Fairy Tail vol. 1
The first 12 tales on Blu-ray/DVD
By Joseph Luster
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If you had a chance to read our cover story on Fairy Tail in the latest issue of Otaku USA, then you probably already have a good idea of whether or not the series is for you. Heck, at this point you may be waist-deep in the series—which is almost up to 109 episodes—thanks to the ongoing simulcast. But let's see if the Fiore Kingdom stands tall enough to own with FUNimation's recently released collection, which puts the first 12 episodes on a handy Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
Fiore is somewhat of an "every-kingdom," in that it's a fairly nondescript fantasy land in which magic is a part of everyday life. Folks can purchase new spells at shops just as one would the week's groceries, and mage guilds of varying degrees of relevance dot the land. One such guild, Fairy Tail, is remarkable enough to name a series after, and it's this band of wizardly roustabouts on which Hiro Mashima's story focuses.
Who more appropriate to serve as an introduction to this wild bunch than the far more level-headed protagonist, Lucy Heartfilia. This teenage wizard dreams of joining Fairy Tail, and she eventually gets her wish when she crosses paths with the hot-headed Natsu Dragneel, who assists her in confronting an impostor attempting to use Natu's identity for his own gains. Thus Lucy begins a new, thrilling chapter of her life as a rookie member of Fairy Tail.
The first few episodes only hint at any sort of overarching plot, focusing more on isolated jobs that have Lucy teaming up with Natsu and his best friend, the flying, talking cat Happy. The rest of the more prominently featured guild members—including the scantily clad male (I know, what a twist!) foil to Natsu, Gray Fullbuster, and the incredibly powerful female wizard, Erza Scarlet—work their way into quests alongside the trio shortly thereafter.
The show thus gets off to an entertaining but fairly slow start. Thankfully this doesn't last long as the threat of Dark Guilds—which operate outside the rules and consent of the Magic Council—rears its head, allowing for more dangerous missions that provide higher stakes concerning the world at large. The primary conflict that takes over the majority of this first volume involves the Dark Guild Eisenwald and a sinister attempt at assassination via a magical flute's death lullaby. It's the real meat of the collection, and should be ample story to give new viewers an idea of whether or not they'll want to continue with the series.
However, beyond that, it still comes off as remarkably brief, especially due to the asking price of the set thanks to its combo format. Don't get me wrong, Fairy Tail looks good in HD from a purely visual standpoint—even if the animation is merely above average for a TV series—but one would imagine it will see future releases down the road featuring more episodes in the same way One Piece has. I'd recommend checking the series out before committing if you're new to Fairy Tail.
If you're already a fan, though, this is a solid package, and FUNimation did a decent enough job with the English dub. Folks are gonna have their hangups either way, but Todd Haberkorn pulls off a good balance of serious and silly with Natsu, and Tia Ballard's take on Happy is a pleasant surprise (see: not obnoxious). I don't normally pay much attention to dubs, but once I adjusted to this one I enjoyed watching it almost as much as I did with the original Japanese language track.
This early in, my only real complaint with Fairy Tail falls on some rather uninspired character designs, and a few running gags that fall flat but manage to keep running anyway. This happens a lot in anime, but one of the real eye-rollers here is Gray's tendency to take his clothes off—not even to a scandalous degree—much to the shock and chagrin of everyone around him. Yeah, I can kind of understand their reaction, because I don't think it's funny or cute either. I really hope they drop lame schtick like that eventually, because Fairy Tail is otherwise a solid shonen series worth following.
© Hiro Mashima • KODANSHA/Fairy Tail Guild • TV TOKYO