Fairy Tail – Season 6 (2015-2016)
Episodes 227 – 265
Saving the day is child’s play for the wizards of Fairy Tail
Given that Fairy Tail — the Japanese anime adapted from the manga series written and illustrated by Hiro Mashima — has well and truly surpassed 200 episodes, it surprisingly still manages to thrill, enthrall and entertain, though the fist-hurling action, in this sixth go-around, is perhaps moreso catered towards long time devotees as opposed to casual viewers, the narrative coming to a boil as it closes out the Igneel storyline (which has been running since the anime’s first season) whilst laying down the pieces for the imminent (much-anticipated) grand finale — and the end is certainly nigh, the manga officially wrapping in July of 2017.
So, anyone who’s already dabbled in Fairy Tail should (by now) know whether it’s honestly for them — I’m clearly a fan, just check out my reviews for Seasons 1 to 5 — and if you haven’t enjoyed the guild’s fiery escapades thus far, this latest bite probably won’t convert you.
Fairy Tail’s sixth season doesn’t deviate too far from the standards set in the previous five, the show starting with the 7-episode Sun Village arc, which works as a fun little appetizer before the hearty main dish. The story opens with ‘The Morning of a New Adventure,’ which sees the wizards of Fairy Tail, the strongest guild in the Kingdom of Fiore, taking some time out at a spa following their triumphant victory at the Grand Magic Games. Their peaceful R&R, however, doesn’t last long, as it’s quickly back to completing errands and requests from the job board; busty Celestial Spirit Mage Lucy Heartfilia still needs money to pay her rent, while the rest of the rag-tag crew are eager to get back in the game and accept more prestigious clients, seeing as their former fame and glory has been rightfully restored. Things, though, soon take a unexpected turn when Fire Dragon Slayer Natsu Dragneel and Ice-Make Mage Gray Fullbuster are personally called upon for an emergency mission by an esteemed client: Warrod Sequen, one of the Ten Wizard Saints and Four Gods of Ishgar.
Knowing full well that Natsu and Gray don’t play well together, the pair (having contrasting powers of fire and ice) persistently at each other’s throats, Lucy, super-stern Requip Mage Erza Scarlet, Exceed Carla, Sky Dragon Slayer Wendy Marvell and the quick-witted, fish-loving Happy join them on their quest, just to ensure that the two finish the job they were originally sent out to complete.
When arriving at their destination, the gang find a tall man with plant-like features, who resembles aged broccoli and boasts an odd (often confusing) sense of humor, living inside a humble wooden cottage. Much to everyone’s dismay, this ‘weirdo’ turns out to be the legendary Warrod Sequen, who tasks the team with liberating the Sun Village, the century-old mage too weak and timeworn to do it himself (despite his prominent title). You see, this township was once home to the Eternal Flame, a guardian-type entity that protected the village and all its inhabitants, but recently, on his journeys, Warrod had stumbled upon the place and discovered that everything in it, including the heavenly blaze, had been frozen, the residents still alive beneath the icecaps.
Traveling to the settlement by means of a flowing giant tree (think Jack riding his Beanstalk), Natsu and his comrades soon reach the Sun Village and enter, finding everything in it encased by a strange and eerie type of ice magic (just as Warrod had described), including an army of monstrous giants, frozen in full battle array.
While trying to solve the mystery of who refrigerated the city and how — the Fairy Tail wizards desperate to thaw the ice and free its chilled citizens — they run into a trio of thieving, non-magic-wielding treasure hunters from the Sylph Labyrinth guild, who’ve come to town to steal the Eternal Flame, the exact same article that our heroes have come to restore — which will be much easier to nab now that the titans protecting it are fully immobile. Alas, this super-skilled, sticky-fingered triad turn out to be the tip of the iceberg of problems for our mages, the arrival of a bandana-wearing muscleman named Doriate — a member of the shadowy dark guild Succubus Eye — causing them to transform into kid-sized versions of themselves. But, will this minor setback stop Fairy Tail from stepping up to the challenge, even if our heroes can no longer fit into their enlarged armor nor carry their adult-sized weapons.
Helmed once again by Shinji Ishihira — who’s directed every episode of the anime thus far — this bite-sized story arc is a light enough ‘prelude’ to kick-start Fairy Tail’s heaviest and darkest season, the majority of this sixth outing focusing on Tartaros’ take over the magical world (more on this later). With a punched-up script and the fist-pumping action we’ve all come to expect, there’s plenty to enjoy in these first few episodes. Visually, there’s some arresting artwork on display — the rose-colored glaciers entombing the Sun Village, for instance, are really quite striking, so too are Lucy’s short-shorts and midriff bearing top — while, narratively, commendable character growth (particularly for Fairy Tail’s Gray) and heartfelt emotion propel the plot forward, Hiro Mashima highlighting themes of home and family, as well as the power of friendship and its unwavering strength — the driving force behind the entire Fairy Tail saga. With that said, watching the guildmates relax at the baths and casually bicker and bond are some of the more noteworthy moments, as it’s nice to see the Fairy guys just do their day-to-day thing, acting the way chums and confidants do.
What’s especially exciting is that audiences are re-acquainted with players last seen in the Grand Magic Games. Sadistic ex-Raven Tail Mage Flare Corona — who tormented poor ‘Blondie’ in the annual wizard-on-wizard tournament — gets a fully-fledged backstory; we see a side of the crimson-haired creep that we haven’t seen before, viewers learning a little more about her painful past and subsequent upbringing. Former Sabertooth Mage Minerva also re-appears, the vicious vixen (who’s now part of the sinister Succubus Eye) going toe-to-toe with Fairy Tail’s ‘shrunken’ Erza, this a sorta payback for her embarrassing defeat at the Grand Magic Games, the scornful hellcat eager to win back her pride.
And of course, this chapter (like every other) comes complete with a bouncy J-pop intro, ‘Yumeiro Graffiti,’ whilst the frisky closer ‘Never Ever,’ performed by Tokyo Girls’ Style, is bolstered by some spunky manga-inspired portraits (illustrated by Mashima himself) before continuing into Tartaros, where it plays over some fanciable female silhouettes — rhaw!
Okay, time for the big canon storyline! Note — there will be some mild spoilers discussed (as it’s near impossible to review this next part without them), so those wanting to go in fresh should probably just skip to the last paragraph. The Tartaros arc, which runs for a whopping 32 episodes, signals the beginning of the end, so to speak, and is split into two ‘kinda’ sections, the prologue and the arc itself. There’s actually a lot of foreshadowing leading up to Tartaros’ assault (some of which takes place in prior seasons), the mightiest dark guild on the continent — making up the final third of the Balam Alliance — working effortlessly behind the scenes to stage the perfect attack.
It all starts off with a bang, quite literally, when the Magic Council Headquarters, located in the town of Era, are destroyed by a cataclysmic blast. As a meeting was taking place at the time, most of the councilors are killed — including its chairman, Grand Doma — the ruling body of the magical kingdom decimated in one single blow. As luck would have it, Intelligence Officer Doranbolt (who has a long-running affiliation with the Fairy Tail guild) manages to survive the onslaught, but discovers the body of a dear friend/ associate buried beneath the wreckage. This terror soon reaches the shores of Magnolia Town when 8-Island restaurant is ravaged by several of Tartaros’ lackeys, with ex-Magic Council member Yajima (the diner’s owner), Laxus and his Thunder God Tribe (made up of Freed, Evergreen and Bickslow) left critically wounded (and poisoned) after a brutal, fist-flying confrontation.
When the news eventually reaches Fairy Tail, the guildmates quickly rally together, scrambling to gather information on Tartaros — the whereabouts of their base of operations currently unknown. Declaring war on the nefarious underworld heavyweight, the Fairies devise a plan to uncover Tartaros’ ultimate endgame. This leads the party to split up into factions, each tracking down the last remaining council members, Fairy Tail wanting to protect the sages and use their knowledge to find out more about their newly sworn enemy.
Our protagonists soon learn that Tartaros needs to ‘neutralize’ both current and former council members before they can activate ‘Face,’ a hidden, extremely dangerous weapon (created by the council) capable of eradicating all the magic in the land. But, won’t this affect Tartaros, one might ask? Well, no, it won’t, seeing as most of its active members are actually Etherious — nine fiends known as the Nine Demon Gates — who use ‘Curse Power’ as opposed to traditional spell-based magic, Tartaros wishing to resurrect Master E.N.D., the strongest demon in the Book of Zeref, then return to their creator, Zeref himself, the toughest, most formidable Black Mage in the history of the known world — so, yeah, there’s certainly trouble afoot, enough to shake the very foundation of the entire magical realm.
So, first thing’s first, who are Tartaros. Well, the smug, cool-and-collected purple-haired Underworld King, Mard Geer (who shares his surname with the dark guild), heads the charge, this hellish hotshot also its founder slash makeshift leader (until E.N.D. returns). Then we have the semi-immortal Nine Demon Gates, all of whom are able to be ‘reborn’ using a device known as Hell’s Core: there’s the short and stubby, one-eyed humanoid Franmalth, whose design somewhat resembles that of a Tim Burton creation; the burly, aquatic shark-like Torafuzar; four-armed tentacled brute Ezel; voluptuous, horned wench Seilah, who’s probably the most cold and calculated of the bunch, this she-devil able to manipulate and control the bodies of others (both living and dead); the silent but deadly ‘Black Archbishop’ Keyes, a spooky skeleton-like dude gifted with the ability of necromancy; the handsome, dark-skinned Tempester, whose fierce and ferocious Etherious form is a lot more menacing than his ‘debut’ exterior; the animalistic Jackal, whose sheer cruelty and callousness make him the most detestable of the bunch; and then there’s Kyôka, a half-human, half-bird tigress who’s into kinky S&M-type torture. Rounding out the nine is Silver (nicknamed Absolute Zerø), the only actual Tartaros member who isn’t a demon, this scarred Ice Devil Slayer (whom we met in the Sun Village arc) also Gray Fullbuster’s biological dad.
By the conclusion of Tartaros, one does feel as though they’ve witnessed a mini ‘series finale,’ this arc, which is probably the most seminal storyline in the show so far, tying up a lot of loose ends — so expect some game-changing surprises and big shock reveals. Sure, there are still a handful of questions left hanging, but viewers can sense a type of closure here, though there’s certainly something more finite brewing. The narrative also finishes up by revealing the ‘big bad’ for the anime’s climax — there’s Zeref, and the fearsomely reputed Black Dragon Acnologia.
Looking at the arc itself, it’s certainly grave, touching and earnest — Natsu cries uncontrollably over his father’s lifeless corpse; Lucy sacrifices one of her most cherished and precious companions (forever severing their bond) to protect her guildmates; Gray and Juvia (finally) share a tender moment, embraced in one another’s arms; quipster Happy (at long last) saves the day with some noble heroics; and Wendy and Carla offer up their own lives in a ‘self-destruct’ scenario that sees the duo reminisce over their treasured, longstanding friendship. So, there are a multitude of emotionally charged mileposts, scenes that are sure get viewers all teary-eyed, everyone’s actions holding weighty ramifications from here on in; the hardships our heroes face are certainly overcome (as one would expect), but this time, at a price — the phrase, ‘Without sacrifice there can be no victory,’ rings very true. (I’m curious to see where things will go from here.)
It’s also excellent to see character backstories aid large chunks of the action, with the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the key players coming squarely into focus; and, with the who’s who of the wizarding world combating the earth-shattering threat alongside Fairy Tail, we learn that all of the mages (no matter how weak or strong) are invaluable in their own unique ways. With that in mind, there are a ton of returning characters: The Twin Dragons of Sabertooth, Sting and Rouge, crop up late in the game to battle the evil Mard Geer, their arrival mere seconds before the dark ruler obliterates one of their prior pals, while Erza’s lover/ Crime Sorcière co-creator Jellal Fernandes, and his cute, pink-haired comrade Meredy, duke it out with the recently released Oración Seis — who are freed from prison by Doranbolt in exchange for info — the dark guild awaiting orders from their demonic superiors in a nearby wasteland. And, there are antagonists that re-emerge, too, the most notable being the muscular, bearded Jiemma, the ex-Sabertooth boss now a demonic member of Tartaros, and his daughter Minerva (who we previously saw in the Sun Village arc), audiences discovering the sad and tragic truth behind her depravity and malice, this due to the mistreatment and abuse by her power-hungry daddy.
As one would expect, the writing and storytelling is as solid as ever; it’s been reported that Mashima worked closely with the anime staff to incorporate ideas into Tartaros (and Fairy Tail Zerø) that he hadn’t managed to squeeze into the manga, this irrefutable proof of Hiro’s ongoing support for the anime and its success. What’s nice about Fairy Tail, as a shonen series, is that there’s not a lot of re-treading old material, meaning that the story constantly trudges along at a steady pace — and this season is no different.
Turning to the action, there’s an absolute abundance; both Wendy and Gray are given awesome new power-ups, and (hooray, hooray) we get to see some epic dragon-on-dragon clashes, the infernal Acnologia locking horns with red-hot fire-breather Igneel. Granted, some of the fights do drag (or go on for longer than they probably should), and some of the characters’ talents and capabilities are inconsistent and/or overdone — at one point Erza’s senses are rendered useless by a certain foe, yet she overcomes this (impossibly) and bounces right back.
In terms of art and imagery, this fifteenth arc can (at times) be a bit bland and muted, the colors not as vibrant or poppy as usual — yeah, I know it’s supposed to be the apocalypse, but still! The animation, though, is fairly fluent and consistent, with some of the fights bloodier, and more violent than they’ve been in the past. There are some cool, inspired designs scattered throughout, too — Tartaros’ crumbling castle (situated on a floating, fanged cube-shaped island) instantly springs to mind — while the fanservice seems to have been upped a notch, the ladies (most of which now sport bigger boobs) quite fit and curvaceous — a little more so than usual I’d say. It’s surprising to think that the manga is actually grimmer and raunchier than the anime, with a large portion of its nudity and bawdiness omitted from the series in order to keep it suitable for children.
To top it all off, we’re given an upbeat opener and soft, rousing closer, these bookending each 22-minute episode; the most memorable tracks are the wistful ‘Azayaka na Tabiji,’ sung by Megumi Mori, which warmly wraps up proceedings when the storyline’s at the more serious end, while the rock-y, energetic intro, ‘Believe In Myself’ performed by EDGE of LIFE, possesses enough gusto to get one ‘all fired up,’ the overlaying visuals setting the scene for what’s in store.
Look, if there’s one minor gripe I have with the entire season, it’s that some of the episode recaps are annoyingly longer than usual, and while binge watching, I felt as though I’d wasted hours re-viewing the same footage over and over! But, all in all, I’d say that Fairy Tail’s sixth ‘adventure’ is largely satisfying, this season carrying the same oomph that the series has miraculously managed to hold for all these years. If anything, this one cements the show’s staying power, as it’s geared me up for the anime’s supposed resurgence later this year! (And I’m still yet to see Fairy Tail Zerø.) It’s gonna be hard to say goodbye when the curtain closes, Fairy Tail having such a huge influence on me as a person — but, as the saying goes, all good things (must) come to an end.
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by S-Littner
Fairy Tail – Season 6 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia