Fairy Tail – Season 3 (2011-2012)
Episodes 97 – 150
Ultimate Team. Maximum Damage.
Fairy Tail Season 3 kick-starts with the mighty mages weightiest and most taxing mission to date, as our heroes go head-to-head against the most powerful dark guild in the land, Grimoire Heart. Following the Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiro Mashima, Fairy Tail, the anime, is directed by Shinji Ishihira and centers on the guild Fairy Tail, which exists in Earth-land, a vast peninsula, divided into ten different countries, populated by wizards and numerous other races, including Exceeds, Dragons, Celestial Spirits, and other such magical beings. Fairy Tail is located in the Fiore Kingdom, with Team Natsu — comprising of the zealous hotheaded Fire Dragon Slayer, Natsu Dragneel; sexy and confident Celestial Spirit Mage, bombshell Lucy Heartfilia; powerful and firm S-Class Mage, Erza Scarlet, identified by her long scarlet hair; the laid-back yet serious Gray Fullbuster, who is an Ice-Make Mage; and let’s not forget about Happy, the small-statured loyal and cheeky winged Exceed from Extalia — being the main protagonists in the show.
Fairy Tail Season 3 is significantly longer than both Season 1 and Season 2, and contains three story-arcs, with the first 26 episodes making up the primary arc in the season, Tenrou Island. This third season opens up when eight chosen Fairy Tail wizards — hand-picked by Guild Master Makarov Dreyar — and their selected partners, travel to a remote island rich in magic and history, named Tenrou Island, the holy ground of the Fairy Tail guild — it is also the resting place of Fairy Tail’s original Guild Master, Mavis Vermilion. Once on the Island, the participants compete against one another, taking part in the annual guild tradition, the S-Class Wizard Promotion Trial — comprised of several challenges designed to test the candidate’s skills and competence — to see who among the chosen eight deserves to be given the elite title of S-Class Mage — a position worthy of exceptional magical ability. However, hidden on the island — oblivious to those partaking in the trial — lies the ‘Black Wizard Zeref,’ the strongest entity in recorded history, a being who possesses extremely dangerous and powerful caster-type Death Magic and Black Arts, forms of magic that have the capacity to manipulate life.
At about the midway point, Fairy Tail’s S-Class Trails are unexpectedly interrupted — hence cut short — when Grimoire Heart — one of the three dark guilds who make up the Balam Alliance, and commonly considered the strongest of the faction — appear, in search of Zeref, the legendary wielder of Black Magic. Once they find and capture him, they plan to use his abilities to bring death to every corner of the globe, in turn unleashing Acnologia, The Black Dragon in the Book of Apocalypse, a gargantuan, mastodonic beast with unstoppable Dragon Slayer power. As magic forces converge on the island, one of Fairy Tail’s former masters — Fairy Tail’s second Guild Master, who passed the title over to Makarov — now known as Master Hades, makes a startling appearance, leading Grimoire Heart’s assault. Aided by the strongest squad in the dark guild, The Seven Kin of Purgatory — seven extremely tough and lethal mages, who have been personally trained and raised by their master, Hades — this unstoppable force will do whatever it takes to accomplish their heinous mission. To overcome Grimoire Heart and stop their devious undertaking, the Fairy Tail wizards must first face their own past, limitations and doubts, before clashing head-on with their most deadly and mighty adversary yet, in a fight unlike anything the guild members have experienced or lived through.
Coming into its third season, the story arcs in Fairy Tail are certainly larger/ more elaborate and involved than ever before, with the stakes constantly being raised and the characters becoming noticeably more complex; even side players finally get their chance to shine within the Tenrou Island arc. Audiences witness secondary guildmates such as Fairy Tail’s ace, the muscular lone-wolf, S-Class Mage, Gildarts Clive — who sports a armor-like prosthetic left arm and leg and uses powerful Disassembly Magic — kick some serious butt, particularly when pit against confident Dark Mage, Bluenote Stinger, the Deputy Commander of Grimoire Heart. Viewers also learn more about other background players — who become rather prominent by the conclusion of this storyline — with a standout being female heavy-drinker, Cana Alberona, a shapely Card Mage who employs Holder Magic in battle, easily identified by her largely exposed upper body, with most of her clothing being distinctively scanty. Supported by Lucy Heartfilia during the S-Class Wizard Promotion Trial, Cana not only reveals secrets from her veiled and hidden past — as she will basically stop at nothing to win the trial and become Fairy Tail’s next S-Class Mage — but in addition, discovers one of the three legendary Fairy Magics sealed away on Tenrou Island, the exceedingly powerful and unfathomably intricate spell known as Fairy Glitter; her character arc in this story is nothing short of spectacular.
Viewers are also treated to Fairy Tail’s elderly short-statured, Master Makarov in full combat mode, predominantly when he utilizes Titan, a Caster-Type Transformation Magic, defending Tenrou Island from Grimoire Heart’s lethal Jupiter Cannon blast, fired from their air-born battleship, then later tackles former Fairy Tail Master, Hades, with his impressive Fairy Law magic ability. And let’s not forget about the long awaited ‘thundery’ return of an ex-Fairy Tail member, exiled for his wrongdoings, who turns up to support our protagonists at just the right moment, aiming to make amends for his egotistical antagonistic actions of the past. Relationships between the Fairy Tail Tenrou Team guildmates strengthen during this testing storyline; most notably cheerful 17-year old female mage, Levy McGarden’s unlikely friendship with brutish Iron Dragon Slayer, Gajeel Redfox, as a sweetly profound and improbable amity blossoms between the pair, after Gajeel — who agrees to accompany this blue-haired sweetheart after she is unexpectedly selected as a candidate for the S-Class Promotion Trial — comes to Levy’s aid while ambushed by Grimoire Heart’s deceptively strong Kawazu — whose appearance is that of a large, anthropomorphic chicken — and his samurai-armored partner, Yomazu.
Although heavily developing many of Fairy Tail’s second tier players, the Tenrou Island arc also introduces viewers to a handful of new and memorable heroes and villains. Male Teleportation-Magic Mage, Mest Gryder, being one of the eight participants selected to compete in the S-Class Promotion Trial — accompanied by Wendy Marvell during the rivalry — is a solid standout. While Fairy Tail guildmates have trouble recalling memories of Mest from their past, this mysterious lean-built man — whose face is covered with three distinctive scars — allegedly Mystogan’s former disciple, has all the silly traits and quirks of a Fairy Tail wizard; but is this lad really who he claims to be?
Looking at the ‘baddies,’ viewers are reacquainted with pale-skinned female mage, Ultear Milkovich, the manipulative and ruthless leader of Grimoire Heart’s Seven Kin of Purgatory, though having originally been introduced back in Season 1, where she posed as a member of the Magic Council during the Tower of Heaven arc. Ultear — with her distinguishable dark lavender hair — has mastered the Arc of Time, a lost Caster-Type Magic that involves the usage of time as a means of combat, and with links to Gary Fullbuster’s grief-stricken past, this voluptuous vixen reignites painful memories of his former master. There are many other noteworthy foes within this extensive story arc, for instance, Celestial Spirit Capricorn — known as Caprico — one of the 12 Golden Zodiac Keys, who is surprisingly working for the dark guild, Grimoire Heart, as a member of the Seven Kin; this sharply dressed, towering, goat-like humanoid — donning a pair of black, mirror polished shades — is a sure highlight, as he holds a shadowy past which is uncovered whilst clashing against poster-boy Celestial Spirit Loke, or Leo, one of Lucy’s contracted Spirits.
Connecting a loose over-arching storyline which spans over the first two seasons, the Tenrou Island arc is an emotionally stirring, compelling rollercoaster ride. It encompasses all that has come before it — building on the exhaustive world and multifaceted characters created by the talented Hiro Mashima — and is filled with the ingredients that make Fairy Tail so wonderful: humor, heart, adrenaline-fueled action and earnest sensitivity. Storyline peaks include Fairy Tail’s ferocious quarrel with Master Hades aboard the Grimoire Heart airship, our heroes confrontation with the goliath Acnologia and the fun unruly episode 109, where Lucy is pit against the enormous and overweight Kain Hikaru, a member of the deadly Seven Kin, with Mr. Cursey, a bizarre stylized voodoo doll, being his weapon of choice.
Next up is the two-episode X791 arc, which is set seven years after the destruction of Tenrou Island, where the Tenrou Team Fairy Tail mages disappear along with the island. Following the ‘loss’ of Makarov Dreyar, Macao Conbolt has become the new master — though the stress of managing Fairy Tail has affected Macao as, after the timeskip, he appears much older, now sporting sharper facial features, which include excess wrinkles, a receding hairline, and an extremely prominent mustach — and Fairy Tail is facing a major crisis as the guild’s strength has diminished considerably, with their headquarters and reputation in shambles. Once the Tenrou Team are shockingly discovered, by the lads of Blue Pegasus, they return to the Fiore Kingdom and take it upon themselves to save the collapsed guild and overthrow Twilight Ogre, the cruel guild who had been terrorizing Fairy Tail since the devastating events seven years earlier. Soon enough, the heavy impact of the missing seven years begin to dawn on many of the mages, both emotionally and financially, especially Lucy Heartfilia, as a heartbreaking family tragedy, which occurred in her absence, comes to light.
Though only two episodes in length, this ‘seven year gap’ is an integral story arc within the saga, as it pretty much changes Fairy Tail from here on in, considering so much has happened in the Kingdom of Fiore while our Tenrou Team heroes were away, missing in action. Meticulous attention to detail has been implemented whilst animating/ presenting this storyline as characters who lived through this time gap have all aged, or changed significantly in one way or another — either physically or emotionally — heck, even the Fairy Tail guild headquarters has gone from being a grand two-story castle-like structure to a rundown farmyard style tavern; the majestic guild hall was occupied by Twilight Ogre during the omitted seven years, but was later foreclosed due to Fairy Tail falling into near bankruptcy in the core member’s lengthy absence, with remaining weaker guildmates no longer able to afford such an extravagant building, as keeping up payments had become way too demanding.
Finishing up the season is the 25 episode long Key of the Starry Sky arc, possibly the most questionable storyline in the series to date, as this self-contained plotline is not found in the manga, with events not considered to constitute as canon material. Before kick-starting this topsy-turvy narrative, there are several loose ‘filler episodes,’ with the most memorable being, ‘The Terror of Invisible Lucy,’ where Lucy Heartfilia turns invisible after bathing in some magic ointment she had made prior to her seven year slumber. Then there is the obscurely offbeat episode titled, ‘True Scoundrels – The Butt Jiggle Gang,’ where audiences meet the unusual Butt Jiggle Gang, made up of three individuals — their unnamed leader and two Lackeys — dressed in skintight full-body latex-type suits, who possess unusually large posteriors, with all of their ‘powers’ coming from their behinds; these foolish bandits randomly pop in and out of places throughout the subsequent story arc. Apparently, the hopeless no-talent Butt Jiggle Gang, who constantly emit toxic gasses from their rear ends, appear in Hiro Mashima’s previous manga/ anime work, Rave Master — along with Lucy’s jittery Silver Key Celestial Spirit, Plue — where they are named Wonderful Gocche (Leader), Kalen Berg (Lackey A), and Marco Belunjay (Lackey B); however, the characters are unnamed in Fairy Tail and it is unknown whether they share the same names as their Rave Master counterparts or if they’re even the same characters at all.
Getting back to the final arc, the story commences when a mysterious upper-class girl, named Michelle Lobster — with a graceful pink-and-white trim dress and a pink bonnet sitting on her head — appears at the Fairy Tail guild hall claiming to be a distant relative of Lucy Heartfilia — her father, Jude’s, illegitimate daughter — carrying a case containing a strange memento, a golden key-shaped clock hand, which Lucy’s father had left for her. After learning that this relic is part of a collection — dismantled into six pieces, sealed and spread across the land — that when assembled unlock the Infinity Clock — a legendary enchanted item foretold to unleash chaos and bring ruin to the entire world — the Fairy Tail members split up to track down all six pieces of the ominous device, using a book from the Heartfilia library as a guide, titled, Key of the Starry Heavens. Surveying abandoned areas, such as an underground church, underwater sites, a magic library and ruins beneath a mountain — in a very Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981) manner — the Fairy Tail mages do all they can to ensure that the Clock stay safely hidden.
Nevertheless, standing in their way is a secret order of wizards known as the Legion Corps; this oddly familiar platoon works for the Zentopia Church, a religious organization who exist and operate to protect the secrecy of the Clock, having kept a watchful eye over its scattered pieces for generations after experiencing the Clock’s frenzied power, Real Nightmare, first hand long ago. Zentopia’s Archbishop, Lapointe, has little confidence leaving the magic time bomb in the hands of Fairy Tail, so this group of warriors are sent out to obtain the Clock’s scattered pieces before Natsu and his crew get hold of them. As the clock ticks closer to doomsday, an old enemy — the Oración Seis — is reborn in a terrifyingly powerful new form. The dark guild has its own plans for the magical timepiece but if Fairy Tail and the Legion Corps can’t work together to stop the Oración Seis from using the catastrophic Clock for their own diabolical scheme, time could be up for the Fiore Kingdom.
While not part of the Fairy Tail manga series, the creative staff/ team at A-1 Pictures have fashioned a fairly decent anime-only storyline, which integrates well within the rest of Hiro Mashima’s canon material, bringing about some outstanding locations and characters. With a handful of unexpected twists and turns, Key of the Starry Sky is ultimately a story about family and loss, as Lucy struggles to come to terms with the recent Heartfilia tragedy, setting out on an adventure surrounding her father’s artifact memento.
The Legion Corps are undoubtedly the finest new players introduced within this storyline, as this secret sect of elite warriors — operating under the watchful eye and order of the Zentopia Church — are Earth-land’s counterparts of the Edolas Royal Army antagonists seen in Season 2. The slightly sadistic Mary Hughes, resembling her Edolas counterpart Hughes, only with a feminine façade — sharing the same shoulder-length purple hair and wide streak of white hair, similar to her male Edolas equivalent — is a clear winner. With Command Magic as her main form of attack, this menacing honey possesses a cool and confident teenage attitude, adding a contemporary flavor to the large cast of unique Fairy Tail personalities. Another major thorn in Fairy Tail’s side is Byro Cracy, unlike his Edolas counterpart, Earth-land Byro is a tall and muscular white-haired man, with the downwards pointing tufts of hair on both side of his chin being the only facial feature he has in common with his Edolas equivalent. Torn between his allegiance to the Zentopia Church and his moral compass, Byro is an interesting adversary, as when lines within the Zentopic sect blur between right and wrong, this do-gooder at heart’s loyalties are truly tested.
One other noteworthy frontrunner is heavy-amour clad buffoon Dan Straight, eagerly energetic and over-the-top, this Knight playfully flirts with any woman he deems attractive, whether friend or foe. A total hoot, Dan is one of the most humorous characters in an anime filled to the brim with comic players; Dan’s magical spear, Habaraki, which closely resembles a medieval javelin, causes all sorts of disorder and confusion as it has the ability to altar the size of whatever it hits, enlarging or shrinking anything it touches. Audiences also meet the light-blue, glasses wearing Samuel, another Exceed, working for the Zentopia Legion Corps, who, similar to Pantherlily, has a battle form, growing taller, with his body becoming more muscled toned when required in combat.
Strictly from a design standpoint, the character of Guttman Kubrick, also known as Guttman the Cleaner, stands triumphant; this peculiar green skinned creature — who sports a cube-like head — works for the Zentopia Church and uses relentless Rapture Magic, an ability that pressurizes the magic power within a person until it, quite literally, explodes. In addition, viewers are reacquainted with Doranbolt, introduced in the Tenrou Island arc as Mest Gryder; this mournful mage, revealing himself to be a spy at the midway point of this season’s first arc, is now back where he belongs, working for the Magic Council as an Intelligence Officer, alongside Head Captain of the Custody Enforcement Unit, Lahar. Unaware of the Tenrou Team’s recent return, Doranbolt had ‘let himself go,’ so to speak, blaming himself for being unable to save his friend, Wendy, when the Island was destroyed seven years ago.
When it comes to the Oración Seis Reborn, most of the members from Season 2 have returned — Angel, Racer and Cobra, now missing his right eye and without Cubellios, his large violet scaled serpent companion — along with several new recruits, in a stronger, more threatening form as this band of evildoers have significantly improved over the missing seven years. Leading this group of dark mages is Midnight, who now goes by the name Brain II, though his black spiky hair has grown considerably since his last appearance in the anime.
Much like the two prior seasons, the animation, character/ world designs and upbeat soundtrack are essentially the same, keeping the superb brightly colored, highly imaginative and inspired look of Fairy Tail that fans have come to expect and admire. Magnificent locations such as Tenrou Island really stand out this season; lush vegetation — both bright yellow and green in color — and thriving waterfalls cover this rocky and steep island, standing alone in the vast open sea, with the great Tenrou Tree sinking its roots in the center; an enormous tree with a gnarled, mildly curved trunk, ending in a number of large branches which sustain something described as being similar to ‘an island on top of an island,’ a large, flat section composed of earth and crowded by a multitude of normal-sized trees. An additional abundantly memorable setting is indeed the menacing true form of the Infinity Clock, which appears floating over the sky shaped as a giant mechanical fish, a particularly outlandish looking backdrop for the action to take place. The music and score is as charming, tender and exhilarating as ever before, while the ending sequence — ‘Boys Be Ambitious,’ performed by Hi-Fi Camp — seen in the second half of the Tenrou Island arc, is a pleasant recap of our Fairy Tail mage’s courageous escapades thus far.
On a side note, the pacing of Fairy Tail ought to be considerably praised, particularly heading into Season 4, as other Shōnen-type shows — such as One Piece (1999), Bleach (2004) or Naruto (2002) — haven’t managed this aspect entirely well. The way this series balances story developments, action and character moments, while advancing the plot forward, is something that every long running series should aspire to. Throughout its lengthy run, rarely has there been an episode that contains too little plot or content.
Ultimately, Fairy Tail Season 3 builds upon the spectacular universe shaped in earlier episodes, crafting a beautifully rich world of magic, spectacle and awe. Moving into its third season, the notoriously destructive guild, Fairy Tail, is as audacious as ever, with second tier characters now really stepping into the forefront of the action. While filled with fantastical exploits and high adventure, Fairy Tail, at its core, is a show about ‘relationships,’ overflowing with sincere human emotion, as this guild of wizards is built upon rock-solid trust and friendship, which these wonderful characters share, foster and nurture throughout the series. If you’ve ventured as far as Fairy Tail Season 2, I’m certain you’re hooked by now and this third season will only draw you deeper into the madness and mayhem, otherwise, I advise giving this amazing anime a try, as it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
Reviewed by S-Littner
Fairy Tail – Season 3 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia