Fairy Tail is one of the most popular anime series currently in production. The series has already reached a second saga extension in Japan (where the first 'series' is followed up with a second because of continuing popularity) after several seasons of finding massive success with fans throughout its first five seasons. (The sixth season - officially the first for "Series 2" of Fairy Tail, is currently a simulcast series on Crunchyroll with new episodes streaming weekly). Funimation is dubbing the series into English. Part 9 contains episodes 97-108, which is essentially the first part of the series third season, which begins an all new story-arc that longtime fans will be quite pleased with as it develops across the set.
The basic idea of the series is to focus on the Fairy Tail guild, which consists of those who use magic abilities to protect ordinary people from enemies - including guilds of magic users who only use their abilities for evil. These guild members will go on various missions and work as either teams or individually depending upon the goals at hand. At the end of the day, though, Fairy Tail is like a family of warriors who only uses their magic for good and for protecting ordinary human beings.
The cast of characters is large and ever-expanding but with the mainstay characters still being at the forefront of the show. Natsu is the fire-wielding Dragon descendant goofball who has long had ambitions of being amongst the best in the guild, Happy is Natsu's best-friend - the flying and talking blue cat with wings, Elza is the guild's strongest and the most independent spirit amongst them all, Gray is a frequent competitor to Natsu and his has his own magic style, typically involving his clothes disappearing. Lucy is the one of the most brave characters, utilizing her abilities to call on magic spirits to guide her more than the rest of the team -- something which few characters can do with her level of skill and expertise. There are a tremendous amount of supporting roles that also add to the series ability to entertain in significant ways as the series remembers to find a balance between the characters and storytelling arcs that are sometimes quite long and action-packed.
This set is one of the best in Fairy Tail to date as season three is underway. Everything gets off to an interesting start as the guild begins a competition tournament designed to determine a new guild member to become a S-Class member. Becoming a member of the S-Class means that you are one of the best wizards and magic is strong enough to rank as one of the most important and powerful wizards in Fairy Tail. Competition is a fierce and complex as only a small number of members are even chosen to be able to compete. The season starts off with the preparation of the event underway and alongside this is a bit of silly comedic moments which occur alongside the build-up before the competition begins.
As the Fairy Tail guild competition begins, the episodes suggest a story arc in the vein of Yu Yu Hausho or Dragon Ball Z but this element of the arc doesn't last for long as the island where the members are competing experiences a unexpected turn of events when a dark magic enemy guild approaches with the goal to destroy all of Fairy Tail and begin annihilating non-magic humans so that the world is reduced to a small number of wizards that these guild members deem as being the most powerful around. They also seek to finally raise from the dead the most-powerful dark magician of all time, who has long been the subject of legend and is known by name to all the wizards, including those in the Fairy Tail guild.
This means Fairy Tail has some serious work ahead for them as they must try to stop the evil guild from their plans to take out their guild and to stop them from raising the most powerful dark wizard and beginning the destruction of the world. Matters are made more complicated when someone dark-haired, soft-spoken, and overwhelming powerful enters the scene on the Island. Yet this is seemingly not a evil wizard: despite having incredible powers, this wizard seems to be unable to control their powers... wishing instead to prevent the destruction which they cause. Who is this new character and what role will they play in the ensuing battle of good versus evil?
This set is action-packed, often humorous, and almost entirely non-stop edge-of-your-seat with one of the best continuing story arcs on the series to date. If there is any complaint at all about this group of episodes, it's that as soon as the set was done there was immediately a feeling that the next set needed to be seen as soon as possible to see where the storyline would head to next. That's certainly not a big issue: it simply left one wanting to see more Fairy Tail as this is a great and worthwhile continuing arc. Things are certainly intense and it should be interesting as things continue to develop over the course of the upcoming Season 3 parts.
Besides having one of the best storylines, there are other good things afloat in the latest set of episodes for Fairy Tail. The animation remains as consistently strong as it has been from the beginning of the series. The character designs are uniformly excellent and distinctive for all characters. The environments are well detailed when necessary and are often so beautifully animated. The island and the different paths the guild members take on it leads to a greater variety of landscape elements which I found impressive. The production values and art is excellent and won't leave fans feeling disappointed. The dubbing on the episodes is also stupendous and works well for the series. Fairy Tail has one of the best English dubs in production. Considering these quality factors, the latest release in the series is something certainly worth recommending to Fairy Tail fans.
Funimation has surprised and impressed me with the Part 9 release in terms of the overall picture quality as it is actually a bit of an improvement over some of the past releases of Fairy Tail. This should certainly be something that is commended as they have done a better job on this release. There are still some minor issues with banding, and some minor aliasing was noticed within a couple of scenes but for the most part lines are smooth, well-defined, and the colors are much improved with the standard definition to High Definition upconversion to 1080p. This is certainly as good as can be reasonably expected for the release of the series.
Please Note: This release is a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English audio dub is my option of preference. I enjoy the high quality dubbing. The voice-work is uniformly excellent and the ADR Director has made this series a consistently fun one with its English adaptation. The original Japanese audio version is also a good option, if preferred, and is presented with a quality lossless mix too but it lacks the same level of depth and dimension that is added to the surround sound English mix with its standard 2.0 stereo presentation.
This set contains a video commentary with the English dub cast and the Fairy Tail Dub director, select audio commentaries with the English cast, textless songs (openings/endings), and trailers promoting Funimation releases.
With a great deal of quality humor, action, animation, dubbing, writing, and a intriguing new storyline arc that leaves fans wanting more Fairy Tail: Part 9 is a blast of entertainment that should please both longtime fans and newcomers to the anime series: it's one of the best set releases to date and it is absolutely worth picking up and adding to any anime collection.