By Hiro Mashima
All signs pointed Lessio was going to go down without much effort, so it was more a question of whether the series would conclude his arc in a satisfying way or not. While last week’s chapter was one of the arc’s lowest points, this week’s chapter is surprisingly one of it’s strongest yet. First off, it takes a team effort by Natsu and Lucy to defeat Lessio. During the battle, both characters attack him simultaneously, and while short, it’s a really satisfying sequence. When Natsu is taking a beating, Lucy primes an attack and makes him break away. When Lucy is about to receive a devastating kick, Natsu intercepts and takes the blow for her. This sort of back and forth has been scarce lately despite many character fighting in pairs, but it makes the proceedings more unpredictable and dynamic. All characters are on an equal playing field here, and the fact that Lessio is overpowering two opponents is a simple but effective way to show how strong and skilled a fighter he really is.
What’s even more satisfying is how Lessio gets outsmarted and defeated. Once again, it’s a team effort, with Lucy providing the strategy and Natsu providing the muscle. By making Lessio rescue Brandish’s subordinate, Lucy’s Gemini is able to copy his power to control the rules in his territory. This allows her to undo Lessio’s spatial and invisibility magic, rescuing the captured Fairy Tail guild mates and allowing them to join in on the fight. This is actually a very smart, clever plan that makes use of a character’s abilities to affect the course of the fight in a logical way. It also gives purpose to Brandish and her subordinate being taken prisoner by Fairy Tail by having the presence of those specific characters being necessary for this payoff and the heroes’ victory. While it’s unlikely that Mashima planned for this, it was a Chekov’s gun that was finally fired, and the results were more than effective.
While it would’ve been cool to have the entire Fairy Tail guild assist in Lessio’s defeat, the way other characters play integral roles in assisting the final victory is still well done. Be it Happy preventing Lessio from using his magic by squeezing his head in his hands, or Marakov punching Lessio and Natsu outside the guild to let Natsu go all out, supporting characters are implemented in creative ways that all have a purpose and tangible influence on Lessio’s demise. The chapter ends with the entire guild celebrating his defeat together, as they should, because for the first time in a long while, this battle was a fine demonstration of what they can accomplish by working together as a team.
This was a very well-drawn and paced chapter too. There is clear continuity between one panel to the next. In the opening pages, for instance, characters directly react to and follow through on what happened in the panels previous and the events have a clear cause and effect progression. The speed lines that punctuate characters’ punches and kicks, the dynamic way bodies become exaggerated, how the environment expands and contracts all builds sense of escalating scale and intensity to the battle that culminates in an incredibly massive and cool two-page spread. Then, Natsu punches Lessio so hard that he flies miles away to the point his silhouette is so small it can be barely seen. The circular framing of the speed lines over Lessio’s blown-back form, and the curved and contorted ground focuses attention on him, and highlights the sheer power of Natsu’s attack. Meanwhile the bold “DOKOOM” sound effect interacts with Natsu and the environment in such a way that it separates the two apart, adding a layer of depth to the scene that enhances its scale. It’s a very visually satisfying image in an already well-drawn and exciting chapter, and makes Lessio’s defeat feel all the more satisfying.
If last week’s chapter showed Fairy Tail’s weaknesses at some of it’s worst, this week shows what it’s capable of at it’s best. Every primary character involved influenced the fight in a direct and meaningful way. The way the heroes defeat the villain is done with creativity, showing intelligence and wit on the part of the protagonists, while also not making the villain look like a moron in the process. The art was spot-on, making the fights intense and engaging, and the final payoff feel truly epic and momentous. While it’s still regrettable that half of the Spriggan 12 have now been defeated without too much blood, sweat, and tears needing to be shed, the outcome of this particular fight is satisfying enough to forgive it for the interim. I only wish the series could be this well-executed on a more consistent basis.