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Fairy Tail Part 1 (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 12)

2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 281 minutes approx.

Lucy Heartfilia is a young wizard looking to join the fabled Wizard’s Guild known as Fairy Tail based in the Fiore Kingdom. Arriving in the town of Hargeon Lucy happens across a rambunctious young man named Natsu Dragneel and his talking cat Happy. When Natsu and Happy come to the rescue after Lucy is tricked by a sleazy playboy, Natsu reveals that he too is a wizard and a member of Fairy Tail and takes Lucy to join up – although it is not quite as she expected it to be.

Adapted from the manga by Hiro Mashima Fairy Tail is the latest shonen fantasy anime series to capture the hearts of anyone looking to fill the gap whenever Bleach or Naruto are not on the release schedule. Much like the aforementioned mega hits, Fairy Tail is aiming for the same kind of longevity although with 120 episodes to its name (by the time you read this) it is still in its infancy. Unlike its predecessors, this show has no real overarching story to drive it along, instead relying essentially on the “mission of the week” formula.

Fairy Tail refers to the guild of wizards who are something of the black sheep of the magical fraternity. Their guildhall is ostensibly a tavern and the extensive cast of colourful and eccentric characters have no qualm in fighting amongst each other over the slightest thing; the hugely excitable and capricious fire wizard Natsu therefore is a prefect fit.

Among the madcap mages with whom Lucy forges a partnership are Gray Fullbuster, an ice wizard who has a disturbing habit of randomly stripping off and the armoured warrior Erza Scarlet, a woman with little tolerance for shenanigans and indeed anything else. Even though Erza is currently on the outside of this newly formed quintet she finds herself playing clean up after the others have caused plenty of havoc although she is not averse to working alongside them when the need arises.

So far in these twelve episodes there has been little in the way of character exposition making it hard to get a real grip on the main cast. There is no doubt they are very entertaining but for the moment, the connection between character and viewer is superficial. The first sign of a backstory appears in the main thrust of the “Cursed Island” arc which closes this set: Gray finds himself fighting for the honour of his late tutor against a former fellow ice wizard student who plans to resurrect the powerful demon their mentor died while sealing away.

Aside from Natsu seeking a dragon named Igneel which raised Natsu as a child and has recently disappeared, little is known about our lead character although one can assume this will change as time goes on – same for Lucy. But what we do know is that Natsu can summon the fire breathing properties of a dragon to aid him in combat but suffers from motion sickness. Personality wise he is a composite of Naruto, Black Star from Soul Eater with a touch of Lina Inverse from The Slayers and a hint of FMA’s Edward Elric when he loses his rag!

Meanwhile Lucy, who manages to just about remain on the outside of being your typical fan service anime babe, is a Celestial Wizard. This means she can summon celestial spirits via Gatekeys, many of which represent the signs of the Zodiac, with appearances so far from Cancer the effete hairdresser crab, Taurus the perverted bull, Aquarius the acerbic mermaid, Virgo the maid and Horlogium, a moving clock which is Lucy’s preferred method of safe travel when on foot.

As mentioned earlier, the series is broken down into mini-adventures some of which are single shots while others run over two or more episodes. They begin as jobs on the Guild notice board and are usually chosen based on the value of their reward. Extremely dangerous and higher paying “S Class” jobs are out of bounds to lower ranking wizards such as Natsu and co, but that doesn’t stop them from pinching one on the sly and taking the job under false pretences, although the punishment for such a misdemeanour is a visit from Erza!

It’s a little odd that a series which has aspirations for a long run hasn’t decided to start from scratch and build up a consistent story line to fully immerse the audience in the characters’ stories and lives a’la Naruto or Bleach but with the target audience seemingly that of the younger viewer, perhaps this was a conscious decision to make the entertainment aspect of the show a priority over the character development. Therefore be prepared for plenty of repetition whenever our heroes summon their special powers amidst the usual character deformations and side effects whenever tempers of lost or shocks are experienced.

Make no mistake, Fairy Tail is fairly simplistic but a lot of fun but has enough awareness to not alienate older viewers with its occasional random silliness. When it settles down long enough to be serious the stories are quite imaginative while the action scenes are well animated and eventful, even if the overall package has a “spot the influence” feel to it. This is an entertaining first outing with tremendous potential to be a huge hit with positive signs that the best is yet to come.

Extras:

English Language 5.1

Japanese Language 2.0 with English Subtitles

Disc 1:

Episode 1 commentary

Disc 2:

Episode 9 commentary

Textless Opening Song – Snow Fairy

Textless Opening Song – S.O.W – Sense Of Wonder

Textless Closing Song – Kanpeki Gu~none

Textless Closing Song – Tsuioku no Merry-go-round

 

Ratings –  ****

Man In Black

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