Fairy Tail: Final Season
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 284 of
Fairy Tail (TV 3/2018) ?
As promised, this is an emotional episode of Fairy Tail. The first half of the episode deals with Zeref's past, showing us what caused him to become the Zeref we've known for many volumes and episodes now. As it turns out, that's much more entangled with the Fairy Tail than even his past with Mavis would suggest. As a child, many hundreds of years ago, Zeref's younger brother died, and little Zeref was unable to handle his grief. Instead of finding him some emotional help (which probably wasn't really on offer in a pseudo-Greco/Roman world anyway), Zeref is enrolled at the magic university, where he's hailed as a prodigy, but devotes himself to magic that would allow him to resurrect his deceased younger brother. In exactly the opposite of what he needed, his professors berate him up through his teenage years, with the result that Zeref just keeps plugging away, inventing Eclipse along the way, only to wind up expelled. In his rage, something is triggered in Zeref, and the thing he cared most about preserving, life, is abruptly taken from any living thing in his immediate vicinity.
Zeref interprets this as a curse from a goddess, which he calls “the curse of contradiction,” but that may not be strictly true. We know that he's always been incredibly gifted in his magical ability and scholarship, and his devotion to finding a way to resurrect his brother also indicates how tied up in his emotions his work is. Couldn't it be possible that Zeref accidentally cursed himself, turning his magic power against all of those who opposed him in the shock of being expelled? Given that he then goes on to learn to create demon life once the appeal of living forever is gone, we can see how his original goals have become warped. The kicker is that all of the demons, known as the Demons of the Book of Zeref, aren't powerful enough to actually kill him, and now only one remains: a demon known as E.N.D., brought to life in the preserved body of Zeref Dragneel's little brother, Natsu.
Once again, then, family is at the heart of Fairy Tail. That's part of the second half's emotional component as well, when Lucy, almost at the old guildhall, freezes in fear that despite all of her efforts, no one will have any real interest in restarting the guild. That's quickly disproven by Cana, who shows up at just the right time to talk her down, but Lucy's fear is very legitimate: the last time she left for any length of time, her return was marked by the discovery of her father's death in her absence. She went to the S-Class tests fully expecting to find him where she left him, so what's to say that the same thing won't have happened again? That's why she's been so determined to keep track of everyone during the past year, what compelled her to write letters to everyone she could track down. But it's also what makes her doubt that her letters will have had any real effect, her past trauma rising back to the surface of her heart.
Loss of family is what started Zeref down his dark path. There was no one to help him deal with Natsu's death, and so he took the only recourse he felt he had – finding magic that could bring his family back to him. Lucy's doing the same thing via letters in the present, and the difference is that she does have people to support her. They were there for her when her father died, and they're going to be there for her now, allaying her fears and helping her to get through her pain and worry. What Zeref did, and has been doing, for centuries certainly doesn't get a pass because he did it out of heartbreak, but it does draw a very clear line between he and Lucy, to say nothing of between he and the other younger members of Fairy Tail who have had to cope with similar losses.
If the Guild represents family and support for Lucy, Natsu, Gray, and the others, the university represents the lack of those things in Zeref's past. Perhaps finding a way to both die and to give his brother the life he deserved, with love and support, were equal motivations for Zeref in creating E.N.D. That will all come out sooner or later, but first, it's time for Fairy Tail to move ahead, rebuild, and figure out what was really going on with Makarov when he split them up a year ago.
Fairy Tail: Final Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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