Fairy Tail: Final Season
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 289 of
Fairy Tail (TV 3/2018) ?
Zeref is broken, his evil the result of years of watching everyone he dared to care about die. That began with his brother's death before he became cursed and only got worse as he came to understand the true cruelty of the Curse of Ankhselam: the more he cared, the more he loved, the more people would die. By the time he and Mavis meet up in this episode, roughly one hundred years before the present action, he's already become twisted by his experiences. But maybe the saddest part is that he's still yearning for love and capable of feeling it.
What does this have to do with the “sin” Mavis starts out telling Fairy Tail about? Although she hasn't said as much, that's very likely the sin of giving Zeref hope and then taking it away again. Technically speaking, that's not her fault: although she used the Law spell that caused her to be placed under the same curse as Zeref, she didn't understand that it would be the result, nor did she fully appreciate what it would mean for her guildmates. Even her hand in the death of Rita, Makarov's mother, could be seen as her acting out of ignorance rather than deliberate cruelty. More importantly, when she and Zeref meet a year after Rita's death, Mavis has been on her own for only that – a year. Zeref is three hundred years into a curse of solitude, which makes his emotions for Mavis that much stronger. When she tells him that he won't have to be alone, that she'll be there for him, the relief and the feelings of love that have been waiting for a safe outlet color his actions. Mavis is happy too, but she simply hasn't had the time to be as desperate or as emotionally involved as Zeref is. That's why when they kiss, only Mavis dies: Zeref just loves her more.
It's an interesting perversion of the old fairy tale trope of true love's kiss. Because for Zeref, it may well be just that, but for Mavis it's the kiss of death. While that's arguably a happy ending for her, killing her before she has time to grow as broken as Zeref, it's also the ultimate horror for the black wizard. Not only is he being robbed of yet another person he cares about, she didn't even love him enough to take him with her.
That, then, is the sin that Mavis has carried with her for one hundred years. That's a loaded number as well – in many variants of the Sleeping Beauty tale type, that's how long the princess sleeps for before her prince comes to her. Has Mavis been waiting for Zeref to finally find a way to die in a strange reversal of the story? It's a plot that's been done before, certainly (Patricia C. Wrede's “Stronger Than Time” in the collection Book of Enchantments is a prime example), but that makes it no less effective here. Mavis feels she is to blame for Zeref's depredations – and there's no easy solution or way to work through her guilt.
Should this make us feel sorry for Zeref? Absolutely, but that doesn't absolve him of blame. Rather it functions as a way to make him understandable as a character, someone who was driven by his ambition and paid a very bitter price for it, one which keeps coming due each time he thinks he may be in the clear. Yes, he meddled where he shouldn't have, and the results were horrific, and he needs to own them. But at this point his punishment has turned him into something worse than he ever intended to be, with Mavis' desertion as the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. That almost makes him even more powerful as a villain, because we can see where things went wrong – the moment the good person started down a slope there's no easy way to climb back up, no matter how hard he tried. He's tragic, creating conflict for the viewer because it makes him harder to dislike.
How will it affect the rest of the guild? We'll start to find out next week. In the meantime, perhaps you can help me answer a question – was Zeref's and Mavis' kiss the first kiss over the entirety of the Fairy Tail anime? I want to say it is (which is definitely adding some tragedy to the episode), but I'm not certain. Anyone know for sure?
Fairy Tail: Final Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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