Fairy Tail Vol. 1-2

By Hiro Mashima
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Towards the end of 2007, Viz unleashed “Naruto Nation” on stores, releasing three volumes of the manga a month for several months. Naruto sales stayed strong, showing that if people want a series enough it doesn’t matter how quickly another installment hits shelves. Now Del Rey is kicking off Hiro Mashima’s latest series Fairy Tail with the first two volumes being simultaneously released. Now that I’ve sat down and read them both, I have to say that Del Rey made a really smart move, here.

Lucy is a wizard, able to summon up different interdimensional beings to help her out in sticky situations. Now she’s looking to join the most notorious wizard’s guild out there, Fairy Tail. The organization is full of all sorts of celebrity wizards—even though they’re known not only for their good deeds, but for often destroying the town they’re trying to save. Unfortunately, all Lucy seems to have found so far is Natsu, a perpetually motion-sick fire wizard accompanied by a flying cat. Surely there’s more to wizardry than this, right?

Fairy Tail at its absolute basic is nothing terribly new; lots of people with different powers and abilities banding together fighting off bad guys, with more than a few scenes of hilarity unfolding as a result. If you think about it, this set-up is one you can find not just in fantasy stories, but super-heroes, science-fiction, even the occasional mystery. Where Mashima shines, though, is the familiarity he creates with the different characters and their actions. Lucy and Natsu are both anything but perfect characters, but it’s actually pretty hard not to like them. They’ve both got good hearts, and their friendly bickering relationship comes across as entertaining rather than annoying. There’s a lot of humor in their stories; sometimes running jokes like Natsu’s motion-sickness every time they’re on a vehicle, other times sharp flipping around of situations such as Lucy’s attempt to use sex appeal to infiltrate a wizard’s house failing when she’s the exact wrong body type to hit his tastes. That’s not to say that it can’t be serious, though. A running storyline involves Natsu trying to find a missing father figure from his life intersects with short stories as well; adventures in both volumes are centered around other fathers doing everything in their power to make their children proud of them, for instance. For all the frivolity and general goofiness that goes on, it’s these slightly more down to earth moments that help ground Fairy Tail and keep my interest going. A series of all pratfalls would get old quickly, and Mashima thankfully understands just that.

I have to admit that when I first saw the art for Fairy Tail, my initial reaction was surprise that Eiichiro Oda of One Piece fame had a new series. The similarities are hard to deny; Mashima, like Oda, draws his characters with a clean thin line, with just a touch of cartoonish nature. Villains in particular are rather exaggerated, but almost always in a comical, funny sort of way. It’s a really pleasant overall look to the series, one that moves quickly and smoothly across the page. Because of the magical nature of the series, Mashima also gets to stretch his imagination more than a bit, coming up with both strange monsters as well as the zodiac-based beings that Lucy summons with her gate keys. So while Mashima and Oda may certainly have the same style (especially when you consider the light-hearted nature of both books), it’s one that certainly fits well with Fairy Tail.

I’m really pleased with Fairy Tail; I think it helped a lot to have the first two volumes hitting stores at once, because it lets the reader get a stronger feel for the series, more of an idea of the sort of stories that it’s willing to tell. It’s also surprisingly addictive to read; when I was done with the first volume, my immediate reaction was to reach for the next one and keep going. Had a third volume also shown up at the same time, I suspect I’d have read it right away as well. Fairy Tail may not be a terribly deep series, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s just fun, pure and simple, and I’m ready for more. Definitely check this one out.

Purchase Links (Vol. 1): Amazon.com
Purchase Links (Vol. 2): Amazon.com

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