I’ve been known for being the resident Fairy Tail fan among my coworkers, so when I was given the opportunity to review an advance screening of the latest movie I jumped at the chance. I was excited when this project was announced, knowing that Hiro Mashima would be working on it (as well as Tatsuma Minamikawa and Shōji Yonemura, who have both worked on Fairy Tail), much like what Eiichiro Oda does with some of the One Piece movies. It led me to believe that this would be a spectacle of massive proportions, essentially keeping the interest of the franchise alive (since the manga ended). So did Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry perform well enough to keep fans interested or is this a movie that fans should pass on?

Here’s what Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry is all about. The members of Fairy Tail sneak into the neighboring Kingdom Stella to help retrieve a magical staff said to be able to destroy other countries (the staff is called the Dragon Cry). The thief of the Dragon Cry is a man named Zash Caine who is the minister of the state of the kingdom of Stella and was accompanied by a woman by the name of Sonia. The king of Fiore enlists the help of Team Natsu to get the Dragon Cry staff back. We then watch as Natsu, Lucy, Happy, and the rest of the gang do what they can to try and retrieve the dangerous artifact. We see the team try to retrieve the staff in a subtle uncover mission, but it ends up backfiring on the Fairy Tail wizards. They end up being found, captured, and left wondering if they can retrieve the staff. Fans are then treated to the team of Fairy Tail battling it out between Zash and Stella’s military stars (the Three Stars) to finish the job they were hired to do. We get to see a couple of battles involving the Three Stars, as well as Natsu saving Lucy from the clutches of Zash, who also practices dark magic. It isn’t until the final battle against a dragon named Animus, where part of Natsu’s past is revealed (relative to the real story line of the manga). In turn, this leaves the very fate of the Kingdom of Stella and Fiore in Natsu’s hands.

What jumped out to me was how much the movie looked and felt like the Tartaros episodes of Fairy Tail. It seemed as if it was simply continuing the Tartaros arc (which was the intention). The color and art design gave me flashbacks to when I was first watching those episodes. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. I liked the darker color tones that those episodes showed, especially with how twisted that arc was. To me, the Tartaros arc is one of the better ones for the franchise, and returning to that kind of glory was smart. I thought some of the artwork could have looked a little better, considering it was a movie and not just an anime, but it wasn’t a bad thing. I give it a lot of credit for being more seamless to its own arc in the anime than just a standalone movie.

Seeing the main cast grow in strength was also a treat that I wasn’t really expecting in this movie. Watching Lucy combine with her spirits, Carla being able to transform into a humanoid form, and Gray’s demon slayer magic was cool to see. It’s like seeing our heroes reach their “final forms,” and being able to watch them take care of battles in dramatic fashion was something I always enjoyed from Fairy Tail. Watching this series from the beginning, then being able to watch your favorite characters grow and become stronger is always a pleasure, and I think fans of Fairy Tail will enjoy seeing just how strong the Fairy Tail wizards have become.

On a small note, I was also shocked at how bloody the first few minutes were when Zash stormed the storehouse that held the Dragon Cry. Fairy Tail has been known to tone down the blood that was shown in the manga (which did feel silly). When Zash used his magical ability to force the guards to kill each other, there was a lot more blood in that one sequence than I remember in all of Fairy Tail. That doesn’t make it better, but I was surprised and enjoyed the first skirmish nonetheless.

It was also nice to hear the original voice actors reprise their roles in Fairy Tail, considering it was a while before FUNimation had anything new to dub over. I wasn’t worried, especially with the talent that was used, like Todd Haberkorn, Cherami Leigh, and Tia Ballard (along with the very talented group of actors that have been a part of the franchise). But even with the limited screen time that characters such as Gajeel and Juvia had, no one sounded like they missed a beat. I was also thoroughly impressed with Erica Mendez’s part as Sonia, and she fell right into place with her meekness and shy personality. And Ray Chase, as Zash Caine, continues to impress with how he can use his voice at every range imaginable. The entire voice cast did a phenomenal job and is a huge bright spot for this movie.

Natsu and Lucy looking sharp in Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry

There were, however, some issues that I had while watching Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry, the first of which starts with Lucy. She’s such a frustrating character because of how smart and useful she is in the franchise. The amount of fan service she is subjected too can be too much even for ardent fans of the series. Everyone knows what you are getting into with Fairy Tail, it does not hide from fan service. But I felt uncomfortable during their undercover mission when Lucy became an exotic dancer for her cover. Watching her dance left me in an awkward spot, especially when her celestial spirit Gemini was copied to look like her and allure their target with very suggestive poses. It just felt too much like watching an ecchi series, especially when you’d see Erza, Juvia, and Lucy’s chest bouncing so much. Again, Fairy Tail is known for that, but this aspect was put on a little too thick for my liking, especially when a movie wants to gain a massive audience, rather than creating something that some parents would not want their kids to see.

It was also a huge issue when Lucy was held captive by Zash. He needed blood as a sacrifice to continue performing dark magic. Seeing how he was holding a blade toward Lucy’s body brought up the memory of what Ezra had to deal with from Kyôka. This is easily one of the more controversial moments in the franchise, and bringing up those memories makes me wonder what the point of it was. You usually save the more cringe-worthy moments to set the stage for something dark to occur. However, besides this one scene, I never had the feeling that Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry was trying to become a darker movie. So that scene felt misplaced.

The fights also felt short and underwhelming, but not in the visual aspect. In fact, the final fight between Natsu and Animus was impressive with all the explosions used (as well as the fight choreography). But when dealing with the smaller skirmishes with Gray, Erza, etc. they didn’t captivate me as they could have. They didn’t last long, with the enemy group (The Three Stars) cleaning up quick in their first battle and then immediately losing their next engagement (at least it felt immediate). It left little room for me to care or look at any of them as worthy adversaries of the Fairy Tail guild. Those fights just felt like they were used to fill 90 minutes instead of making them more impactful at the moment, which I think was an underlying problem of the movie (if you can call it a problem).

For Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry, it felt more like these were episodes in the anime that were combined to reach over an hour of entertainment. As a Fairy Tail fan, I’m okay with that. But with all the fanfare and popularity coming into this movie I was expecting more of a flare than what was given. This feeling didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment, but I’d prefer a movie with all kinds of special moments, instead of a stand alone arc that could have been part of the anime. Instead of feeling like I was watching a movie, this felt more like a long special. The positive of Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry invoking that feeling is that fans won’t feel betrayed by this production. For me, it did feel like we could have been given more of a spectacle.

Overall, Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry does everything right for fans of the franchise. Everything you remember from the series is apparent in the movie and doesn’t falter from the original material, making it a success in my eyes. Fans should rest easy and not worry about a poorly made movie. However, I don’t think it did enough to grab a ton of new people who were either unsure or not interested in Fairy Tail. So while existing fans might give this movie a high rating, those who aren’t might trash it, I’d probably fall somewhere in the middle. If you are a fan of Fairy Tail, then I highly recommend watching this movie. If you aren’t, there might be a few things that keep you from actually enjoying the film as well as the series as a whole.

Rating: 7.5/10

Pros: Stays true to the original material; voice cast was as spectacular as ever; ending fights were great.

Cons: “Interesting” fan service moments; not enough flare; felt like an anime special and not a movie.

C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com and GeekEinc.com. You can follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris