Light hearted shonen action series tend to get non-cannon feature films every few years, and Fairy Tail is no exception. Unfortunately, the film manages to leave out a lot of the charm that makes the show enjoyable, and ends up being a rather forgettable adventure.
Phoenix Priestess takes place sometime after the 7 year time skip and reformation of the grand wizard council, and follows the guild as they must assist the Phoenix Priestess in protecting a mysterious stone and prevent the resurrection of a powerful Phoenix. Of course, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Natsu & co to save the day.
The story itself is incredibly simple, following tropes often seen in other Fairy Tail story arcs and not daring to challenge the audiences’ preconceptions. It’s really only there as an excuse for the guild to fight against powerful mages, and this works both for and against the film.
The film features epic large scale fights that aim to blow audiences away while also leaving them on the edge of their seats in suspense, having many of the guild members reach the verge of death during their battles. Sadly, since this is meant to be a non-cannon film, all tension is lost when you realise that no one can die.
Knowing that the main characters can’t fail reduces the amount of enjoyment you can receive from the action, since many of the scenes involve enemy mages attacking the Fail Tail guild relentlessly until someone uses their trademark spell. Watching a character you care about being beaten to a pulp should be worrying or suspenseful, but knowing that they’re going to turn around at the last second and win in one attack makes watching them being smacked about seem pointless.
It also doesn’t help that film relies on the same nonsensical scapegoat as the show, that being the “power of friendship!” Many times throughout the film characters manage to perform heroic feats without actually increasing their skill solely through using a flashback to gain the “power of friendship!” While in the show it only happens a few times in every arc, the film goes to town with it and has every character power up using friendship.
Also, one of the enemy’s powers randomly stops working in their battle with Erza due to her wish to desperately get married. That doesn’t make sense on so many levels that it’s not Worthing touch, but it just emphasizes the fact this films writing makes no sense.
Every cheap victory comes off as a lazy writing excuse due to the character inability to awaken any new powers, all thanks to the film being non-cannon. It’s a shame, because a lot of the fights are visually entertaining to watch.
Being a short 80 minute film, Phoenix Priestess tries to make up for its short run time by cramming every long running joke it can into the first half. The outcome is something that some fans may find funny, but others may just groan at.
The joke of Natsu being unable to ride transport is used twice in the first few scenes, Elfmen shows up for one scene to make his “be a man” gag, Lucy is found naked in public, and most of the celestial spirits all pop out to make their one liners before disappearing again. These jokes started becoming stale about 40 episodes into the series, and having all of them crammed down your throat in 40 minutes makes the film seem despite to create comedy and appear to be “in” with the fans of the franchise.
On the animation front, A1 pictures did a decent job at making the film flow smoothly, and it’s clear that the studio has a knack doing up close action scenes. Every battle scene involving mages going toe-to-toe is beautifully animated with some smooth fluid body movements and magical attacks wonderfully interacting with the environment, with Dyst’s telekinesis being especially fantastic.
Sadly the animation for the other scenes can vary from ok to lacklustre. Scenes where characters are running around going from place to place often have animation inconsistencies with faces, especially with Wendy. It’s nothing film ruining, but it can be a little distracting and funny some times.
However the film really shows its animation flaws when it comes to large scale battles. During the end scene the entire guild go up against a giant enemy, meaning that the battle needs to be seen from quite far away to get a full idea of what’s happening. Unfortunately, this ends up with characters looking like small blobs with large amounts of colours flying about them. It becomes impossible to keep up with who’s who and what’s going on, and doesn’t help that the fight keeps jumping between camera angles and locations. It’s a shame that the large scale fight doesn’t look better, as it makes the climax of the film a huge letdown.
Fairy Tail: The Phoenix Priestess is a huge letdown for the franchise. The film had the potential to do so much but failed to encapsulate everything that made the series so successful. Fans of the anime and manga may find some enjoyment watching the characters they love battle against new foes, but everyone else will be let down by the simplistic and poorly executed mess that is The Phoenix Priestess.
NOTE: The DVD and Blu ray release comes with a 10 minute prequel to the film that follows the new characters. The short is utterly breath taking. It tells an interesting story about the new characters while also raising questions about the joy of life and the reason death is important, all within 10 minutes. I loved this short far more than the film itself, if only the movie could have been this wonderful.
+ More fighting with the Fairy Tail guild
+ Wizard fights are action packed thrill rides
+ DVD includes wonderful short film as a bonus
– Poorly written and badly executed story
– Inconsistent animation
– Uses the same tired jokes again and again
Thanks to Manga UK for supplying a review copy