Fairy Tail (2009 – 2010)

Episodes 01 – 48

Their Magic Spells Destruction!

Based on the hugely admired manga series of same name, written and illustrated by Hiro Mashima, Fairy Tail the anime, produced by A-1 Pictures Inc. and Satelight, and directed by Shinji Ishihira, was always destined to become a success due to the first-rate reputation of the manga. Debuting on TV Tokyo October 2009 Fairy Tail has already managed to reach Naruto and One Piece fame in only a matter of short years and after finishing the first season, one can truly understand why.

Set in the fantastical country of Fiore on Earth Land, in the town of Magnolia, Fairy Tail tells the story of 17-year-old celestial wizard and blonde bombshell Lucy Heartfilia who runs away from home to join Fairy Tail, a rambunctious wizards’ guild whose members are famous for their excessively destructive antics. On her way to the guild, she meets Natsu Dragneel, a boy travelling the land of Fiore together with his partner, a flying blue cat who goes by the name of Happy, in search of his foster parent, a dragon named Igneel who disappeared some years earlier. A renegade wizard posing as the famous Salamander of Fairy Tail soon abducts Lucy and Natsu, eventually coming to her aid, reveals himself to be the real Salamander and a Dragon Slayer, a wizard with the abilities of a dragon. After defeating the imposter, Natsu invites Lucy to join Fairy Tail. Once a member of the renowned Fairy Tail Guild, Lucy forms a team with Natsu and Happy, where they take on various missions from the Fairy Tail job board to pay for rent and other expenses. Ice wizard Gray Fullbuster and armoured female wizard Erza Scarlet later join the team and together the group make up ‘Team Natsu’ of Fairy Tail.

Team Natsu's reaction to their new guild hall!
Team Natsu’s reaction to their new guild hall!

Fairy Tail works so well due to the loony, heartfelt and earnest chemistry, or sometimes rivalry, between the members of ‘Team Natsu’. Lucy Heartfilia, primarily the female protagonist of the series, is the initial viewpoint character. Named by Mashima after The Beatles song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, she specialises in celestial magic and has the ability to summon celestial spirits from a set of magical Gatekeys. A Fire Dragon Slayer constantly trying to prove his strength to others, Natsu Dragneel is carefree and reckless in nature, and, despite his consistent brawls with the other members of Fairy Tail, he is a fiercely loyal and protective friend. Widely considered to be the most powerful female member of the Fairy Tail Guild, fiery redhead Erza Scarlett is a 19-year-old swordswoman with a guild ranking of S-Class. Having the ability to use re-equip magic Erza can summon different weapons and change armour and clothing at will. Gray Fullbuster an 18-year-old wizard who specializes in performing Ice Make magic which allows him to instantaneously conjure various kinds of weaponry, shields, and other inanimate objects made from ice is more level-headed and competent in performing jobs than most of his guildmates, but has a habit of removing his shirt or stripping down to his underwear, often without realizing it. The final, often overlooked, member of ‘Team Natsu’ is Happy, a 6-year-old blue-furred cat-like creature called an Exceed. Using the magical ability Aera, Happy is able to fly by growing white-feathered wings, and can carry up to one person, which comes in quite handy time and time again.

While the members of ‘Team Natsu’ are generally friends, there is a lot of feuding between the guildmates, which makes for some hilarious and entertaining viewing. Due to their opposing personalities and magical elements Natsu and Gray have an ongoing rivalry, Natsu having Fire magic and Gray having Ice they naturally rarely see eye-to-eye. There is also conflict between group members on topics such as ‘who the team’s strongest wizard is,’ while Happy is often neglected and left out due to his inferior magical ability, which causes him to be overly vocal on issues that may offend.

The first season of Fairy Tail is quite lengthy, being a whopping 48 episodes long, a lot generally happens, and being the introductory season most story arcs center on the history or back-story of some of the main players. The first few episodes are focused on getting to know the leads and the country of Fiore, a prologue before each episode explaining the country and how magic works within it on a day-to-day basis, gets quite tiresome and repetitive after the fifth or sixth viewing. The 6-episode Lulluby Arc is the first time the group is really challenged and must work together to defeat the demon flute Lullyby and by the conclusion of the story the guildmates decide to band together to form ‘Team Natsu,’ and thus Fairy Tail’s most powerful team is born.

A lovely day for destruction!
A lovely day for destruction!

The next 10-episode arc, the Galuna Island Arc, sees the over-eager Natsu and Happy, behind Erza’s back and not being properly trained or experienced, take on an S-Class job, dragging Lucy and Gray along with them to the cursed island of Galuna. In these episodes Gray’s past is slowly revealed as we learn about his former trainer Ur and his old partner and rival Lyon Vastia, who has now returned, trying to raise Deriora, an evil Demon created by the Black Mage Zeref, the demon responsible for Gray’s hometown city’s obliteration and Ur’s death. The Galuna Island Arc really stands out as a turning point for the anime and is where viewers might truly begin to benefit from this series as this story offers a lot of laughs, excitement, emotion and is filled with wonder and imagination.

Not as inspired as the previous tale, the next 9 episodes form the Phantom Lord Arc. On their return home from a successful mission ‘Team Natsu’ discover their guild headquarters have been destroyed by a rival guild known as Phantom Lord. From there, a war is waged between the members of Fairy Tail and the guild responsible for the attack, Phantom Lord, with Lucy’s mysterious past slowly being exposed throughout the feud. Less creative than the latter this arc does introduce audiences to some interesting new characters who eventually become a fundamental part of the Fairy Tail Guild.

Firstly we meet S-Class Mage Gajeel Redfox who, like Natsu, is a Dragon Slayer but was raised by the dragon Metalicana. Ganjeel is an Iron Dragon Slayer and his magic grants him the ability to transform parts of his body into metallic weapons such as clubs and swords, cover his body with nearly indestructible metal scales and breathe gusts of wind containing metal shards capable of shredding a person’s body; so much like Natsu, he is exceedingly powerful and it’s compelling watching these two Dragon Slayers ferociously battle it out on screen. Next we meet 17-year old blue-haired water Mage Juvia Lockser who eventually joins Fairy Tail and becomes one of the main supporting protagonists. Juvia, originally introduced as a solo female member of Element 4, an elite team of wizards from Phantom Lord who can each use a form of magic related to one of the four classical elements, uses water magic that grants her the ability to manipulate water, pressurize it into jets and allows her to liquefy her body. Juvia is also prone to mood swings that affect her magic’s attributes; it rains when she is depressed and her water boils when she is envious or angry. Juvia eventually becomes romantically obsessed over Gray, dueling with him out of jealousy over misunderstanding his relationship with Lucy and she later asks to join Fairy Tail as a way of getting closer to Gray.

Who's up for a nice roasting?
Who’s up for a nice roasting?

In these episodes we really begin to see the guild members care and show concern for one another, in particular Natsu and his compassion and sympathy toward Lucy who is kidnapped and beaten by Gajeel of Phantom Lord, showing the loyalty and dedication the members of Fairy Tail have for each other. The arc ends with a short trip back to Lucy’s home, where we meet Lucy’s father, the man responsible for Phantom Lord’s attack on Fairy Tail as a way of bringing his estranged daughter back home, disapproving of her chosen lifestyle as a member of the guild; here we also learn about the Heartfilia family’s wealth.

Next up there is an interesting character-driven 3-episode story that explores the truth behind Loke, Leo the Lion, one of Lucy’s celestial spirits, going into his past, present and future. This short arc is worthy of note and gives audiences a bit of an insight into the Celestial Spirit World and some of their laws.

Nearing the end of the season we have the Tower of Heaven Arc, an 8-episode story which opens with ‘Team Natsu’ taking some time out and enjoying themselves at the Akane Resort. Some former friends from Erza’s childhood eventually make an unwelcomed appearance and cause chaos for Fairy Tail’s strongest team, primarily by abducting Erza and taking her to the Tower of Heaven. There, Erza and her friends must confront Jellal Fernandes, one of Erza’s longtime friends gone insane who plans on using the Tower to destroy the Magic Council, the ruling body of the world of Magic. Here Erza’s past slowly comes into view in what is certainly the strongest, darkest and most emotional arc in the season.

What are you staring at?!?
What are you staring at?!?

In this story audiences get a glimpse of Erza Scarlet’s softer, more emotional side, which is quite different from her usual hard exterior and sturdy demeanor. We are also introduced to the first real menacing wizard adversary Jellal Fernandes, one of the ten Wizard Saints, who later becomes a major player in the Fairy Tail saga. A genuine emotional rollercoaster, this story is bound to keep audiences glued to the screen from start to finish, with high stakes, epic-scale action set pieces and big laughs, this is storytelling at it’s finest.

Lastly, we come to the eighth and final arc in the season, the 8-episode Fighting Festival Arc. Set in the surroundings of the annual Magnolia Harvest Festival, S-Class Mage Laxus Dreyar, the arrogant and selfish grandson of Fairy Tail’s Guild Master, Makarov Dreyar, and his personal body guards, the Thunder God Tribe, have ulterior plans opposed to enjoying the festivities. Encasing the Fairy Tail leading ladies in stone during the Miss Fairy Tail Pageant, The Thunder God Tribe force guild members to face off against each other in a battle between friends to determine the strongest member of the guild, The Battle of Fairy Tail, which eventually ends up becoming a struggle to prevent Laxus from taking over the Fairy Tail Guild.

Being the only arc that involves the entire Fairy Tail Guild, audiences get to witness many of the additional guild members showcase their powers and abilities in the multiple battle sequences that occur over the storyline; plenty is revealed about characters who have largely been background players such as female heavy drinker Cana Alberona and the ‘beastly’ Elfman Strauss. Ultimately, this is a story about the bond between Fairy Tail members and concludes with a bittersweet finale between Laxus and his grandfather, Makarov, who he once greatly admired.

Natsu coming to Erza's aid!
Natsu coming to Erza’s aid!

With nearly 50 episodes in the season, the animation of Fairy Tail, while still bright, energetic and charming, isn’t as detailed, refined or fluent as other 12 episode anime shows possibly due to it’s mass production, giving it a Saturday morning cartoon feel, yet Fairy Tail still manages to be fresh, bold and innovative in it’s aesthetic nonetheless. The character designs are really quite distinctive and original, from the visibly diverse members in ‘Team Natsu,’ to daring designs such as the ‘blockhead’ Wally Buchanan from Tower of Heaven, and visual treats such as the Fairy Tail Sorcerer Magazine Poster Girl Mirajane Strauss, there’s something inimitable and matchless in every design. From colorful hair to tribal-style tattoos there is no lack of imagination when it comes to characters work. The hand-painted backdrops, although fairly simplistic, still have the same flair and stamina as the characters, making the show a visual spectacle on the eyes. The animation style is also overtly Japanese and really encapsulates the spirit and energy of Eastern culture and animation.

Fairy Tail is beautifully scored with a memorable soundtrack that’s heartfelt, moving and enthralling; the Fairy Tail theme is one that instantly triggers highlight scenes and pleasurable memories spent watching these characters do their thing. Together with colorful, catchy and bouncy opening and closing sequences, there is a real sense of awe within the music.

When all is said and done, Fairy Tail is fundamentally a show about family, belonging and the unbreakable bonds forged in friendship. Sure the wizards in Fairy Tail don’t always get along, like quarreling siblings, but when push comes to shove, there’s a real love and loyalty within the guild that’s difficult to find in the real world. While Fairy Tail is an anime primarily about ‘magic,’ the real ‘magic’ is not in the razzle and dazzle, but in the tender relationships formed by these wonderful characters, as there is some genuine emotion and real tenderness amidst the chaos that often follows ‘Team Natsu’ and the Fairy Tail Guild.

Lucy's pretty tied up for words right about now.
Lucy’s pretty tied up for words right about now.

Being the show that predominantly introduced me to Japanese animation, there will always be a special place for this anime within my life. After spending almost 50 episodes with the Fairy Tail crew, one can’t help but feel like part of ‘Team Natsu’ and this whacky guild, as they are so likable, watching them almost becomes addictive, in the best possible way. Riddled with imagination, great character work, fresh ideas and based in a complex multifaceted world with endless narrative possibilities, the first season of Fairy Tail is a thrilling, touching must watch joy-ride for any fan of animation or quality entertainment; it comes highly recommended. With two other seasons and a feature-length film still awaiting an Australian release, one can’t help but become excited about the possibilities ahead. What world-shattering dilemma will follow ‘Team Natsu’ in the next season and beyond? It’s all just too exciting!

4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended

Reviewed by S-Littner

Fairy Tail – Season 1 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia