Side note: I told you 2016 might be the year I do graphic novel reviews, didn’t I? Well, sorry, but not yet. This isn’t really a graphic novel, more a comic book – or manga, no less. This is the first comic review, though, so have fun reading its crap-ness.
Some people may say Fairy Tail sucks, but that’ll be because they’ve either only watched the anime or they’re narrow minded. At least based on this first book, it seems pretty good.
What struck me about it first was how much it resembled Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece artwork; with Natsu similar in design to Luffy, in particular. The two manga share similar design traits, with One Piece’s long, lanky limbs seeming to influence the drawing of characters in Fairy Tail, whilst environments look eerily alike. However, there are enough differences for it to look unique. The characters don’t look quite as lanky, their eyes aren’t drawn as simply or as circular as in One Piece, and their faces are drawn with more angular expressions — and less broad smiles. All in all, the artwork is great, even if it is obviously, let’s say, influenced by Eiichiro Oda’s work years earlier.
Now, let’s get onto other things. Starting the book, you are thrown straight into it. After no introduction or back stories whatsoever, you are introduced to Natsu and Lucy respectively. Am I reminded of One Piece yet again? Indeed, as Natsu and Lucy are clearly inspired by Luffy and Nami, as they share similar traits and design features. Natsu eats all the time, looks similar to Luffy and is an equally determined fighter when it comes to the right things – like Luffy. Lucy shares pretty much the same eyes, nose and mouth to Nami, with similar physique, and is rebellious, yet ambitious – like Nami. Nonetheless, whilst reading it this doesn’t really matter, as the two characters are likable. Even so, both are victims of a lack of any solid character development or any substantial back story – other than a cameo appearance for kid Natsu. As a result, you’re expected to like them, and you’re expected to relate with them like you do a character such as Luffy, without anything to make you do that — other than pure character. Sure, they’re good characters in themselves, and act as great main characters for the manga; but how are you supposed to like them that much when there’s been barely any character development at all, other than “Hey, I’m Lucy! I have boobs!” Cool. And, “Hey, I’m Natsu! I get motion sickness!” Cool. You hear that, Mark? Real exciting. Nevertheless, I like the characters. And, though a lack of a good amount of character development restricts the characters, it certainly doesn’t ruin them. You can’t do that to characters like these. They may be influenced by One Piece; but isn’t that a good influence, if any? And when your reading it, you don’t really think about how much they’re like Luffy and Nami all that much.
However, this is a problem, as potentially fantastic characters are restricted to just, well, pretty good ones. If there’s one thing that is fantastic about Natsu, though, there is his design. Although he could be perceived as a Luffy copy, he doesn’t half look cool, with that nice Journey to the West sort of vibe. Also, he has an amazing power, and he’s great in action sequences, with his eating fire and spitting it out, before destroying his opponent with a flaming punch. These action sequences are fantastic themselves, in fact, with Hiro Mashima’s artwork coming to life. They also let you get to know Natsu and Lucy that bit better, as more and more is revealed about them.
The rest of the characters seem very good on first impressions. As you are thrown into Fairy Tail just as Lucy is (a clever move by Hiro Mashima), the madness of it all is brilliant, and the comedy really kicks in – which is inconsistent in its quality, unfortunately. Similar to a One Piece pirate crew in every way, the Fairy Tail wizard guild is silly, overbearing and rowdy. And that’s a good thing.
The story, on the other hand, in this volume at least, isn’t anything special. I didn’t read it engulfed in the crazy beginning of an incredible 6 volume spanning story arc. No, it’s fairly conservative in its story, and doesn’t fully follow one secure pattern. First there’s the sinister story where Lucy meats Natsu and then gets caught on a pirate vessel of sorts. In this little story, Lucy’s character is introduced more, and Natsu shows off his fists against a villain. It’s good, but has potential to be brilliant, if only Mashima spent more time on it, and developed it into a deeper story. After this, it seems you’re thrown into another tiny story, which is enjoyable and shows off great artwork, but also could have been developed more. Basically, if the volume took it more slowly, and took time to develop characters, back stories and plot lines, it could have been brilliant. However, as it is, it is still a good read, despite flaws. What Hiro Mashima was successful in, in particular, was making Fairy Tail an enjoyable read, with mostly quality comedy, brilliant action and twists and turns through different plots — but in a flawed book, which could have been better if he’d just spent more time on it. Possibly most importantly, though, reading it made me want to read more.
– Reuben (I went back to lower the score months later, sorry. It was originally 77/100).