Fairy Tail is, for me, one of those stories that sneaked up on me almost before I realized it. I first encountered it in manga form, when my husband gave me a copy of the first volume last Christmas. I was a little wary at first—I liked the premise right off the bat, but the story itself didn’t hook me very quickly, and there were some problematic elements that put me off a bit (more on that shortly). Still, despite these reservations, I couldn’t get the story out of my head. So by the time I had the chance to start watching the anime version, I was ready to dive deeper into the story.
As Fairy Tail begins, we meet Lucy Heartfilia, a fledgling young wizard who leaves home in hopes of joining the legendary Fairy Tail, one of the most famous wizard’s guilds in the kingdom of Fiore (or infamous, depending on who you’re talking to). Shortly after she arrives at the guild’s headquarters, she’s invited to join by Natsu Dragneel, a passionate young wizard whose personality is as fiery as his signature magical style. Lucy befriends Natsu; his flying cat companion, Happy; an ice wizard named Gray; and a combative, armor-wearing wizard by the name of Erza. The group proceeds to team up and tackle magical missions set before them by the Fairy Tail guild. They tangle with everything from members of rival guilds to powerful demons that are way out of their league.
Though Fairy Tail sometimes falls into the monster-of-the-week rut that stories of this type are often prey to, there’s still very much the sense that all these seemingly random missions are driving toward something greater than just managing the peculiar magical problems that tend to crop up around Fiore. So, are all the missions that Lucy and her Fairy Tail squad embark on really just a series of unfortunate coincidences, or are they in fact a distraction from greater evils that lurk under the surface? Only time (and lots more shenanigans) will tell!
As I mentioned, it took me some time to be completely sold on the series. Though I was intrigued after my first encounter with the manga, there were some things about it that I didn’t care for. The male gaze was used extensively in a way that I found pretty uncomfortable, and at times it felt like it was being used out of sheer laziness, taking up space that smarter jokes could have occupied. This was coupled with the fact that the main character seemed to be played for cheap laughs at times when she would have benefited from further character development. I finished the manga volume wanting more, but I was hesitant to seek it out in case these themes would end up dominating the series.
However, when I started watching the anime, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the aspects that had bothered me so much in the manga were far less prevalent in the animated series. While the characters still occasionally feel a bit flat onscreen, their personalities are much more endearing and believable than in the manga, and while there are still some skeezy overtones at times, they’re at least directed toward both male and female characters instead of primarily being used as a way to lampoon Lucy’s character. It’s not a complete 180 by any means, but in my opinion, it’s a huge improvement over the manga.
Despite its problematic elements, Fairy Tail is a pretty delightful anime, and the show has lots of fun features that keep me coming back for more. There’s the cheesy humor that pops up around every bend, Happy the cat’s deadpan jokes, the humorously severe motion sickness that overtakes Natsu every time he sets foot in anything resembling a vehicle, and the over-the-top reactions the characters have while getting tangled up in ridiculous scenarios time and time again. It’s got the overall feel I’m looking for in a fantasy anime, and as the suspense of the story mounts, so does my desire to watch just one more episode to see what’s going to happen next.
I’ve only started watching the series recently, so there’s a lot left to see. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the story more and more with each episode, and I’m excited to see where the story goes—I look forward to seeing what else awaits in the weird, wacky, magical world of Fairy Tail!