We briefly dug into the Fairy Tail anime—an adaptation of Hiro Mashima’s ongoing shonen wizard saga—in the latest issue of Otaku USA, but the tides of time roll on, and a handful of episodes have streamed since the time of the article’s writing. So, we bravely march through the A-1 Pictures Inc./Satelight produced series to see where it takes Lucy, Natsu, and the rest of the borderline insane Fairy Tail guild members.
Episode 7 just aired on November 23 at 7:00am on Crunchyroll’s members-only portal for the series, so the story is still in the early stages. On her quest to join a full-fledged guild, practicing celestial mage Lucy Heartfilia runs into a young man named Natsu, who just so happens to be a (literally) hot-headed member of Fairy Tail, one of the country’s most notorious mage guilds. They form a burgeoning bond, and Lucy is invited to work her way into Fairy Tail and take a crack at becoming a real deal mage. She soon meets the guild’s eclectic group of wizards, and starts taking on jobs that net various amounts of loot for herself, Natsu and Happy, his blue cat companion (who naturally doubles as the oh-so-cute mascot of the show).
Thus we have the perfect setup for another shonen series that will find our heroes growing exponentially in strength and fighting ever more dangerous opponents as they progress, all the while unveiling more information about the paths that brought them to this point in the first place. That’s not an exhaustive and jaded interpretation at all, I’m just sharing the facts! What matters is that Fairy Tail is a well-produced entry in an oft-tread genre, and there are plenty of hooks that have already snagged it a sturdy fanbase.
I particularly loved the execution of “Dear Kaby” (episode 4), the second part of a story that has Lucy and Natsu heading off on a seemingly simple mission; one holding the promise of a hefty reward. The objective has that too easy feeling right off the bat, but our heroes continue, unaware of the fact that the price recently rocketed from 200,000 to 2 million. Their mission: infiltrate the vast Everlue estate, retrieve a book called Daybreak, and destroy it on the spot. Sounds like a breeze, yet the ensuing ordeal is anything but, and acts as another nice early example of Mashima’s strange, and often hilariously ugly, villain designs.
The next set of episodes pushes on with the one of the series’ chief threats, Dark Guilds. Eisen Wald is the first that surfaces (though we got a glimpse of their members in the first episode), and our firmly established team sets off with the gruff, armor-clard wizard Erza to put a stop to their latest scheme. The going gets tough when the wicked Eisen Wald members get their hands on a bonafied death flute, an item with powers that are pretty self-explanatory in name alone.
The show’s portrayal of Natsu is a welcome surprise, perhaps due to the fact that I was expecting something a little more whimsical, maybe along the lines of Monkey D. Luffy or a similarly exuberant character. Voice actor Tetsuya Kakihara—known more famously for his hot-blooded role as Simon in Gurren Lagann—adds a bit of manly grit to a character that only seemed as such to me in the manga when torching enemies with his dragon-raised flame powers. The rest of the cast does a fine job, as well, and even Happy (Rie Kugiyama, AKA Full Metal Alchemist‘s Alphonse Elric) avoids being cloyingly adorable more often than not.
The high volume of exposition is much more noticeable in the anime than the manga, and perhaps a certain degree of it is necessary to sustain the original world of the series as it develops. It can still be a little much, with characters issuing not-so-subtle asides from time to time to explain something that might be better discovered in more imaginative ways. The same can be said for character introductions, with traits and ticks spelled out for the viewer and firmly established as running gags or quirks before they even have a chance to start running.
Some of these jokes aren’t so hot to begin with. The fact that Gray, one of the more aggressive brawlers in the guild, has an issue with keeping his clothes on certainly isn’t as funny as they seem to think it is. Maybe it would work better if it were a little more obscene or embarrassing, but his skivvies just look like giant swimming trunks. Who can blame the guy for wanting to be comfortable? On the flipside, I’m thankful that Natsu has the whole motion sickness thing in place to overshadow what would otherwise be yet another “constantly hungry” trait that we’ve seen across countless shows both past and present. Besides, I think Luffy eats enough comically oversized turkey legs for the rest of anime’s hall of heroes combined.
Fairy Tail is turning out pretty sharp overall. The show raises different comparisons to Eichiro Oda’s One Piece than the manga. With the latter, it was more about Mishima’s art, his character expressions, etc. In the anime, it comes off a little more in the general presentation of the country of Fiore and its bizarre creatures, many of which definitely give off an Oda vibe. Fairy Tail is really its own shonen beast, though, and it’s a fun ride with fantastic production values that make for a better looking show. Perhaps this will change down the line, but it’s a series worth catching up on if you find this type of adventure a fond flavor.
You can watch episodes of Fairy Tail shortly after they air in Japan via Crunchyroll’s simulcast. Episodes are available to the site’s Anime Members, and fresh chapters air on Mondays at 7:00am EST.
©Hiro Mashima • KODANSHA/Fairy Tail Guild • TV TOKYO