the volumes that have lead to this point.
The Magic Games are going to come to an explosive end as the various fighters in the arena face off against some of the most powerful wizards who have risen up during the absence of the strongest members of Fairy Tail. But it is perhaps the events taking place in the palace (and below it as well) that may signal just what the future holds for the entire world as there is an apocalypse in the forecast and it may be that there is more than one person from the future trying to manipulate the events leaving the future in more doubt than ever. Which all sounds promising and menacing but with so much present in a single volume it is not hard to see that certain elements may have to be sacrificed and a decent amount of emotional payoff may go along with it as one arc closes and another gets set to take the stage.
Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: May 13th, 2014