Warning: Review contains episode spoilers
“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.” – George Orwell.
As we get to the penultimate collection in the first series of Fairy Tail, things begin to hot up as the wizards take part in the Grand Magic Games.
Unfortunately, things have not gone to plan. A friendly gesture made by Lucy’s celestial spirits (which allowed her and the other wizards who were training for the games to visit the celestial realm) backfired with horrific consequences, because, due to the difference in the flow of time, one day there equals three months in normal time. Thus they have used up all of their training time.
However, help comes from a surprising source. The wizards are told to meet someone at an old bridge. They discover that the people who summoned them are a new guild called Crime Sorcière, consisting of Jellal, Meldy and Ultear. They have set up their own independent guild in order to track down and stop Zeref, and request that Fairy Tail help them look for anything suspicious at the Games. In exchange, Ultear uses a painful spell to boost the performance of the wizards instantly. During this time, an accident sees Jellal and Erza almost kiss each other, but Jellal stops it, claiming he is engaged – a lie that is clearly rubbish, but both go through with it.
Natsu, Lucy, Gray, Erza and Wendy are picked to be the members of Fairy Tail’s team for the Games, which take place in Fiore’s capital city of Crocus. While there, they learn that all team members must arrive in their designated overnight accommodation by midnight, but only Erza stays behind. Gray jumps on Lyon who makes a bet saying that if his guild wins the Games then Juvia must join his Lamia Scale guild; Wendy and Charle disappear while they go sightseeing and Natsu and Lucy confront Sting and Rouge, the dragon slayers of Sabertooth, currently the strongest guild in the land. They instantly fall out because Sting and Rouge refer to themselves as “True Dragon Slayers” – because they killed the dragons who raised them.
Because of Wendy’s sudden disappearance, Elfman steps in as a replacement and the team take part in their first challenge: a race to complete a shifting, globe-like labyrinth. The first eight teams to complete this go through, and they do indeed complete it… in eighth place. While this is going on, Wendy and Charle are found unconscious on the castle grounds and are healed up by Porlyuscia / Grandeeney.
The Games then finally start, consisting of various challenges mixed in with one-on-one fights. Aside from the Fairy Tail team, the other teams consist of… Fairy Tail, who, reading the rules, discovered that a guild could enter two teams, and there is also a Team B consisting of Laxus, Gajell, Mirajane, Juvia, and Jellal in disguise as Mystogan. Also competing are Sabertooth, Lamia Scale, Blue Pegasus, the wild Quattro Cerberus, the all-women Mermaid Heel which includes Erza’s old catgirl-like friend Milliana, and the Dark Guild Raven Tail which has been created by Makarov’s estranged son Ivan. While the Games take place, someone close to Fiore’s seat of power is also looking for celestial wizards for some evil scheme, while Charle claims to have dreamt of something terrible involving Lucy while she was unconscious.
Let’s deal with some problems first of all: the main issue with this collection is the production from Funimation. Apart from the ever-so-annoying trailers at the beginning for releases not out in Britain yet which you can’t skip through, there are issues like the spacing out of the episodes: seven on the first disc and only four on the second. Surely it makes more sense to spread the episodes evenly, having six on one disc and five on the other? There are also issues with the subtitles. In the first event at the Games, one of the wizards taking part is Juvia, who is introduced by her full name. In the subtitles, this reads as “Juvia Loxar”. However, on the actual screen we see a picture of her as if she was being shown on a TV screen (or rather this world’s version of one), and her name is written as “Juvia Lockser”. Funimation have spelt the name wrong, even though it is clearly written on the screen. Presumably they spelled it “Loxar” when she first appeared and felt that they couldn’t correct it after using their own spelling so many times.
The other niggle I have with this collection is one episode in particular, Episode 163, in which Mirajane battles the Mermaid Heel wizard Jenny. As both characters are glamour models, most of their duel is not fighting, but a “glamour battle”, modelling in various outfits. This results in nearly all the women wizards in all of the participating guilds also showing off. Thus the episode is just a whole heap of fan service that doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the series. It also goes off in some weird directions. It starts with swimsuits, but later it gets into a bondage section and a bridal section, in which you see little Asca in a bridesmaid’s outfit. All I could think was: “God, I hope she didn’t take part in the bondage bit.” Even if she didn’t, you know Wendy did because she was modelling in other outfits before that, even if you don’t see her in one.
However, there are still plenty of things about this collection to like. The sport is alright, but it is really the characters that attract your attention. Rogue and Sting are already building up to be interesting, because they mention that they were originally inspired by Natsu and Gajell but now dislike them, so you know there are going to be fights involving them. However, there have been big fights already, the most interesting of which is Lucy against one of Raven Tail’s wizards, Flare Corona, who is able to control her hair that can catch fire. She and the rest of the Raven Tail guild resort to dirty tricks to win and are mainly out there to beat Fairy Tail. In Flare’s case, when she starts losing the battle, she sneaks her hair underground and pops it up next to Asca, threatening to attack her unless Lucy backs down. It makes for a thrilling, tension-filled fight.
This collection, though, really serves as the first taster for what is the final event of this series, and despite its faults, you can’t help but wish to find out what happens at the end.