Fairy Tail – Season 5 (2014-2015)

Episodes 176 – 226

The dark truth behind the Grand Magic Games!

Aye Sir! It seems that after the yearlong wait — significantly less for me, watching Madman’s home video release of the Funimation dubbed series — and that abrupt ‘To Be Continued’ ending, Fairy Tail is finally back … and all’s right with the world. In April of 2014, Fairy Tail relaunched with returning director Shinji Ishihira expressing his sheer delight to be working on the much-loved action-adventure shōnen series a second time over. As expected, however, there have been several changes in production staff — for instance, Aoi Yamamoto, Re-Kan! (2015), has been replaced by Shinji Takeuchi, Gintama (2006), as character designer whereas studio Bridge has taken over from Satelight, one of the (many) animation houses that worked on the previous run of the anime. But what does this all mean for Fairy Tail?

Confidence. This is what it looks like!
Confidence. This is what it looks like!

Truth be told, within its opening moments — the unofficial pilot named ‘The Dragon King’ — several things quickly became apparent. When gazing upon the hotheaded Natsu Dragneel for the very first time — who defends a misty-eyed Lucy from a pack of fire-breathing dragons in a land lay waste by war, carnage and destruction all around — a warm sense of familiarity washed over me. It honestly felt as though Fairy Tail had never truly left us. What’s more, we’re literally thrust back into the raucous with no flashback or ‘previously on Fairy Tail’ to be found — although, this somewhat ‘fresh start’ could potentially work as an ideal time to introduce newcomers to the unruly antics of the guild that won’t give up.

Within this preliminary slate, it’s also evident that the quality of the series (as a whole) has been vastly improved, as audiences will no doubt notice the smoulder and burning embers floating through the blood-red sky, visual enhancements that were mostly absent from the anime’s prior release. And just like that, Fairy Tail effortlessly proves two things within mere minutes: it shows us that, even weighed down by a twelve month absence, the anime has still managed to retain the entrancing spirit of its former run and, without delay, speedily nosedives back into the Grand Magic Games, supplying desperate viewers with answers to the cliffhanger conclusion and tease finale that haunted many for months on end. We discover the identity behind the hooded stranger while Gajeel (and his Dragon Slayer comrades) learn more about the graveyard hidden below the Domus Flau.

When diplomacy fails ...
When diplomacy fails …

When we last saw our bantering heroes, the fitting disqualification of Raven Tail had forced Fairy Tail’s teams A and B to be dissolved, consequently merging the two into one unified squad, evening out the odd number of challengers on the playing field. But with Natsu tagging out of the competition to rescue ex-Sabertooth mage Yukino (now a temporary sergeant of the Cherry Blossom Holy Knight Squadron) and Lucy — who had been wrongly accused of conspiring against the Kingdom and were being held captive inside a cell beneath the palace Mercurius — team Fairy Tail was going to need all the strength it could muster … and them some!

As the 5th and final day of the Games kicks into gear, Fairy Tail’s newest team — made up of Erza Scarlet, Gray Fullbuster, Gajeel Redfox, Laxus Dreyar and reserve Juvia Lockser, stepping in for Natsu — is welcomed by the crowd with a roar of applause (a far cry from their previous reception), the guild now having a solid chance of securing the win and taking home the title of strongest in the land. Meanwhile, Natsu’s brash plans to free his friends results in catastrophe as the wizards wind up being tossed into the Abyss Palace, a subterranean dwelling known as the Capitol of Death. If they ever wish to escape this prison (from which there is said to be no return), Natsu, Lucy, Wendy, Yukino, Mirajane, Happy and Carla must face off against the Garou Knights, an independent unit who serve the Kingdom from the shadows — known as ‘the executioners,’ this band of twisted champions have vowed to end the lives of all who are sent to their domain.

Long fairy tales have a tendency to dragon.
Long fairy tales have a tendency to dragon.

As the Grand Magic Games reaches an explosive fever pitch on the streets of Crocus, the true purpose behind the annual event is at long last revealed, as, behind-the-scenes, the princess of Fiore fights to protect her people from an ill-fated prediction (which may-or-may-not come to pass) using a magical item known as the Eclipse Gate (a device that harnesses the power from the said games). But is this doomsday prophecy just a hoax for something more sinister or will this mysterious Gate halt the would-be cataclysmic occurrence from ever taking place?

Jumping into the narrative almost right away, Fairy Tail Season 5 gives us the long awaited endgame to the Grand Magic Games, this gripping send-off seeing some weighty story and character beats transpire — secrets are exposed, sins are atoned for and pasts are intertwined, with a surprising reveal of a familiar face so shocking that it will rock the very foundation of Fairy Tail itself. And yes, we do in fact finally get to see some dragon action as these mythical winged beasts descend upon the Kingdom, hell-bent on reducing it to ashes, causing rampage and devastation in their wake, proving to be the most testing adversary for our Dragon Slayer mages to date. Admittedly, there’s a lot going here — sometimes a bit too much to take in — but through it all, Fairy Tail’s burning desire to emerge victorious is never forgotten, the Games themselves holding out right until the eleventh hour arrival of the arc’s true ‘big bad.’

We’re also given a handful of touching scenes — NaLu devotees will have plenty to smile about, with Natsu and Lucy’s affinity shining brighter than ever before — while episode 194, ‘Zirconis’ Magic,’ has enough playful cheek to lighten the often heavy tone. During the said episode, the lecherous ‘Jade Dragon’ Zarconis unleashes a rather unexpected spell, one that can literally strip humans of all their garments — makes sense I guess, seeing as naked humans would be much easier to chew and devour than fully clothed ones!

'I'm stopping you cold!'
‘I’m stopping you cold!’

Audiences are also introduced to several characters that become key players throughout this 51-episode long season. We meet the beautiful Hisui E. Fiore, princess of (well) Fiore, this petite green-haired gal revealed to be the mastermind behind the Eclipse Project — the plot-line that takes the reigns once the mage-on-mage contest comes to a close. The Minister of Defense, Darton (who’s easy to pick out due to the burn scar situated on the left side of his face), is given a meatier role whilst Arcadios’ true motives are made public, a character who was hinted to be antagonistic actually turns out to be quite the opposite — he proves himself as an honorable, selfless and dedicated soldier, putting his life on the line in order to protect his liege and Kingdom. And oh, the man behind Mato (the official mascot and referee of the Games) is also unmasked — and doesn’t turn out to be who (or what) you’d expect.

On the other hand, the manipulative Minerva Orland — Eastern-looking in appearance and said to be the strongest member of Sabertooth — continues her unwavering reign of evil (which we got a taste of at the tail end of Season 4), engineering a scenario that pits Erza Scarlet in a do-or-die clash against Mermaid Heel’s katana wielding warrior, the purple-haired Kagura Mikazuchi — though, it doesn’t take long for vixen Minerva to join in on the girl-on-girl roughhouse herself.

That awkward moment when Gray is actually wearing clothes.
That awkward moment when Gray is actually wearing clothes.

And who could forget the wacky ‘executioners,’ a bonkers band of gifted troopers who cause our Fairies a whirlwind of trouble. The standouts from this force of five include: the outlandish, ‘fisherman looking’ Uosuke (who wears a smile on his dial at all times), locking horns with Celestial wizards Lucy and Yukino (accompanied by Exceeds Happy and Carla) in a madcap quarrel that sees Uosuke’s Terrain Effect Magic altar the battle arena — he summons natural phenomena such as lava, water and ice, manipulating the area’s gravity to his favor (with wild results) — while the ‘beautiful’ but deadly Cosmos uses her Plant Magic in an oddly seductive toe-to-toe with Wendy. And last but not least, the long, dark-haired bombshell Kamika cuts, folds and slices her way through a stand-off with Fairy Tail’s poster-girl, Mirajane — Kamika’s Paper Blizzard attack (which allows the malicious doll to create weaponized sheets of multicolored paper, each with their own defensive and/or offensive ability) standing out as one of the more unique combat styles showcased in the anime.

All in all, this 13th story arc certainly retains the ‘magic’ from it’s opening act (seen in Season 4) and really kicks it up to a notch, resulting in a riveting, rip-roaring and highly engrossing climax, with a fitting epilogue titled ‘Droplets of Time’ that sees the bittersweet farewell of an enemy-turned ally, who’s finally cleansed of her past wrongdoings, having sacrificed her own future so that others may live out theirs.

Following the satisfying conclusion to the Grand Magic Games, viewers are treated to a number of giddy filler episodes, which load the gaps with silly yet amusing stand-alone romps before the next big revelation drops. There’s an episode called ‘Moulin Rouge’ that gives us the ‘billiard game’ backstory behind Fairy Tail’s female sharpshooter, Bisca Connell, whereas a Sabertooth themed storyline, ‘Welcome Back, Frosch,’ follows the misadventures of the said simpleton Exceed, who endeavors to make his way back to the guildhall using his own wits and know-how, encountering a slew of familiar faces along the way.

Trick or Treat?
Trick or Treat?

Next up is the 14th arc in the series, an anime-only storyline titled, Eclipse Celestial Spirits arc, with the calamity of the Eclipse Gate causing the Fairy Tail mob further grief. The adventure ignites when the crew tackle an investigation into the cause of some abnormal weather. During the analysis, Lucy discovers that the Twelve Zodiac Gates have suddenly stopped responding to her call. With an unexpected change in appearance, the spirits (led by Leo), inform the mages that they now demand total liberation, having created a bogus job request to inform Lucy of their decision to sever their bonds with their contracted masters. With the Spirit King missing and the Spirit World in disarray, the gang rise up to recover their shattered ties, the rebelling spirits prepared to fight against the mages whilst attempting to complete a ritual that will give them complete and utter freedom, but at a price — a measly twelve days to live.

Reintroducing the spirits in an episode called ‘Full Effort Hospitality!’ the arc begins with a fun opener that sees Lucy and Yukino reward their spirits with a wish, thanking them for their help in closing the Eclipse Gate during the Grand Magic Games and preventing the subsequent dragon invasion. From here on in, madness and mayhem ensues as the gang race against the clock to save their supernatural pals from self-induced extinction. Highlights include, a dance-off between Cancer and Gray, the latter showcasing some Michael Jackson type moves, and an extended chase that sees a sadistic Virgo — who is (this time) dishing out the punishment — torment poor little Lucy. Moreover, the alternate spirit forms are both fetching and quirky, chiefly Pisces, with one resembling a humanoid fish-man, and the other (his mother), a strange speaking Great White Shark, while Aries, with her tanned complexion and loud personality, becomes the exact opposite of her former timid self. Sure, the arc is a tad too long (and may prove to be taxing for some), but its strange ‘verses’ showdowns and re-imagined spirit designs make for a decent deviation.

Them lazy afternoon feels.
Them lazy afternoon feels.

So with the Celestial Spirit World back in check (at the close of Eclipse Celestial Spirits arc), its business as per usual for Fairy Tail, who take on some seriously outlandish job requests, landing the guildmates in all sorts of bother. Natsu, Lucy and Happy tackle an inescapable ice labyrinth in an episode titled ‘The Labyrinth of White,’ while a two-part story about a cute creature-like furball named Kemo-Kemo, who falls out from the sky, sees our heroes explore a strange island, having appeared out of the ocean only a few days earlier — but not before Team Natsu participate in the Grand Magic Games’ new mage-exchange program. And rounding out the season are a couple of zany omake episodes, ‘Transform!’ giving us Fairy Tail’s answer to the current superhero craze while ‘Fairy Tail of the Dead Meeeeeeeeen’ puts the wizards at the center of a farcical scent-driven zombie outbreak — either way, there’s never a dull moment to be found, even if some of these ‘odds and ends’ may not be to everyone’s taste.

On a design front, the animation in this Fairy Tail revamp is much more fluent and refined than that of the former series (give or take the occasional choppy scene or two), particularly the tumultuous action sequences and clamorous duke outs as the production values seem to have been amped up a notch — and it honestly shows. The colors here are notably more washed out and natural (giving the anime a quasi-realistic, mature-like aesthetic), with the busty babes of Fiore looking more voluptuous than ever before. Additionally the fanservice/sexualisation factor has also been juiced up, with the camera (conveniently) slipping its way into some well-situated ‘hot spots’ in order to give those fanboy otakus a more arousing view. And one may also notice that the artwork, mainly the character design, is closer in line to the artistry of Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail manga (the show’s paperback counterpart). Even the episode title cards are now themed (by arc), adding a fun little touch to this supercharged flight of fancy.

Come on baby, let's do the twist.
Come on baby, let’s do the twist.

Topped off with vibrant and lively openings — memorable songs being ‘Masayume Chasing’ performed by BoA and ‘Break Out’ by V6 — and a score that more-or-less resembles that of the prior series, with raunchy pinup art laid over the bouncy end credit tracks (custom made to please the male fandom at large), Fairy Tail’s 5th season is an absolute knockout. Look, it’s no secret that I’m a self proclaimed Fairy Tail enthusiast and, recently being branded with the mark of the guild (in the form of a tattoo), I’m certainly in this for the long haul. A well-paced, heartfelt action-packed whimsical, if you haven’t caught on to Fairy Tail by now, you’re really missing out. So kudos to everybody involved in bringing Fairy Tail Season 5 to the small-screen, and while this do-over was (to some degree) rather unneeded, it rightly recaptures, and somewhat elevates, the energy and enchantment of the anime’s initial 175 episode run, pushing on with the spellbinding narrative in the process. Now bring on Tartaros!

4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended

Reviewed by S-Littner

Fairy Tail – Season 4 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia