Fairy Tail: Final Season
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 287 of
Fairy Tail (TV 3/2018) ?
Fairy Tail doesn't always use fairy lore (or folklore) despite its name, but when it does decide to whip it out, it does things right. That comes in the revelation that Emperor Spriggan of Alvarez is actually our old pal Zeref, who founded an empire basically to relieve his boredom and now plans to use it to spark a war that will force his erstwhile younger brother to kill him. While that's horrible and kind of sad, what's more important here is the fact that he calls himself “spriggan,” after an actual creature in Celtic (specifically Cornish) mythology. Spriggans are a particularly nasty fey creature, dialectically related to Scandinavian trolls. Some tales say that they're the ghosts of giants, able to grow to enormous size when they want to, but what all of the lore agrees on is the fact that they're nasty little suckers. Spriggans are responsible for changelings (when a fairy baby is left in place of a stolen human child), rob homes, collapse buildings, create storms, and generally make nuisances of themselves in ways much more dangerous than your average trickster spirit. When Zeref decides to rename himself “Spriggan” he's making a statement of his intentions while also playing into the mythology – he may look unassuming, but cross him and he'll become a dangerous giant. The fact that he basically planted Natsu with Fairy Tail (he specifically thanks Makarov for raising him this week) also ties in with spriggans and changelings, although Zeref has a much more selfish motive than simply playing a trick on the unsuspecting.
The fact that Spriggan and Zeref are one and the same definitely raises the stakes for everyone involved. Earlier in the episode Team Natsu's encounter with Brandish, one of Zeref's Twelve, showed them the sort of power they're up against. Brandish's magical powers are so strong as to give Natsu chills, and she's ruthless enough to use them as she sees fit – and she doesn't seem all that discerning as to what constitutes “fit.” Within the space of fifteen minutes, she's almost killed an entire population by using her powers to condense the mass of Caracol, leaving everyone bobbing the water, and taken out one of her own subordinates to, in her eyes, even the score so that she won't have to bother fighting Fairy Tail over Mest's injuries. Simply put, she has zero regard for life, human or otherwise, which makes her particularly frightening…and there are eleven more just like her.
Were the Twelve that way pre-Zeref, or did he gather because of their lack of morals? It feels like either could be the answer. It's striking that, now that we know his history, every time we see Zeref, his facial expression seems to have made a shift from “mild-mannered” to “deeply sad.” Granted, he's still capable of Evil Face, but he's so blinded by his ambitions to die that he's almost lost sight of why he was trying to do so in the first place: to make amends. Whether or not he can recapture that will be worth watching for, especially since he has no clear reason for why he's decided that he wants Lumen Histoire, otherwise known as Fairy Heart. Given his past with Mavis, there's likely more going on here than even Zeref is aware of, and Makarov may be able to get through to him that way.
At this point Zeref calls to mind Hook in the 1991 film of the same name. During that movie Hook declares that death is the only great adventure left, but by the end, Peter Pan has reminded him that it is life, not death, that's the adventure. Apart from the fact that that movie truly disturbed me as a kid, this seems directly related to where Zeref is emotionally as the story works through its final arc. Loneliness can eat at you, and Zeref has been nibbled away for years. Fairy Tail's specialty has consistently been saving people from themselves. I wonder if they can do the same for him.
Fairy Tail: Final Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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