For once I’m watching a series-based movie with absolutely no knowledge of the series, and in this case I can’t help but think I perhaps haven’t found the best entry. Fairy Tail Phoenix Priestess gives the impression that its strengths lie in the direction of the series, where you have time to develop some level of interest in and attachment to the characters. In feature length format, there’s just a few too many of them to really get involved in who they are or what’s going on, and the weaker aspects of the story suffer from the presence of way too many clichés. We’re introduced to Fairy Tail, a group of Dungeons & Dragons style bounty hunters, while they’re busy self-sabotaging their latest job with a basic tendency to over-do things for obvious comic effect. Shortly thereafter, they meet a mysterious woman named Eclair and her large-headed talking parrot (yeah I don’t know either). Eclair is in possession of half a magical stone, and some poncy rich dude with a silly name and a bad temper is of course not content to have only the other half, and seems to want it for the nafarious purpose of staying beautiful forever. And possibly destroying the world. So he sends his band of evil mercenary types (codenamed Carbuncle because they’re “the garnet adorned beast that lurks in the darkness”. Seriously? Someone should have told them there is no circumstances in which “carbuncle” is a decent villainous group name) and Fairy Tail undertake to deliver Eclair safely on her mission, whatever that is. Cue the traditional like-against-like battles, the point where our heroes look like they’ve been soundly beaten only to get back up in the eleventh hour and pull a serious ace out of their sleeve, and the giant monster laying waste to all existence.
If that sounds like it’s a little story-telling by the numbers, that’s because it is. Even the comedy is predictable, give or take a couple of scenes where there’s almost a level of self-depreciating irony involved… but not quite. Either the creator Hiro Mashima (Rave Master) or the studio – it’s hard to tell which – seems to have ignored or missed the opportunities to really play up the satire, which might have elevated this from mediocre genre anime to sharply witted parody on Final Fantasy, and that lost opportunity is a real shame. Truly amusing moments are brief and few and far between, and yet the level of seriousness isn’t deep enough to call this a straight attempt at gritty sword and sorcery either. And that’s it. There’s not much more to say about it. If you’re able to make your own entertainment out of what might otherwise elicit groans and eyerolls, you might still enjoy it. I suggest you start with the series though, because as a showcase to hook new viewers in, Fairy Tail Phoenix Princess is only really going to prove hugely entertaining for younger kids and people with reasonably undemanding standards when it comes to their anime.