Fairy Tail: Final Season (2018-2019)
Episode 278 – 328
Strength. Spirit. Family.
It was a great day for the Fairy Tail fandom when, on July 20, 2017, creator Hiro Mashima announced via Twitter that a third and ‘final’ series would air late the following year. While it was somewhat bittersweet to hear that the anime was coming to a close, I was buzzing with excitement and anticipation, knowing that I’d finally see the climactic battle between hot-headed Fairy Tail highflier Natsu Dragneel, legendary Dark Mage Zeref, and the fearsomely reputed Dragon King Acnologia, which has been slowly brewing for the past few seasons.
With the previous series wrapping up in late March of 2016, right after the Tartaros arc, the final season’s 51 episodes cover the manga’s conclusion; first up, it depicts Natsu, Lucy, and Happy’s journey to reorganize and round-up their disbanded guildmates; we then witness the guild’s epic war with the militaristic Alvarez Empire, which fills up the bulk of the series. Time and again, the wizards of Fairy Tail have faced insurmountable odds and immensely tough rivals, but through it all, the power of their friendship, the strength of their magic, and the burning fire in their bellies has been what’s helped them win the day. And this season is certainly no exception, with the wizard’s pit against their most powerful adversaries to date. This season’s got fist-pumping action, emotion, heart, thrills, and surprises, and should please all those dedicated Fairy Tail fans who’ve stuck around and stood by the anime for the last ten odd years.
Directed by Shinji Ishihira — who’s helmed every episode of the anime thus far — Fairy Tail’s Final Season opens with the Avatar arc, which takes place one year after the guild’s dissolution. This storyline follows Fire Dragon Slayer Natsu, his blue-winged, wise-cracking cat-like companion Happy, and buxom blonde Celestial Spirit Mage Lucy Heartfilia, who’ve just reunited. The trio, sharing stories of their time apart, endeavor to track down their comrades in order to revive their scattered guild.
Their first stop is Margaret Town, where they find blue pig-tailed female Sky Dragon Slayer Wendy Marvell and her anthropomorphic cat confidant Carla, who are both now part of Lamia Scale. Wendy has joined the guild because of pink-haired Sky God Slayer Shelia Blendy, the girls becoming good friends after their fierce confrontation at the last Grand Magic Games. They’ve since formed a musical duo named ‘The Sky Sisters,’ and we get to see them perform a cute song-and-dance number. Within the first few episodes, there’s also a short but fun encounter with Orochi’s Fin, a rival guild of Lamia Scale, which shows just how OP Natsu has become over the years — he leaves Bluenote Stinger, former deputy commander of Grimoire Heart, incapacitated with a swift ‘Fire Dragon King’s Roar.’
After persuading Wendy and Carla to jump back on the Fairy Tail train, the troupe head to a nearby rainy, deserted village where devastated, ill-stricken Water Mage Juvia Loxar now resides. It’s here that we learn about Avatar, a black magic-cult that worships Zeref as a God, proclaiming itself as a successor to the fallen Balam Alliance. What’s interesting about this discovery is that ex-Fairy Tail member Gray Fullbuster, who’d dropped off the radar six months earlier, is assumed to be leader of the sinister cult. This storyline also connects back to Future Rogue Cheney, the principal antagonist from the Grand Magic Games arc, who warned Natsu that the current Rogue Cheney (the Shadow Dragon Slayer from the Sabertooth guild) would become corrupted by his inner evil after his onesie-wearing Exceed pal Frosch is murdered by Gray in a year’s time.
Natsu is agitated and troubled after he links Avatar and Gray back to Future Rogue Cheney. Thus, Natsu drags the recently restored Fairy Tail over to the Sabertooth guildhall, only to find that ‘surprise, surprise,’ Rogue, Frosch, and female mage Minerva have already embarked on an expedition to extinguish Avatar. Luckily, Natsu catches up with them before they exit the city, then tries to stop Rogue and Frosch from completing the mission; however, he doesn’t disclose all he knows. Natsu strikes a deal with the pair: he guarantees to destroy Avatar and share the job’s reward money, but only if Rogue and Frosch promise not to leave town until he returns. Rogue, although disgruntled and a smidge confused by Natsu’s request, agrees to the terms.
What ensues is an enjoyable adventure that mixes laughs with zany action. We’re even introduced to an enemy who holds Black Virus Magic, which is used to target characters’ intestines and cause stomach cramps — now that’s whacky! The Avatar cultists are also memorable in design and personality, each with their own quirk and eccentricity. The baled-headed, goatee sporting Gômon is particularly amusing, due chiefly to his unusual habit of constantly using the word ‘tea,’ which makes way for a host of ridiculous tea-related puns. With Gômon able to control and manipulate punishment tools via Torture Magic, we get a hilarious torture scene involving Lucy, some chains, and a goat. Another character highlight is the small leopard-looking Abel, who happens to be in possession of the dreaded Mr. Cursey voodoo doll — remember that thing from the Tenrou Island arc? Then there’s the observant armored brute D-6, who simply looks scary and cool but doesn’t do much, and Alok, the iron-masked high priest who leads the cult. His plan is to ritualistically massacre 30,000 people, offering souls to Zeref by performing a ‘purification’ on the residents of Malba City, a bustling outdoor marketplace community.
And there’s a stack of high-voltage action, too, which re-teams the primary Fairy Tail band on the battlefield. Levy McGarden and Panther Lily join the fight as members of the Magic Council’s Custody Enforcement Unit, which Gajeel Redfox now captains. At the same time, S-Class Mage Erza Scarlet rides into combat to help our heroes confront the Avatar armed forces, who’ve gathered to march toward the Malba City gates. The adventure concludes with Natsu having to go head-to-head against a horned colossal Battle God, Ikusa-Tsunagi. What’s also excellent, from a visual standpoint, is that Lucy now possesses Star Dress. This spell allows her to incorporate the Celestial Spirit she summons into her body, meaning that she gets a flashy wardrobe change (similar to Erza’s Requip) every time she calls out one of her spirits. So, her outfits transform and are centered around the Spirit in question’s wardrobe and abilities.
Even though it involves cults and sacrifices, Avatar is a breezy storyline that’s relatively lighthearted, its focus squarely on reuniting Fairy Tail after their lengthy stint apart. The arc winds up with a heartfelt reunion at the rubble and ruin of the crumbled Fairy Tail hall, where all the members of the guild regroup. There’s also an episode that looks at the Fairy Tail crew reconstructing Fairy Tail HQ and selecting a seventh guild master, seeing as its sixth, Makarov Dreyar, is still MIA.
This leads directly into the final storyline, the Alvarez Empire arc. It begins with the arrival of a familiar face, Mest Gryder, who informs the Fairy Tail guild about the Lumen Histoire (otherwise known as Fairy Heart Magic), Fairy Tail’s ultimate weapon, which has been hidden away in a secret underground chamber beneath the guildhall throughout the ages. It becomes quickly apparent that Makarov broke up Fairy Tail (a year prior) to protect its members from the Alvarez Empire, a large country located in the Western Continent. The Alvarez Empire, you see, has its sights set on seizing Fairy Tail’s unlimited source of magic; the realm has been preparing to invade Ishgar, the Eastern peninsula which is home to Kingdom of Fiore, to get their hands on the Lumen Histoire. Mest informs our heroes that Makarov has traveled across the sea to the Alvarez Empire to negotiate with their leaders. Makarov is afraid that, with Ishgar’s magical artillery weapons down (the Etherion Cannon and the Face bomb), the Alvarez Empire will mount an assault on Fiore and Fairy Tail with all that they’ve got — we’re talking an enormous, combined military force made up of more than seven hundred light and dark guilds.
Team Natsu, of course, decides to sail to the Alvarez Empire and rescue their former master, who’s currently being held against his will by Emperor Spriggan, aka Zeref, the most terrifying mage to ever walk Earthland. And so, the stage is set for an epic showdown of earthshattering proportions. Fairy Tail must also square off against the elite Spriggan 12 (the shields of Alvarez), the most skilled, superpowered mages in the land — this includes the feared Wizard King August, the four-hundred-year-old Scarlet Despair, Irene Belserion; and ex-number one ranked Wizard Saint, God Serena. And this is while trying to fend off the hundreds of fleets and soldiers who are about to mount an assault on their home soil. Making matters worse, the cataclysmically destructive, blood-thirsty Acnologia lurks around in the distance, slowly making his way to the battlefield, his true motives and past still shrouded in mystery.
Enemies become allies, and club lines are crossed, with all the guilds in Ishgar banding together to fight for a common cause and protect their homeland. The characters learn that similarities and mutual hopes are far stronger than what threatens to divide them. A handful of guilds join our main players in the grand clash, including Blue Pegasus, Crime Sorcière, and Sabertooth, and it’s genuinely great to see familiar faces pop up to aid Fairy Tail throughout the adventure.
Spawning a whopping 44 episodes, this arc covers a lot of ground. It’s a layered and intricate narrative that manages to satisfyingly tie up a stack of dangling threads. But that’s not to say that there aren’t twists and turns aplenty, with surprises and shock revelations heightening the narrative when things start to feel flat or tired — parts of this season do drag. The intense brawls and action are enhanced by the kooky relationships of the Fairy Tail crew, as is the case with previous seasons, and while things do seem a bit grim for our guildmates, the proceedings are still mostly upbeat and lively.
There’s a heap of powerful themes explored in this arc, some of which have been prevalent throughout the anime’s entire ten-year run. Strength, or sharing the strength of one another, has always been a core theme within the series, and this concluding chapter drums the idea home. Although Fairy Tail, as a guild, are physically tough, they’re constantly learning that the strength of caring and kindness can be more prevailing than that which stems from pride, arrogance, or selfishness. Through a stirring yet heartrending sacrifice, Shelia and Wendy discover that strength can be found in loss; this takes place during a brutal encounter with Spriggan 12 War Empress Dimaria Yesta. Moreover, our Fairy Tail friends constantly rely on their upbeat attitude and optimism, understanding that, when the chips are down, the power of positive thinking can be the booster shot they need.
Thematically, friendship has also been a driving force behind the anime, and the closing arc relies heavily on this notion but adds perspective through the character of Happy. He teaches Natsu — who’d gladly and willingly give up his own life for that of his friends — that friendship is a two-way deal — what you mean to others can be just as important as what they mean to you. An annex to friendship is the concept of family, which also permeates throughout the season, and Mashima’s views are spelled out firmly — family is who you choose, so biology can beat it! There’s a solid overarching message to be found within Fairy Tail (as an anime), one that has cemented my love for the show and its characters, and that’s the idea of believing in a better world, which, in essence, can give you the strength, drive and resolve to make it possible.
Being the last season of the main Fairy Tail storyline (there are currently manga spin-off books), all the beloved characters get the farewell they rightfully deserve. Natsu doesn’t grow or advance much, despite unknowingly being E.N.D. (Etherious Natsu Dragneel), a demon reborn from the book of Zeref. And this is a tad disappointing — but then again, Natsu has remained consistent throughout the entire series, his character remaining very much unchanged. He’s still the reckless, headstrong Natsu we know and love, ready to risk it all for the concern he has for his fellow Fairy Tail comrades. Natsu does, however, get an awesome new power-up, literally hidden up his sleeve.
Zeref and Mavis Vermillion, co-founder and First Guild Master of Fairy Tail, probably get the most moving and affecting farewell and the most noteworthy. The pain and conflict shared between the pair (as enemies and lovers) is pretty darn beautiful. Their final scenes together are admirably done; so, serious props to Mashima for handling their complex relationship wonderfully. On the other hand, Zeref does come off as slightly confused as a character, oscillating between conflicting personas — I understand that he’s supposed to be wicked and vindictive, but he flip-flops from being emotionally fragile, gentle, and compassionate to a total asshole, consumed by hatred and malice. I guess that’s what happens when a character’s been kept around for a smidge too long. Zeref’s backstory with Natsu is also touching and has been nicely handled, the theme of family underscoring Zeref’s entire arc.
The lifelong feud between Gray and rival Ice-Make Mage Lyon Vastia, torn apart by guilt, is finally put to bed as the duo makes way for healing. Lucy gets a surprise visit from fallen Celestial Spirit Aquarius, the two reuniting after their teary farewell last season. We also learn that a new Water Bearer Key has surfaced somewhere in the world, which would allow its holder to form a new contract with the mermaid spirit. Moreover, there’s a great B-arc that connects Lucy’s mother Layla (and Lucy by extension), green-haired Spriggan 12 babe Brandish μ, and Aquarius back to the Eclipse Gate (from the Grand Magic Games storyline); the characters share a history marred by pain, loss, and misunderstanding. Just on Brandish, she turns out to be quite the complicated adversary; she’s neither an enemy nor ally to Fairy Tail but tries to retain her allegiance to her Emperor nonetheless.
Fairy Tail’s Requip Mage Erza Scarlet has her own demons to contend with, too — the cruel and bitter Irene Belserion being the most obvious (but more on her later). Erza is forced to confront ghosts from her past, not figuratively, and learns to let her history stay behind her. We’re also introduced to one new protagonist worthy of mention, and that’s Anna Heartfilia, a hundred-year-old Celestial Spirit Mage who possesses Time Magic. She’s a descendant of Lucy’s who is sent into the future to eradicate the Black Dragon of the Apocalypse, Acnologia. While Anna injects some oomph and intrigue into the season’s final few episodes, the character doesn’t amount to much.
Turning to the bag guys, the voluptuous Irene Belserion comes to mind as a notable contender for best enemy this season — her thickly braided scarlet hair and risqué witch’s garb make her a standout design-wise, too! Irene has strong blood ties to Fairy Tail’s Erza and a riveting connection to the Dragon Slayers, being one herself. An episode titled ‘Dragon Seed,’ while revealing Irene‘s dark, bitter, and twisted backstory documents the sad fate that Dragon Slayers must bear. Without getting too spoilery, Irene’s geography shifting Universe One spell, along with hundreds of years of experience using Dragon Slayer Magic, make her truly one of Fairy Tail’s most formidable foes.
And then there’s the bearded Wizard King, August, Spriggan 12’s general, who can copy, master, and then nullify an opponent’s magic after a simple encounter. However, what makes August stand out is his tragic past; there’s a heart-breaking last-minute revelation that rewrites his entire story. Strong themes of family and fatherhood emerge during August’s scrap with Fairy Tail’s S-Class ace, Gildarts Clive, connecting August’s path with that of Larcade Dragneel (Zeref’s son), the Black Wizard himself, and Mavis. Although an antagonist, August’s sendoff is one of the most impactful in the entire anime!
Getting to watch the seven Dragon Slayers (Natsu, Wendy, Gajeel, Laxus, Rogue, Sting, and ex-Oración Seis member Erik) team up to take down Acnologia is an out-and-out treat and a season apex — wow, what a fight! Fairy Tail’s last stand also takes place in the port of Hargeon, the spot where our story began, which is very fitting — the characters lure Acnologia there before locking horns with the behemoth. And, of course, let’s not forget about the relationships (or ships). Those wanting to see parings play out or resolve have plenty to smile about, particularly Gajevy and Gruvia enthusiasts, the former given a handful of touching scenes and exchanges. Also sticking to mind is the screwball smackdown between Spriggan 12’s well-dressed dignified Assassin Jacob Lessio, whom Hiro Mashima admits was inspired by one of his favorite actors, Jason Statham. Natsu, Happy, and Lucy use the gentleman’s contempt for nudity and indecency to thwart his violent advances during their confrontation — funny stuff!
On that note, there’s a pinch of fanservice throughout the season (as one would expect), but it’s just mild innuendo and scanty outfits, nothing overly raunchy or distracting. What does hinder this concluding arc, however, are the stakes, or lack thereof. There are simply too many near-misses and close scrapes with death, hindering tension or danger. Characters are seen to die or be fatally wounded, then simply return by sheer luck or a twist of fate, and this lowers the stakes. It’s evident that Mashima has too much affinity for all his characters, so much so that he’s given most a fairytale ending — a bunch of the bad guys, too. I’m sure certain fans would be disappointed, though, if their favorite character didn’t make it to the final credit crawl. What’s also clear through the writing and resolution is that Mashima has a better handle on some of the characters than others. There’s a lot to keep track of in terms of character links, relationships, and general Fairy Tail lore — so kudos to Mashima for doing so well connecting all the dots. Still, these minor bumps aren’t enough to let the finale down.
On art and sound, the final series has been produced by A-1 Pictures (who’ve worked on all six seasons of Fairy Tail, plus Fairy Tail Zerø, and the two feature films), CloverWorks (jumping on board for the second and third series), and production house Bridge (joining the Fairy Tail team here). The animation and artwork are a mix between the first and second series runs. The art and character designs are fun, bright, detailed, and colorful (so, nowhere near as dull or muted as the Tartaros arc or Zerø), with the animation and action livelier and more dynamic than that of the first series, which in parts was fairly static. The characters are expressive and emotive, too.
Of course, it’s all heightened by the Celtic rock/ metal soundtrack that has become synonymous with the anime — the main theme still gives me all the feels! Of the episode intros and outros, the ones that spring to mind are the poppy ‘DOWN BY LAW’ opener by THE RAMPAGE; as well as the melodic ending theme ‘Boku to Kimi no Lullaby’ and upbeat closer ‘Exceed,’ both tracks performed by Miyuna.
The series winds up with the epilogue episode, ‘Dearest Friends,’ which takes place a year after Fairy Tail’s hard-earned victory against the Alvarez Empire and the defeat of Acnologia. It documents the events that transpire in the subsequent months, showing us just what’s changed since the big conflict. It’s an amazing way to finish things up. If anything, the fact that this anime still has me hooked and interested (after three hundred plus episodes) for future storylines is a credit to Mashima. This speaks volumes to the overall quality of the series, and the last episode leaves us on a high note, proving that there’s a lot more potential and magic left in this universe. While Fairy Tail is a grand and sprawling adventure filled with magic, mayhem, and wonder, it’s grounded in real human emotion, and, to me, that’s what makes it so powerful, the series exploring the bonds we share.
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by Stu Cachia (S-Littner)
Fairy Tail: Final Season is released through Madman Entertainment Australia