Resolved, connected, determined, tenacious, angered and above all unyielding; the mages of Ishgar stand tall against an overwhelming enemy laying their spirits and very lives on the line to secure the path to tomorrow in which they can continue adventuring in together. Moving forward one step at a time, they challenge the inevitable and express to the Alvarez Empire just how terrifying the mages of Ishgar can be.
Sacrifice is one of the underlying themes in this arc, but not just sacrifice on its own, sacrifice driven by love. In those moments of sacrifice, the characters express their deeply guarded emotions for the target of their love, laying all bare and open. Love, central to the journey within Fairy Tail, fuels the Ishgar mages in drawing out their magic capabilities and creating compelling moments that melt the heart. Unlike the Alvarez mages who operate separately and from the perspective of superiority, the Ishgar mages support each other and cooperatively find a path to defeating the enemy in front of them. Because of that collective strength and sharing of responsibility, the “immense” strength of the Alvarez mages are able to be overcome.
So far the majority of the Spriggan Twelve have been defeated and even with those defeated being either healed or revived in a spirit form, they will not serve much of a challenge in keeping the Ishgar mages back as they have already been defeated once before. They will undoubtedly help highlight the mages who have not gotten much coverage in this arc – the supporting guild mages such as Rogue and Minerva. Although I do believe that Larcade Dragneel will be matched up against Sting at one point given their light magic and the foreshadowing Sting got in making up for his indecisive attitude just after they were crushed by the Alvarez Empire army. Sting will get his moment to serve as the beacon for Sabretooth in illuminating their path into the future as one of the strongest mage guilds within Fiore.
As it turns out, while the Spriggan Twelve mages were introduced as being incredibly overwhelming, the majority of the groups true capabilities aren’t that astonishing when it becomes apparent that it isn’t the mage that makes the magic terrifying but the magic that makes the mage terrifying. Several of the Spriggan Twelve place complete reliance on their magic ability blind to any possibility of it being countered or resisted at all and this in turn sets their defeat up to be quite the spectacular and deserved one. Ajeel, God Serena, Wall, Neinhart, and Bloodman are the worst offenders of this. They all overestimate their abilities and underestimate obvious plays by their opponent. The Spriggan Twelve only believe they are so powerful because they have not factored in the true strength of Fairy Tail and are completely ignorant of the powerful mages within Fairy Tail who don’t serve as representatives of Ishgar. While Jura, Warrod, Wolfheim and Draculos are strong, they aren’t necessarily the four strongest mages within Ishgar (with God Serena defecting). Gildarts probably deserves that title for the moment given everything we have seen so far.
I’d wager Erza, Jellal, Laxus and Mirajane in her Alegria form serve as Fiore/Ishgar’s strongest mages. I’d also include Ultear in that group as I am confident she will at some point get her “lost” time back. Natsu when fired up and Gray in Devil Slayer mode could also be considered top tier mages within Fiore/Ishgar. Another potential character that has the capabilities of excelling in their magic is Minerva, she was and I believe still is the strongest mage in Sabretooth. Her Territory and Yakuma War God magic (Yagdo Rigora) are ridiculously powerful and let’s not forget that Minerva is still part demon – not all of the demonic energy was able to be cleansed from her body. Hopefully Minerva will get a chance to shine instead of being relegated to a supporting Sabretooth member.
Irene, she is obviously Erza’s mother, no question about it. That scar across her stomach almost makes it appear that Erza was given birth to via a caesarean section but the scar should have been horizontal in that case. Not sure if that scar was caused through a legitimate medical procedure or whether it was inflicted via some malice to steal Irene’s child/children from her. Possible Irene could have cut her own stomach open to save Erza. Whatever the case, the scar seems incredibly important and a feature of her appearance that Mashima-sensei wished to highlight in her first appearance.
Irene also seems to have sensed Erza when she was within the vicinity, this leads me to believe that the motherly bond with her child created that overwhelming sensory feeling within Irene. She even went so far as to scout the surrounding area via her enchantment magic to confirm her suspicion. As for why now Irene has requested Neinhart to kill Erza, this is most likely due to Erza representing a weakness within Irene and Irene perceiving that in order to retain her current identity and power, she needs to eliminate Erza to prevent herself from becoming “soft”. Her speech to Zeref where she question his determination when he showed concerned for Mavis does supports this.
One aspect that is still confusing me is how Brandish described Irene, not being the strongest “individual” yet the strongest Spriggan Twelve mage alongside August. Is it because Brandish was referencing Irene “existing” in her many enchantments or was it because Irene is not just a human but something more? The mention of angels has me intrigued.
Amusingly, the fact that she is Erza’s mother (I am approaching this theory with certainty) makes Irene being insanely strong completely understandable and after seeing Irene in action, it makes Erza’s ridiculous strength that much more believable. This is also probably why after seeing the tip of Erza’s strength, Neinhart made the connection to Irene. Rather than Erza’s scarlet hair, it was her strength/spirit that compelled Neinhart initially to recall Irene. Given the manner in how Neinhart addresses Erza as Lady Erza, it is safe to assume that Erza descends from a royal/nobel blood line. Was Irene finding herself in the Fiore Throne room meant to serve as foreshadowing? Mashima-sensei has set Irene’s character to be important especially with the story of the white and black angels which seems to be laying the foundation for a future storyline.
Zera, oh my sweet candy-coated goodness, she has returned! I didn’t expect it but I am so so excited about her “revival” albeit temporary. I loved her in Fairy Tail Zero, her farewell melted my heart and embodies exactly why Fairy Tail is such an enjoyable and moving manga. So glad we get to see Zera again and this time she is going to save Mavis!
Been loving the way Mashima-sensei has been scripting his story this arc, especially in terms of furthering character bonds and revealing new characters. I can understand why some readers can get annoyed with the supposed dead characters returning, but once you realize the type of manga Fairy Tail is you begin to appreciate just how laterally Mashima-sensei is approaching his handling of the story. None of the main Fairy Tail mages will die but I got to hand it to Mashima-sensei in how he approached each battles against the “overwhelming” Spriggan Twelve members, not only did he develop the characters ability-wise but also relationship-wise and both the Ishgar and Alvarez mages. My favourite being the Jellal, Erza and Kagura moment. Also interested in the Brandish and Dimaria relationship. Another aspect to the story that should be made obvious by now is Zeref will not die, he will not be killed, Mashima-sensei has laid enough foundation down so far to infer that he intends to redeem Zeref later in the manga. The fact that Natsu can’t live without Zeref supports that inference as well.
Overall, I am enjoying this arc tremendously and love how soothing and uplifting Fairy Tail can be. Looking forward to the next chapter. Also congratulations on 500 chapters of Fairy Tail Mashima-sensei! Hopefully we get another 500 more =D.