By Andrew Osmond.
Before Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry opens in Britain on 17th May, your humble correspondent decided to check it out in Tokyo. Yes, the film is so brand spanking new that it’s playing in London and Tokyo cinemas at the same time. I saw it at the Toho cinema in Kabukicho, part of a building adorned by Godzilla’s snarling head, where I’d interviewed Yoshiyuki Tomino a couple of years ago.
One perk of seeing the film in Tokyo is that you get a very nice freebie. I only had to show my cinema ticket to the attendant to get a 193-page paperback book containing the film’s storyboard, drawn by no less that Hiro Mashima, creator of the franchise. You can see an image below, which may remind you of the mantra of another famous anime: “service, service, service…”
Yup, fans of Fairy Tail’s fanservice should be well satisfied. The pictured scene comes from early in the film, where the voluptuous wizard Lucy shows her talents for exotic dancing, distracting locals while the rest of the team pull off a heist. It’s only one of several eye-catching outfits, though the clothes-changing magic transformations may get most cheers. Sailor Moon, you have so much to answer for.
It may be ungallant to say it, but this will be most readers’ first chance to see Fairy Tail in cinemas, and the big screen makes the bold roundness of the character designs so much more noticeable. Ahem. (To stop this report descending into total chauvinism, we should add that one of the most service-y moments in the film involves one of the male characters. Yes, of course it’s Gray, so expect deafening female squees in cinemas at a certain scene…)
The story is an extremely action-heavy affair. It even starts with a flash-forward to midway through the story, with our hero Natsu having some bother with a massive bird. The adventure revolves around the title “Dragon Cry,” which is a magic staff with cataclysmic powers. There are two chief villains after said powers; one is King Animus, a cool youth voiced by One Punch Man himself, Makoto Furukawa. His minion is the brutish, cigar-chomping heavy Zash, voiced by Jiro Saito (who was the bloodthirsty hero of Drifters, Shimazu, and also dubs Idris Elba in the Thor films).
Zash is especially dangerous. He has mind-control powers and can set his enemies at each other’s throats, and even the Fairy Tail team aren’t immune to him. But there’s also a wildcard in the story, a young woman magician called Sonya who’s desperate to save her country. She’s helping Zash and Animus, and has a close link with the king, but she’s not happy with the carnage he’s causing. Might she be an ally for our heroes? Sonya is voiced by Aoi Yuki, Madoka of Madoka Magica; she was also the tragic Yuuki in Sword Art Online II and the titular pint-sized warrior in Saga of Tanya the Evil.
As we said, this is a fight-heavy film. Natsu gets the lion’s share, but the rest of the Fairy Tail team – Lucy, Gray, Ezra and Wendy – have their action scenes too. Everyone’s fave winged blue feline Happy gets a turn as well, facing off with his worst nightmare – that’s a very big dog. Naturally the action ramps up and up, with the last part of the film racing round umpteen intercut mega-duels. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that dragons, tall towers, flying battles and magic thunderbolts all figure in the finale.
And yes, as with the recent Sword Art Online, there’s extra animation during the credits, and then a rather long post-credits epilogue after that, so stick around! There might even be hints about where the Fairy Tail franchise is going. On the one hand, the manga is supposedly ending; on the other, a new TV project has been promised since last year. Yes, but will it have the service?
Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry opens in UK cinemas on 17th May.