Manga of the Now: Fairy Tail
This time’s Manga of the Now is a textbook example of generic shonen. Fairy Tail focuses on the adventures of Natsu, a fire mage, and his friends who are members of the titular guild, Fairy Tail. But what distinguishes Fairy Tail from other shonen is that even if it is not all that original, it does everything right. It goes to show that there’s good reason why people like reading the same crap they’ve read over and over again.
My introduction may sound negative, but I actually really enjoy generic shonen. I read the big 3 shonen manga every week, and One Piece is probably one of my all time favorite manga. What I don’t enjoy is when the author tries to bring depth to their characters. This may sound counter-intuitive at first, but character development makes shonen manga suck. The biggest reason is that the mangaka aren’t usually the best writers. Sure they may come up with interesting settings and abilities, but this comes at the expense of making their characters one dimensional. But I’m ok with this. Archetypes are a necessary evil in order to allow the writer to devote more energy to the story, and make the reading experience less confusing for the audience.
The moment the author decides to give their characters depth is the moment they cock things up. Trying to write character development into shonen is like trying to get drunk off of French wine. It takes too long, costs too much money, and the same results can be achieved with a handle of vodka (or a nice shoujo to complete the simile) for a fraction of the price. Remember how much fun Naruto used to be to read before the homoerotic tension with Sasuke? Now I feel like I’m reading it out of habit rather than because I genuinely enjoy it. Dragonball has little to no character development, and it pretty much set the standard for shonen today.
Like One Piece, Fairy Tail is shonen done right because it sticks much closer to the standards for success set by Akira Toriyama over 20 years ago. In fact, one can draw a lot of parallels between Fairy Tail and One Piece. The art style is quite similar with its over the top action and hourglass shaped women. Both heroes are hotheaded and comically stupid, and the main heroine is smarter, but significantly weaker. I don’t mind the similarities because reading the 145 chapters of Fairy Tail that are currently out felt like reading 145 extra chapters of one of my favorite manga.
The characters and their abilities are not incredibly original, but are well thought out. What I like is that all the characters are essentially masters of one ability, and their growth in battle depends more on their imagination and perseverance than learning new techniques. My personal favorite character is Erza who has the ability to make swords and armor appear out of thin air. She is a bad ass but also has a soft side to her. I guess I like her because she reminds me of Hinagiku from Hayate no Gotoku.
So to wrap things up, Fairy Tail is a simple, but entertaining read. If you read the big 3, then I’m pretty sure you will enjoy this as well. It’s not deep, it’s not smart, but it’s good simple fun. My only complaint would be that the individual story arcs can get long and dragged out without making significant progress in the main plot. Since not much has happened in the past 145 chapters, I don’t expect much to happen any time soon. The anime will be coming out in the fall, and the cast was just announced today. I have no complaints as far as the main characters go. I actually hope that the length for the anime is limited like Soul Eater since I don’t think I have the patience to follow an endless show week after week.
So I hope you give Fairy Tail a shot. I’ve still been busy with work and studying for the GRE. As far as anime goes, I’ve been watching Honey and Clover recently and I really enjoy it. I feel like I identify with most of the characters since I’m just as unlucky with love and relationships as they are. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.