Has he finally awakened? Has E.N.D. finally woken within Natsu? Maybe not fully, but based on the release of dark magic originating from the ‘tumor’ within Natsu, it does seem like Natsu is on his way towards becoming E.N.D. Fortunately, Natsu has come across Gray, the one mage who may be capable of putting a freeze on E.N.D.’s awakening or shattering it completely.
Had a feeling this was going to happen, especially with Lucy and Natsu in such a bind at the end of the previous chapter being at the mercy of Dimaria’s whims. Dimaria was never going to kill them, at most embarrass and lightly wound them, but nothing beyond that. Her antagonistic moment did allow for E.N.D.’s awakening to reveal itself in a genuinely natural manner not to mention serve the purpose of stopping Dimaria before she grossly injures Lucy. Also thanks to E.N.D.’s awakening, Dimaria is now overcome with fear opposed to vengeance, which may make it easier for her to process things rationally, well relatively.
The Brandish and Dimaria relationship is still alive, hopefully with Dimaria being humbled and having felt the ‘lose of Brandish’ sink in, she now uses this chance to be more honest with herself and her feelings. Dimaria may feel the Randi she knew has been ‘stolen’, ‘broken’ or killed but I genuinely do hope that once Dimaria talks with Brandish she comes to understand the reasons Brandish had for following the path she chose. There are sparks of humanity within Dimaria behind her twistedness and I feel it would be a nice development to see her embrace her softer side.
Lucy was petty cool this chapter, not backing down in fear against Dimaria’s threats and not giving Dimaria the satisfaction of relishing in her suffering. Lucy didn’t even flinch when Dimaria approached to stab her eyes, instead she continued to stare Dimaria down and expressed her lack her of fear in Dimaria. Lucy has really grown and her actions in this chapter substantiated that completely. What a badass.
Natsu and Gray will inevitable battle. This moment has been foreshadowed for quite some time and Mashima-sensei has been consistently building up to Gray eventually having to fight Natsu/E.N.D. Gray will have to fight Natsu. Although rather than for the purpose of killing E.N.D., Gray will fight Natsu to save him. Overriding even this destined battle is the friendship Natsu and Gray share. Natsu saved Gray in the past and now seems like the moment Gray will be able to return the favour. If Natsu is lost within the depths of the dark magic consuming him, Gray appealing to Natsu’s human side may help Natsu find the strength needed to break free from the influence of E.N.D.
There are still several Spriggan 12 members left to defeat and hopefully we get some much needed coverage of the other Ishgar guilds battling the Alvarez Empire. Would love to see the Sabretooth mages in action. Looking forward to the next chapter.