Friday, 19 May 2017

Fairy Tail Dragon Cry Thoughts

This is more of general thoughts than a review proper so excuse me if the structure is a tad messy. So i went to see Fairy Tail Dragon Cry at a local cinema on the 17th and while i did have a good time overall (The humour was on point), there are definite issues with this movie and not just on a story level. Before we get into it here's the trailer so you can see the quality of film we are dealing with.

So to start things off lets talk about the story a little bit. For the most part it's got a stronger story than the last movie but it seems their ambitions and the time they had to realise them ended up not coalescing. There's the bones of a good story here. I don't wanna spoil anything too much but the latter half kinda just falls apart. The way it's structured means that all you get is a bunch of exposition scenes one after another and short and not very interesting action scenes. The villain is simple enough to understand but the other new characters are either boring or not well realised. The strength of the characters we know is what keeps the entire thing afloat even when Natsu spouts the obligatory friendship speech to get everyone fired up. Being this deep into the show, while i rolled my eyes, i was into it. What i wasn't into was the reoccurring threat of sexual assault Lucy (and a few other characters) is under in the movie, It's happened multiple times throughout the series and it's always been annoying but it felt particularly gross in this instance. They go out of their way to say it's not anything sexual, but with the villain constantly drooling at her while holding his knife and the ridiculous shots zooming in on her chest and butt it feels like the intent got lost somewhere along the way. What felt strange here also was that if you don't stay to watch the post credits scene some plot elements might fly right past you. The post credits is so much easier to understand certain characters backstory than the explanations they attempted in the movie proper that i just don't know why the scene wasn't just either in the movie itself or if not just structured the story differently so as to not need an unearned 3rd act reveal. Anyway, it's a Fairy Tail story for better or for worse.

  Onto the Animation side of things, oh boy. When they first revealed Yuuko Yamada's character designs for the movie i was really disappointed. When compared to the first movies simple animation friendly designs they are definitely a step down. The main issue i have is the style of highlights in the hair and the general rigidity of the designs. They would work better if they didn't have to move, whereas the designs in the first movie are fairly easy to get to grips with. Simple shading and highlights and the poses the designs are drawn in give a bit of character too. Then again they did have a generally more experienced staff on the first movie so that's to be expected but for the 2nd go around one would expect the designs to at least be better than the previous ones.

  There were some decent shots in the trailer though so i gave them the benefit of the doubt. The new characters definitely look better in the movie than the designs do in isolation but i just don't think they had enough time to make this production the best it could be. When there is entire sequences missing, one that is explained via awkward dialogue and abrupt cuts from one scene to another you can definitely tell. The Key Animators list is very long and on top of a 2nd Key Animator list that included multiple companies alongside multiple rows of animators and on top of even that they had about a dozen animation directors on top of chief animation director Yuuko Yamada. They had to get a lot of people on board just to get it finished even in this state. Toshiharu Sugie's cuts are something you can tell this by at times. In productions where he doesn't have much time to do his cuts you can tell by the detail of his effects work and the detail was minimal here. His distinct timing was intact and his scene is probably the most polished in terms of timing, quality and consistency.

The 2 cuts featuring Erza are part of Toshiharu Sugie's sequence in the movie.

I was waiting to see if i could spot Yuya Takahashi's style but on top of the filters for some of the effects (the fire especially) and the relative lack of detail in some fight scenes i wasn't able to tell especially since his Naotoshi Shida inspired effects animations wasn't very noticeable here. Don't get me wrong though, there are good scenes here and there ...

... but for every one of those you have a scene with stiff animation, lots of close ups, a particularly perplexing scene where there's a background that's in perspective and character art that is not at all in the same perspective as that background. It really is a shame because you can see the cool ideas here, one fight involved multiple combatants scaling a tower trying to get to the top and constantly fighting each other out of the way and some parts of it look quite good but it just didn't look as good as it could have if they'd been given more time (and possibly more staff that are able to work on a schedule as evidently tight as this one seems to have been) to work on it. It really overall looked more like an episode of a mid tier TV anime than a movie. It's probably more in line with the first Fairy Tail anime more than the 2nd which coasted because the character designs there were more polished so you didn't mind the stiffness when Yuya Takahashi and Kenichi Takase weren't bringing the heat with their work.

  To conclude i still managed to have a decent time despite the animation not being the best overall. I'd recommend you still see it if you're this far into the series (the post credits scene will get you so hyped!!) and you'll probably have a good time like i did. I do hope they fix some of this stuff for the Home Video release. Some things would only take a little more work (some character art mostly) while others would require quite extensive retakes and maybe even add the scenes that they had to cut out for the theatrical release just to make some transitions between scenes smoother. My first post of 2017 and it's a bit on the negative side but my next one will be a tad more positive. Please look forward to it. Thanks for reading.

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