Atlas Flame was one of the more impressive dragon designs, and one of only a few that properly captured the weight of what a dragon in Fairy Tail should be like. So, it is nice to see that the weight of his character is still maintained even in the damaged form shown here. His appearance could easily have been played for comedy, even to a small extent, but the series allows him to go out with more dignity than that. It is mostly because his appearance is used for the sake of exposition, but that can be forgiven so long as it doesn’t negatively affect how the character comes across.
On the other hand, the aspect of this chapter that fails to capture the proper weight is the magic introduced. It was confusing enough when God Slayer magic was first introduced at Tenrou Island. Not only did it rob some of the appeal of Dragon Slayer magic, but it was never explicitly clear what these Gods were that needed slaying. Bringing in Demon Slayer magic now at least avoids the latter problem, but it makes the former issue much worse by turning what was once a unique breed of magic into simply a subset of something bigger. The number of Dragon Slayers introduced so far has at least been small enough to believe they’re a special kind of mage. Now it’s become so easily categorized that Natsu’s style of magic feels less unique than Gray or Erza’s.
The decision to make Flare into a more sympathetic character was always going to be a controversial one, but Minerva’s behaviour in this chapter seems to demonstrate an unfortunate pattern. Her retreat from the village is certainly better to see than having her lose again, but it comes across as less of a tactical retreat and more of an act of desperation. Erza’s comment about preventing Minerva from getting corrupted feels strange when said to someone who regularly manipulates others and used Millianna as a hostage in front of her. While it still sounds far off, the series is most likely setting up some kind of redemption storyline for Minerva. Just like Flare, and Ultear before her, and so on, this looks to be yet another of Mashima’s complete refusals to treat men and women the same.
The last few pages introduce the Ice Demon Slayer, and make mention of a force called the Nine Ghost Gate. It currently sounds like as typical a setup for an arc as is conceivable, with the primary opponents and how they differ from the main characters already established. The only thing left is what, exactly, will prompt this group to get into a fight with Fairy Tail. The obstacles of the previous few chapters have clearly been handled, with only a few questions left for the characters. Most likely, the next chapter or two will just be used to introduce whatever location will serve as the battlefield for the characters.
Final Flash: Not a bad chapter, though the arc it sets up is sounding more and more mediocre over time.