This review is going to cover both Fairy Tail and Fairy Tail (2014)
Tits, nakama speeches, big tits, asspull power-ups, and of course…even bigger tits. These are all phrases that would come to mind if one were asked to describe Fairy Tail. What is inarguably one of the most ridiculed shounen anime/manga series to ever be produced, simply bringing up Fairy Tail in conversation can send chills down the spine of every living creature within the vicinity. So, how do I feel about it?
You’ve probably already looked at my assigned score and concluded that I hate this series as much as the next guy but in all honesty Fairy Tail holds a pretty special place in my heart. It is one of the first anime I was introduced to and helped me discover the beautiful world of trash that is the anime/manga community. It consistently brought me laughter, tears, and levels of hype that typically accompany shounen battle series. Unfortunately, my emotional attachment to the franchise does not save it from my criticism. At its best Fairy Tail has achieved true greatness and at its worst brings viewers to scream, “WHY OH GOD WHY KILL IT NOW KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!!”
The execution of storytelling in Fairy Tail is shockingly lazy. We follow the adventures of four wizards (and a talking cat for some reason) as they fight Saturday morning cartoon villains who are evil for the sake of being evil. With every arc ending in an almost identical fashion, after some time the fatigue of this series starts to set in for a lot of viewers and continuing to watch can become a rather daunting task.
The formulaic arc structure of Fairy Tail is as follows: bad guys appear, bad guys beat the shit out of good guys, good guys get mad because their friends get hurt, good guys get motivated, good guys give speech about friendship and ass-pull some fuckery, good guys beat the shit out of bad guys, and bad guys either become good guys or just vanish. There are some cool concepts/set-ups for arcs such as The Tower of Heaven and Edolas but ultimately get relegated to rather dull and hackneyed conclusions that the story structure insists on following.
Another huge issue with Fairy Tail is how it handles death: the issue being that nobody ever fucking dies. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that the death of important characters isn’t necessary to create a compelling story but the amount of death fake-outs that occur during the series is supremely grating. EITHER COMMIT OR DON’T SET IT UP AT ALL BECAUSE THE AUDIENCE CAN SEE RIGHT THROUGH YOUR BULLSHIT HIRO MASHIMA.
Anyways…the last main problem I have is with how fan service is incorporated into the story. Now look, I’m a red-blooded male who enjoys looking at anime tiddies just like anyone else but the way Hiro Mashima handles fan service is plain obnoxious. In this regard, the fan service delivers the opposite of its intended effect and should honestly be referred to as fan displeasure. Let’s take a look at a typical example of how Mashima utilizes “fan service.”
In the Grand Magic Games arc, during intense combat between the wizards and dragons there is a dragon who has the ability to strip people’s clothes off because plot. Of course, the dragon uses this ability on Lucy stripping her naked in the MIDDLE OF A FUCKING WAR. I was already immensely irritated with how Mashima treated Lucy during this arc and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Instead of this pointless godawful scene for “fan service”, didn’t Mashima consider that after getting humiliatingly cheated out a win by Raven Tail and brutally beaten to near death by Minerva fans would liked to have seen Lucy finally have a moment of triumph? Nah screw that, he needs to appeal to his horny pre-teen demographic because compelling action and logical writing decisions are overrated.
Time and time again, Mashima has shown that he is an extremely lazy writer who gets by with pandering to his fanbase rather than attempting to craft a sensical story.
Characters? Oh yeah, that thing that’s kind of important when writing stuff. Were you hoping that the characters in Fairy Tail would make up for the lacking story? Ha! You sweet summer child! A large portion of the characters in Fairy Tail straight up SUCK. Let’s start with an analysis of the four main templates-uh…I mean characters.
Natsu Dragneel, the most generic shounen protagonist to ever be conceived, ranks dead last of not only the four main characters but of the entire series. The issue with Natsu is that he receives damn near ZERO character development. His personality, worldview, and relationships wth others remains EXACTLY the same for the entire show.
When we’re introduced to his character it is revealed that his goal is to find his long-lost father Igneel the dragon. The only problem being that he never fucking looks for him except on occasions when he may hear rumors of a dragon spotting. So, your characters only unique goal is something that he rarely pursues? Great job Hiro!!!! Such good writing!!!!
In conclusion, Natsu is nothing more than your stereotypical spiky-haired and loud mouthed protagonist that is obsessed with getting stronger. I literally have nothing else to say about him. The fact that he has almost 20,000 favorites on this site is BAFFLING....*looks at most popular characters*....yeah, never mind it really isn't.
Gray Fullbuster, one of the most boring and lifeless rag dolls I’ve witnessed in any medium, comes in at third place of the main four. Gray acts as the rival character to Natsu and his entire personality can be summed up as “cool guy who strips.”
He gets decently fleshed out on Galuna Island where we find out about his past and relationship to Lyon, the villain of the arc, regarding their master Ul. His character development then comes to a screeching halt until EIGHT ARCS LATER where he reunites with his father. These moments are decent enough but the problem is that two instances of solid character development over the course of 250ish episodes/400ish chapters is simply unacceptable for one of your main characters.
Erza Scarlet, once clearly the best character of the series only to descend into a tumultuous spiral of oblivion, places second of the main four. For a good half of the series Erza’s character is beautifully fleshed out with examples including but not limited to her ever-changing relationship with Jellal, her ideological/physical battle with her Edolas counter-part (best fight in the series no contest), and her developments with characters like Kagura.
Unfortunately, Lazy Mashima apparently decided that he had done enough work on Erza and completely stopped developing her. Now, this really shouldn’t be a major issue considering that characters don’t need to constantly develop in order to be considered “good.” As long as you can cite various instances as to how a particular character has evolved in either personality, worldview, or relationships throughout a series their development is solid.
The problem is that Mashima concluded that turning Erza into a deity would be a viable substitution for character growth. Since Fairy Tail is a battle series it is of utmost importance that you feel tension for the characters when they engage in combat. If you lose that feeling of tension, the fight becomes boring and ultimately the character does as well. This is what happened to Erza. Due to the outcome of her fights becoming so obvious I started to subconsciously lose interest in her. Since this was also coupled with a lack of development, her quality as a character took a real nosedive.
Lucy Heartfilia, a true breath of fresh air, is in fact the best character of the main four. Unfortunately, as she is surrounded by characters with the heaviest plot armor in shounen history many viewers think of her as an “annoying” and “useless” bad character labeling her the “Sakura of Fairy Tail.” This is an absolutely asinine sentiment.
*minor spoilers for Naruto* First of all, Sakura is a legitimately bad character because her motivations are solely dependent on Sasuke. She has no ambitions outside of a mutated childhood crush and her advancement as a shinobi is mere commonplace. Considering that she never moves on from Sasuke her development as a character is heavily stunted and seemingly the only growth she showcases throughout the entire series is her increasing fondness and appreciation of Naruto as a comrade. Furthermore, she is given minimal action throughout the series and has never singlehandedly won a fight. Outside of her medical skills and taijutsu, she is pretty freaking useless. *end of minor Naruto spoilers*
In contrast, Lucy is a constantly developing character defined by several motivations and accomplishes important things on a regular basis. When we are first introduced to Lucy, she is an aspiring wizard who is seeking to join a guild with Fairy Tail particularly in mind. As the series progresses we witness her maturation as both a person and a wizard as well as her evolving relationships with her father, her guildmates, her celestial spirits, and even some of her enemies.
In terms of her usefulness some examples include her defeat of Angel in the Oracion Seis arc, her defeat of Byro in the Edolas arc, her closing of the eclipse gate in the GMG arc, and her being forced to sacrifice Aquarius who is not only one of her most powerful celestial spirits but is also someone she considers a life-long friend in order to save everyone during the Tartaros arc.
This brings me to another point concerning why I hold Lucy’s character in such high regard: she never wins fights easily. Whereas the other characters usually get some sort of bullshit power-up and one-shot their opponents if Lucy can’t win a fight she will either lose or be forced to go through something drastic in order to win. This allows the viewer to feel more tension during her battles which in turn creates more care for the character.
Lucy does indeed receive the most consistent development throughout the series which I believe is mirrored by her change of attire each arc; I personally find this to be a cleverly subtle method for showcasing her growth as a character. Although the various clothing that Lucy wears could be just another means of providing fan service I’m willing to give Hiro Mashima the benefit of the doubt even though he really doesn’t fucking deserve it.
The rest of the Fairy Tail guild is filled to the brim with forgettable characters with the exception of the Strauss siblings. It was fascinating to see how Elfman and Mirajane were psychologically affected by the tragedy that occurred when Elfman accidentally killed Lisanna. But of course, the impact of Lisanna’s death on the characters had to be ruined with the clichéd reveal of “hurr durr she was alive the whole time isn’t that great! hurr durr” because Hiro Mashima can’t commit to anything except for panty shots.
Now that we’ve discussed the heroes of Fairy Tail it’s time to discuss the villains. It’s said that villains can make or break a story and in Fairy Tail’s case they certainly follow the latter. The villains in Fairy Tail are so god-awful and generic I half-expected them to proclaim, “and I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” every time our young wizards foiled their plans. Of course, whilst the majority of the villains are atrocious there are still a few outliers that breathe life into the series.
Jellal, the antagonist of the Tower of Heaven arc, is the first good villain of Fairy Tail. His character is quite compelling as the details of his past are unravelled, his relationship with Erza becomes fleshed out as the series progresses, and his evolution into a vigilante is very well executed. He hits all the marks in development regarding personality, worldview, and relationships with other characters.
Ultear, the absolute best character in the entirety of Fairy Tail, is a reoccurring villain that gets fleshed out during the Tenrou Island arc. Her character achieves great status as we learn the source of the hatred for her mother Ul and the main objective in her nefarious activities. She is a villain whose motivations make perfect sense and are greatly easy to sympathize with. In turn, her transition to a “good guy” character feels very natural and her sacrifice during the GMG arc is truly a highlight of the series.
Meredy is a decent villain mainly because of her relationship with Ultear. The admiration she holds for Ultear is fascinating and makes for an emotionally compelling fight that she has with Juvia. It is also very touching when she forgives Ultear for her crimes and reaffirms that she still views her as a mother figure.
Minerva is another decent villain whose upbringing helps to explain how she ended up as the type of person she became. Her turn to the “good side” feels a bit rushed but ultimately makes sense.
Kagura isn’t necessarily a villain but acts a decent antagonist. Her resolve to kill Jellal is intriguing and perfectly understandable. The climax of her battle with Erza is enthralling and the phenomenal execution of their conversation which reveals their past involvement with each other results in an emotionally involving scene.
Now, I’ve been positive for far too long; let’s take a look at just one of the horrid villains Hiro Mashima has created from the enigma that is the inner machinations of his mind. (SpongeBob reference ftw)
Flare, one of the wizards from the Raven Tail guild, will be the subject of my scrutiny. Flare is introduced as a pure sadist and should’ve stayed that way. She is paired up with Lucy to fight during the GMG arc and after noticing that her tactics are ineffective she blackmails Lucy with Asuka’s life. She takes this opportunity to humiliate and torture Lucy in front of the crowd and doesn’t even allow Lucy to forfeit the match. From this interaction, the viewer can deduce that Flare is just a straight-up psychopath which might be generic and uninteresting but is still far better than the direction that her character actually went in.
Hiro Mashima tried to make Flare a sympathetic character during the Sun Village arc but failed MISERABLY. He gave her a half-assed backstory about how she was just an innocent young girl who was simply misinformed about Fairy Tail by the Raven Tail guild. The problem is that regardless of this she is still EVIL AS SHIT during the GMG arc and her “backstory” still offers ZERO insight as to how she became that way. No normal person could commit the acts that Flare did without being completely devoid of empathy yet Mashima believes people can slip in and out of psychopathic tendencies with ease. If it wasn't for her being so damn hot and the sexual tension she has with Lucy I would've despised her.
In conclusion, Mashima’s flawed perception of the human psyche results in him writing a multitude of characters whose actions are often nonsensical.
Ultimate Ranking of Characters:
Good- Lucy and Jellal
Meh- The Strauss siblings, Minerva, Kagura, and Meredy
Shit- Everyone else
Not much to say here…the art in Fairy Tail is overall decent. The character designs are fairly unique and help bring the characters to life. The animation is moderately inconsistent with battle sequences animated beautifully and everything else animated alright at best and poorly at worst.
The sound of Fairy Tail is by far its strongest aspect. With enjoyable ops and eds, an exhilarating OST, and good voice acting (Japanese) across the board the sound design on Fairy Tail is quite impressive.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching Fairy Tail. Some things detracted from my experience such as nonsensical power-ups and pointless fan service but overall I had a blast with this show.
In conclusion, Fairy Tail may have a LOT of problems stemming from lazy writing but it has some positive aspects as well and is nowhere near the worst anime/manga of all time. If you’re the type of viewer that can turn your brain off and just enjoy watching the good guys save the day over and over again Fairy Tail should be the perfect show for you. However, if you are a person that craves fleshed out characters, a compelling story, and logical writing then you will absolutely abhor this series.
Lucy x Flare ( what that hair do girl )
Gajeel x Levy ( duh )
Erza x Jellal ( better be canon )
Kagura x Yukino ( she does own her after all ;) )
Elfman x Mirajane x Lisanna ( because incest is wincest )
Natsu x Gray ( not for gay representation but because they’re both shit characters )
Laxus x Freed ( you know you want this )
Juvia x Wendy ( they both have blue hair…? )
PEACE OUT PLEBS.