'Part 4' picks up right where the cliffhanger ending of 'Part 3' left off – Erza's dark childhood past has caught up with her. She is being held captive by powerful evil wizards that she grew up with. They have her trapped under a deep spell that confines her soul into a magical playing card. Natsu, Happy, Lucy, Gray, Juvia and one bad guy with a change of heart, Simon, are now pitted against "Trinity Raven," three deadly assassins. The gang must defeat Trinity Raven before their boss, Jellal can sacrifice Erza in order to resurrect one of the worst demons of all time – Zeref.
The first half of 'Part 4' is dedicated to showing if/how the gang can defeat Trinity Raven and Jellal. Most 'Fairy Tail' sets feature a few fun and fluffy stand-alone episodes after concluding the previous set's cliffhanger; however, that's not the case with 'Part 4.' After wrapping up the world-saving Erza rescue, we immediately get into another arc. In this one, the Fairy Tail guild's most mysterious and powerful wizard Laxus returns home to start an unwanted battle. Laxus is jealous of the camaraderie that exists without him and the fact that Natsu's team is getting so powerful. He and his group return to Magnolia to wage a not-so friendly competition between the guild, a sort of battle royale that pits every member against one another. This "game" is meant to reveal the strongest wizard of them all. Needless to say, things get out of control and the stakes are raised high. Several of the guild's girls – including Mirajane, Juvia, Lucy and Erza – are turned into stone statues that Laxus will destroy if the guild does not begin fighting immediately. Laxus plays dirty and also casts spells over Magnolia that could very easily kill the thousands of people who inhabit the city. You'll just have to watch 'Part 4' for yourself to find out who is the "King of the Mountain."
Where each of the previous 'Fairy Tail' sets has ended in the middle of a story arc, 'Part 4' does not. Over in Japan, these four parts only equal the first complete season. In essence, the ending of 'Part 4' is the actual season finale. Some questions are left unanswered and future baddies are alluded to, but there isn't a major mid-arc drop-off like we're used to. Currently, there is no future Blu-ray release announced for the second season of 'Fairy Tail.' We at High-Def Digest reached out to FUNimation to learn their plans with the series and were told that they do not currently own the rights to any episodes beyond those of 'Part 4' and have no set plans to release season two.
This is where the fans of 'Fairy Tail' need to join together to let FUNimation know how much we like the series and want to see season two and season three (which is currently running in Japan) on Blu-ray. The episodes unreleased in America have been spoken of with critical acclaim, which is why there's an animated 'Fairy Tail' feature film in the works. Unless we show our support, we might not get to see it over here.
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 37 through 44 and the second is a BD-25 with episodes 45 through 48. Unfortunately, all four discs are housed in a clear DVD keepcase with a plastic slipcover. Sorry, folks – no blue keepcase here, so this disc is going to stick out on your Blu-ray shelf. 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 like a book. The cover art sheet is reversible so that you can see a different image through the "frame" – should you choose to do so. Disc one plays an FBI warning, a FUNimation vanity reel, a disclaimer for unrated features and a 'Princess Jellyfish' promo before getting to the main menu. Disc two plays the same features and a promo for 'Dragon Ball Z Kai' instead of 'Princess Jellyfish.'
'Part 4' 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 has an outburst and it's meant to look jittery.
Artifacts and aliasing are absent. The banding issue that occasionally popped up in the first three installments has been lessened drastically. There are still a few very minor bands, but they're almost unnoticeable.
The lines drawn in 'Part 1' and 'Part 2' didn't seem as defined as they should be, but in 'Part 3' that wasn't an issue. Unfortunately, they've digressed in 'Part 4.' At times, should-be straight lines seem to feature slightly jagged pixelated edges. Mind you, this isn't constant. The black levels are still strong, 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 these sets highlight the well-saturated palette.
Only 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 rock 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 just prior. 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' or 'Part 4.'
The usage of surround and rear speakers is just as strong as it was in 'Part 3.' 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. The bursts of multiple Dragon Slayers battles also travel in this same awesome manner. Bass and LFE also appear with higher frequency.
'Fairy Tail' continues to be my favorite contemporary anime series. Through all 48 episodes of season one, it has never lost my interest or come across as repetitive. It's just as entertaining now as it was from the start. I'm bummed about FUNimation not yet making the decision to purchase the rights for seasons two and beyond. But even if this is all we're going to get of 'Fairy Tail,' I'll take it. Season one is better than nothing and we're very lucky that we weren't left with a huge mid-arc cliffhanger. The video and audio qualities are still great. Thank heaven for the two episodes with commentary or this set would be void of any worthy special features. I hope that my love for this series is shared by others so that we can rally together and continue to story. If not, it's been a fun run anyway.