Joy Kim

Librarian. Book Reviewer. Coffee Addict.

Mashima, Hiro: Fairy Tail, vol. 1-3

fairytail1.jpgFairy Tail, vol. 1-3
Story and Art by Hiro Mashima
Translation and Adaptation by William Flanagan
Del Rey, 2008
Original Japanese editions: Kodansha, 2006-2007
978-0345501332 (vol. 1)
978-0345503305 (vol. 2)
978-0345505569 (vol. 3)

Being generic isn’t always a bad thing. This probably sounds a little strange coming from me, since that’s one of my most frequent complaints as a reviewer, but hear me out. Sometimes a little familiarity is a good thing. At the library where I work, I see children and teen gravitating toward books from the same series over and over again because they know what to expect. There’s a need for some amount of formulaic fiction. It’s the reading equivalent of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich–everyday comfort food.

fairytail2.jpgFrom the start, Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima (probably best known stateside for Rave Master) makes no pretense of being anything other than your average long shōnen adventure series. The protagonist, Lucy, is a young wizard who dreams of becoming part of the famous and powerful wizard guild, Fairy Tail. But just when she thinks she’s finally found her ticket into that inner circle, everything goes wrong. It’s only her newfound acquaintance with a mysterious traveler, Natsu, that ends up saving the day, and the two team up (of course) to take down some small-town magical crooks.

And Mashima pulls off the formula pretty well: quirky characters, ample humor, lively artwork, nonstop action. This is a series that’s very easy to read; you don’t want to stop after one volume. (It reminds me of Naruto, in that it may be one of those series that reads better in large batches rather than volume to volume.) And even just three volumes in, I can see that it easily has the potential to go on and on and on in true shōnen fashion.

fairytail3.jpgUnfortunately, my enjoyment of the series was undone by the sexism and and fan service. I was continually being annoyed by sleazy outfits, lowbrow jokes, and comments made about the women characters; they were just enough to pull me out of the story, disrupting the fictive dream. Fan service and sexism, as we all know, are pretty common in shōnen manga. I wasn’t surprised that they were present in the story; I was disappointed that there was quite so much of them. I read volumes 2 and 3 mostly in the hopes that the cheesecake might be less of an issue than it was in volume 1. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

I know some readers who are much picker than me and annoyed by even the slightest bit of fan service, and others who will tolerate quite a bit of it. If you fall into the latter category, you may find Fairy Tail quite enjoyable. It’s nothing new, but it executes the usual formula very well. As for everyone else…let me recommend Fullmetal Alchemist for a entertaining adventure fantasy series where the women characters aren’t constantly being asked to provide cleavage shots.

I’ll be filing this series under “Not my cuppa” and continuing my search for a new shōnen adventure to follow.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: A reporter goes to Bishie Con, a publisher reviews the nook « MangaBlog

  2. “I’ll be filing this series under “Not my cuppa” and continuing my search for a new shōnen adventure to follow.”

    Have you tried Shin Angyo Onshi? ^^

  3. Yeah the sexism gets a special mention in my dissertation, right at the point where I’m arguing shonen hasn’t evolved past the days of Dragonball, (I say this as a completely hardcore Dragonball fan) where the main female character primarily wanted a boyfriend. Still it could be worse, don’t get me started on harem shonen.

    For academic balance I have to mention not all FT characters are weak fangirls, most are though. Fairytail gets better if you exclude the obvious sexism. it shows great potential as shonen nowadays with the parallel world, dragon and stellar spirit stuff but it depends where Mashima wants to take that.

  4. I have to disagree while Fairy Tail has a lot of fanservice it is usually these mangas that are the least sexist and portray women as strong capable characters who are right up there with the male leads.