Fairy Tail – Season 4 (2012-2013)
Episodes 151 – 175
Battle at the Grand Magic Games!
‘Until the time comes, I cannot say something I’ve always wanted to say, even on Twitter. Please be patient and wait until the time comes for me to announce some good news.’
This was the official heart-breaking statement tweeted by Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima when Fairy Tail the anime — blazingly directed by Shinji Ishihira — was abruptly pulled on March 30th, 2013. At the time, things seemed bleak for the fantasy-adventure manga adaptation, with many disgruntled fans (myself included) speculating what the reasons for its sudden cancellation might have been — some seemed to think it was scrapped due to budgetary constraints (was the show becoming too expensive to produce?) while others believed Mashima wanted time to pass between the Japanese paperback and its television incarnation (was the 38-year-old artist simply waiting for the manga’s storyline to advance beyond the anime, which was slowly but surely catching up?) Either way, this was a dark time for those who tuned in regularly to the rambunctious, family-like guild’s overly destructive antics, watching Natsu and his wizardly comrades subjugate powerful foes, battle dark guilds and embark on numerous ‘job request’ missions whilst butting heads with fellow guildmates every other day. And for a while, this favored pastime (spent in the company of good friends) was gone — taken from us — and we were all very, very sad.
In the midst of Fairy Tail’s one-year absence, it seemed near impossible that the show would ever return — or how long it would be before fans got to see the story continue — though, fast forward two or so years and we find ourselves justly reunited with our pals from the guild with a heart of gold, now heading towards episode 100 of the newly animated Fairy Tail series. So, one can understand why Season 4 is by far the shortest of the lot (only 25 episodes long) having been cut at the midway point of its initial arc, The Grand Magic Games, this storyline (the thirteenth in the anime) being quite possibly the most involved, lengthy and intricate thus far — it’s an arc that just keeps on givin.’
Following on from Season 3, our story begins — well continues really — when Fairy Tail’s strongest members (having recently returned from Tenrou Island after their seven-year disappearance) discover that their once mighty guild has lost its esteem and was currently ranked as the weakest in Fiore, while the smug Sabertooth — led with an iron-fist by its master, Jiemma — had climbed all the way to the top spot, robbing Fairy Tail of its former glory. Save Natsu, whose ‘all fired up’ about having to rise back to number one (seeing this opportunity as a challenge of sorts), Fairy Tail’s leading lads and lasses are distraught upon hearing the disheartening news (which is fair to say), and thus decide to partake in the Grand Magic Games, an annual competition that pits the eight strongest guilds across the land against one another in a week-long contest (the ultimate test of brains and brawn) for the honor of being bestowed the title of the most powerful guild in the kingdom (along with a hefty monetary prize) — though, this won’t be an easy feat for Fairy Tail, who have come dead last for the past seven consecutive tournaments.
With Fairy Tail’s heavyweights having been ‘out of action’ for seven odd years, the mages (in desperate need of a ‘power-up’) decide to spend three months in training (boosting their physicality and supernatural skills) in order to ready themselves for the upcoming event, leveling the playing field and narrowing their disadvantage as a result. Though, an unexpected trip to the Celestial Spirit World (Lucy’s Spirits throwing her and her companions a lively welcome home surprise bash) could prove to be hazards for the crew’s workout.
Held in Crocus, the Capitol of Fiore, inside the Domus Flau (a large, circular combat arena, similar to that of a Roman amphitheater, surrounded by four mountainous statues), The Grand Magic Games opens with its preliminary round, set within a hovering Sky Labyrinth, where 113 guilds go head-to-head, the first eight to clear the enchanted maze registering to take part in the Games themselves. Fairy Tail’s team (A) — which includes Natsu Dragneel, Erza Scarlet, Lucy Heartfilia, Gray Fullbuster and (by default) a beefed up Elfman Strauss — barley scrape through in eighth place, only to discover that a secondary Fairy Tail team (B) — consisting of Laxus Dreyar, Gajeel Redfox, Mirajane Strauss, Juvia Lockser and Mystogan (?) — had beaten them to the finish line, both teams handpicked by Fairy Tail’s master, Makarov. Also making it through the qualifier is the egotistical Sabertooth, uber-tough Lamia Scale, the guild ‘too wild to tame’ Quatro Cerberus, all-female guild Mermaid Heel, the oh-so-fashionable Blue Pegasus and ex-dark guild Raven Tail, led by the cruel and psychotic Ivan Dreyar (father of Laxus and son of Makarov, who also happens to be a past Fairy Tail mage) — each team made up of five players and one reserve. On a side note, those wandering why Gildarts Clive wasn’t chosen to be on either of the Fairy Tail squads, the ace departs early on in the season, after being offered (and turning down) the position of Guild Master.
Thus, the Grand Magic Games begins as Fairy Tail’s team A and B wrestle through a host of trials and tribulations, including fierce one-on-ones where blood ties mean nothing and friendship is family, going up against all-powerful opponents (such as Wizard Saints) while pushing their bodies to breaking point — come hell or high water, they’re gonna do all that they can to make it out alive and snatch victory off their rivals in the process. And this is made all the more difficult with Raven Tail (a guild so despicable) targeting Fairy Tail’s members at every given turn, the resentful Ravens determined to bring down the Fairies no matter the cost. As spells fly high and the competition heats up, guilds begin to play dirty (with challengers setting up damaging side-wagers) as the daily events start to take a toll on Fairy Tail, whose members are struggling through proceedings (both teams coming seventh and eighth respectively).
But is the Grand Magic Games all a cover-up for something more sinister as a conspiracy seems to be brewing in the shadows (behind the scenes), shrouding the Games’ true intent. Consequently, in comes independent guild Crime Sorcière — made up of enemies-turned-allies Jellal Fernandes (posing as Mystogan), Ultear Milkovich and former Seven Kin of Purgatory member Meredy, all having co-created Sorcière to make amends for past crimes and atrocities — who employ the task of secretly surveying a dark (unusually familiar) magical presence permeating the festive air.
Those familiar with the anime know exactly what to expect here (in terms of artwork, sound and score) as this 4th season of Fairy Tail continues to spellbind, providing audiences with that winning Fairy Tail spirit, a unique blend of quality storytelling mixed with vibrant animation — a formula that’s worked wonders for the series so far. What’s first-rate about this arc, however, is that viewers get to meet a barrage of interesting, colorfully eccentric characters all in the one place.
Boasting a cast of old friends and fresh faces, Erza reunites with a childhood chum from back in her Tower of Heaven days, the cat-like Millianna, now a proud member of Mermaid Heel, while the mages are introduced to Arcadios, the square-nosed armor-clad soldier who serves the Royal Kingdom of Fiore as Chief of the Cherry Blossom Holy Knight Squadron — speaking in metaphors, this slippery warrior could very well serve Zeref (having an allegiance towards the Black Wizard), though his dubious intentions should be made clearer come Season 5, as Arcadios will no doubt have a larger, more significant role to play once the story unravels. From Quatro Cerberus’ muscular Bacchus Groh (who uses alcohol-enhanced hand attacks) to Sabertooth’s Celestial Spirit Mage Yukino Agria, who has in her possession the Zodiac Keys of Pisces and Libra, along with the thirteenth key of Ophiuchus (the Snake Charmer), no character is sidelined — even bit-players are given their moment in the sun.
Despite the onslaught of wild and wacky casters clashing on screen, the real charm here is watching Fairy Tail work together as a team (standing by one another through prosperity and hardship), giving it their all even when the chips are down, the odds stacked clearly against them. We bear witness to (first hand) the strong camaraderie and kinship between these guildmates, along with their badass magical abilities, strength, resilience and cunning. Fairy Tail’s one heck of a dynamic guild, each member worth their weight in gold. Through mutual respect and trust — and some fun banter to boot — Fairy Tail prove that nothing is impossible, establishing themselves as a formidable force that’s not to be reckoned with; steadfast, courageous, uncompromising and (above all) hilarious, everyone will be rooting for Fairy Tail’s eventual triumph. The Games’ first one-versus-one fight, in which Lucy is matched-up against Ravel Tail’s busty and sadistic Flare Corona (Flare’s arsenal being her crimson locks) certainly demonstrates Fairy Tail’s unmatched resolve; as is Natsu’s standoff with Jiemma, who humiliates Yukino in front of her entire guild, Natsu sticking up for a fellow mage’s injustice while teaching the guys at Sabertooth a thing or two about compassion and candor (the way things are done at Fairy Tail) — his actions a testament to the guild’s kindness and mercy. Both are episodes that’ll surely stick long after the season’s end.
While the deceitful Raven Tail certainly emerge as Fairy Tail’s principal concern throughout the fixture, Sabertooth also rise to be an aggressive adversary, quickly becoming a major thorn in our heroes’ side. Antagonistic in nature, the Twin Dragons of Sabertooth — the blonde maned Sting Eucliffe (a White Dragon Slayer) and his partner, the dark-haired Rogue Cheney (a Shadow Dragon Slayer) — are easy to cheer on, despite their vanity and conceit; though this is made considerably easier thanks to their Exceeds (anthropomorphic cats) Lector and Frosch (the latter wearing a pink frog-like suit). The more we onlookers learn about Sting and Rogue, the more we begin to empathize and identify with these two. A heart-warming back-story involving Sting and Lector shines a light on the pair’s tender unbreakable bond, one that’s similar to the affinity shared and fostered by long-time buds Natsu and Happy — touching scenes between these Dragon Slayers and their Exceeds really do get you all teary-eyed. And hey, us fanboys finally get to see an explosive all-out Dragon Slayer brawl between Natsu and the Twin Dragons — a scuffle that threatens to tear apart the entire stadium. Amen to that!
And let’s not forget about the Games themselves as the ingenious day-by-day challenges are thrilling, inventively (well) grand and a whole lotta awesome — from Pandemonium, where Erza takes on 100 monsters all on her lonesome (a near-impossible exercise) to the brutal Navel Battle, a skirmish held inside a floating sphere of water. And then there’s the cheeky fanservice round where Fairy Tail’s Mirajane competes against Blue Pegasus’ babalicious Jenny Realight in a pinup idol showdown unlike anything showcased on the anime before, the two flaunting their hot bods while modelling naughty swimsuits and other sexy outfits (well, that’s before green-eyed spectators get in on the parade, too). Hosted by the cheerful, pumpkin-headed mascot Mato, it’s a real joy watching this tension filled rollercoaster ride, that is, the Grand Magic Games unfold. And the sprinkle on top are its announcers, the square-faced Chapati Lola (who dons a different wig on each new day) and the elderly Yajima, a former Magic Council member, now proud owner and chef of the 8-Island restaurant — these dudes joined in the commentator booth by daily special guests, the standout being Jason, the ‘so cool’ reporter from the ever-popular Sorcerer Magazine.
Finishing off with a ‘To Be Continued’ slate, Fairy Tail’s 4th season concludes at a crossroads of sorts, teasing what’s to come, with no sense of closure or aura of finality in sight. The series pauses at (quite frankly) such an inopportune moment, right after day 4 of the Grand Magic Games (on break day, day 5), literally on a shock discovery and the unmasking of a hooded stranger, with the impending 6th and final day fast approaching — I guess the cliffhanger ending would have boosted manga sales at the time of broadcast. In any case, knowing what we know today, I believe that a big thank-you is in order to the powers-that-be, as the show (how do they say it?) does in fact ‘go on.’ So, all things considered, Fairy Tail Season 4 (while criminally short) still continues to raise the bar, matching the soaring heights set in previous outings (but hey, this is what we’ve come to expect from Fairy Tail after all) — it’s boisterously zany, enthralling and incredibly entertaining, a rip-roaring good time. Now bring on Season 5 already!
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
Reviewed by S-Littner
Fairy Tail – Season 4 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia