Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Grimoire Heart, the worst of the dark guilds, continues their attack on those Fairy Tail members trying to make S class on the guild's private island. While Ultear pursues Zeref, the Fairies try to stop them, but there's another entry into the field – the Council is ready to unleash Etherion again. Will Mest stand by and let that happen? More importantly, will the members of Fairy Tail listen if he bothers to warn them?
Epic battles in shounen manga can either be intensely exciting or drag on for pages and pages with a series of “X versus Y!” scenarios, often comprised of endless power ups. Hiro Mashima has covered both types, and a few that are in-between, over the course of Fairy Tail, with the current battle being firmly in the former category. This fight, which has carried over from volume 26 and looks like to will keep going in volume 28, is high stakes, exciting, and gives us a chance to learn more about both the heroes and the villains. No new powers have thus far been unleashed by the heroes, but they are using what they have in creative ways. The result is a page turner of a volume that leaves us eager for the next installment, because while popular wisdom dictates that the hero of a shounen manga nearly always wins, what if this is the time when he doesn't?
When we last saw everyone, Lucy, Cana, Gray, and Loke were being attacked by a goat-headed member of Grimoire Heart, whose goofy appearance belies the strength he possesses. Those familiar with the astrological zodiac might have made the connection that Loke quickly makes – this guy has a goat's head for a very specific reason, one that makes Loke the most logical choice of opponent. The showdown between Loke and Goat Man is the most by the book in the volume, but as a chance to see Loke shine, it's worth it. More specifics of Lucy's past are also revealed, and while the fight's resolution is a bit out of the blue, the combined intensity of the battle and reaffirmation of Lucy's bond with her spirits make these some good chapters.
On the whole, this is a good volume for Lucy, who appears to be reclaiming her role of heroine from Wendy. She gets some more page time than she has had in a few books, and if she takes a bizarre role in her team up with Natsu against the sumo-themed member of Grimoire Heart, it is still a major one. Natsu shows more intelligence and creativity during this battle than we've seen from him for a while, and there is a feeling that Mashima is trying to reclaim his characters from the patterns they've fallen into. That said, this is still the funniest duel of the book, with voodoo doll gags, a boob joke, and general lunacy and absurdity taking equal roles with the action.
Speaking of boobs, Mashima's art is definitely focused there for most of her scenes, with her being in real danger of showing off some nipple. Her neckline slips, her straps vanish, and later on her shirt shreds, making Lucy's breasts the major fanservice for this book, as even Gray keeps most of his clothes on. Mashima is curiously careful to avoid showing underwear in this volume, although we do see plenty of leg and Juvia's outfit takes on a pseudo-Amazon look when it gets ripped. On the subject of Juvia, readers may have noticed that Mashima returned to her previous character design with the start of this story arc. This is never satisfactorily explained – although in all fairness that would have had to happen in an earlier book, not this one – but one presumes her rolled hair is easier to draw than her spiky hair. Mashima manages to use her feelings for Gray to actually advance the plot this time around, which is an excellent change, as her jealousy of Lucy was wearing a bit thin. Like with Lucy and Natsu's battle, Juvia's face-off against Grimoire Heart's Merudy has its moments of humor, which once again helps to keep the story from dragging.
While Zeref and Ultear are not up to much this book, things gear up for them to be the focus of volume twenty-eight, and Gray's realization of who Ultear is sets the stage for it to be quite intense. With Mest's allegiance to the council in question as they discuss using Etherion again, Ultear's blind hatred, and Zeref's uncertain motivations to consider, the denouement of this arc stands to be a doozy. There are a lot of plot threads to pull together (will Cana make S-class?), but Mashima looks to be on his way towards doing just that as this volume leaves us eager for the next one to come out.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Lush island backgrounds, good mix of humor and action. Interesting details revealed about some of the characters' pasts.
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