Manga-ka: Hiro Mashima
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: March 2008
Synopsis: “Cute girl wizard Lucy wants to join the Fairy Tail, a club for the most powerful wizards. But instead, her ambitions land her in the cluthes of a gang of unsavory pirates led by a devious magician. Her only hope is Natsu, a strange boy she happens to meet on her travels. Natsu’s not your typical hero – he gets motion sickness, eats like a pig, and his best friend is a talking cat. With friends like this, is Lucy better off with her enemies?”
At first glance, Fairy Tail may seem undoubtedly familiar to those who’ve read the popular, One Piece. Don’t be fooled however, both are done by different creators, and despite various similarities in the visual style, there’s still some distinct differences in each manga-ka’s approach to their respective stories. As a reader who could never fully understand the appeal of One Piece, I was wary that my discontent with it could prove a hindrance here. Fortunately, I was pleased to a find a constructively linear story with interesting characters and an invigorating world of magic to explore.
Though a shonen story by genre, the bulk of this story follows a young ambitious girl named Lucy. She travels town to town collecting new magical summons to add to her already-impressive arsenal with a goal of joining a magic guild, a group of magic-users who work together to achieve quests for protection, prestige and profit. While passing through one town, Lucy meets a young man, Natsu, who helps end up helping her out of a bit of a mess. If his powers weren’t intriguing enough, she’s thrilled to discover that Natsu’s a member of one of the most well-known guilds out there: Fairy Tail. Thanks to the connection, she’s invited to join the Guild, and thus, their adventures begin.
While I already have the feeling that the story will be shifting in Natsu’s attentive-favour, I really liked that the story here was predominantly told through the perspective of Lucy. A solid shonen –style story starring a female isn’t as common as one would hope (though for reasons still pretty well understood). She’s confident, competent and with an admirable chip on her shoulder, but not too much of any one of those traits as to make her arrogant or unlikeable. Much the same can be said for Natsu personality-wise and the two have some believable first-time introduction chemistry. With the two embarking on their first quest together in this book as well, it shows that though they’re still getting to know each other, their personalities and abilities have already proven pretty complimentary. I really loved both their powers, Lucy utilizing summons while Natsu uses some spiffy fire-based magic (thanks to being raised by a bone-fide dragon) and I most look forward to seeing how their abilities evolve as they go.
This first volume also wastes no time in introducing an entire cast’s worth of characters, each one having a brief introduction in the form of a scolding they recieve from Fairy Tail’s headmaster. The story doesn’t spend much time on them, which manages to allow that many introductions to be slipped in there without feeling like an overabundance of information.
Brisk in its action sequences and nicely balanced with humour and easy-to-follow exposition of the magic world’s structure, there’s still the issue in this book with a lacking sense of uniqueness. The book reads so smoothly from start to finish in high part to its stay in safe boundaries of what readers have come to expect from this kind of work. The characters, entertaining as they are, still lack much in the way of depth and don’t immediately stand out as anything all that special. Still, it is only the first volume so the story still has leeway room to impress its readers a little more distinctively. The artwork is already off to a strong start here, as the artist has already seen the run of a 30+ series (Rave Master), but I did find the chibis very stiff and unappealing, thus making them not humorous as intended.
I wasn’t entirely enthralled just yet with this story as it struggles to find a unique foothold, but Fairy Tail still managed to intrigue me with the sheer energy of every character and scene. I’ll certainly be checking out volume two and think that volume one is a strong enough start to warrant a look-see by manga fans.