Saturday, August 19, 2017
Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry Review
Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry is the second film in the Fairy Tail franchise, following Fairy Tail: Phoenix Priestess. “Dragon Cry” once again features Fairy Tail’s Strongest Team taking on an enemy on a separate country, and one that threatens the balance of the world as they hunt the mystical Dragon Cry, a staff capable of destroying whole countries. The film premiered this year both in Japan and over here in the United States, with special thanks to Funimation for bringing it overseas in a pretty quick turnaround from the Japanese release. How’s it hold up compared to the rest of the series, though?
Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry is, in short, basically like most other anime movies. The canon of the movie is called into question (as in, it’s unclear when this movie could take place in the timeline of the series), and we’re dealing with characters and situations that, for the most part, won’t be called into question ever again. Unlike most anime movies, though, there are some themes that will resonate until the very end of the story. However, this comes at a cost to the anime-faithful that had quite a few cool moments spoiled ahead of time, before the next anime series comes out in 2018.
On its own, though, “Dragon Cry” is an incredibly enjoyable film, representative of what Fairy Tail is. It incorporates all the familiar elements of the show, good and bad, while keeping characters and action consistent in quality with the what we’ve seen in the past. Interestingly, the movie also uses music from the original series of the show, a welcome return to form as it was great to hear the old music with more fluid animation.
The story is fairly basic: Zash, an exile of the Fiore Kingdom, seeks the Dragon Cry staff to exact revenge on the King of the Country. He goes to the Kingdom of Stella, along with a reluctant young woman named Stella, to complete his task. Meanwhile, Natsu, Lucy, Gray, Erza, Wendy, Happy, and Carla are called upon to retrieve the staff before anyone else, so it becomes a race to the staff. Also involved are Gajeel, Pantherlily, Levi, and Juvia…if only because the audience would’ve been angry either way.
Although I’m perplexed about how Laxus wasn’t even in the movie? In ANY capacity, not even in background shots of the guild. Cana gets a shot near the end but that’s it. It’s kind of crazy.
Unlike how “Phoenix Priestess” emphasized Lucy’s relationship with Eclaire as they struggled with the totality of the situation that was the Firebird, this movie mostly focuses on Natsu as he tries to come to grips with what the Dragon Cry is and capable of. It does suffer in that regard, as Gray, Erza, and Wendy aren’t given much to do, which is a shame. Wendy especially should have been more involved with the staff, given its relationships to the dragons of old.
Lucy becomes a focal point of the movie in a pretty creepy way, as she becomes a quite sexualized version of her character, and just becomes another doll for Zash to chase. It’s obviously meant to be discomforting but goes to pretty dark lengths. It becomes especially awkward when he’s doing that freaky licking lips things most anime villains do, but in a context of “throw her in my kinky sex dungeon”…and you’re in an audience where there are quite a few families. Whoops.
But, honestly, outside of Zash and his perverse nature this is a family-friendly movie. There isn’t much blood, the action remains as safe as ever, and the plot is pretty simple for a kid to follow. The only reason people would be tripped up by any of this is if they’ve never seen the show before, because there are a few references to past events that general audiences wouldn’t get, like how Acnologia is brought up or how Zash compares the power of the Dragon Cry to the power of the Etherion Cannon from the Heaven’s Tower, Tenrou Island, and Tartaros Arcs.
I imagine some people were even caught off guard by the presence of Princess Hisue and her father, the King, from the Dragon Festival arc. It was a welcome return, to be sure, and nice to see those pretty important characters given some screentime.
A boon and a bane of the movie is its attention to making things bigger. It emphasizes things a lot more than normal, as if putting a microscope to things and just trying to really harken back to what Fairy Tail is. In some cases it leads to absolutely hilarious moments. This is the funniest Fairy Tail has ever been, as there are legitimate laughs throughout the movie. But in an effort to emphasize things they really go in on the fan-service, including an entire sequence where Lucy is essentially in nothing more than a bikini performing as a stage-dancer to distract everyone while Erza, in a Playboy bunny outfit, steals something off of Zash. It just really, really slows the film down and gets in the way of everything. However, it is followed by a funny “Natsu as a ninja” callback that I couldn’t help but enjoy.
The most interesting character of the film is Sonya, a brand new character who has some sort of connection to the Dragon Cry. She and Zash both serve Animus, king of Stella, though it seems that she is of far more importance than we’re led to believe. Her motivation is also a bit muddled, but a bit on purpose. She doesn’t want others to suffer, but the problem with the Dragon Cry staff is that it was created by the suffering of the dragons that died years ago fighting Acnologia. So she’s stuck in the crossroads of having her people suffer just a little longer under King Animus and immediately relieving the dragons of their pain, or keeping those dragons in pain forever by saving her people immediately.
It creates an interesting standoff with Natsu just before the third act begins and hearkens back to Natsu asking Lucy, casually, about what he looks like to her (as Happy does the same thing in a comedic fashion). It’s not really a theme that plays throughout, and it’s something the film could have explored more. In a movie that’s all about dragons, it would’ve been interesting to see how Natsu, Wendy, and Gajeel are all doing without their dragons inside of them anymore (…spoilers for the end of the Tartaros arc…?). We don’t really get that outside of the film’s opening scene, where we see Natsu and Igneel actually meet.
The film would’ve been much better had it gained an extra twenty minutes or so to clean up some of the editing. Some shots go on for (and I know this will sound a bit trivial) just a few seconds too long, whereas sometimes the gang is running through a hallway, pursued by guards, and the very next cut is them outside, safe. Just a few extra seconds would’ve cleaned that up, and more time could’ve been given to showing Natsu dealing with what the Dragon Cry really is. Plus, the final villain of the film makes it sound like Dragon Slayers were the true bane of the Dragons, which is partially true, but that could’ve been also built upon not only for the sake of the film but the sake of the series, leading anime-only fans toward conclusions that are going to be reached in the upcoming series.
Which leads me to another problem I have with the film: SPOILERS. They’re not necessarily aggregious, but given the spot that this film takes place in on the timeline, there are some things we’re not meant to know yet given where the anime ended.
For starters, the Fairy Tail guild in the anime is still broken up after Makarov disbanded the guild to protect them from any future harms. So Gray, Erza, Wendy, and Carla should all be off doing their own thing (with Wendy in particular having a new haircut, if memory serves). Next, one of the cool Carla moments that happens post time-skip is revealed, as is Lucy’s new abilities with her Celestial Spirits.
Other than those it’s difficult for me to discuss the spoilers beyond spoiling the end of the film. Again, they’re not egregious spoilers, and I did have some people in the screening around me that didn’t know it was coming that thought it was cool.
Everyone got applause for the big moments everyone was expecting, like Wendy activating Dragon Force, Erza using some gigantic ultimate attack, and Gray activating his Demon Ice Wizard powers. Juvia even got to use a major attack in a majorly funny moment.
Sadly, Gajeel and Levi were given basically nothing to do (with an amazing line from Gajeel, “What do they want? We’ve literally done nothing!”) when I did want to see Gajeel, Wendy, and Natsu team up to fight the final villain and maybe use the Dragon Cry to amplify their Dragon Slayer magic beyond their normal limit.
The movie has a much happier ending than Phoenix Priestess and does tie up, thematically, Natsu’s shred of a plotline about his identity crisis, and there’s a nice little NaLu moment for all those shippers out there (you could tell who they were in the audience based on the amount of “awwww” there was in the theatre).
Now, I do have to give major props for the movie for it’s post-credits scene. I’m going to into spoilers for just a second about the movie, so skip ahead beyond the bold text if you don’t want to know what it is (and if you do plan on seeing it, trust me, you DO NOT want this spoiled).
SPOILERS FOR POST-CREDITS SCENE START HERE
Okay, I kind of figured there would be a post-credits scene but I was unsure of what. Maybe another bit of hi-jinks as the team returned to the guild or maybe something with Mest to set up the Alvarrez Empire, but what we got instead was so much more satisfying and only muddles this film’s place in the timeline way more!
Acnologia picks up the little bow that the Dragon Cry drops after it dissipates and then we get a flashback to when Acnologia kills the Dragons beneath the Dragon Festival arena! This is something, finally, that’s canon and that people who have read the manga have never seen before. It was so good, and so worth it. It also shows how Sonya and Animus first merged, but that’s not really what’s important.
There are two monumental moments that happened and got the audience basically on the edge of their seat. My jaw was dropped when they first showed Acnologia’s human form, in an animated fashion, but it didn’t even end there. Right when you think it’ll end with his resolve to destroy all dragon-kind, it pulls back and shows ZEREF with Brandish and Invel of the Spriggan 12, with VOICES.
That was awesome. Totally hypes up the Alvarrez Empire arc, and everyone not-in-the-know in the theatre was hype, I was hype, and it was hype.
It also explains that plothole where Animus was blaming all Dragon Slayers for the death of the dragons. For the whole movie, like an idiot, I was thinking, “No, it was Acnologia.” But, as the film shows us, it was Acnologia in his base form that killed the dragons that were with Animus 400 years ago. To them, it seemed like Acnologia was just another Dragon Slayer, and I guess Animus just didn’t know he was capable of also becoming a dragon, too, like how Igneel and the other four dragons figured it out an hid within the bodies of their Dragon Slayers.
For most of the movie, too, I was thinking how much better it would be if they somehow tied it all back to Acnologia, how he should’ve been more of a villain. Obviously they couldn’t have encountered him in combat, but it would’ve been cool to see him. I also think the movie would’ve benefitted from more Zeref, like maybe the Stella Kingdom was in cahoots with the Alvarrez Empire in supplying them the Stellanium and Fairy Tail’s involvement stops that supply, prompting Zeref to spring an attack on them earlier than anticipated? I don’t know. But that post-credits scene was AMAZING.
Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry feels like a compressed arc of the anime, but a good arc. It was full of great comedy, pretty fluid action, good animation for the series, and suffered from a short runtime, aggregious fan-service, and cutting Natsu’s arc a bit short. There’s a big twist in the movie that is poorly set-up and really only has one moment in the film where you may think something’s up, and Zash as a primary antagonist is both creepy and a bit annoying. Fan-favorites are mentioned but not given much to do outside of comedy or taking down some supporting villains.
Again, it’s a Shonen anime movie. It’s not Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods but it’s also not Broly: Second Coming. It’s a good, fun time at the movies. If you’re a casual viewer but have that itch to watch some Fairy Tail I’d give it a go. And if you’re a major fan of the series like me than I don’t need to tell you twice to go see this, it’s a great time and a great way to tide us all over until 2018 for the final season.