Natsu and Gray fight a battle to the death.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Gray has discovered the tragic truth that Natsu is the “E.N.D.” that he’s been searching for all this time, and decides that he can’t let Natsu press onward to kill Zeref. Natsu, who has gone into a rage and is something of a mindless killing machine, is more than happy to oblige Gray in his desire for violence. The two starts going at it in a brutal fashion, holding nothing back.
Meanwhile, Lucy recoups after everything that went down with Brandish, and presses forward in rejoining her guildmates in the battle. On the battlefield, the fighting presses on, but things come to a standstill when a giant version of Mavis stands tall over the battlefield. Mavis, projecting herself, uses her magic to inspire the troops of Fairy Tail to press onward. However, once Scarlet sees this, she releases a magical blast that turns the forces of Alvarez into mindless, hulking monsters.
The newly empowered Alvarez forces are too much for Fairy Tail to handle. The battle turns and things look desperate until Makarov decides to take matters into his own hands. He tells Mavis farewell as he gathers an immense power within him that he expands outward into a devastating blast of light. When the light clears, Makarov is frozen in stone. Makarov is gone and his children, the mages of Fairy Tail, weep for him.
Meanwhile, Natsu and Gray’s battle reaches a fever pitch, but before the two can truly clash, Erza steps in to stop them both.
I love a good arc that deals with fighting between friends. In the world of shounen, friendship is everything, and having two main characters treat each other like villains strikes at the core themes that a show will have often for the entirety of it’s run. Whether it’s Vegeta trying to finally prove himself over Goku or Usopp fighting Luffy to the death for the right to save his ship, battles between friends echo one of the darkest truths of humanity; friendship doesn’t always last forever. Natsu and Gray are a fine fit for this kind of battle, which would make one think that this episode would elevate this lackluster final season to a place with more drama and edge. Sadly, this is still the same kind of bloodless, contrived storytelling that we’ve been forced to endure this season dozens of episodes over. Natsu and Gray’s fight doesn’t go anywhere interesting, which means the whole episode implodes in on itself.
The core of the issue lies in this “E.N.D” business. It’s not a terrible twist that Natsu is ultimately Zeref’s demonic creation, but that does not a good conflict make between Gray and Natsu. The two have been friends/rivals since the beginning of the show, so any conflict between them can’t just be some arbitrary designation about who Natsu really is. It has to come organically from a conflict between the characters, typically within themes that have accompanied the two since the beginning of the show. This is the place where repressed emotions and dark desires reveal themselves when it becomes clear that things are getting real. I can respect that Gray wants to stop Natsu because he’s implied to be responsible for the death of Gray’s family, but I would expect a little more complexity to this other than Gray just deciding that it’s time to kill his longtime friend and comrade.
As for the rest of the episode, you can’t expect much from the dialogue that accompanies Lucy and her touchy-feely moments with Brandish. That plotline is dead in the water and has been all season. Fairy Tail can be good at bonding between unlikely characters, but everything has been far too rushed with Brandish to leave any kind of impact on the audience. Not to mention, she’s still this stillborn character that doesn’t earn my empathy or interest. As for Makarov and his sacrifice, I’ve seen so many characters “die” in this show only to be saved by some plot contrivance, I’m not at all convinced that this death is actually going to stick.
If you’re still along for the ride on this show, then chances are my criticisms aren’t hitting home, so maybe you’ll find this entertaining enough to sit through. Still, maybe take the time to consider; is this really as good as an anime should be?