Fairy Tail’s strength as a story continues to be its wholesale embracing of well-known shonen anime conventions to such an extreme it literally becomes a superpower in its own right. Oh, sure, other anime will attribute success to the motivating power of friendship, but in Fairy Tail battles are literally won through the power of the intense comradeship held between the main characters. I am not joking; one of the fights in this release is won because the opponent is overwhelmed by how much the characters care for each other and can no longer fight. That’s some OP friendship right there.
“The masters of magic have converged on a remote island, where Natsu and his teammates go head-to-head with Grimoire Heart, a dark guild led by one Fairy Tails former masters. Revelations from the past and long-buried secrets continue to come to light as Cana is granted a sacred new spell, and an excommunicated guildmate makes an unexpected return. If Fairy Tail has any hope of defeating their diabolical opponents, theyre going to have to combine all their powers and work together like never before. But as curses start to fly between wizards, the real danger might come from Zeref, a legendary dealer of death whose devilish plans for the future could bring an end to this golden age of magic.” – All the Anime
Part 10 gives us the penultimate segment of the Tenrou Island arc and with it, quite a few battles between the guilds Fairy Tail and Grimoire Heart; the enemy guild who have gatecrashed Fairy Tail’s big S-class wizard examination on their own island. Each one of these fights ends with a different young shonen anime trope so you might want to draw up bingo cards. In this release alone you have the aforementioned power of friendship, a sudden power up, last minute arrival of a powerful ally and the rare and sought after clever use of an opponent’s power against them.
Fairy Tail also makes great use of its source material. The original manga is consistent in its use of bold and powerful character reactions, this leads to fantastic still images right at the climax of the action which is where it counts. Nothing beats a Fairy Tail style expression of determination. Also, the fights in this release all have a real sense of high stakes no matter who is fighting and everyone is fighting someone in this release. Special shout out goes to Erza who has a fight with Azuma that has both the most varied choreography and also quickly becomes the most important conflict at a time when about three other fights are going on as it is Erza’s victory that allows everyone else to win.
It is also in this fight that the animator’s poor skill at projectiles become obvious. Indeed throughout this release whenever someone has to fire a load of small magic bullets or missiles they are always animated as a flat single cell layered over what is usually an unanimated static image. It is appalling to look at, better to change the nature of the attack when you are writing the script then settle for such an ugly technique.
The one major failing in the writing is the final engagement with Hades, the head of Grimoire Heart. Don’t worry, the fight itself is fine and the final blow in particular shows why Fairy Tail is a fantastic show for this genre. But the problem is how Hades himself is built up, he has no impact or gravitas as a villain. Three of his peons are fought before him in this release and all three had scarier feeling abilities and characterisations. It is a real shame because Hades has a fantastic connection to the Fairy Tail lore and his fight is fun and has a real sense of what is at stake. But Hades does not get to share in that; he is just a dull vehicle for it. When he gets up after the heroes have hit him down for the third time it doesn’t even seem to be for any real dramatic reason, he just acts like a video game boss moving on to his next health bar. Your final boss to a big long arc should not feel like that.
If we lived in less cynical times, Fairy Tail would be considered genre-defining. Sadly we do not and that is a shame. There is a real sense of learned craft in how Fairy Tail deals with its story that other contemporary action shows would do well to learn from. But that is Fairy Tail at its best… this release, in particular, is above average, for Fairy Tail. So compared to similar shows, with their wasted time and isolated heroes it is still far superior.