Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
BD+DVD - Part 14
As the Grand Magic Games get underway, the members of Fairy Tail are in for some unpleasant surprises. Not only has the world changed in the seven years since Lucy, Natsu, Gray, and the others have returned, but some guilds will do anything to win...even cheat. Meanwhile Erza and Jellal try and find the Zeref-like magic that Jellal has been sensing at the Games, but to no avail...and people from the royal palace seem to have an agenda of their own...
Tournament arcs, if not the staple of shounen action stories, are certainly a staple. Fairy Tail has traded in plenty of “X vs Y” battles before, but never actually delved into a formal tournament...until now. While it was mentioned and led up to in previous collections, this fourteenth set of Fairy Tail discs officially commences the Grand Magic Games in Fiore's capital of Crocus, paving the way for epic battles, hijinks, and...swimsuit modeling?
While most of these eleven episodes either deal in edge-of-your-seat fights or goofier games, there is one that stands out as being less than excellent, episode 163. This, rather than being a display of magic by two wizards from different guilds, is instead a battle of the babes, pitting Fairy Tail's Mirajane against Blue Pegasus' Jenny as they try to out-mug each other for the lacrimas. It stands out in a bad way not because it isn't in the manga – the basics of it are – or because it deals in fanservice, because that's always been a part of Fairy Tail's appeal. The issue is that it devolves from the silly break that it was in the original story to a much more troublesome girl fight, with all of the women from the other guilds hopping into the ring to prove their own sex appeal. It takes away from their earlier portrayals as strong fighters in their own rights in order to have them demean themselves to “prove” their “worth.” Even if you think this is over-analyzing the matter, the episode also basically throws character out the window, with very nearly everyone acting as if they were in a fanfic fantasy rather than the official show. (Levy, with her disgusted commentary, and Erza, with her total comfort in showing off her body, escape this.)
Luckily, this is the only sour spot in the set. Most of the episodes across these two discs are quite good, with a couple of the battles having a real sense of danger to them. The story starts where the previous set left us, with the members of Fairy Tail who spent seven years in stasis returning from the Celestial World, where they accidentally squandered their training time. Luckily for them, Crime Sorciere is on the job. The independent guild, comprised of Meldy, Ultear, and Jellal, wants Erza to do some investigating for them at the Games – for the past seven years, they've been sensing a magic similar to Zeref's each year. Erza agrees to help, and Ultear uses a special spell to help the wizards achieve the level they should have reached had they not spent seven years asleep. Once this is taken care of, Fairy Tail heads off to Crocus, where they have to compete in order to earn the right to compete in the actual games themselves. That accomplished, we get down to the business of fighting.
Of course, first we have to have an episode introducing all of the guilds and fighters, so there's no actual competition until the fifth episode on the set. It is a credit to the show that it doesn't feel like an endless wait to get there, although it certainly is something worth noting. It also allows us to see that a lot has changed since Lucy, Gray, Natsu, and Erza were part of the larger world. No longer are they the most powerful by default; in fact, all of the wizards we see are almost ludicrously more powerful than they are. More alarming is that (former?) dark guild Raven Tail is part of the Games...and Lucy's first one-on-one battle is with their creepy female member Flare. More than the actual games, which are basically just dressed up children's games at this point (albeit with more violence), the battles are really tense, and Flare's with Lucy is also frustrating. Raven Tail, shall we say, may not be as reformed as they say they are, and it is easy to get wrapped up in the unfairness of the situation as we root for Lucy.
In the background is the more sinister story of what Crime Sorciere has been sensing for years. While there are few answers provided in these episodes, it is clear that the Grand Magic Games are merely a cover for something else, and using that as background helps to make these episodes palatable to viewers who are not fond of the shounen tournament. It also helps that we get to see a some things that are out of the ordinary for the story, such as Jellal being funny or Gajeel's power fantasies. Unfortunately everyone does look just a bit off for most of the set, with some very constipated faces on a few characters, but a few instances of creative backgrounds help to make up for that. The labyrinth that the gang has to solve to gain entry into the games, for instance, looks like M.C. Escher by way of the films “Labyrinth” and “Raggedy Anne and Andy: A Musical Adventure.”
Extras for this set are the basic commentaries and a feature about Cherami Leigh recording Lucy. Perhaps the best nugget that can be gleaned from them is that the voice of one of the commentators for the Grand Magic Games, Chapati Lola, was played by Larry Brantley, the voice of Wishbone the dog on PBS. (Although the knowledge that there was an off-color suggestion about what body part Elfman could put the Wendy-size dress on is pretty funny too...) The picture on both DVDs and Blu-Rays is sharp and clear, but the volume fluctuates just a bit on the Blu-Rays, getting louder for the ending theme in most cases.
The Grand Magic Games arc of Fairy Tail is just getting underway, and there's an obvious, ominous sub-plot being carried out beneath the merriment. Even if tournament arcs aren't your thing, this one is well done and exciting, nearly always feeling like we're advancing the plot even when little is happening on-screen. It has its ugly episode (in terms of content), but by and large, this is a contest worth attending.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Exciting even when there's no actual fighting, fights are generally tense. Some interesting visuals, one commentary discusses the process of dubbing for those who are interested.
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