By Hiro Mashima
Ah, much better! Last week’s action sequences were plagued by weak anatomy and a poor sense of space. This week’s sees Mashima make full use of his medium to create a sense of speed and power worthy of the lightning wielders’ brawl. Like last week, you can tell the quality of the chapter with just the presentation of the first page. Here, Mashima moves from a nice mid-shot of Laxus in pain from his heart disease, to a close-up on his eye as he’s noticing Wahl approaching, to a over the shoulder top angle shot where we see Wahl flying up to punch him. In three panels, Mashima succinctly and efficiently conveys all the information you need to know about Laxus’ situation and wastes no time re-establishing the fight in progress. Even if you hadn’t read last week’s chapter, you would have been able to pick on the severity and intensity of Laxus’ situation from his body language and the staging.
Mashima builds on this by carrying over one of last chapter’s strengths, an acute sense of timing. Wahl opens up the chapter with a barrage of attacks on Laxus, and each punch shows a different action or different effect, successively escalating to greater degrees, never breaking the pace until ’s Laxus’ time to counter-attack. It’s really cool seeing his punch open up into a blast cannon on Laxus’ chest, blow him away, follow up with missiles, and finally, a freaking laser canon. The speed and ruthlessness of Wahl’s assault is complemented by Laxus’ pained and pitiable reaction poses, showing that he’s completely helpless to fight back. This kind of quick, brutal action will be completely missed when this fight is animated and A-1 pictures drags it out over the course of a few minutes, rather than in a matter of seconds like this scene indicates by it’s pacing.
If any one panel perfectly encapsulates the display of speed and action in this chapter, it would have to be the center third on page 8, which shows Laxus dodge a barrage of Wahl’s energy blasts as he moves close to him. Mashima gives Laxus three poses in this panel, and spaces them out from the background to the foreground in just the right manner to show how precise his movements are and give an animated sense of how fast he’s going. In general, this chapter contains a spontaneous, fluid energy to the fighting that makes it feel just as satisfying as a fully realized animated fight scene would be. Fairy Tail is rarely this creative and efficient in it’s action, and it makes the fight more satisfying for it.
There’s something to be said about how dumb Wahl is, though. He could’ve won if he didn’t recharge Laxus with energy, or be fooled by Laxus’ gambit to make him cancel out his anti-magic particles. It’s jarring because he’s supposed to be the calm-headed technology expert of the Spriggan 12, so you’d think he’d be more of a tactician, especially considering the efficiency of his attacks at the beginning of the chapter. His “Nooooo!” scene is funny, sure, but it definitely takes the wind out of him as a threat, even with all the damage he did to Laxus. So, the Spriggan 12 are still pretty unimpressive villains. With Wahl defeated, a third of them have been taken out, and despite the fact they were all supposed to be stronger than Magnolia’s strongest mages, they’ve never once felt like it. Hopefully the remaining members will be more delible as threats, but considering how much of a joke Acnologia made them out to be when he one-shot God Serena a couple chapters ago, one must wonder why we don’t just speed through these jokers and get to the showdown with him already.
On the other hand, Laxus was very impressive in this chapter. He took full advantage of Wahl’s mistakes to counterattack, never losing sight of winning the fight and doing it as quickly and decisively as possible. Admittedly, it’s annoying that the whole anti-magic particle poisoning subplot with him was resolved in basically two chapters with no lasting consequences. This is a war, yet there have yet to be any real consequences or a real sense of peril and desperation in any of the protagonists, which makes all of these fights feel rather superfluous. That said, at least the way Laxus cured his poisoning was through a smart, intentional ploy he devised when he learned of what Wahl can do, instead of it happening accidentally, or through the villain reforming, or some other unbelievable deus ex machina. It’s certainly leagues better than how Brandish spontaneously cured Natsu’s cancer a couple of chapters back, no contest.
One unfortunate downside to the end of the fight is that it tries to establish a connection between Laxus and his great-grandfather, Yuri, and it doesn’t quite work. This is not a connection we knew he was aware of previously, and is only developed via flashback in two pages towards the end of this chapter. The connection in of itself is a little confused. Ostensibly, the idea is that Laxus is fighting for the sake of the guild, who’s legacy and history he now respects and his proud of. Learning about Yuri, and that he was similar to him in many ways, allows him to tap into new-found strength that is able to push him past his limits.
It’s mostly another variation of the inexplicable friendship-based power-ups that are pretty commonplace throughout this series, but it almost works because it’s appropriate in the context of Laxus’ character arc. He started off the series resentful of his father and grandfather, and wanting to use the guild for his own devices, but has now grown to appreciate it as his home and its members his family, and wants to atone for almost killing everyone back in the Battle of Fairy Tail arc. In that regard, Laxus being inspired by his great-grandfather, one of the founders of the guild, makes sense. But because it’s something only brought up in this chapter, it’s really hard to buy the idea that Yuri is giving Laxus strength beyond the grave like the after-image in the red lightning spread implies. If anything, it distracts from the point that Laxus is fighting for the sake and legacy of the guild by putting too much emphasis on a specific relationship between two characters who have never met.
Two other things confound this payoff. The first is the mere fact that Yuri has never been brought up in the series before. He’s one of the main characters of Fairy Tail Zero, a prequel series that focused on Mavis’ past and how she founded the guild. While that story is canon, it’s also a whole other series you have to read to know any of it’s contents. So, if you’ve never read it, chances are you will have no understanding of why Laxus is a parallel to Yuri and the connection between the two characters. It’s great that the contents of Fairy Tail Zero have an actual bearing on the plot of the core series, but readers who haven’t read it will likely be scratching their heads at what the point of suddenly introducing Yuri is than being emotionally invested in the chapter’s climax.
The final thing is an unfortunate case of the English translation not conveying the same intentions as the original Japanese. Laxus’ attack in the English translation is called “Raiko: Red Lightning;” a perfectly accurate translation, but one that doesn’t carry a deeper meaning to it like the original. The original name for the attack in Japanese is “Raiko: Akamikazuchi.” “Aka” simply means red, but according to the unofficial Fairy Tail wiki, “the character 御 (ミ Mi) in the spell’s name is a prefix that indicates non-speaker ownership of the noun that follows, and also indicates an extreme level of respect, generally in regards to relatives or the divine.” The “ikazuchi,” which means thunder, in this circumstance “indicates that this spell in particular is an homage by Laxus Dreyar to…Yuri Dreyar, a fellow Lightning Magic user.” As you can guess, the name “Red Lightning” just does not convey this level of information at all. Unless you knew Japanese or looked into it like I did, you wouldn’t really understand the significance of the technique in terms of Laxus’ character arc; the formerly high-and-mighty, resentful Laxus now humbly respecting the legacy of his family and guild, and that becoming what finally allows him to surpass his own limitations. This is also why the closing line of this chapter is “Red…the color of blood.” The blood being referred to is not from wounds or injuries gained from a desperate fight, but the legacy of blood, of family, passed down through generations. Translations usually don’t warrant much focus in most manga reviews, but here it really had to be addressed, because the name given to the technique in the English version simply does not convey the deeper aspects that it’s supposed to, and that weakens the emotional payoff presented to the English reader and makes an already confusing sequence even harder to comprehend.
Also, they keep spelling Wahl’s name wrong. It’s Wahl with an “h,” not “wall” like the structure. I don’t know why they suddenly started using “Wall,” but his name “Wahl Icht” is a pun on the Japanese phrase “warui hito,” meaning “bad person,” and also on the english word “wright,” which refers to someone who creates things, both of which aptly describe Wahl, a terrible person whose specialty is making mechanical weapons and robots. Not to mention Wahl is an actual german surname, whereas “Wall” is not, and it’s clear Mashima intended Wahl Icht to be a german-sounding name. Wahl isn’t that important of a character so it’s not really that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still been annoying me, and I hope the proper spelling is used in Kodansha’s print releases.
Despite all the issues, this is a really cool chapter overall. It’s a great conclusion to Laxus’ series-long character arc and provides a skillfully drawn fight worthy of resolving it. That said, the payoff is confounded by the fact you need to have read a spinoff and know what something originally meant in Japanese to really understand it, which prevents it from being as successful as it could have been. Still, this is easily the strongest fight this arc has provided in terms of both the execution of the action sequences and the character and plot development it provides, and one can only hope to see more of this caliber moving forward.
 “Mercury Fulminate: Red Lightning” Fairy Tail Wiki. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 17 Feb 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.