Warning: review contains episode spoilers
After over two years since the last episodes of Fairy Tail (i.e. Fairy Tail Zero, which you will want to see as it provides context for this collection), the final season now begins.
First, a reminder of the story so far. The head of the Fairy Tail guild of wizards, Makarov, had disbanded the guild one year ago and has been missing ever since. The other wizards have split up and gone their separate ways. In Fairy Tail Zero, we learn that Lucy is now working as a journalist and is currently reporting on the Grand Magic Games, but these are thrown into chaos when an unexpected challenger arrives and not only beats all the contenders, but has fire magic so hot he melts the arena. It is perhaps not that surprising that this mystery wizard is Natsu who, with Happy, reunites with Lucy. Natsu has spent the past year training to be stronger. Lucy too has been training, even creating new magic outfits to give her the same powers as her Celestial Spirits, and has also been using her new job to track down the other wizards. Together they eventually decide to re-establish Fairy Tail, and go off to find the rest of the wizards.
The first half of the collection sees the trio trying to find various past members. These include Wendy and Charle, who are now in Lamia Scale with Charle being able to use magic to transform herself into a humanoid catgirl form, while a miserable Juvia needs help as Gray has been missing for six months. We first see him having become a member of a cult called Avatar, who worship Zeref as a god, but we eventually learn that he is undercover, bringing the organisation down with the help of Erza.
Eventually, nearly all of the old members of Fairy Tail meet up again in their home city of Magnolia to rebuild the guild. Due to Makarov still being absent, Erza is made the guild’s head. Erza is then visited by Mest, who reveals to her a big secret, but Natsu and several others barge in, meaning that he has to tell them too. Deep under the guild building is the Lumen Historie, a magic gem containing the guild’s founder, Mavis. Mest reveals that Makarov disbanded the guild to protect it, as he has travelled to the militaristic rival empire of Alvarez on the continent of Alakitasia in order to prevent its emperor, Spriggan, from launching an invasion. Those present decide to travel to Alvarez to bring Makarov back safely, while other guild members decide to make a back-up team. As for Makarov himself, he has been waiting for six months to meet Spriggan, but when he finally gets the chance, he is horrified to discover that Spriggan is actually Zeref.
There are several things to like about this collection, one of which is seeing these characters again after they have been away for such a long time. However, getting beyond that, probably the best bit about this collection is learning about some of the background information. There are several flashbacks in the second half of this collection, primarily relating to Mavis and Zeref, which you will be familiar with if you have already watched Fairy Tail Zero, and know about the relationship between the two. We come to learn that both characters are cursed, and how they have reacted to this curse has affected their entire outlook, with Zeref seeking destruction, including his own, while Mavis continues to help those closest to her from within her jewel. We also know how one other Fairy Tail member has a very personal connection to Zeref. A connection that helped to bring about the curse that is now upon him.
The collection also helps to establish what will be the final act of the entire series, as all-out war starts to brew between Fairy Tail and the Alvarez Empire. We learn more about the way Zeref has structured his rule, and how he has appointed the “Spriggan 12”, a dozen of the most powerful wizards from far and wide, to help bring about his plan.
The first part of the collection also has its entertaining moments. Perhaps the best is seeing what we think is an evil Gray having joined a sinister cult, when in fact he is infiltrating it. While deep down, you know things are going to turn out alright in the end, it is still interesting to follow how everything will eventually play out.
On the downside, the comedy in the series is rather broad for my personal tastes. There is an entire section set in a bathhouse, leading to the typical fan service comedy that we have seen in countless other anime before and since, which is not exactly original. The collection does not have that many extras either: two episode commentaries, and textless opening and closing. These songs are “Powers of the Dream” by lol and “Endless Harmony” by Beverly, but neither one particularly stands out.
Still, it is good to see the series back, and hopefully we will get the thrilling end we desire.