Across the Fiore kingdom, wizards join guilds and make their pay by filling magical needs-but one guild has a reputation as the roughest, rowdiest, most dangerous of all: Fairy Tail!
The guild-on-guild mayhem continues as Fairy Tail struggles to fend off Phantom Lord-whose Element 4 must be defeated in order to disable a massive magic cannon aimed at guild headquarters! With a never surrender attitude, Natsu and his friends push their powers to the limit to protect Lucy and save Magnolia from total annihilation! Then, Erza’s tortured past returns to haunt her when estranged friends ambush a well-deserved vacation. Her team tracks them down to a looming tower where a possessed wizard close to Erza’s heart puts them in a sinister game of life or death!
There's always a moment in a long running series where, after a series of climactic battles, the series takes a breather and goes at a slower pace. In anime this doesn't happen all that much. When it does, it's usually filler arc stuff. So with this volume of Fairy Tail, the series is wrapping up the Phantom Lord arc with Fairy Tail reduced to rubble by Phantom Lord Guild in their attempts to retrieve Lucy Heartfilla for her father.
I enjoyed the whole volume but the highlight has to be the final fight between Gajeel Redfox and Natsu in Phantom Lord's monstrous castle headquarters/transformer Unicron. After battling most of the heavy hitters, including the emotional end of Elfman's fight, Erza ends up fighting Jose Porla on her own after most of the team is defeated by Porla. Master Makarov does turn up but the real fight is Natsu's one. After seeing how Gajeel has kicked Lucy around, Natsu sees red and demolishes the room attempting to put Gajeel down. The fight only escalates with Natsu taking the pounding of a lifetime. Then in true fighting show style, Natsu gets powered up, pastes Gajeel and wins the day. He really does go hammer and tongs on Gajeel. In the doing, as they wipe out walls, ceilings and machinery, we see that this fight is really personal to Natsu, Lucy is his friend and he likes her, and everytime Gajeel smirks and laughs in Natsu's face you want to punch it in. Which Natsu does, a lot.
The remaining parts deal with Lucy confronting her father for the last time, who Loke, a member of Fairy Tail, really is and the start of Erza's origin story in the Tower of Heaven arc. Loke's arc is heavy on drama and tells how he came to be in Fairy Tail and also how he's not what he appears to be. But the real drama in this volume comes with the Tower Of Heaven. Here we are treated to the hell Erza's life consisted of when she was younger. I won't spoil it for you but she really had a merciless start to life. It's a miracle she became the person she did with everything that happened to her. The flashbacks really show how things looked hopeless for and it also conveys how she survived with her wits, magic and the sacrifice of others. But the kicker is the real price she paid to survive. These moments make Fairy Tail stand out from other shows, how the moments when it blindsides you with drama are not unexpected but still you think to yourself "Wow, that's rough." As the Tower of Heaven storyline progresses, it gets better as Erza and the rest band together to stop an unholy evil from destroying Fiore. And we get some Tom Clancy-style tension as the Magic Council debates whether to use their equivalent of Take Off and Nuke The Site From Orbit on the island.
The show's character can, at the drop of a hat, engage in hilarious dialogue or nutty behaviour but when you see the horror or hardships they deal with on a daily basis, it's understandable why they act like idiots sometimes. Is it deliberate or just a by-product of the way manga/anime is made? These days, I don't know but I appreciate the illusion even if it turns out to be coincidence.
The show's cast in English continues to be good but I still feel like Natsu's voice actor (Todd Haberkorn) sounds like one of the guys from South Park and Erza's (Colleen Clinkenbeard) is a little too old for the role. The Japanese cast is still holding my attention but this show has an energetic cast which helps sell it to me.
Extras-wise, clean opening and closing animation for the old and new credits and commentaries, again. With the English cast, again. Could we have interviews, at least, with the Japanese cast, if not then I'd settle for the English cast. Would it kill you, Funimation? And please, if you have to keep the English VA's tracks, expand them to more episodes, given how paper thin the extras are? Two tracks per volume seems like an afterthought.
I really hope Funimation, for all of my grumbling about them, keeps releasing and dubbing Fairy Tail. And for that matter, that Manga UK continues to release it over here. It combines the best of tropes, if cliché at this point, and keeps you hanging on for the next fist fight for Team Natsu.