I decided to watch the first 24 episodes of Fairy Tail over my vacation last week, and at first, it held my interests just fine. But then, as the series continued, I quickly began to lose enthusiasm over it, as I began to realize that some of it’s inherent flaws were actually pretty big ones. But to explain, I’m going to have to examine two other shows… Rave Master, Hiro Mashima’s most famous work up until now, and One Piece, the show that inspired him to create the Fairy Tail series.I haven’t read Rave Master in a few years now… I believe I read about 19 volumes or so… But it was the kind of series that worked right from the beginning. The main character was immediately introduced, and given not only a very solid backstory, but a clear cut goal as well. He has obvious weaknesses, of both the personality and physical variety, and since we see him acquire his powers, we get to witness their evolution in his hands. Other characters join gradually, and have their own unique reasons for joining him, starting with a love interest who has a serious gambling problem as well as a mysterious past that she wants to uncover. Since Hiro Mashima spent a decent amount of time developing each character as they were introduced, it made the dynamic between them all the more interesting, and their mutual goals intertwined just enough to give each of them the right amount of use.
One Piece also uses the formula of “Hero on an epic quest gets friends to join him along the way,” but the way they did it is vastly different. Luffy doesn’t have much of a backstory, but he’s got a lot of charisma, and it ties in directly to his very ambitious goal of becoming king of the pirates. While he initially draws people into his crew because he likes them or has use for them, there’s one thing they all have in common… They’re very solitary characters. Even the ones who have people around them beforehand aren’t getting much in the way of emotional support from them, so in a way, all of Luffy’s companions had been previously forced to learn how to rely only on themselves in one way or another. Being touched by Luffy’s highly aggressive kindness, and experiencing the Going Merry environment… A place where personal bonds can often be the only thing that matters… Always makes them develop into better, stronger people.
That’s not to say Luffy’s a Mary-Sue… He’s a very flawed character, with clear cut weaknesses and personality quirks that often force his friends to struggle to keep him under control. And he often seems to not care about the survival of his enemies, a rare trait indeed. But he’s just loyal and charismatic enough to make his journey appealing not only to his crew, but to the viewer as well.
Fairy Tail, on the other hand… Well, Natsu’s the central character, and he makes a very compelling case for Mary-Sue status. His only real weakness is motion sickness, which is mostly used for comedy, and other than that, his personality is quite bland. He’s a moral boy scout, He’s highly idealistic, and overpowered right from the get-go. He doesn’t get a backstory until episode twenty… In fact, none of the characters get a backstory until the cursed Island arc!
In my opinion, that arc should have occurred right after Lucy joined the guild, as it serves as a much better introduction to the four main characters than the two filler mini-arcs that come before it. It gives Gray his backstory… It feeds us Natsu’s powers and ideals in small doses, while showing him struggling… It builds up Erza’s frightening reputation… Seeing the four of these characters go through some serious shit together early on would have made their initial team-up all the more enjoyable. Some details would have to have been changed, of course, but it would have been much better in terms of execution.
I say four heroes because, yes, I’ve forgotten about Happy. And can you blame me?
I really wish they had reassigned the main character status to Lucy and Erza… Lucy makes a decent cypher, and Erza would make a seriously awesome main character. I mean hell, if you’re going to give somebody a magical girl transformation sequence, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have her play a supporting role. But how to tie them together? Well, maybe they could have been long lost cousins who just learned about each other, or something. Maybe Erza, working undercover, could have saved Lucy from the rape ship, and then brought her into the guild. I know people will cry foul on that, and I did just pull it out of my ass, but I can’t stand the idea that the entire plot rests on the shoulders of a character as bland and derivative as Natsu.
And the group’s dynamic? Their reason for being together? So they can be the strongest team in the guild. Yeah, that brings me around to my biggest problem with this show: For the first nine episodes or so, the dynamic between the characters isn’t even remotely interesting. You could swap any one of them out for a different character, and the only difference it would make is that the fights might take a little longer. I didn’t see them form a compelling bond until the cursed island arc, and I didn’t learn about their shared past until even further after, making the first nine episodes completely boring!
And then, towards the end of my collection 1 set, they had to turn me off completely with the bullshit circumstances of Lucy’s escape from her captors… You know what I’m talking about. Falling out of the tower because the super hearing she never mentioned having allowed her to hear and recognize Natsu’s voice, somehow knowing he’d catch her, just so he could slam into her in midair and crash into a stone wall without killing either of them. One Piece jumped the shark over and over again without doing anything that stupid.
I don’t think this is necessarily a bad show, and I did get some entertainment out of watching it… Unlike certain other shows that I couldn’t get into, I can completely understand why this one became popular, and why so many people like it. But to me, it just feels kind of hollow, like Mashima tried to copy One Piece without taking the time to understand why it works so well.
Enough of my rambling… Your thoughts on Fairy Tail? What did you like or dislike about it?