IR DVD Review: FAIRY TAIL Vol. 4 [Funimation]
“Fairy Tail” is a story of a young guild of wizards, more cyberpunk than Hogwarts, that believes in the power of connection above anything even when dissent threaten their very livelihood. The tendency of characterization balances between stakes that create intense emotional consequences and intensity that is simply created for the good of the game.
Disc 1 The aspect of the personalities that make up a Guild define exactly how the stories tend to be structured. The element of the family here makes their basis around Elza who, in the beginning is the most isolated of all. Three of the teams take out different opponents of a Tiger group though the realities of what is truly at stake seem less than diabolical. It is only through the possible loss of Elza’s friends who have come to mean everything to her that forces the inevitability to take a stand. The ideals are based in notions of identity and what it takes in terms of redemption to realize them. The two sided (literally) personality of the lead villain brings this more into full focus in the battle around the R System. There are some exceptional cinematic pieces aside from the normal battle sequences in this multi-arched structure. A supposed death sequence after an emotional sacrifice is well played offering some great emotional notes. The structure of this journey quest in allowing the members to find their own core self gives the anime a bit more depth than it might have normally. However when it returns to the Guild home at Fairy Tail, it becomes more conventional and Natsu starts to bear more than a passing resemblance to another hotheaded anime hero who tends to not know when he is beaten. The commentary shows a dexterity of how to modulate but skirts the issue regarding serious dramatic points instead aiming for an angle of fan fun.
Disc 2 The aspect of family tries to play darker on the second disc but undeniably has a softer impact because of the lack of a more epic background. The bulk of the story in these episodes revolves around returning to the Guild proper and reintegrating with the other wizards instead of being on a one-off mission in search of the “truth”. The conflict here is between The Master of the Guild and his grandson Laxus who believes the congregation has gone soft and needs to be re-imagined. As a result, the over-reaching student sets up a high stakes battle that, while not killing the wizards involved, forces them against each other to prove who is willing to go the distance to protect the core. The main problem is that Laxus as a character is overplayed as a over-hyped, power hungry, high-on-his-own-supply beefhead who doesn’t necessitate sympathy even when he comes crawling back in shame. His underside simply comes off as a pathetic. While this makes the other characters, even Natsu, seems positively chivalrous by comparison, it tends to play more overwrought than necessary. The one fight where a quiet girl transforms into a She-Devil motivated by the almost death of her brother is the main angle of the disc that gives the progression weight. Granted some of the fights including the two-on-one Dragonslayer duel have their moments but they tend to pale in contrast to the stakes on Disc 1. The commentary on this disc, especially featuring the voice of Mira/She Devil who is also a writer on the translation, shows the interplay of creativity as well as frugality that allows the folks at Funimation to bring this kind of material to the States. In terms of trailers, “Chrome Shelled Regios” takes the cake with its near future textures mixed with an element of “Riddick” revolution.
While the first disc definitely shows the true potential of character connection, the second disc tends to rely on formula-bent structures of family discord despite some interesting fights, especially in the cathedral. “Fairy Tail” distinctly offers more than the name describes but its success is dependent on the level on the intensity of the game being played and the resounding stakes that must be fallen.