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Monday, December 25, 2017

Anime Hajime Review: Fairy Tail Zero (Fairy Tail Month Part 8 of 9)

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Fairy Tail. Reader discretion is advised.***

Season Positives

Last time was ninety. This was twelve. Which do you think was easier to get through?

Given how every season this month had a minimum of twenty-five episodes, this was nothing. And before we get into this installment, why don’t we recap where we have been

Since our last retrospective, there have been five more story arcs and 135 more episodes. Among that run, this series’ biggest turning point came to pass. 

At the conclusion of the Tenrojima Arc, Fairy Tail’s core members were sealed away for seven years. Upon reviving, the once prosperous guild had become the laughing stock of the land. Our team then sought to build back their reputation. A goal achieved when they won the prestigious Grand Magic Games.

That victory was short-lived when the mystical Eclipse gateway opened. Planned as a super weapon to wipe out an assumed dragon assault, the unthinkable occurred. The dragon invasion did come to pass and through Eclipse it came.

The ensuing battle was fierce. But the many wizarding guilds pulled together to win the day. Now Fairy Tail was not only seen as the strongest, they were heroes in the eyes of everyone. Their seven-year absence was long forgotten.

Yet there would be no rest. The immense amount of magic released by Eclipse had far-reaching effects. The worst of which hit the Celestial Realm. The devastating force corrupted Lucy’s beloved spirit partners. Thus, our guild fought hard to save their dear friends.

Despite the many hardships Fairy Tail has faced, nothing compared to what was on the horizon. The villainous guild, Tartarus, launched a devastating attack. In one horrific move, the entire magic world was in jeopardy. Tartarus’ plan was to destroy everything in an effort to reunite with their creator. They wished to bring about the end in the name of the Dark Wizard, Zeref.

Though our heroes again conquered incredible odds, this victory came at a heavy price. No member walked away intact. Each had lost something dear to them. In the aftermath, Master Makarov made the ultimate decision. Fairy Tail would disband.

Oh, and there was a twenty-five-episode batch of nonsense somewhere in there too. But we don’t need to ever talk about it.

This brings us to Fairy Tail Zero. My interest in this particular story has been growing since the Tenrojima Arc. It was there where we met Master Mavis, though not much else. Then came the Grand Magic Games Arc and I was sold on this idea.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Fairy Tail Zero is a prequel. This is the story of Mavis Vermillion (voiced by Mamiko Noto). She is the person who holds the legendary distinction of being the founder and first master of Fairy Tail.

If there was an overarching theme to apply to this season, it would be its reliance on one thing. To enjoy Zero to its fullest, you must watch the entirety of Fairy Tail before it. The full experience of this story is only possible when in context with the rest of this series.

You might think that goes without saying. As a standalone entity, Zero was passable. By itself, it was nothing to get worked up over. It wasn’t bad. Then when you add the rest of Fairy Tail, you will see how special this story is.

With Zero alone, you get the tale of an unlikely group of friends. While competent in combat, they don't stand a chance against seasoned magic users. In spite of that, they know they are the only ones who can save an innocent town.

To stand a chance, this group learns how to harness their magic potential from a mysterious wizard. Though unpolished, they prove to be quite gifted and succeed in their goal. Unfortunately, to then abandon this town would result in its eventual ruin. To prevent that, the spark of the team suggests forming a wizarding guild of their own. One that will strive to help everyone looking for aid.

Not a bad story in the slightest. Now include what we know about Fairy Tail.

First, “Wait, what do you mean these characters can’t use magic?” Seeing Fairy Tail’s founders in such a state was humbling. The larger than life reputation this guild holds doesn't come from its expertise in magic. It comes from the personalities of the people who bare its insignia. It just so happens that many of those people are some of the strongest wizards there are. And this has been true since the early days.

Warrod Sequen (voiced by Hiroshi Shirokuma) would go on to be known as the fourth most powerful among the ten Wizard Saints. Precht Gaebolg (voiced by Yoshihisa Kawahara) would succeed Mavis as the guild's second master and would one day fall to darkness. Yuri Dreyar (voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi) was Master Makarov’s father and Laxus’ great-grandfather.

Second, you wonder who could teach such future caliber of wizards. The answer was both fitting and concerning. This answer also added more information to this show’s biggest lingering secret. As well as making it more mysterious.

Third, you can feel the weight of when Fairy Tail came to be. We witnessed this guild’s most cherished principles take shape. This wasn’t a place where people found power. It was a place where people made lifelong friends and gained trusted comrades. And through that, anyone could tap into immeasurable strength.

As you can see, there was a lot more going on.

In addition, when I refer to the Zero storyline, I mean the first ten episodes. The final two episodes of this season were something else and I will get to them soon.

Fairy Tail Zero was great. I will admit, though, I overhyped it in my head. But the result could not have made for a better end to this month.

Yet there is something else. What made this season good was different than what made the rest of this series good. Before, there have been a variety of factors working together.

Here, there was really only one.


Fairy Tail Zero’s focus wasn’t on fighting. It wasn’t about epic battles. It didn’t rely on plots that involved saving the world from some unspeakable evil. While there was some of that, this story lacked the force we have come to know. This was fine since none of this was the point.

This season was about the rise of Master Mavis.

To start, Mavis has always been a cute character. And Zero thought it would be a fun idea to have a younger version of her. That was unfair. It also didn’t help that this story did everything it could to make you feel as sorry as possible for her. This was a thing, but not what I was looking forward to.

Mavis had established herself as a brilliant mind in previous seasons. It was her unmatched foresight that made her formidable. This season did a solid job of showcasing this. It also gave a convincing reason as to why this was the case. And it was this reason that surprised me the most.

Mavis spend the first thirteen years of her life on Tenrojima. Her one friend during that time was a girl named Zera (voiced by Kana Hanazawa). They were the sole survivors of a surprise raid conducted by a dark wizarding guild. Following the attack, the only thing the two girls had were each other. That and an entire library of books.

With seven years and little other stimuli, anyone would become a genius.

Those seven years taught Mavis what would become the cornerstone of Fairy Tail. Even if she didn’t realize it while it was happening. That wouldn’t happen until Yuri, Precht, and Warrod showed up on the island.

These three were not bad men. They never had any ill intent. But they weren’t in the business of making friends. They only trusted each other after years of working together. While they would never hurt a child, they weren’t above outsmarting one. Something they tried and failed to with Mavis.

Upon learning of a shared goal, Mavis convinced the trio to let her and Zera join their group. In less than half a year’s time from this meeting, Fairy Tail would form. The men had only known Mavis for a short while, but her irresistible charm took hold of them. There were moments in this season where I forgot this team had not been together forever.

By the end of their story, it was obvious how close they all had become. You could see the spirit that would be Fairy Tail within them. And it was the end of Mavis’ story that was the best.

I wouldn’t say I was smiling during this scene. In fact, this was one of the sadder moments of this series. As well as being one of its top highlights. I’m not talking about when the guild got its name either. I’m referring to when Mavis became the person future guild members would hold untold respect for.

The Final Two Episodes

I’m singling these two episodes out for one reason. I’m so happy they were here. Had the Zero storyline been the end, it would have been bittersweet.

And that’s me being nice.

Had there been nothing following Zero, Fairy Tail would've stopped on an unsatisfying note. One so bad, it would have affected my entire outlook on this series. If these two episodes had not been here, our guild’s story would have paused at the conclusion of the Tartarus Arc.

Let’s imagine what that would have meant. Fairy Tail would be no more. Natsu and Happy would have begun an impromptu journey. So impromptu, they did not bother consulting anyone about it. This left Lucy blindsided by both of these earthshattering developments and was left in tears. Everyone else was reeling from the devastation that had occurred in their own way.

This was the first time an arc ended on such a low point.

What these two final episodes did was give hope. Fairy Tail remained disbanded. But Fairy Tail was not gone. A new journey lay ahead. This show’s core message stayed true. This story was not abandoned.

I might be sounding a little overzealous over this. But that was how much these two episodes meant to me. The final image of Fairy Tail’s strongest should be with them looking forward.

Although I want there to be more, I’m okay with putting this series down.

For now, at least.

Season Negatives

This is not a hard question. Fairy Tail Zero had two big problems.

The first, this season was rushed. This is a unique problem for Fairy Tail. Usually, this series doesn’t know when to call it quits. Here, a few extra, as in ten more episodes would have gone a long way. While the shorter runtime was not a daunting undertaking, I much rather have had a more fleshed out story.

I get that anyone can warm up to Mavis in an instant, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it an instant. Why not make this another twenty-five-episode season? Perhaps Zero did cover the entire source material. If that is the case, then maybe the manga is a bit rushed too.

It would have been nice to see more scenes with each of the founders. It would have been wonderful to have more moments with Mavis and Zera. They all could have trained their magic abilities more. Again, these are powerful characters in the world of Fairy Tail. Why not make that more evident?

For example, Precht. He was a good man in this story. But this was not the first time we met him. Before this season we knew him only has one thing. He was the master of the dark guild Grimoire Heart. You know, the very antagonist of the Tenrojima Arc. How did that happen?

Precht was one of Mavis’ dearest friends. He was one of the three that swore to protect her. His commitment to his comrades helped build Fairy Tail. Mavis trusted him enough to make him her successor. Out of the three, Yuri seemed the most likely candidate. Instead, Mavis chose Precht. What happened?

A quick throwaway line in an epilogue is not good enough. And concerning said epilogue, this leads to Zero’s second problem.

This story is not finished.

There needs to be more. In fact, there is more. In both Zero and the Great Magic Games Arc, this series hinted at a conflict known as the Second Trade War. Here Mavis demonstrated her unmatched strategic mind. As far as I can tell, Fairy Tail played a key role in this fight.

Why did we not see this?

This was just one of several potential plot lines. Don’t get me wrong. The founding of Fairy Tail is the most important in terms of the main story. Except, nowhere did that indicate this was the only highlight of Mavis’ life.

What we got out of this season was great. It was a lot of fun.

It was by no means enough though.

Fairy Tail Zero Final Thoughts

With that, we have reached the end of Fairy Tail's 277 episodes. And what a way to close.

Fairy Tail Zero wasn’t my favorite arc of this series. But it was one of the more enlightening ones. We got a fascinating glimpse into who the founder of our titular guild was. I say glimpse because that was all it was. This is the plotline I would love to see continue the most. 

Other than the main one that is.

This now brings us to the end of our individual looks at the Fairy Tail seasons. We’ve explored each of the arcs and seen this show grow. Now we must collect our thoughts and look back. What exactly was this series? And is it one worth checking out?

Find out my answer Friday, December 29th with Anime Hajime Review: Fairy Tail. As well as the conclusion of Fairy Tail month.

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