by Carl Kimlinger, Sep 3rd 2014

Fairy Tail

BD+DVD - Part 10

Fairy Tail BD+DVD Part 10
The S-Class Wizard Trial on Tenrou Island is officially a shambles. The Fairy Tail Wizards are scattered across the island, battling for their lives against the dark guild Grimoire Heart. Only Cana, desperate to take her place as her father's daughter, is still striving for the first master's grave. The rest of the guild is bouncing around the island, trading opponents and allies until they get the ones they need and dig in for some serious butt-kicking. Grimoire Heart proves more difficult, however, than Natsu and company had dared fear. The arrival of sub-commander Bluenote almost wipes them all out, and even if they can get past him, guildmaster Hades still remains. And what about Zeref, bane of all the world? Where does he fit into all of this?

As seems to be the pattern with even-numbered Fairy Tail sets, set ten ends cleanly, bringing the Tenrou Island arc to a typically action clogged, satisfyingly villain-abusive conclusion. It even skips, or more accurately stops before, the arc's cliffhanger coda, leaving the series in a nice, happy resting place. Which together makes this is as satisfying a clump of episodes as the anime has yet to put together. It's tempting to say that, after all this time, Shinji Ishihara and his cohorts are finally getting the hang of animating Hiro Mashima's pile-of-fun shonen adventure, but the hard truth is that the satisfaction has nothing to do with them. It's just Mashima, flexing enough muscle to defy their infelicitous influence.

Being the climactic half of the arc, this set is basically all action, but it's action with purpose. That's Mashima. He's an action specialist who knows that cool moves and unexpected strategies and pummel-worthy baddies are all fine but that what really makes a fight work is the story behind it.

Oh sure, the set's opening fight—between Lucy and a giant-headed, sumo-wrestling voodoo-doll-user—is mostly a chance to revel in the show's peculiar brand of action comedy (its finish is abusively funny), but it's also an opportunity to revisit the oddball teamwork of Lucy, Natsu, and Happy, reminding us of why they're the core of the show's action ensemble. Likewise Juvia's surprisingly vicious match against petite dervish Meldy is a reminder that her feelings for Gray are more than just a running joke. The hopeless struggle to best scary Bluenote is all about Cana: about her feelings for Lucy and her guildmates; about her shifting priorities and her heartbreaking decades-long quest to connect with Gildarts. Erza's fight, with a tree-manipulating Rastafarian, is mostly about how stinking awesome Erza is but also puts a warm new wrinkle in her protective persona. Gray's match with Ultear links her motivations with his tragic past, bringing something like a hundred episodes' worth of history and feeling to bear on their icy deathmatch. And the finale, which finds the battered remnants of the guild staging a desperate last-ditch attack on Hades, delves into the origins of the guild itself, as well as the origins of the world's magic and Zeref's place in its evolution. (It also finds a substantial—and funny—role for the guild's trio of magical kitties to play).

Naturally we love the fightin'. Arrogant old asshole Hades' defeat is as soul-satisfying as anything the show has ever delivered, and it is absolutely fabulous to see middle-aged Gildarts stretch out and show what he's capable of. But it'd all be just so much empty flash if it weren't for the tantalizing clues dropped about ongoing concerns (like Zeref). Or the tragic familiarity of Cana's struggle to let her dad know how she feels. Or the bittersweet denouement of the Gray/Ultear battle. Or the Dickensian horrors of Ultear's upbringing (a lachrymal workout that features a sick child, a desperate mother, unscrupulous researchers, a faked death, and a one-sided reunion with awful repercussions for the child's soul).

That the show has so much emotional and narrative weight to swing around, and that the weight is enough to lend real impact to all those fights doesn't actually make Ishihara and co.'s deadening mediocrity easier to abide. If anything it makes it harder. Knowing there's that wealth of series-changing plot (Zeref on the move! Ultear reveals all!), all that build-and-release tension, all of those twinges of feeling and full-force heart-punches, out there amongst the lightning blows and flashing swords and maniac magic, and yet to only be able to feel a fraction of it, only see a washed-out shadow of the vivid action-comedy that rightfully should be… that's worse than feeling nothing at all.

How the animators go about damping the arc's fire is pretty much the same as always: with a combination of wan, we-don't-care-enough animation; simplified, less-than-expertly controlled art; dully unimaginative editing and framing; insistent rock-guitar scoring; and slightly padded plotting. The finale has none of the otherworldly beauty that cropped up here and there during Edolas's arc-ending war. The fights are dulled by a lot of cheap shortcuts used in uncreative ways. Generified versions of Mashima's punk-energized character designs drain the cast of charm and humor. Periodically sloppy art distracts fitfully from unfolding events. Ishihara's action instincts are, to put it as kindly as possible, painfully pedestrian. Punches connect with no panache; special moves are delivered like unspecial moves. He lets some fights run on too long, fattening them with unfun extra innings, and cuts others too short. The addition of unnecessary voice-over narration helps none of this, nor does the insultingly obvious explanatory dialogue ("someone, give us courage" pleads Lucy when everyone's courage fails, just before Natsu makes his courage-bolstering speech).

Funimation's dub stays pretty consistent, which mainly means that it's competently acted, faithfully cast, and just generally effective and kind of average. As Lucy, Cherami Leigh is still an improvement over the miscast Aya Hirano. Lydia Mackay sells Ultear's duplicity better than Miyuki Sawashiro On the other side, no one is particularly convincing when asked for heavy emoting. Cana and Ultear's flashbacks come across their moving power the same way their Japanese versions did: by having adorable character designs (the only real standouts by the way) and by featuring desperately lonely tots. It takes really bad acting (or a particularly cynical audience) to take the sting out of desperately lonely tots. (A score that's better at being gentle and emotional than rocking and kickass also contributes). The writing is pretty tight when the show is being serious and amusingly improvisational when things get wacky, meaning the dub tends to improve when gags take over.

This is a standard Funimation DVD/Blu-ray combo set: Nothing special in the packaging. Two DVDs and two blu-rays, with episodes split 7-5 and 8-4 respectively. Reasonable but not excellent high-definition transfer (on the blu-rays). Clean OPs and EDs (all equally boring). Two commentary tracks: one for episode 109 with Leigh, Bryan Massey (the voodoo sumo), and ADR director Tyler Walker; and one for episode 119 with Walker, Tia Ballard (Happy), Rick Keeling (Pantherlilly), and Jad Saxton (Carla). The one unique extra is a twenty-minute video about the marketing side of the business, featuring three visibly uncomfortable members of Funimation's marketing staff.

Tenrou Island is what you'd call an Important Arc: large and exciting, with lots of interesting changes to the characters, their dynamics, and their world. There are new romantic complications, new revelations, new rivalries. It's big and often surprisingly tense fun. As always, my recommendation is this: don't watch. Read the manga. You get the same strengths, only amplified and without that little spare tire of in-arc filler.

Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : C-
Art : C-
Music : C

+ Big developments, big action, and big emotions.
All of which are hamstrung by the usual smorgasbord of directorial and artistic shortcomings.

Director: Shinji Ishihira
Series Composition: Masashi Sogo
Fumihiko Shimo
Masashi Sogo
Atsuhiro Tomioka
Shoji Yonemura
Masaomi Ando
Yoshiyuki Asai
Mamoru Enomoto
Hiroyuki Fukushima
Tsuyoshi Hida
Hirokazu Hisayuki
Kyōhei Ishiguro
Shinji Ishihira
Mashu Itō
Yasuo Iwamoto
Takahiko Kyōgoku
Lee Kan Min
Susumu Nishizawa
Noriaki Saito
Yoshiyuki Sanami
Yusaku Saotome
Touma Shirakawa
Jun'ichi Wada
Naomichi Yamato
Kenji Yasuda
Episode Director:
Masaomi Ando
Yoshiyuki Asai
Hitomi Efuku
Mamoru Enomoto
Hiroyuki Fukushima
Yasuyuki Fuse
Kazunobu Fuseki
Eisuke Hayashi
Tsuyoshi Hida
Shigetaka Ikeda
Kyōhei Ishiguro
Yasuo Iwamoto
Hiroshi Kimura
Takahiko Kyōgoku
Takahiro Majima
Yoshitaka Makino
Yoshihisa Matsumoto
Lee Kan Min
Hazuki Mizumoto
Yasushi Muroya
Yūsuke Onoda
Masayuki Oozeki
Noriaki Saito
Yusaku Saotome
Nanako Sasaki
Kazunobu Shimizu
Satoshi Shimizu
Kiichi Suzuno
Nobuhiro Takamoto
Hiroshi Tamada
Daisuke Tsukushi
Jun'ichi Wada
Tetsuya Watanabe
Hirokazu Yamada
Naomichi Yamato
Shigeru Yamazaki
Takeyuki Yanase
Mitsuhiro Yoneda
Shunichi Yoshizawa
Unit Director:
Hiroyuki Fukushima
Kazunobu Fuseki
Eisuke Hayashi
Hiroshi Ishiodori
Hazuki Mizumoto
Yuu Nobuta
Naomichi Yamato
Kenji Yasuda
Music: Yasuharu Takanashi
Original creator: Hiro Mashima
Character Design: Aoi Yamamoto
Art Director: Junko Shimizu
Chief Animation Director: Takao Sano
Animation Director:
Atsushi Aono
Erika Arakawa
Tomoaki Chishima
Mikio Fujiwara
Jiemon Futsuzawa
Ryo Haga
Jun Hanzawa
Satoshi Hata
Noritomo Hattori
Jo Won Hee
Futoshi Higashide
Hirokazu Hisayuki
Emi Honda
Seok Pyo Hong
Takahisa Ichikawa
Kazuyuki Igai
Masanori Iizuka
Hiroki Ikeshita
Masaki Inada
Asako Inayoshi
Tomoshige Inayoshi
Nobuharu Ishido
Mariko Ito
Kiryou Iwamoto
Hyun Woo Ju
Yousuke Kabashima
Hidenori Kane
Nobuhiko Kawakami
Katsunori Kikuchi
Kang Won Kim
Yeong Beom Kim
Satoshi Kimura
Seiji Kishimoto
Miyuki Koga
Sayaka Koiso
Emi Kouno
Tomohiro Koyama
Hiroko Kuurube
Akiko Matsuo
Shiori Mikuni
Lee Kan Min
Satoru Minowa
Hitoshi Miyajima
Tomoki Mizuno
Shunji Murata
Aki Nishizaki
Masato Numazu
Noriko Ogura
Osamu Ohkubo
Shinya Ojiri
Shinako Okayama
Seong Ho Park
Sadahiko Sakamaki
Hiromi Sakamoto
Tatsunori Sakamoto
Konomi Sakurai
Toshiko Sasaki
Masahiro Sekiguchi
Jung-Duk Seo
Michinori Shiga
Hyung Woo Shin
Kenji Shinohara
Atsushi Soga
Suk Pyo Song
Karuta Sorashima
Kanta Suzuki
Kenichiro Suzuki
Yuya Takahashi
Yuka Takashina
Masayuki Tanaka
Shigenori Taniguchi
Eiichi Tokukura
Takashi Uchida
Yuji Ushijima
Masakazu Yamagishi
Aoi Yamamoto
Masaaki Yamamoto
Masatsugu Yamamoto
Teruhiko Yamazaki
Jouji Yanase
Kosuke Yoshida
Naomi Yoshida
Art design:
Hiroshi Izumi
Yohei Kodama
Sound Director: Shoji Hata
Director of Photography:
Atsushi Iwasaki
Youichirou Satou
Yoshikazu Kuretani
Tomonori Ochikoshi
Taihei Yamanishi

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Fairy Tail (TV)

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Fairy Tail - Part 10 (BD+DVD)

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