When people hear the name Hiro Mashima today, they instantly think of his most recent work, Fairy Tail, which is steadily growing in popularity since its debut in 2006. However, its clearly easy to see where Fairy Tail's roots come from when one decides to undertake his previous, massive shounen story, Groove Adventure Rave. The anime adaptation of Groove Adventure Rave, named Rave Master, suffered considerably because of character designs that were not consistent with the manga counterpart, and because the anime adaptation covered only the first 90 chapters or so, leaving many unanswered questions and open plot holes. Groove Adventure Rave is a story that is unbelievably shounen, through and through. However, despite obvious plot twists and predictable characters, it still does not take away on what turns out to be a highly enjoyable read about a teenager's coming of age journey to save the world.
Haru Glory, Rave's shounen hero, is a young teenager living away from civilization with his sister on Garage Island. One day, an old man happens to pass through the Island and Haru eventually learns the identity of this old man is none other than the Rave Master, a hero that is destined to save the world from the atrocious organization, Demon Card, who plan on ruling the world. The old man, in poor health, eventually passes on his title and sword to Haru, entrusting him to find the Rave Stones to stop Demon Card. And thus Haru, becomes the 2nd Rave Master. Early on in his journey, Haru meets a young girl, Elie, who has amnesia and is seeking the truth about her past. This fateful meeting will eventually trigger events that become the foundation that eventually shakes the world.
From this synopsis, any reader familiar with shounen stories can get a sense of what kind of adventures, pitfalls, powers, themes, etc., Haru and Elie will encounter in their journey, and without fail, Mashima utilizes all of them. The sudden power ups, the talk about dreams overpowering thirst for power, friendship overcoming critical death status, so on and so forth. Groove Adventure Rave has all these shounen plot elements and in today's standards, the story starts to get pretty predictable as to what will occur. Fortunately, there are a few plot twists that occur deep in the story which some readers will be surprised to learn about, and it are those saving graces which help keep the reader entertained.
Readers familiar with and fans of the art in Fairy Tail will easily come to love the art Mashima utilizes in Rave because its the same exact style. While not as refined in the early chapters, Mashima designs his character rather attractively, the men with defined muscles and distinct faces; the women with heavenly chests and attractively looking figures. The battles are rather easy to follow, however, there are some instances where things tend to get a bit cluttered. The only critique I do have with his art is that Mashima does sacrifice detail in the background. This is especially apparent during battles, where the background will either be plain white or black. But again, this isn't too bad, as it does make the battles easier to follow.
While the characters look attractive, their personalities are rather predictable. Meaning, Haru is your typical shounen male lead; Elie is your typical female co-lead, and the same with all of the other characters Mashima introduces. They are nothing you haven't seen before, both good and evil. On the other hand, Mashima is able to adequately tell the history's of each of his characters without taking up too many pages or chapters, which is a nice change of pace from other stories where character past's are either too long or too short. Though character personalities really don't undergo a drastic overhaul from start to finish, all of the main heroes do evolve in a sense where you'll be able to pinpoint the difference from when a character was first introduced and where that character is during the last chapters.
Despite Groove Adventure Rave being the poster child for all things shounen, there is something about the story and the way Mashima goes about storytelling that makes it all seem enjoyable. You actually start caring for what happens to Haru and Elie, and watch in awe as their relationship develops from acquaintances to love throughout the plot. Mashima introduces a plethora of different characters that help shape all of the different arcs, and despite the length of the story, with the exception of a few gag chapters inserted in between, you never get the sense that Mashima doesn't know where he's going with the story. Although the story does go from point A to point B without much deviation, it's still an enjoyable read.
One of the big knocks I do have is the fact that almost every evil character, after being defeated, will undergo an instantaneous change from evil to good, which gets to be really old, really quick.
After reading Groove Adventure Rave, its easy to see where many of the ideas, character and guild names arise in Fairy Tail. All in all, if you're looking for a lengthy shounen, "coming of age" journey of a young man, with a nice side of romance, Groove Adventure Rave is something you'll definitely want to check out.