Firing Up The Furnace – Fairy Tail Part 1 Review
Title:Fairy Tail Part 1
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Comedy
Extras: Textless openings (Snow Fairy, S.O.W. Sense of Wonder), Textless Closings (Kanpeki Gu~none, Tsuioku no Merry-go-round), Episode 1 Commentary, Episode 9 commentary.
After a series of heavily fan-service filled titles dominated the winter releases, it’s refreshing to see the release of another traditional shonen series in the UK, especially one that comes as highly acclaimed as Fairy Tail, winner of Animax Asia’s “Anime of the Year” in 2010. But does Fairy Tail live up to the hype? Or will it be disappearing into obscurity?
In the peaceful land of Fiore, magic is commonplace. Commonly used as a tool, wizards can join a guild – an organisation through which jobs are offered up to wizards with a reward available to the one who completes the job. Fairy Tail is one of the most famous of these guilds, widely renowned for its powerful wizards and lack of restraint, Fairy Tail grabs plenty of negative attention to accompany its positives.
Like a majority of shonen stories, Fairy Tail centres around a brash and gung-ho male lead. In this case: Natsu Dragneel, a strong fire wizard raised and trained by a dragon. Natsu is confrontational and arrogant, and his hot-headed decisions to tackle problems head on often leads to trouble. His hastiness is balanced by the young blonde celestial wizard Lucy Heartfilia, who’s power is the ability to summon celestial spirits to fight for her. Although weaker than most other wizards met in the Fairy Tail guild, Lucy appears to be one of the most grounded and normal of the guild’s wizards, with the story being told mainly from her perspective.
The first 13 episodes follow a group of self-contained story arcs, as we are introduced to the Fairy Tail guild’s members, most notably Natsu’s rival: Gray Fullbuster, an ice magician, and Erza Scarlet, a high class magician who specialises in form magic (allowing her to summon and equipt weapons and armour), and the workings of the rest of Fiore’s magical world. The main enemies of the series appear to take the form of “Dark Guilds”, unregistered and illegal guilds that appear to promote the use of black magic and criminal activity.
Despite an imaginative world and the semblance of an interesting plot to come, Fairy Tail appears to struggle, like a lot of shonen series, with balancing the portrayal of emotions. I sometimes found that a moving moment of reflection was interrupted by a cheap gag, such as Gray’s tendancy to lose his clothes, Natsu’s travel sickness, or a quip from Natsu’s friend and comedy relief character Happy (a cat with the ability to fly for short periods of time). In fact it felt at times that the plot was more focussed on the shouting matches of energetic characters, and low grade puns than the actual peril that the wizards were meant to be fighting. This is perhaps most notable when Lucy comes face to face a perverted monkey-like monster, which Lucy tries to defeat with the equally perverted Zodiac spirit Taurus. And so ensues a bizarre stand off eventually interrupted by a typically overblown and misdirected onslaught from Natsu.
Putting these criticisms aside, Fairy Tail is a pretty good example of how to make a shonen battle series: it has a wide range of characters and abilities, a distinct definition of good and evil, and the perfect blend of battle and plot (even if sometimes a little heavy on the humour). It’s a textbook creation. Yet, despite no obvious attempt to stray from the familiar, Fairy Tail manages to get by without feeling particularly cliched or boring, offering plenty of room for the imagination to wander, and is likely to be a huge hit with all shonen fans.
ADDITTIONAL: It is worth noting that there are is a slight difference in the humour of the Dubbed and Subbed versions of the show, with the original Japanese script making a number of jokes based on word play that proved difficult to replicate in the English version.
Manga UK have currently licenced the first season (48 episodes) for UK release. Fairy Tail’s third season is currently airing in Japan.