Okay, let me just begin by stating that I'm reviewing this as a fan of the Fairy Tail manga, and as such my views on it might be different from someone who just watches the series. In this episode the Battle for Fairy Tail begins, where each member of the guild is forced to battle against one another to find out who is the strongest. Now I've been looking forward to this for a while, it was one of my favorite arcs in the series. However, maybe I just had my expectations too high, but this isn't hitting them.
Nab is one of the many characters in Fairy Tail who could use some more screentime, but don't expect them to
Now why would I say that? Well Fairy Tail has always had an amazing cast of characters, reaching a size larger than most other series, however because of this we rarely get to see these characters show off their powers or personalities. So this arc was a fantastic opportunity to finally focus on the lesser known characters. Now in the manga we still only got to see a couple panels worth of them fighting but it still worked. Now in this episode we do still see them in battle, however, it still goes by insanely fast. And that honestly has been my other big concern about this series ever since I started watching it. I always worried that it would move by too fast and that before you know it they'd have to create more filler arcs than actual story arcs just to keep up (I'm looking at you Bleach).
Now this story arc could have been a fantastic chance to see these characters show off, but also extend the length of the series in a very natural way that didn't feel forced and was still interesting. We could have actually focused on different battles, we could have seen the relationships between characters, how they act, their fighting styles, etc. And yes, they do extend the fights a tad, but just by a smidge. By the end of the episode, they have still crammed roughly three (heck closer to three and a half) issues of the manga into one episode. If this is the pace that this series continues on, then we'll be in filler territory within a few months.
And speaking of this pacing, this episode also made me realize something that has been prevalent throughout the series but I never noticed until now. This series really has trouble figuring out when to end an episode. During this episode there are three or four moments where you think "Okay that would be a great cliffhanger," and then you notice there is still ten minutes left in the episode, and the point where they actually do end it is rather bland compared to the other options they had.
At the end of the day, despite my complaints, the comedy and expertise of the cast still make it a good episode
So with all these concerns why am I not giving it a lower rating? Well because even with all these flaws, this is still a consistently top notch series. The music and voice acting is still some of the best I'm hearing from a mainstream series, and the action and comedy is still wonderfully done. I really want to give this episode a lower rating because of the wasted potential it had, but honestly its still just way too good. And even with bad timing and a rushed pace, a 3 out of 5 stars is really as low as I can go simply because the animators and voice actors really know what they're doing even if the show planners don't.