The comedy-adventure Fairy
Tail (2009) has a rollicking, character-based humor that’s become all too
rare in American animation. Based on a manga by Hiro Mashima, the TV series was
only supposed to run for 48 episodes. But it proved so popular, it was expanded
to more than 170 episodes, and has already spun off one feature, several OVA’s
and scads of character merchandise.
Lucy, a young celestial wizard who uses magical keys to
summon the spirits who serve her, comes to the city of Magnolia, hoping to join
a sorcerer’s guild. She stumbles into the headquarters of the most eccentric
guild, Fairy Tail, and soon forms a team with three of its nuttiest members. Beneath
fire wizard Natsu’s rough and tumble good cheer lie extraordinary supernatural powers.
He always travels with his sidekick Happy, a flying, talking cat. But whenever Natsu
boards a train, boat or any other conveyance, he gets violent motion sickness, which
undercuts his power.
Natsu spars and quarrels endlessly with Gray, a redoubtable
ice wizard. Gray has the disconcerting habit of losing his clothes, leaving him
to fight in his boxers. The even more formidable Erza, a hot-tempered, buxom
redhead who practices transformative magic, keeps Natsu and Gray in line, but
she’s no saner than they are. Voice actors Todd Haberkorn (Natsu), Newton
Pittman (Gray) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Erza) bring a likable, lively edge
their feuding friendships; Cherami Leigh (Lucy) avoids the clichés of the anime
This mismatched quartet tackles various assignments they
find on the guild’s job board, battling demons and evil wizards. Over the
course of their adventures (and misadventures), the viewer learns more about
the quirky cast. Gray studied with the great ice wizard Ur: being cold was a
sign of weakness, so he got in the habit of shedding his outer garments and
running around in his underwear. Lucy acquires more magic keys, although the
attendant spirits don’t always perform the way she hopes. Taurus the Bull makes
terrible puns off “moo” and has a lustier nature than any American animated
spirit. Natsu is happiest when he’s tackling a foe, the stronger the better,
but he’s searching for Igneel, the dragon who was his instructor many years ago.
Although he doesn’t realize it, Gray inadvertently wins the
heart of water-wizard Juvia (“drip drip drop”). When she attempt to capture
Gray’s love with a magic potion, it backfires and makes anyone who smells it
attack what they perceive as an enemy. Erza squares off against one of the
pillars supporting the Guild Hall roof, while Gray charges the horizon line.
Episodes #76 through #95 (Sets #7 and #8) span the “Edolas”
arc, in which the cast is carried away to a parallel world, where magic is a
rare, strictly controlled source of power. The king of Edolas plans to rob the
Fairy Tale wizards of their enormous powers and use it for his for his own
purposes. Natsu isn’t about to let that happen to his friends and sets out to
free them. The inhabitants of Edolas include
an outré alternate version of Fairy Tail in which Gray puts on clothes and
pursues a domineering Juvia and Lucy delights in tormenting a cringing version of
Natsu. It’s like turning on The Simpsons
and discovering that Homer has stopped drinking, Bart is an honor student and
Flanders is worshipping graven idols.
As in their previous outings, things eventually get resolved
through a mixture of clever strategy, surprising allies, previously
undiscovered powers and an unshakeable belief in the bonds of friendship.
Although many anime series have blended slapstick and supernatural daring-do,
director Shinji Ishihara and his crew keep the material fresh, funny and