That was good. That was VERY good. After a two week break, Fairy Tail is back with its latest story arc, Fairy Tail Zero, and with it, things feel like they’re better than ever. Its almost kind of refreshing, after those last few episodes of the Tartaros Arc, Fairy Tail as an anime series has gone back to being superb on nearly every level.
As always, I think Fairy Tail is truly at its best when the pacing for the story is just right. And this week, it really did feel just right. Every bit of stuff that we saw felt like it was in service to the story, rather than some odd ploy to extend things to the last possible moment. I know that seems like a “duh!” thing, but you’d be surprised at just how rare that is these days, not just in Fairy Tail, but long running shounen shows in general.
To that end, I have nothing but positive things to say about Fairy Tail Zero’s first episode. While it wasn’t superbly strong, I liked that the first half of the episode took some time and connected the present day to what will be a fascinating and meaningful look at the past. While the humor wasn’t always great, Natsu and Happy’s little journey to Tenroujima and the visiting of Mavis Grave was not only a nice little nod to what had come before, but really did serve as nice setup to what we were getting.
For one thing, it kind of blew my mind that Tenroujima had actually been inhabited at one point, and wasn’t just some kind of secret Island that Fairy Tail had always owned. The first realization of it all, when Natsu and Happy come upon the remains of the long dead village on the Island, and the Guild Hall for Red Lizard, well its something truly mystical and filled with wonder.
Its one of those moments, that invokes a sense of nostalgia and a genuine yearning for answers. Who lived here? What happened to all the people that once lived here? Why is Mavis’s Grave here? Those are some really friggin intriguing questions that Mashima-sensei throws into the mix, and that’s on top of the big one: “How was Fairy Tail created?”.
So right from the get go, I’d say you have a recipe for darn success. Its also darn impressive that Mashima-sensei wrote this little story while also juggling the main Fairy Tail manga because of how good it all is. It shows that there’s a genuine timeline and thought put into the world of Fairy Tail, and all its very elements. While its not crazy levels of insanity like say what Hunter x Hunter Mangaka Togashi would pull off, a deep amount of detail and world building is present.
But I think a spot where Mashima really does out do his peers, is in the emotional side to the story. One Piece and Naruto have both done flashback storylines, and those have always hit a pretty powerful emotional moment, but its always been at the end. Whether its Luffy’s time as a child with Ace, or the story of Naruto’s parents, it gets good and powerful about half way through.
What’s impressive about Fairy Tail Zero is how it pretty much hits you with a barrage of powerful emotions from the get go. The mighty loli Mavis Vermillion that formed the great guild known as Fairy Tail? She starts off as an orphan in dire living conditions at the tender age of six.
Mavis’s childhood, where the story starts, is heartbreaking from its start. We meet Mavis as she’s just lost her parents, and being run ragged by a Guild and Guild Master that are some of the vilest scum. She’s got no magic, hell she can even get shoes, meanwhile a girl the same age as her, is being pampered and acting all spoiled.
Those opening moments, as literally everyone around Mavis continues to take advantage of her and look down on her, a friggin six year old child, are really hard to watch. Despite how sunny and downright beautiful Tenroujima itself is, the people inhabiting it are anything but.
But what makes Mavis’s story so amazing, what makes HER as a character so amazing, is that she remains a kind, bright and optimistic young girl. Even as a child, there’s just an overwhelming sense of light, of true good emanating from Mavis. She doesn’t give in to her terrible circumstances, she doesn’t even get spiteful or angry, but bears through it and remains kind.
Other stories have done stuff like this before, the poor country bumpkin that then rises to become something impressive, but Mashima-sensei just sets it up beautifully. The brilliant wrinkle in that story, is of course, Zera.
Zera is the daughter of Red Lizard’s Guild Master, and the extremely vain, spoiled young girl. She’s downright cruel, and sees Mavis as someone beneath her. That’s how she starts off in the episode and the story anyway. Its clear that she’ll end up being one of Mavis’s closest friends and comrades, and there’s even hints that her whole relationship with Mavis is going to have some kind of twist to it (Manga readers, no hints! XD).
But I think just as this first episode is our introduction to Mavis and her kindness, its the true origin story for Zera and how she loses everything. In an instant, she pretty much ends up at the same point as Mavis, and its Mavis that ends up helping her through and being her friend.
And that’s a powerful story. Its the same tried and true technique that a lot of prequel stories use. They start us at a point that seems so “off” from how the present would be, that we can’t help but wonder “how” things got there. What came to mind for me, as I watched the first episode of Fairy Tail Zero, was a western live action show called Smallvile.
If you haven’t heard of Smallville, its basically a TV show about Clark Kent/Superman, before he becomes superman. One of the most interesting wrinkles in that show, was how Lex Luthor and Clark Kent actually end up being close friends at the start of the show. Its such a fascinating contrast from what we eventually see happen, i.e them being bitter enemies.
Fairy Tail Zero feels like the start of Smallville, and that’s actually a pretty big compliment. Its got so many interesting questions and mysteries, its got a powerful strong story, and it actually made me tear up a few times with how adorable Mavis was, and how she continued to endure and refused to cry so she could “see the Fairies”.
And that whole thing, the thing about not crying, its such a brilliantly setup element in this week’s story. Mavis refuses to cry no matter how tough things get, but what finally breaks her is that a girl, who’s been cruel to her all this time, finally asks her to be her friend, and then collapses (or dies?).
“I cried a lot that day, So, I might not be able to see any Fairies now.”
Such a powerful piece of Dialogue… MAN! And it also brings more interesting questions to the mix. We see Zera in the OP and the preview, so it does make me wonder why Mavis cried so much. I’m sure that’ll play a huge role in the story, so I’m content to just wait until Fairy Tail lays it on me.
Now… I say that Mavis’s story is pretty powerful, but a big reason for that is Mamiko Noto, Mavi’s seiyuu. Man, does Mamiko Noto just completely an utterly kill it as Mavis. The thing about Mamiko Noto as a seiyu is that she’s actually got a very recognizable voice. You can pretty much always tell its her but… I think Mamiko-san was just perfectly cast as Mavis. She just gives off that sense of kindness, of feminine fragility mixed with optimism and power that encapsulates Mavis.
Using Mamiko’s voice (i.e Mavis) as the Narrator for the story is also a pretty smart decision. Its not something Manga readers have seen, and its something exclusive to the anime medium. Mavis kind of telling us her story, in her voice, just adds a sense of power and omph! that I think just brings the experience full circle. For all the complaining I do about the second Fairy Tail series and its adaption issues, I’d say its worth mentioning the wins when they happen, and this is a major win from an adaption stand point.
And I’ll admit, that while I loved this episode, I went into it with lower expectations. Part of it was being burned a bit by the last few moments of Tartaros, but part of it was also the age old mistake of “Its a prequel, its about characters I don’t care about… Is it really going to be good?”
If you’ve seen this episode, I’d say you’d more or less agree with me on the fact that I was being such an idiot. I can’t wait to see where Fairy Tail Zero goes from here, and for once, I actually feel like we might not get too many adaption issues this arc (fingers crossed as always).
And hey, If nothing else, that was one hell of a strong opening episode.
OP Ashita o Narase by Kavka Shishido (A):
This is a pretty nice OP. I wouldn’t say its as good as some of the Tartaros ones, but I think it does the admirable job of not really spoiling too much, unless there’s spoilers in those last few flashes near the end. In any case, this was a pretty sweet OP, and gets you generally excited, with its animation and music.
ED Landscape by Solidemo (A+):
The ED is actually my favorite out of our new OP/ED set. The tone for the ED just seems a lot more suited to the tone of Fairy Tail Zero as a whole, as its got that melancholic and nostalgic vibe to it. Nuff said, this is probably one of the strongest EDs from Fairy Tail I’ve seen in a while.
Next week we meet the rest of the original Fairy Tail. I have to say I’m pretty darn excited! 😀
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