The entire purpose of stories is to express parts of the human condition. They’re meant to make us feel things: to make us angry that the villain is succeeding, or to make us happy when the protagonist manages to win instead. But the true measure of a story is if it can move you to tears. If it can make you become so attached to the characters and the story it’s telling with them that you become concerned, fearful, even broken-hearted over their fates.
Though the anime series Fairy Tail is usually about a group of rowdy mages punching things in the face, it’s also about a found family and those constantly aiming to pull them apart. That’s a relatable enough theme for anyone to get on board, and the series (and its creator Hiro Mashima) has no problem taking advantage of that to leave us in tears when the situation calls for it.
10 MAVIS LEARNING ZERA WAS AN ILLUSION
Mavis was never able to catch a break. As a child she was the servant of one guild, until they were attacked by a rival one. She narrowly managed to save the guild master’s daughter, Zera, but no one else. Years later, Mavis and Zera found their way off their home Tenrou Island, and traveled to the mainlands. Forming a guild with Yuri Dreyar, Precht, and Warrod, the two went on several adventures together. But by the end, Yuri explained to her the truth: Zera was an illusion created by Mavis’ magic. Learning this, Mavis was no longer able to keep Zera’s illusion going, and the young girl faded after entrusting Mavis to Yuri.
9 HAPPY SAVING NATSU
Happy isn’t really known much for gravitas. He’s there to be cute, make jokes, and talk about how much he loves fish. But during Natsu’s first battle with Zeref during the last arc of the series, even Happy is forced to get serious. After learning that should Natsu defeat Zeref, he would be erased from existence, he pulls Natsu away from the battle. Though Natsu is furious, Happy flies them both away, tearfully proclaiming he doesn’t want Natsu to die. Realizing that Zeref has to be stopped, Happy later promises to find a way to save his best friend from dying.
8 LEARNING CAIT SHELTER WASN'T A REAL GUILD
During the Oracion Seis arc, Fairy Tail was teamed up with Blue Pegasus, Lamia Scale, and an unheard of guild known as Cait Shelter to bring down the Dark Guild Oracion Seis. Cait would send only one mage: Wendy Marvell, another young Dragon Slayer. Though inexperienced, Wendy’s kindness and sweet behavior makes her an instant fan favorite.
This makes it much worse when we learn Wendy’s guild—her entire life up to this point—has been a lie. The Cait Shelter guild was an illusion, made up just for her. With Oracion Seis defeated, the guild no longer has a reason to exist, and fades into nothing. Fortunately Wendy still has Carla and her new friends in Fairy Tail, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t losing everything else.
7 LUCY LEARNING HER FATHER DIED
The relationship Lucy had with her father was never an especially strong one. Lucy left him to seek her own way of life, and found her way into Fairy Tail. Her father eventually tried having her brought back by force, further straining their relationship. When Lucy last sees Jude, he’s trying to change his ways, but he’s somewhat of a nuisance, asking her for an exorbitant amount of money. But the events of Tenrou Island mean she goes without seeing him for seven years, and when she returns..he’s already gone. Before they could ever truly mend their relationship, she loses the chance. To make matters worse, she discovers while she was gone her father had continued to send her letters and birthday gifts, hoping to one day hear from her again.
6 FUTURE LUCY BEING KILLED
The Grand Magic Games is meant to be more of a fun arc after what happened on Tenrou Island nearly got everyone killed. But things turn serious when a version of Lucy from the future travels back in time to try and save their world. In her time, the guild has been destroyed and the country ravaged by dragons. But Lucy isn’t the only one to come back in time, and the Future version of Rogue winds up attacking Lucy’s past self, claiming it’s how the future will be saved. Future Lucy takes the attack meant for her past version, and winds up dying in the arms of younger Lucy, entrusting both their futures to her.
5 MAVIS REALIZING SHE'D BEEN CURSED
After using an incomplete version of the spell which would become Fairy Law, Mavis had the ability to age taken from her. Though Mavis was able to deal with this, she would soon learn she was also cursed the same way Zeref was, where everyone around her she cared about would immediately die. Though Mavis refused to believe Zeref, she saw the truth for herself when Yuri’s wife passed away after having their son, Makarov. Mavis managed to flee the guild before anyone else could die, but the damage was done. When Zeref finds her again, she’s alone amidst a completely dead forest, unable to leave for fear of killing anything that gets close.
4 AUGUST'S BACKSTORY
“Why doesn’t the Emperor love his son?” Its this question that August, the strongest of the Spriggan 12, poses to Gildarts, strongest of Fairy Tail. During the battle between these two, we begin to see the backstory of a child we believe is Larcade. The undetected child of Mavis and Zeref, who Precht/Hades delivered and just happened to find his way back to Zeref’s hands.
As Zeref kills Larcade easily, he proclaims he’s never had any children, pointing out Larcade was another creation from the Books of Zeref. That’s when we realize that the story was never about Larcade, but rather August, who realized he was Zeref’s son and could never bring himself to explain. So the answer to August’s question is simple, and one he came to long ago all on his own: “Because he never knew he had one.”
3 MAKAROV'S DEATH
During Fairy Tail’s battle against the Alvarez Empire’s forces, Irene makes things much harder by casting berserk on all the soldiers. Powered up stronger than ever, Makarov is left with no choice other than to cast Fairy Law. But the power of the spell combined with his exhaustion meant it was likely he wouldn’t survive. Everyone else is powerless to watch as the oldest member of Fairy Tail erases the majority of the Alvarez forces at the cost of his own life.
2 ERZA STOPPING NATSU AND GRAY FROM FIGHTING
Natsu and Gray’s quarreling relationship is one of the constants of Fairy Tail. But when Gray is driven partially insane by his belief that Juvia was dead combined with learning Natsu was E.N.D., he meets a Natsu whose powers have driven him into a berserker fury. They’re only stopped by Erza, who just witnessed their adoptive father die on the battlefield. Tearfully, she reminds them that even if friends must fight, they must also respect one another. Even as her world’s been torn away with Makarov’s death, she’s still manages to be the heart and soul of the guild, hugging her two closest friends and reminding them of how much she loves them.
1 MAKAROV KICKING LAXUS OUT OF FAIRY TAIL
Frustrated by his guildmates, Laxus and his Lightning God Tribe challenge the members of Fairy Tail to a battle for the right to the name. In the end, Laxus is defeated...but this is one brawl between friends that has consequences. Unable to accept his son risking the lives of his guildmates, Makarov tearfully ejects his son from the guild. But bonds made through friendship and family aren’t easily broken. Before leaving the city, Laxus watches Fairy Tail’s Fantasia celebration, noticing the entire guild sending up a signal he created for Makarov as a child. A single hand sign that symbolized that no matter how far apart they were, he would always be watching over his grandson.