Monday, August 30, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 44 - Thunder Palace

Erza and Evergreen continue their fight from the previous episodes. Evergreen tries using her eyes against Erza, but Erza closes her natural eye, allowing her to see, while resisting Evergreen's power to turn her to stone.

The fight ends with Erza pinning Evergreen to a tower, and demanding that she turns all the other girls back to normal. Evergreen reveals that she has another power, the ability to control the statues by remote control, and that unless Erza prostrates before her she'll turn the girls into dust.

Erza calls her bluff, and tells her that she admires Evergreen valuing victory over her own life, and that in that case all she can do is get revenge for her murdered comrades with Evergreen's life.

Bad. Ass!

Evergreen surrenders.

The girls are freed from the curse, and are brought up to speed on what's been happening. Makarov intends to punish Laxus for his behavior, but Natsu says he shouldn't be so hard on him.

After all, he's still a member of the guild, so he wouldn't ever really go that far. Besides, there's nothing really wrong with wanting to find out who is strongest in the guild. He then ruins his moment by declaring it time for the second Battle of Fairy Tail, and goes after Lucy for his first "challenge." Though really it looks more like he's trying to molest her.

"Do you need me right now?"

Laxus sends a message, saying that since the hostages are now free, he's activating the Thunder Palace, and they have an hour and ten minutes to find him. Makarov has a heart attack when he realizes how far his grandson is willing to go. And I'm not being cute there, he really has a heart attack.

The girls, along with Natsu and Gajeel go outside and see the town is surrounded by thunder lachryma. Magic crystals that, if they discharge their energy, will rain down thunderbolts on the city.

Bisca, the cowboy sniper girl - don't ask me how a cowboy sniper girl fits into a story about mages, I'm still trying to figure out why they put her in a bikini - takes one of the lachryma out with her sniper rifle, but is immediately struck down by the body link magic cast on them. Cana explains that body link magic is a magic that will deal damage to the attacker equal to the damage inflicted on the target it was cast on. The girls, realizing that they are the only ones left who can stop Laxus, since the two dragonslayers can't leave, go out to look for him, while Lucy and Happy go to evacuate the townspeople and visitors.

Wait, did they actually take Makarov to the infirmary before going outside to see the Thunder Palace?


Freed tells Laxus that he's going to far, endangering the entire town. He tries to get Laxus to stop from going further, but once he realizes that Laxus won't be stopped, he decides to continue onward, saying that they have already gone too far and there's no going back.

Levy reveals that she can get Natsu and Gajeel out of the guild, since the runes trapping them are a type of writing magic - her specialty.

Erza in the meanwhile bursts into a mens' public bath, yelling for Laxus to come out. It doesn't take long for her to realize that Evergreen tricked her into going to the wrong place.

Heh. I actually like her a bit more now.

Happy tells Lucy that they can't evacuate the people, because with how many people are visiting for the festival they will cause a panic that could end with a lot of people hurt. While they are trying to figure out what to do they are attacked by Bisclow. Lucy manages to take out his dolls with Sagittarius, which of course doesn't stop him at all.

Bisclow steals Lucy's keys, leaving her defenseless. Fortunately Loke comes to her aid.

"How about now?"

The episode ends with Lucy and Loke fighting together to take out Bisclow, and going on the offensive.

Overall this episode was a lot of fun, if you're a shipper you'll have mixed feelings about the ending fight with Lucy and Loke teaming up, but if you're a regular person you won't care and will just enjoy this episode for upping the ante on the time bomb.

For those unfamiliar, in narrative fiction a time bomb refers to a deadline placed on the plot. Essentially it's "If the characters don't make it in time, something bad will happen." In the case of Bleach the Soul Society arc is a good example of this. If Ichigo and his friends don't hurry, Rukia will be executed. In One Piece the Enies Lobby arc is another good example. As more time passes and Luffy and his crew are held up, Nico Robin gets closer and closer to being taken on a Marine ship to the legendary prison Impel Down, from where she will never escape (though later we find out that she probably would have made it out, since Luffy successfully breaks into Impel Down and manages to get out. Confused? Read One Piece, you won't regret it).

A time bomb places a time constraint on the characters, by threatening them with something bad happening. It increases the urgency of what the characters are doing, and ups the tension of the story. It's a great technique that is used at least once in pretty much every series ever written, especially in the shonen genre.

It works so well for Fairy Tail because it starts off with the lives of the girls at stake, but then when they are released we get just a moment of thinking that everything will be all right, before Laxus reveals that the lives of the entire town are at stake. The ante has been upped, with more lives at stake, and the previous sense of urgency has just increased. It's good writing because it follows the act two structure of a three act plot structure quite well. With the defeat of Evergreen, and the freeing of the girls from their stone prisons it looks like things are starting to go the right way for the heroes, but it turns out that things are worse now than ever.

Natsu during this episode started out as still trusting Laxus, despite his threatening the girls. But towards the end of the episode even he is realizing how serious the situation is, and starts to get pissed.

With this the tone of the overall arc shifts towards a more serious tone, once even Natsu realizes that Laxus isn't kidding, and that unless he gets out of the guild, there's nothing Natsu can do to stop Laxus.

Overall a good watch, but not the greatest episode out there. While not entirely satisfying on an emotional level, it advances the plot, and follows proper structure faithfully, so I can't help but appreciate it for that.

I've come to realize that reading a review of an episode that is just a summary of events is boring, so I'm going to try and expand my reviews to include more commentary at the end, and a few more jokes in the summary. I hope that my reviews are satisfactory, and that I'll continue to improve.

If you liked my review, Watch the Episode Here!

Disclaimer: You will need to purchase a membership at Crunchyroll to watch this series. They do have a two week trial you can sign up for, and at least this is a legal way to watch the show.

Book Reviews: How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse

These books really are a great Middlegrade series. The stories are easily accessible for younger readers, and still enjoyable for any older readers interested in the series.

The story centers around Hiccup and his friend Camicazi (who was introduced in the third book, but I haven't read that one) travel to the island of the Hysterics to steal a potato from the Chieftain of the Hysterics, Norbert the Nutjob, in order to save Hiccup's friend Fishlegs from the deadly Vorpentitis disease.

A one, if long, sentence description of a simple plot that somehow still managed to contain not only some interesting plot twists, but also an epilogue that I feel serves the book well and shows that Cressida Crowel knows what makes a good child's book.

The epilogue was easily one of the most interesting part of the whole book. We all know how easy it is to write a terrible epilogue, or one that isn't necessary to the story as a whole. In this case, and in the case of several of the other books in this series, the epilogue is tailored perfectly to its audience. Children are generally more interested in reading about kids perhaps a few years older than them being heroes, as such Hiccup is a perfect protagonist for a middlegrade novel. He's older than the target audience by a few years, and he's physically weaker than his peers, and often mocked. The kids reading this can relate to him with this, but they can also look up to him because he goes on adventures with dragons and puts his life at risk to save his friends and family. What makes the epilogue work is that it's set years later, when Hiccup is an old Viking hero. The story of an old man wouldn't make the best of books for younger children, but to get that glimpse of the hero that is only a few years older than them, to see that he accomplished his goal of becoming a legendary viking hero, only makes them want to read more. It helps that not only do they feel accomplished by reading the series, knowing that he will succeed, but they also want to read more to see what kind of life he goes through to become the hero that he is in the future.

All in all, a good book in a good series. I enjoy these immensely, even if I am not the intended audience. Any discerning adult can recognize quality and appreciate it. How else would Pixar be doing so well?

If you liked my review, buy the book:
Hardcover: How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse
Paperback: How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 43 - Defeat Your Friends to Save Your Friends

The episode starts with the battles between the Fairy Tail wizards in full swing. Friend battles friend as all are desperate to save their stoned comrades. While at the same time hidden grudges come to the surface.

Deep, bitter resentment?

Natsu wants to join the fight, but is still unable to leave the guild. When Makarov calls him on caring more about the fight than saving the girls, Natsu says that Laxus may be a jerk, but he's still a member of the guild and won't go that far.

Reedus, having been sent out by Makarov in the last episode, tries to escape from Magnolia in order to bring back Polyushka, who can heal the girls, is stopped by another of Freed's enchantments, and is forced to fight Freed.

At the same time Gray runs into Bicslow, and Elfman is attacked by Evergreen. Elfman manages to avoid being turned to stone by putting a blindfold on and fighting Evergreen based solely on her smell, but he's outmatched and quickly defeated by Evergreen's exploding fairy dust.

Honestly, why are you even surprised?

Reedus tries to escape from Freed by painting a fake Lucy, but is unable to get away as Freed isn't fooled for a moment. Nor is anyone else with half a brain.

Reedus' choice of apparel for Lucy is best left unquestioned.

Bisclow's ability is to control dolls by controlling souls, so even when Gray manages to freeze Bisclow's dolls, all Bisclow has to do is transfer the souls to new dolls. Gray is caught in one of Freed's traps, which prevents him from using magic. However, he's able to get above the trap, and just as he's about to dodge Bisclow's attack he notices that if he moves a little girl watching the fight will be hit. He takes the blast, but manages to get a hit in on Bisclow, knocking both of them to the ground. Unfortunately Gray is himself knocked out.

Laxus tells Makarov that the only way to stop the fighting and save the girls is if he surrenders the position of Master to him. Makarov refuses to do so, stating that he can't let someone like Laxus become master. Fortunately Gajeel is still in the guild, and with Gray down he's the only fighter left who could stand a chance against Laxus. If Natsu weren't trapped in the guild that is. Unfortunately...

This just supports my theory of Natsu actually being a Dragon, and older than he looks. Whatever is stopping him from leaving clearly applies to all dragon slayers, and since being a user of dragon slayer magic is the common denominator in not being able to pass the barrier that blocks people over eighty years old, then it becomes quite clear that there's something going on here.

The Raijinshu continue to pick off the rest of Fairy Tail, until only two are left. Natsu and Gajeel.

Natsu goes to revive Erza, figuring that if he heats her up the stone shell will just melt off her. Of course this would not work, since she's completely turned to stone. Her forehead starts to crack, and he panics, thinking that he broke her. At the same time he's apologizing to her I swear they used the running sound effect from the Flintstones.

Erza breaks free and the first thing she does is beat up on Natsu for trying to use his fire magic on her. Erza and Makarov realize that the reason the magic wore off early was because of her artificial right eye.

Did I not mention that before? That she has an artificial eye? Whoops.

With Erza back to normal the number of fighters left increases to three, and then immediately to four. Erza surmises that Mystogan must have returned. Erza leaves to find Laxus, but is attacked by Evergreen, ending the episode.

This episode was fun, but not one of my favorites. I think overall it's one of the ones I'm less likely to watch over and over. Then again, individual episodes of Fairy Tail have a fairly low rewatchability. Instead it's best to watch individuals arcs over to get the full experience. Overall, a decent episode, if not one of the best.

If you liked my review, Watch the Episode Here!

Disclaimer: You will need to purchase a membership at Crunchyroll to watch this series. They do have a two week trial you can sign up for, and at least this is a legal way to watch the show.

Note: Crunchyroll only has four or five episodes up at a time. So if you follow the links and the episode is down, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the series is licensed for release in your country. Sadly there is no way of knowing when that will be, so until then good luck. Perhaps we'll get lucky and Crunchyroll will upload all the episodes again. Though personally I'm hoping for the series to be licensed. I doubt it will take too long for that to happen, I can't make any definite statements, but Fairy Tail is a fairly popular series so it's not like it will be passed over.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 42 - Battle of Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail is an interesting series in that, unlike other series, there is very little between major arcs. It follows a very strict structure, jumping from arc to arc with little to no breather. This isn't as true in the manga, but in the anime it is definitely the case. The fact that Fairy Tail uses very little filler, instead pulling us along from story to story shows an interesting trend in anime that I've seen replicated in some other series. Filler has always been the bane of a good series, whether it be ending the series with filler, including unreasonable amounts of filler, or placing the filler in the most jarring places possible, even going so far as to cut a major arc in half...TWICE!!. Fairy Tail, much like Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, does the exact opposite. In fact, besides the early episodes, there is no filler, with nothing added beyond small changes, or scenes removed to improve the pacing of the episodes.

Battle of Fairy Tail emphasizes this phenomenon. After the Jellal arc they easily could have skipped to filler, anything to put distance between them and the manga. I've actually discovered why they did not do this, but I'll save that piece of information for a later review, since it has some interesting implications I'd like to discuss, but if I do that here this review will be too long. That and at the time I should have had this written, I did not in fact know of it yet.

The episode stars with Lucy complaining about how she hasn't been able to find any jobs, and her rent is almost due. She goes home, half expecting to find her friends there, but when she realizes that she's alone she gets ready for bed. She's about to fall asleep when she notices that something is awry with her bed.

She has pests.

Natsu, still feeling ill from eating Etherion, has decided to crash at her place, as he is wont to do. Happy tells Lucy that the last time he was this sick was when he tried eating some of Laxus' lightning. He also mentions how every time Natsu challenged Laxus in the past he was always beaten. Lucy is surprised that Laxus can be that much stronger, while Happy wonders who would be the strongest if they were to have a competition between mages in Fairy Tail.


Lucy tries to get Happy to leave, notably not even bothering to try and get rid of Natsu. Methinks someone wanted some alone time?

Ship away!

She finds a flier that Happy wanted to give to her, for the Miss Fairy Tail contest. The prize money is 500,000 Jewels, easily enough to cover Lucy's rent for several months.

We switch to Laxus' personal guard, the Raijinshu...

Wait...why did they only translate half of their name?

Wiping out a dark guild, Ghoul Spirit. They'll never show up again, so there was no real need for them to be named.

Back in Magnolia, the entire town is preparing for the Harvest Festival and Fairy Tail's annual parade, Fantasia. Makarov has a flashback to back when Laxus wasn't a douche yet.

Note the much more obvious familial similarities.

Finally it's the day of the festival, and Natsu is still feeling like crap.

We also get to see another side character introduced who, like Max, was just in the background. Warren is a character who will play a fairly important part later on, but who has not had the benefit of an info card explaining his powers. So, in order to keep his role later on from seeming like a Deus ex Machina, he is introduced here, along with his power.

Lucy says that she's really been wanting to see the fantasia parade, and Gray tells her that she will be participating in it, as all guild members are required to. Then, Lucy remembers that the Miss Fairy Tail contest is starting soon, and runs off. Leaving behind Juvia, who will not be outdone by her rival in love.

The Miss Fairy Tail concept is essentially a fan service segment, with the girls using their magic to "appeal" to the audience.

Mission accomplished.

It's also the point at which I start snapping screen shots like crazy.

The girls all do their routines, more often than not involving swimsuits, even when their magic has nothing to do with water, or even some form of transformation. It's basically just, "I know you people want to see me in my swimsuit, so, here you go."

Traditional Sniper Garb.

And yet, Mirajane's is still my favorite.

Not quite what I was hoping for when I read "Catgirl Mira" in the spoilers.

When it comes to Lucy's turn, Evergreen, of the Raijinshu, interrupts the contest, revealing that she's turned all the contestants to stone statues.

I would make a stoned joke, but the next episode beat me to the punch.

Laxus and the rest of the Raijinshu arrive, declaring that the girls are Laxus' hostages to ensure everyone's cooperation in his game. The Battle of Fairy Tail - A contest to see who is the strongest in Fairy Tail, but in reality is Laxus' ploy to get the master to retire so he can take control of the guild and get rid of all the weaklings.

It's during this point that I think I can pick out a new theme in the background, so I can't help but wonder when the next soundtrack will be out.

The guild rushes off to find Laxus, while Makarov discovers that there is an invisible wall keeping people over eighty, and stone statues, from leaving.

For some reason Natsu can't get out either.

This gives birth to my personal theory that Natsu isn't as old as we think. In his character info card it mentions that his age is unknown. He looks about seventeen or eighteen, as Gray and Lucy are, but the fact that it is specifically mentioned that his age is not known, and that he was held back by an enchantment that was only specifically meant to keep people over eighty from leaving the guild made me think.

Now, Natsu was raised by a dragon. But it is never revealed where he came from before that. It's been mentioned in the manga that it isn't normal for humans to be capable of learning dragon slayer magic. In fact, the only humans not raised by dragons have had to have a specific lachryma inserted into their bodies to give them the dragon slayer powers. Now, it's unlikely that Igneel was able to convert Natsu's body in order to make it capable of learning the magic naturally. At least it seems unlikely to me. So the theory that I came up with, to explain the evidence from this episode, is that Natsu is a lot older than he looks. At the very least it's likely he is older than eighty. He can't be a regular human, and be that old, yet look so young. But what if he really is a teenager, just not a human teenager? My theory is that Natsu wasn't just raised by Igneel, he's his actual son. Natsu is a dragon, in human form.

I have no way of knowing if this is entirely true, but it makes sense to me. Though I can easily see Mashima throwing me for a complete loop, but I'm still sticking by my theory.

But, leaving that tangent aside, the episode ends with members of the guild fighting each other as they fall into traps that keep them from leaving unless they defeat the other guild members caught in the enchantments with them.

A good start, overall for a pretty fun arc. I can't wait to see more of this.


Okay, last one.

Oh, to be made of ink...


The writer of this article denies all allegations that he is in any way, shape or form attracted to cartoon drawings of any kind.

Unless it's Mirajane...

They will never understand our love.