Fairy Tail #476
By Hiro Mashima
In a world where magic runs everything, losing your ability to use it is a devastating blow, especially for someone who makes a career out of using it. Yet, despite being a so-called “cruel choice,” neither Wendy or Sherria actually seem to mind losing their powers. Both willingly volunteer to be the ones to use Third Origin without a second thought, then comically argue with each other over which is going to use it. This exchange at the beginning of the chapter immediately renders the supposed consequence moot, because neither character is actually going to be affected by losing their magic. For them the rationale to keep their magic and lose their magic is the same: the shonen cliché of protecting your friends.
It’s a cute sentiment, but when your characters are fighting a literal god, higher stakes and more desperate risks should really be on the line. While their resolve to use Third Origin in spite of the sacrifice could have made for a strong character moment; the fact they don’t think twice about the consequences and have such basic reasoning for wanting to use it diffuses any tension and cheapens the impact of Sherria’s sacrifice. The series really tries to make said sacrifice seem a bigger deal than it is. Sherria soliloquizes about how magic is the only thing she was good at and gave her friends, and Wendy bawls that she’ll still be Sherria’s friend after this is all over. But why wouldn’t she be? Wendy would be a pretty terrible person if she ditched Sherria as a friend just because she can’t use magic. So losing magic isn’t affecting Sherria’s life in the slightest. She’ll still have all the things she says magic’s given her. She might not be a “magical girl” anymore, but that idol career she had going on seemed to be going pretty well, and that was pretty much all she was doing the last time we saw her before the arc anyway. So, even with all the tears and sappy lines about how “love is stronger than magic,” the emotional impact of the chapter falls flat the second you dig into the logic behind it.
Let’s compare with a more successfully executed example of this trope. The Third Origin works similarly to what Gon did in his final battle with Neferpitou in Hunter X Hunter: the user channels all the potential power they would have had in the future and unleashes it in a sudden power up. Now, that technique came out of nowhere in that series as well, but there was far greater justification for it. Gon’s character arc had been slowly building up to this moment: it was a dramatic, cathartic expression of the rage and anger he had bottled up inside him, unleashed with fury fueled by a despair felt in his darkest hour. It was a shonen power-up, but it was also tragic, horrifying, and a tearjerker. It was the moment the once happy-go lucky Gon reached rock bottom and became as brutal and terrifying as the monsters he fought, and the cost of his revenge came at losing his future, and his best friend.
While Gon was eventually cured, there was and still is genuine sense of loss conveyed in that scene, and it was a powerful and pivotal turning point for his character arc. Sherria isn’t a significant enough character for this payoff to feel particularly meaningful. Even if you were to say that Wendy is supposed to grow because of this experience of not being able to protect two of her friends it’s nothing new for her character; she keeps getting into these situations while afterwards she promises to get stronger. Her character arc goes in circles so much that it’s hard to appreciate this as any sort of devastating or pivotal moment in her arc, especially since both the people she laments not being able to protect are still alive and well. And Ultear’s whole “oh I wish my past was different” shtick isn’t character development so much as meant to glorify Wendy and Sherria as being strong-willed. Which yet again relegates her character to be a commenter and narrative device, but hey, at least now that this fight is done her character can’t get degraded further, right? Right?
Well, at least the art is really good this week. In addition to nice uses of sequences to show characters processing and reacting, the fight scenes are dynamic and varied. There’s a lot of fast, furious action, with a variety of angles conveying the scale and intensity of it all. When Sherria enters the battle, the strength stored in her fists is drawn with multiple thin lines forming a short aura around it, effectively illustrating a difference from her previous abilities. DiMaria slowly starting to phase out of her God form, alternating panel to panel, is a cool detail that sells just how intense the fight is getting. But the piece de resistance is of course the two-page spread where Sherria defeats DiMaria: a flurry of feathers spiraling around and pelting DiMaria, finally taking her out of her god form for good as she’s pushed far away. It’s a really cool looking image, and as the last magic Sherria will ever do, makes for a good swan song for her to go out on. But probably my favorite part about this week’s art is that there was no fanservice! I mean, yeah Sherria’s clothes get ripped a lot and we see her cleavage, but the series doesn’t go out of it’s way to sexualize the characters and frame shots focusing on their boobs or butts. It’s really refreshing after the irritating fanserive from last week’s chapter, and makes me wish that the dramatic foundation of the chapter was stronger to take advantage of this rarity.
When all is said and done, this chapter has its good points. Wendy and Sherria fans might like it well enough considering they do have some cool moments in their fight with DiMaria here. But the way the series has defeated a character, who is literally a god, without the protagonists having to suffer a genuine consequence or experience meaningful character development, dashes any hopes these battle will get any tougher for the Fairy Tail guild. Like the rest, this fight felt obligatory rather than essential, a way to show off some fan-favorites and play with some crazy ideas before the series ends. Which is fine and dandy, but it’d be nice if there was something more substantial to go along with it.