Fairy Tail Volume 1 Review
Fairy Tail :
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 clutches 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? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Let’s start with the most pertinent questions. Yes, Fairy Tail is a long completed and popular series. No, Crunchyroll does not have all 63 volumes at the time of this review. It only goes up to Volume 30 for now. And I’m reviewing this well known series because this is Crunchycrawl and we are going through every reviewable title in the library for the sake of anyone new to manga/anime even if they’ve been living under a rock or perhaps finally making the inevitable dive into the world of shonen.
Fairy Tail starts off by introducing the titular guild of wizards of which our protagonists, Lucy and Natsu, are going to be or are already part of. The introduction makes it clear Fairy Tail is a notorious wizard guild, one that causes enough destruction during their heroics to make the ruling council of wizards frustrated. This immediately gives the reader a sense of the hijinks ahead. We then cut to Natsu, our male lead, whose extreme case of motion sickness is used as a defining introductory feature as well as a running gag. It’s then a quick jump to Lucy running around the town engaging in shopping until Lucy and Natsu end up meeting through their common interest in meeting a wizard named Salamander. Things are pretty light and silly and our two protagonists, while full of spirit and quirks, will probably feel like bog standard Shonen protagonists to anyone already familiar with the genre. They’re entertaining and competent enough but display the common energetic gung ho spirit with a dash of flavourful flaws for comedic value.
While it begins fairly light hearted, things start to get a little questionable as the story continues. The famous wizard that Lucy and Natsu encountered earlier is someone using illegal magic to charm and fool people into liking him. Lucy goes on a heated rant about what a shady and untrustworthy fellow he is, only to then turn around and agree to hang out on a ship with him when he claims to be a member of Fairy Tail and promises to help her get in. Such a sudden, self-serving flip that also flies in the face of self-preservation makes Lucy seem exceedingly dim, and thus tough to like.
This is also where we see how declawed the story is. When Lucy catches the evil wizard trying to drug her drink, her response is to say she won’t be his girlfriend, rather than pushing back more forcefully on something that really amounts to attempted kidnapping. It’s frustrating when a Shonen series or any fictional story tries to inject a dark real world issue but then doesn’t have the guts, depth or freedom to follow through. Women getting drugged in real life never ends in anything as innocent as courtship and Lucy’s extremely PG dialogue feels childish if not outright insulting.
Moving on, Natsu and Lucy along with Natsu’s companion, Lucky, manage to save the day but also leave a path of destruction in their wake. It’s an enjoyable enough segment, filled with gags, and makes for a nice read, especially for those fond of typical Shonen shenanigans. We then move onto the Fairy Tail guild itself and get to meet the truly boisterous members. It’s a fun and chaotic segment, allowing the series to feel varied and creative as we meet various tropes– I mean people. The Fairy Tail members are all full of personality, which definitely adds a lot to the story’s appeal even if some readers might find them cliched. However, if you are reading this review for the purpose of deciding whether to read the manga or not, I am going to assume you are either still pretty new to most Shounen or you are fond enough of what Fairy Tail offers early on to not find the tropes an issue yet.
Once the introductions are over, Lucy joins the guild and we return to everyday life. It’s here focus shifts back to Natsu, a hero just as golden hearted as any other Shonen lead. Chapters 2 and 3 are devoted to Natsu setting out on a rewardless rescue mission thanks to the pleas of a young boy whose father is a Fairy Tail member and has been missing for a week after going out on a mission himself. Lucy tags along, though for slightly more selfish reasons as she hopes doing this will make her more likeable to the other guild members. Motivations aside, the rescue mission provides plenty of laughs as Natsu, Lucy and Lucky get caught in all kinds of troubles from snowstorms to lecherous monkeys before ultimately emerging victorious. The predictable outcome is overshadowed by the fun of getting there as several hilarious twists get thrown into the mix. On a side note, things do get a bit sleazy as not only is the monkey depicted as clearly intent on getting intimate with Lucy but the magical beasts summoned by Lucy to protect her from the monkey immediately comments on her ‘udders’ and is revealed to be a pervert himself. It’s a quick bit though and ends by the next page before things ever get too uncomfortable.
Once that mission ends, and on an emotional note with a father-son reunion, we move onto further lead establishment and world building. Chapter 4 is mostly spent on Lucy explaining her powers and demonstrating her abilities for the sake of Natsu and Lucky and thereby the audience. It’s another transparent trope but one that’s so common that most readers have come to consider it an unavoidable staple. Then Natsu and Lucky convince her to form a team with them so they can depart on their next adventure. The last scenes of these two characters main story in this volume end on the same joke it began; Natsu being motion sick as they head to their new mission, thus bringing the volume full circle. The last chapter is split, cutting the main story short and instead closing the volume out with a silly, little, pointless mini story revolving around Happy. There’s also a Chapter 4.5 which starts with a lengthy note from the author and then goes on to translation notes and explanations of culture specific segments. It’s a chapter that really raises the quality and value of the manga as through it readers get to better learn and understand the nuances of Japanese culture and comics as well as the original work itself. It will also bring a new appreciation to the creative lengths translators have to go to make certain jokes or segments of the story work. It’s additions like these that make me push for fans of anime adaptations to pick up the original manga to help you learn about and enjoy the series on a deeper level. I wish more titles offered them.
If you’re new to Shounen or are perhaps a devoted Shounen fan who somehow hasn’t experienced Fairy Tail, I would still recommend it to most of you. As someone familiar with the series and Shounen tropes, I must warn you that as it continues, it dives hard into some of the bigger tropes that the genre is infamous for; like the never ending one-upping during battles only for the heroes to always win or the female characters often and repeatedly ending up the damsel in distress *cough* Lucy *cough*. Fairy Tail doesn’t reinvent the genre by any means and it’s not something you should pick up for its originality, of which there is little. In fact, you shouldn’t try this series if you have started to find Shounen content even the least bit stale as it will wear out its welcome oh so quickly. What further hampers the series is that it will toy with darker content or even self aware content (like when Lucy asks Lucky why a Dragon would teach Natsu how to kill dragons) but it then never really follows through making you question the worth of even bringing it up in the first place. But if you aren’t jaded and really loved the anime, the manga is definitely worth a look in, even if it’s solely so you can experience some of its original jokes and get a better understanding of its tie ins to Japanese culture and media.
Fairy Tail is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.