Fairy Tail is an odd show. By all rights, it should hit the exact same repetitive notes as Naruto, Bleach, One Piece and a thousand other long-running action shows – the original manga by Hiro Mashima is certainly cut from the same cloth, after all. Yet, somehow, it proves to be considerably more interesting and entertaining than those shows, even to a slightly older audience than it was originally intended for.
Set in a fantasy world where magic reigns and skilled mages band together in guilds to find work and adventure, Fairy Tail follows Lucy Heartfillia as she sets out to join the prestigious eponymous guild, and Natsu Dragneel, a flame-spewing wizard with the powers of a dragon. As Lucy strives to prove herself worthy of joining (and the fact that she brandishes a powerful set of Celestial Keys allowing her to summon spirits to aid her in combat should help her pass the entrance exam!), she also grows close to the madcap group of wizards that are her new teammates.
The cast is by far Fairy Tail‘s greatest asset, a brilliant mix of volatile personalities, all with fun powers that provide visual treats throughout the series. Be it Gray Fullbuster’s ice manipulation (and curious habit of stripping near-naked) or Ezra Scarlet’s sets of enchanted armour and mystic battle prowess, every character we meet genuinely seems to add something to the show.
The main conflict early on pits the Fairy Tail guild against the dark wizards of enemy agencies Eisenwald and Phantom Lord, which serves to explore and explain the laws and mythology of the world. Subsequent arcs interweave this greater conflict with smaller or more personal tales, successfully making viewers regard the cast as more than mere archetypes. Pleasantly, whether the gang is caught in epic combat against ancient demons, or simply spending an episode sorting out a body swap spell gone wrong, everything clips along at a rather speedy pace. It rarely feels like stories are being drawn out to hit a weekly broadcast schedule, which is frankly refreshing.
Given Fairy Tail was made for precisely that weekly broadcast though, the show looks better than you might imagine. Don’t expect lush visuals on par with late-night, high-budget anime, but the mix of distinctive character designs, a rich colour palette, and some surprisingly dynamic action courtesy of director Shinji Ishihara mean the show packs an impressive eye-candy punch.
We feel the ‘complete collection’ title is a touch misleading though – the 48 episodes here comprise only the first full season of Fairy Tail, bundling together the four previously released 12-episode collections. However, there’s plenty of content to entertain in these ‘mere’ 48, and the set concludes on a relatively satisfying end note. Although a further three seasons have aired in Japan, and Funimation has dubbed the second, there’s yet to be any news of a UK release beyond these episodes. Considering this set reinforces that Fairy Tail is the most engaging, clever, and flat out fun shonen anime series we’ve seen in a long time, we certainly hope more episodes make their way over soon.