Manga Friday: Fairy Tail
I suppose I should start off by saying that Rave Master is the name of Mashima’s previous manga series, not his nickname. (Though it does make a great nickname, actually.) Rave Master ran thirty-five volumes – of which twenty-seven has been published in the US to date – and was a fairly typical young-guy-with-great-power-battling-the-forces-of-evil story.
But that story ended, and now Mashima is back with…
Fairy Tail, Vols. 1 & 2
By Hiro Mashima
Del Rey Manga, 2008, $10.95 each
The first two volumes of his new series in English – published simultaneously on March 25th by the good folks at Del Rey Manga.
Fairy Tail breaks completely with Rave Master, because its young, untried, magically-powered person fighting evil is a young woman. How ‘bout them apples, huh?
All kidding about the genre markers of shonen manga aside, Fairy Tale is somewhat generic, but still distinctive. It’s set in one of those not-quite-medieval worlds, with magic, walled cities, and mostly low technology – though there’s an exception for trains, as so often is the case. It seems to be ruled by some sort of aristocracy, since there are people with power called “Duke,” but that’s not entirely clear.
Similarly, it’s hard to tell how the working world is organized, but the magical people have a structure of guilds (helpfully explained, with diagrams, in the second book), and, of course, there’s then Tokyo University-level competition to get into the “better” guilds. Presumably, most of the other occupations are regimented in a similar way, but Fairy Tail is not a book that spends much time among the peasants.
The set-up here bears a close resemblance to that of Dragon Eye: there’s a young woman, Lucy, who wants to join the elite organization (in this case, the Fairy Tail magical guild), and the distracted, oddball man (who looks young, but has massive secrets) who becomes her boss/partner/mentor. In this case, his name is Natsu, and he’s a fire wizard. Lucy is a “celestial wizard” herself, who uses keys to summon various magical personages from another realm to do things for her.
Fairy Tail also adds in the very popular cute animal sidekick – here, it’s the flying, talking cat Happy. Along with Lucy and Natsu, he’s our third main character. (Although the other Fairy Tail wizards are also various stereotyped oddballs, and I expect they’ll each have their turn at the edges of the Lucy-Natsu story; Natsu’s great rival, the wizard Gray, is dragged along on a mission in the second half of volume two.)
Anyway, the story starts with Lucy wanting to get into a good guild, meeting cute with Natsu, and teaming up with him to put away an evil wizard. He gets her into the guild, and they form a team to have more adventures (and to get rich – one thing I do enjoy about manga is that the superpowered folks regularly, and unabashedly, want to make money off of their abilities as well as do good).
Mashima’s characters are cartoony in ways that sometimes took me a while to get used to – his villains are easier to deal with, but Lucy’s arms and legs are just a bit too elongated sometimes. He’s also fond of very dramatic poses and choices for camera angles, which could endear him to American fans.
Fairy Tail is unabashedly an adventure comic for teenage boys (of all ages), and it’s successful on that level. It’s building a world with room for a lot of stories, and a colorful, larger-than-life cast of characters. It is yet another post-Dragon Ball story about combat with strange powers, but, in a North American market that has tolerated nine guys named “Starman,” that’s nothing shameful.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.