Natsu and his friends continue to fight against the ‘Cold Emperor’ and stop his attempts to revive the monster Deliora. The conclusion of this story takes up the entirety of the first disc in the set, and whilst that might sound long, really Fairy Tail continues to show its excellent form on pacing. As with the ‘Lullaby’ arc on the first set, this arc runs just long enough to be engaging without being frustrating.
A big part of this is due to how well the characters are handled. Whilst most shonen shows generally have a main character, Fairy Tail is firmly focused on a collective cast. This makes all the difference for an arc such as this, where partial focus is on revealing the backstory of a character. In other shonen series, I’ve often felt that arcs like this are an unwelcome break from the protagonist as we shift to some other guys. Here though, revelations about Gray’s past and motivation play out alongside the developing story. This means that instead of feeling like one character is getting all the focus, his story is organically revealed as he joins the others in trying to save the island. Whilst said backstory is of the standard ‘I had a traumatic childhood’ nature, it’s of note that it doesn’t get as needlessly depressing as some other series one could name.
The show’s sense of humour also continues to play a key part in its recipe for success. It seems similar to what Fullmetal Alchemist tried to do with its humour, except instead of awkwardly undermining the drama, here it serves as a welcome reminder that the story isn’t taking itself too seriously. Even the unflappable Erza gets a brilliant moment which draws on her character portrayal.
The second disc opens with two standalone stories. The first of these is a flat-out comedy, as the main characters fall victim to a body switching spell they only have half an hour to find a solution for. There’s some welcome self-deprecating humour here (Gray’s first observation upon finding himself in Lucy’s body is that his back is killing him) as everyone generally panics at the thought of getting stuck in a different body for the rest of their lives. I was reminded of the Chowder episode ‘A Little Bit of Pizzazz’ as the characters deal with this collectively, unlike the similar story seen in Freaky Friday in that not everyone is unhappy with the arrangement (the recipient of Erza’s body is quite happy).
The second story offers a look at the childhood of the younger members of the guild as Lucy is told the story of how Natsu and Happy met. This is a charming little episode as it introduces a potential love interest for Natsu and a new spin on his relationship with Happy. Of course, the question even raised by the episode itself is ‘Where is she now?’ It’s a question for the very next arc.
Returning from a job, our now-established regulars find the Fairy Tail guild hall in ruins following an attack by their archrivals, Phantom Lord. Although their master asks the members to take it on the chin and move on, things soon escalate into an outright war between the two guilds. This adds a real sense of danger which had previously been missing, making it all the more effective in adding weight to the stakes. It’s also another victory for the show’s pacing as episode by episode the situation goes from bad to worse and the entire Fairy Tail guild is on the ropes, leading to a great big cliff hanger to end the set on. Seeing the guild collectively fight underscores something nicely established in the first set: This isn’t a simple case of rookies in training and things getting serious because the ‘adults’ are now stepping in, like in Naruto.
However, I must continue to criticise the way that Natsu’s abilities still seem poorly defined. Whilst his strength is a benefit at times (he has a battle with two of the Cold Emperor’s minions early in the set which is brilliantly paced, whilst other series would have made an entire drawn-out episode of it) he just seems to shrug off everything. This arc will hopefully address that as Phantom Lord are reveal to have their own Dragon Slayer in their ranks, and the two quickly single each other out. However, another of their number who seems perfectly skilled to defeat Natsu is defeated with the same wobbly logic that most of his victories seem partly founded on.
Extras on the set consist of clean versions of the second opening and closing titles and two commentaries with the FUNimation actors working on the show. Although they can’t reveal anything massive, these commentaries do offer a look at the work that goes into producing the dub of the show, including translation differences between it and the manga. Most noteworthy though is that we even get to hear an original country blues song inspired by the story.
Fairy Tail Volume 2 is a welcome treat. The show has quickly become one of my favourites, and as long as it can maintain its trademark vibrant energy it will assuredly keep that position. It really deserves more attention.
Fairy Tail Volume2 (UK Edition) can be purchased through Amazon.co.uk.