Fairy Tail: Final Season
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 321 of
Fairy Tail (TV 3/2018) ?
Even in its darkest moments, Fairy Tail isn't afraid to crack a joke. Of course, my favorite moment this week was probably unintentionally funny – when Acnologia is chasing the Christina through the skies, his tail, which is doubtless intended to look like it's blowing in the wind of his passage, looks awfully like my cats' when they see a bird or a squirrel out the window, and for whatever reason the idea of the most feared dragon swishing his tail as he contemplates his prey just cracked me up. But the intentional gag about Ren and his tsundere persona was also a light spot in a generally serious episode – when he blushes remarking that “it's not like we wanted [Acnologia] to follow us anyway” it's a nice spoof on the character type.
Mostly, however, the meat of this episode comes in the second half. I do wish they'd cut to commercial (shown the eye-catch in our case) right after Mavis' great line when she opens the door to the guildhall. Zeref is on a major power trip, and although she doesn't manage it this week, her statement following his declaration that Natsu can't stop him, a simple “But I can,” is a quiet but forceful reminder that hers is the loss that ultimately pushed Zeref over the edge. She had a hand in creating the man he is now, one who has given in to loneliness, fear, and despair, and that means that she may be able to pull him back out of the morass of his own emotions.
That's what's so interesting about Zeref as a villain. He's made a good show of being out for world domination or just doing evil for evil's sake, but this episode gets to the heart of what we've perhaps been suspecting all along: that underneath everything, he's just afraid of being all alone. That's what started him down this path in the first place – he lost his family and he was so lonely and sad that he was willing to do anything to bring them back. His love was twisted into his curse, but he never stopped hoping that someday he would manage to get it all back. When he lost Mavis, that hope writhed into a different form, a darker one: if this life wasn't ever going to give him what he wanted and would just eventually leave him alone in the dark with the monster, then he'd find a way back to the world of his birth, four hundred years in the past. Armed with his knowledge of the future, he'd save his family the old-fashioned way (presumably by getting them the hell out of town) and live the life he wanted. He'd lose Mavis, who would remain three hundred years in the future, but true love at this point seems like an acceptable sacrifice to a man broken almost beyond repair.
Ultimately Zeref is a tragic villain rather than a truly evil one. That doesn't excuse what he's done or is in the process of doing, but the clarity of his motivations makes him more human than a lot of antagonists in fiction. It isn't easy to make the bad guy sympathetic, but Fairy Tail has largely pulled it off, and whatever else we may think of the writing and the story, that remains a very impressive feat.
It also in the specific case of what Zeref is attempting to do – rewrite the world – speaks to the power of the pen, something that we've seen play a low-key but important role in the story for a long time now. Apart from the fact that Lucy is a writer, Zeref has been trying to literally rewrite things in his favor with his Book of Zeref, resulting in the Natsu we know. Lucy, Gray, and Happy open his book this week, unleashing a torrent of words about the boy who insists that he's human, and as everyone who's ever read fanfiction knows, the power of the pen to transform characters and character relationships is mighty indeed. After all, if Zeref wrote the original Natsu, no pesky copyright is going to stop someone else from reworking his narrative.
And while they're at it, maybe they can change Zeref's White Wizard costume?
Fairy Tail: Final Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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