Fairy Tail: Priestess of the Phoenix (2012)
Produced by A-1 Pictures and based on the popular manga and anime series by Hiro Mashima, Fairy Tail: Priestess of the Phoenix — better known as Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess outside of Japan — is an animated action-packed feature length fantasy adventure that follows the mightiest team of mages from Fairy Tail, the magic kingdom’s most infamous guild — Natsu Dragneel, Gray Fullbuster, Erza Scarlet, Lucy Heartfilia, Wendy Marvell, Happy and Carla — as they lend a helping hand to Éclair, a girl with little memory who holds a mysterious item known as the ‘Phoenix Stone.’ The film takes place sometime after episode 123, following the empty seven years of the manga and anime, and is a self-contained story. Inspiringly crafted by director Masaya Fujimori, with screenplay penned by anime staff writer Masashi Sogo, this feature is a perfect entry into the Fairy Tail franchise introducing some wonderfully rich new characters, breathtaking locations and elevating the animation to first-rate big-screen levels. While series creator Hiro Mashima wasn’t directly involved with the project, he did lend a helping hand in planning the story and aided the design department particularly when creating the characters.
Returning home from a mission at the port town of Negura, in an attempt to capture Geese, the leader of a bandit group, by request of the town mayor, a depressed Lucy — after allowing Geese to escape before her very eyes, costing Team Natsu the mission and its reward — encounters a confused and somewhat disorientated girl, by the name of Éclair, and her strange birdlike companion Momon. After Éclair collapses, Lucy compassionately takes her to the Fairy Tail guildhall to recover. Upon her awakening, Éclair explains that she had somehow lost her memory, and the only things she seems to recall are her distrust of magic and wizards and that she must deliver an item, known as the ‘Phoenix Stone’, which is currently in her possession, to a particular location — but doesn’t seem to remember where. As Team Natsu uncover clues about her mysterious past and the secrets hidden within the stone, a lunatic prince hatches a half-baked plan to sacrifice Éclair in exchange for immortality. When the fool unleashes a fierce raging ancient force, powerful enough to destroy the planet, the wizards from Fairy Tail band together in an attempt to defeat one of the most powerful foes the guild with a heart of gold has ever faced.
Much like the animated series, Priestess of the Phoenix is a large-scale action-packed journey that’s sure to leave Fairy Tail fanatics and general viewers alike with a genuine feeling of satisfaction and contentment, as it contains that heart-warming element that makes the show so honest and sincere. While there’s only a minute amount of character development on most guildmates, with some major players being a bit under powered — non Fairy Tail fans might become slightly confused by the large number of individuals being introduced with little to no backstory — there is a strong emotional connection between Lucy and the magic loathing Éclair that becomes the heart and soul of the film, enabling viewers not well acquainted with the guild members to become passionately involved and invested in the bond and friendship formed between the two girls. The quest Team Natsu embarks on sets the stakes high and pits the wizards against some extremely dangerous and deadly foes. There’s plenty of action to be found — with faster paced action sequences than the anime series — and a tone of laughs including a hilarious scene involving Natsu and Happy in the City of Rose Garden, making Priestess of the Phoenix a worthy counterpart to the anime, which is filled with laughs and epic battle scenes, elements that make the show so praised and popular.
Being a feature film, the animation of Priestess of the Phoenix has been upped a notch — the often shoddy computer-generated fire has been replaced with higher quality hand-drawn flames and the cheap looking magic circles are almost nowhere to be seen. The characters, while still similar in design, are slightly different to those in the animated series, although this difference is difficult to notice and doesn’t harm consistency between the two: rather, it makes it easy to distinguish the film from the show. Each character has been animated with smoother, more lifelike movement, expressions and actions — with animation up to scratch to studios as celebrated as Disney. There are several new characters introduced in the picture. The main addition to the cast is the sari clothed Éclair, adorned with jewelry such as golden bangles, brassards and anklets — her long brown tied-back hair makes her an iconic, unique and easy to identify member of the cast. The straight-faced Éclair adds an interesting dynamic to Team Natsu, being quite blunt in the way she addresses people in a matter-of-fact tone, stating things as they are rather than sugarcoating the truth. Her large-headed birdlike friend Momon is an extremely loyal companion to Éclair but isn’t explored in enough detail within the picture — the prologue short, The First Morning included on the Blu-ray and DVD is an almost mandatory add-on to the film, giving audiences the enchanted backstory behind Momon and the reason for his strong bond with Éclair. While there are several additional inclusions to our team of heroes, the antagonists in the film are similarly fresh and interesting. The chief group of enemies, members of the Carbuncle Guild, and the film’s primary villains are quite distinct, especially the arrogant, shabby turquoise haired Dyst, a skilled user of telekinesis, cloak hooded Chase, with his face hidden behind a mask who posesses the ability to merge with his shadow and Cannon, a tall muscular mage wizard, using cannons — one hand-held and several floating around his shoulders — and magic bullets as his primary weapons, all supplying enough threat and peril for Natsu and his mighty team of mages.
Within Priestess of the Phoenix there are some highly original, delightfully dazzling locations on offer, in particular the magnificent city of Rose Garden, the creature infested Boundary Forest and the mountain bounded country of Veronica, all rich in imagination from conception to design, adding further depth to Earth Land and the magical world where the members of Fairy Tail reside. Priestess of the Phoenix is faintly more violent than the typical episode with marginally higher sexual references, while nothing is overly graphic, it does contain a short-lived nude shot of bombshell Lucy Heartfilia from behind — a scene fanboys have surely been waiting for long before the film’s release — making it a tad more accessible to an older audience.
While Priestess of the Phoenix — the first feature film for the Fairy Tail franchise — is successful on all levels and a great one-off story that is well developed and fantastically executed, it isn’t as captivating or enduring as the series, possibly due to its 85-minute runtime. With that said, it’s a worthy inclusion to the Fairy Tail canon nonetheless and an awesome way to introduce newcomers to the series as the guildmates’ hearts are just as big and the emotions evoked by the fully developed characters just as solid. As far as high quality hand-drawn animation goes, Fairy Tail: Priestess of the Phoenix is certainly at the top of its league as beautifully animated feature films are awfully difficult to come by these days.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by S-Littner
Fairy Tail: Priestess of the Phoenix is released through Madman Entertainment Australia