'Part 3' picks up right where the cliffhanger ending of 'Part 2' left off – the Phantom guild's gigantic robot is casting a spell that will destroy Magnolia. Since the robot's efficiency depends on the lifeline of Phantom's most powerful wizards - the Element Four - Fairy Tail's wizards are trying to take them out of the equation. Two have been defeated, but Natsu is having a hard time out-dragoning his dark rival and, being an ice wizard, Gray is finding it difficult to overpower a water-woman. Phantom's leader has claimed that he'll stop the attack if Fairy Tail will but hand over Lucy, but after having their guild hall destroyed, Fairy Tail will stop at nothing to thwart Phantom's plans.
I love a series that ends with a good cliffhanger, so I truly look forward to each 'Fairy Tail' release. The first few episodes conclude the epic battle between Fairy Tail and Phantom. To find out how it ends, you'll just have to watch it for yourself. You'll find out exactly what happened to Lisanna and how that affects the guild in this battle, as well as the fate of Makarov and how Elfman pulled off his "full-body takeover."
Once again, a few fun filler episodes stand between the resolution of the last story arc and the start of the new one that will obviously end in another cliffhanger to be resolved in 'Part 4.' The interesting thing about the fluffy filler episodes of 'Part 3' is that they further stories and ideas expressed in previous arcs. Early on in 'Part 3,' Lucy is captured by Phantom's wizards. Loke tries to rescue her, but is unsuccessful. Both Lucy and Loke get the trash kicked out of them in a super violent fight. Being new to the guild and young in the ways of wizardry, Lucy's defeat was expected – but not Loke's. There's a reason for that and the filler episodes reveal more about this mysterious Lucy-crushing character than ever. What you'll find out is unique, unexpected and unpredictable.
One full episode is devoted to explaining why Lucy's uber-wealthy father hired Phantom to attack Fairy Tail and retrieve his "wayward" daughter. Lucy returns home and confronts him personally. Along the way, we learn more about her backstory than we knew before. The funny part of this episode stems from the guild picking on Natsu, Gray, Urza and Happy for not realizing that, combined with Lucy, they've formed an unofficial guild group of five. When the gang comes up with the idea of combining forces, the rest of Fairy Tail makes fun of them for not realizing that they've been fighting as a team of five for a long time now. When they go on their first official quest as a team, they botch the mission and accidentally destroy an entire city.
The big arc that carries the second half of 'Part 3' takes us into Urza's past. Like Lucy, we learn a whole lot more about Urza than we ever knew – her dark origins and the lingering fears from her past. If the arc that spanned the end of 'Part 2' and the beginning of 'Part 3' seemed like a major event to you, this new Urza-centric storyline will be even more entertaining. Evil forces from Urza's past come forth to drag her into a plot that will change the world. Of course, her compadres won't let that happen and they get into their worst debacle yet. Imagine if Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weazley had to defeat Sauron and the only way to get to him was to destroy three of the most deadly and dangerous assassin wizards of all time. That's what our team finds themselves up again when 'Part 3' ends. 'Part 4' cannot come quick enough – but therein lies a problem of its own.
'Part 4' is the last set of the series to have a Blu-ray release date from FUNimation. In Japan, all four sets only make up the first season of 'Fairy Tail.' My fear is that after 'Part 4' (available later this month), we'll have to wait to get more 'Fairy Tail' on domestic Blu-ray. And, as expected, I'm sure 'Part 4' will end with the biggest cliffhanger yet since it's the first actual season finale of the series. We'll see.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Unlike some series that lack consistency between releases, FUNimation is releasing the 'Fairy Tail' series with continuity. Just like the others, this set contains two region-free Blu-ray discs and two DVDs of the same content. The first Blu-ray disc is a BD-50 with episodes 25 through 32 and the second is a BD-25 with episodes 33 through 36. All four discs are housed in a blue keepcase with a plastic slipcover. Made to look like a frame, the front center of the slipcase allows you to see through to the cover art, while the edges and sides are decorated to frame the cover image. Upon inserting them into your Blu-ray player, disc one plays an FBI warning, a FUNimation vanity reel, a disclaimer for unrated features and a '.hack/Quantum' promo before getting to the main menu. Disc two plays the same features minus the disclaimer (because there are no commentaries on disc 2) and a promo for 'Princess Jellyfish' instead of '.hack/Quantum.'
'Part 3' arrives on Blu-ray with a smooth 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer shown in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. When intended to be, the motion of this animation flows along naturally. The only times that the image's movements appear choppy are when they attempt slow motion or when a character is meant to be jittery.
Artifacts and aliasing are absent, but banding pops up occasionally, typically in the sky, bright beams of light or when fade-out transitions are prevalent. The banding issue in 'Part 3' is much less prevalent than it was in 'Part 1' and 'Part 2.'
The lines drawn in 'Part 1' and 'Part 2' didn't seem as defined as they should be, but in 'Part 3' this is a non-issue. The lines are always sharply defined. The black levels are also better than they have been, appearing deep and rich. This style of anime is quite colorful, full of vibrant primaries that may all share the screen at the same time. 'Fairy Tail' is no exception and this set highlights the well-saturated palette.
One English option is available for 'Fairy Tail,' a clean lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track. The only other foreign language track included is a Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 track.
The first thing you hear when you start the series is the intro and the Japanese pop-music opening credits. As the theme song plays, each channel fills with music only. This usage drops your room right into the magic-filled world described in the intro. On the 'Part 1' and 'Part 2' Blu-rays, the audio seemed to shift primarily to the front after the opening credits, but this isn't the case with 'Part 3.'
The usage of surround and rear speakers is at a new series high. Effects frequently move from channel to channel. This seamless imaging doesn't go unnoticed. Blasts of water and ice smoothly flow across the room during H20 battles. Blasts of Natsu's fire also travel in this same awesome manner. Overall, there seems to be a higher use of effects than the previous releases. Bass and LFE also appear with higher frequency. The audio of 'Part 3' stands out quite a bit more than 'Part 1' and 'Part 2.'
Where 'Part 2' re-used some of the textless song features from 'Part 1,' FUNimation doesn't pull that same trick with 'Part 3.' None of the textless songs from 'Part 3' have appeared on the previous releases.
Out of the three anime series I've dived into in the last few months, after three consecutive monthly releases, 'Fairy Tail' continues to be my number one. It's never lost me or gone downhill. The fun and exciting quality still keeps me just as entertained as ever. If anything, with the story constantly upping the ante, the series is only getting better with time. The fact that they keep introducing new mythos to the lore of their world keeps it creatively fresh and unpredictable. And just as the content of the series itself keeps getting better, so do the Blu-ray releases. The complaints that I've had with the first two sets are almost completely vanquished by 'Part 3.' The definition of the video is better and the audio is finally making full-time use of the surround and rear channels. Hopefully 'Part 4' will raise the bar once more by giving us some truly special features. The commentaries are decent, but I don't see why we can't get any video extras that show us the voice cast hard at work or the American team prepping the show for its domesticated transition. If you've been on-board with 'Fairy Tail' since 'Part 1,' then you'll love where it's going. If you haven't gotten on the bandwagon yet, it's not too late to start at the beginning.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.