ONCE UPON A TIME, RONAN DALY REVIEWED FAIRY TAIL (PART 5), THE LATEST ANIME INSTALMENT, SPINNING OUT OF HIRO MASHIMA'S MANGA OF THE SAME NAME. THE SERIES FOLLOWS THE WIZARD'S GUILD, FAIRY TAIL, AND ITS MANY BATTLES, ADVENTURES AND GENERAL MAGICAL TOMFOOLERY. MORE SPECIFICALLY, IT FOCUSES ON LUCY HEARTFILIA, A YOUNG FEMALE WIZARD WHO SPECIALISES IN SUMMONING MAGIC, USING HER VERY SPECIAL CELESTIAL KEYS (IN JAPANESE, LUCY IS VOICED BY ARA HIRANO, WHO PORTRAYED A TREMENDOUSLY MEMORABLE MISA AMANE IN THE ANIME DEATH NOTE; IN ENGLISH, LUCY IS VOICED BY CHERAMI LEIGH, WHO PLAYED THE VERY DANGEROUS PATTY THOMPSON IN THE SOUL EATER ANIME).
At the beginning of the series, Lucy joins the guild, meeting Natsu Dragneel (voiced in Japanese by Tetsuya Kakihara from Bleach, Blue Exorcist and Black Lagoon - as well as dozens of other very good series which don't start with "bl" - and in English by Todd Haberkorn from One Piece and Naruto Shippuden) along the way. Natsu, a fully-fledged member of the guild, is also a dragonslayer, a very rare type of wizard actually taught magic by the dragons themselves. His companion, Happy (voiced in Japanese by Rie Kugimiya, who won acclaim for her roles in Zero no Tsukaima and Toradora, and in English by Deadman Wonderland's Tia Ballard) just so happens to be a blue, flying, talking cat, just in case there was any lingering doubt regarding the magical nature of the series. The different wizard guilds exist to allow wizards to gain rank and experience in their crafts, and also for wizards to find work, whether in creating magical items or fighting off terrifying and powerful monsters. Each guild has its own reputation and personality and there is great rivalry between different guilds.
By the time that Part 5 of the collection (the very beginning of season 2 of the series) starts, Lucy is well established as a member of the guild and she and Natsu have formed something of a team with other members of the guild, Erza Scarlet and Gray Fullbuster. Ezra (voiced by Shaman King's Sayake Ohara and Colleen Clinkenbeard - notably acclaimed for her work on One Piece and Fullmetal Alchemist) is a fierce warrior who specialises in summoning magical armour and weapons and a highly-ranked member of the guild, whilst Gray (voiced in Japanese by Yuichi Nakamura, the voice of Gai in Guilty Crown and in English by Newton Pittman) is an impressive ice-wizard, who enjoys shedding his clothes at inappropriate moments and propagating a powerful, and occasionally violent, rivalry with Natsu.
There are a few build-up episodes, allowing the narrative to develop slowly after the climactic events of Part 4 of the collection and these episodes mostly centre around Lucy and her day-to-day life or concerns within the guild. The overall narrative of the arc soon sets in, however, as the team of four (or five, if you include Happy the cat, though nobody in the series does) wizards are sent to meet with members of three other guilds - Blue Pegasus, Lamia Scale and Cait Shelter - to deal with Oracion Seis, a group of six colossally-powerful dark wizards and several, illegal, dark guilds they control, and which, together, present a menace too great for any single guild. Part 5 sees the development of this arc into a dramatic and well-plotted blend of action, drama and humour. It manages to create a full and new tale that is open and enjoyable to newcomers, whilst feeling entirely organic to what has come before, resulting in a rich and enjoyable series for Fairy Tail veterans and novices alike.
The voice acting throughout this collection is stellar, with Sayake Ohara and Colleen Clinkenbeard, in particular, portraying the many levels to Ezra's character. In English, the portrayal of Lucy can feel a little inconsistent, though not enough to distract majorly from the entertainment of the series. The animation is crisp and beautiful, allowing cartoonish moments to feel a part of the same world as the special-effects-laden battle scenes and spells. Characters and actions are beautifully rendered, lending neatly to the personality of the series as a whole.
In terms of the characters and their personalities, Fairy Tail follows in the anime trend of creating earnest and likeable characters who are also undeniably flawed as people, and it really works. Lucy is not only a wizard, but an aspiring novelist with great ambition and fierce independence. However, she is terrible at managing money and paying the rent is a frequent concern of hers. In addition to this, Lucy has a rather romanticised view of the world, often keen to believe reality is like something out of a romance novel. Natsu fills the role commonly associated with male leads in shounen anime - he eats a lot, he fights a lot and he will gladly stand up to protect others and their dreams, all the while searching for answers and striving to be the best. While the template for Natsu's characters is hardly new, he nonetheless manages to entertain and enthral, and his uncontrollable bouts of motion sickness on any form of vehicle never get old. Throughout the guild of Fairy Tail, characters can be found with abundant and clear strengths and flaws as people, which typically serves to make them stronger and more interesting characters. Happy remains (for now) one of the less-explored characters and seems to serve the role of cute distraction and source of comic relief, albeit a fantastically executed one that lends no small amount of charm to the series.
Fairy Tail is an anime series that manages to blend danger and tensions with comedy and emotion without becoming heavy-handed. Consider it highly recommended!
Fairy Tail Collection Part 5 is available on DVD and Bluray from .
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