The second volume of Hiro Mashima’s frantic wizardry epic, Fairy Tail, continues (predictably enough) where Volume One left off, with Natsu, Grey, Lucy and Happy having snuck away to take on a secret ‘S-Class’ quest by themselves without authorisation on Galuna Island, and everything has started to kick off. Here’s the summary from the back of the DVD:
“In the midst of a mission to break the curse over Galuna Island, Natsu and the gang face a band of deranged mages trying to resurrect the monstrous demon Deliora. Gray’s determined to put the freeze on the sinister plan in a frigid battle with a rival from his past – even if it takes his own life! Back in Magnolia, the city becomes a warzone after sorcerers known as Element 4 destroy Fairy Tail headquarters and kidnap their beloved rookie, Lucy. A bone-crunching, skin-charring fight between fire and iron erupts when Natsu squares off against another Dragon Slayer wizard!”
The energetic pace set up in Volume One continues at much the same level in Volume Two, with Grey, Natsu and Lucy engaging in their own fights on an island they’re trying to rescue from a dark magic ceremony called ‘Moon Drip’ (which sounds like an unfortunate medical condition, but we won’t go there). Fans of the first DVD will be heartened to know there’s nothing missing here that they’ve already grown to like- only more, in fact -as we begin to delve into the backstories of our main characters. The primary focus in the first half is actually Grey, and how his past ties in with the events of Deliora’s history. If you’ve seen one shounen anime series, it’s hard not to already predict how things (as with most back backstories in series like this) went down, but there are at least a few instances within Grey’s past that make the story a little more involved than a generic teenagers-with-special-powers anime might. It’s not as masterfully done or as touching as certain other series handle their characters’ histories, and it’s hard not to make comparisons when the genre itself tends to recycle staple, formulaic plots to add depth to its protagonists (or antagonists, even). It’s nice, then, that Fairy Tail at least has a little twist up its sleeve that, at the resolution of this arc, does actually add a more lasting relevance to the series of Grey’s past than simply shading him in.
As a story, Galuna Island doesn’t quite have the strength of the earlier Lullaby arc, and it’s a shame because there’s some pretty clever stuff woven into it that you need to pay attention to in terms of foreshadowing (Fairy Tail isn’t an anime to just throw away secondary characters), and it carries some unique twists that make it stand out (if only a little bit) from many other series that have done the same thing with a similar premise. The REAL strength of the DVD volume is in the next arc, beginning at episode 21: the Phantom Lord arc.
This is one of those hitting-the-runway moments of a series. You’ve taxied away from the first episode and you’ve been sitting in line, taxiing for the last few episodes waiting for the main story to kick off. And during the first episodes on the DVD you can’t help but get the feeling you’re actually just getting through it in order to see the introduction of a major story and the primary focus of the series. Then BAM, you’re off.
Without giving too much away that isn’t already specified on the DVD cover, Fairy Tail itself comes under attack from a rival guild, and our heroes are left to defend it from an incoming, brutal siege.
This is definitely one of the defining early stories in Fairy Tail, and I was really excited about seeing this. I wasn’t disappointed, not least because you finally get a context in which to place all those background characters you’ve been seeing about the guild headquarters (see what I meant about secondary characters?), and all those people you thought were just animated props actually have swathes of personality just waiting to plaster itself over your eyes.
The story isn’t the only thing to up the ante in this arc, though- the humour and characterisation by the actors is a great deal stronger, and the animation seems to have been stepped up, too. Particularly in episode 21, everything looks fantastic. The action doesn’t stop after that point, and the only drawback from here on in is that you still have half of the arc to go before you find out what happens. At which point, you’ll likely be hunting around for the manga, which isn’t held in great supply, criminally.
The issues from my review of the first volume notwithstanding (i.e., that shounen animes tend to have an innate predictability, so following on from so many prior releases makes any new franchise fairly difficult to view without a sense of deja vu), Fairy Tail ups its game in Volume Two. There is one filler episode with apparently no continuity with the main story that just ends completely unconcluded, which is frustrating as the premise and humour in it is actually quite funny, despite being more bogged down in traditional ‘go-to’ anime gags rather than Fairy Tail’s own uniqueness. This has the fire that should have started within the first volume, but once you’re invested in the characters, you won’t want to let go of the story.
Fairy Tail – Part 2 is released on DVD by Manga Entertainment UK on May 21st.
Pre-order it at Amazon UK HERE.
– Hugo Jackson