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Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Stories of the Top 80 Anime: Fairy Tail

13. Fairy Tail is a great new shonen fighting series, along the lines of One Piece, Naruto, and Dragonball. In terms of humor, it's probably the funniest. It has more female characters who keep up with the men and offer a more fun, balanced storyline. The world is intriguing, as a series of magical guilds, some light and authorized by the government, some dark and illegal, compete for customers, power, and influence in the Renaissance-ish land. Fairy Tail is the guild of our heroes, and in a sense, the guild, Fairy Tail, is the main character. The individuals who make it up are just like parts or limbs of the guild as a whole. It's really the guild's character which is always on display and shining the brightest throughout the series.

Fairy Tail has everything you could desire in a series, good characters, good relationships, cool villains, sophisticated action sequences, humor and drama. When Lisanna dies, and when Ul dies, it's nigh impossible to keep away the tears. What keeps it, then, from surpassing Dragonball, One Piece, and Naruto? For one thing, length. Fairy Tail is still short compared to its rivals, which automatically means it will have less chance to impress. But there are other problems holding it back -- the animation quality isn't as good as the original manga's artistic quality. Wendy in the manga is one of the cutest characters ever drawn in any series, but in the anime her hair is featureless and her body has lost all of its sharp angles. The same problem is everywhere, Erza, who looks like a terrifying warrior in the manga, looks sort of dumpy and plain in the anime. I don't know exactly what they did wrong, I'm not good enough at art to explain the differences, but so much was lost in translation between the manga and the anime.

Another problem Fairy Tail faces is the relationships in One Piece and Naruto feel somehow deeper, closer, and more real than the relationships in Fairy Tail. Everyone in Fairy Tail is so carefree and rambunctious that it's hard to believe they really care about each other. One Piece has its carefree side, but it also has its deadly serious side. When Luffy hates or despises someone, he gets a very shadowed look that looks ready to kill. When Nami is distraught, her eyes go so wide and glazed over that you really feel she's shocked and horrified. The art in One Piece is just more evocative, there's more 'there' there. The Lee-Gaara fight in Naruto is so full of emotion that you can feel the tension in the room. There's no comparable fight in Fairy Tail. No matter how epic they try to make the fights in Fairy Tail, they just don't carry that electric tension that true epic fights have, like Goku vs. Vegeta. I would say for one, the fights in Fairy Tail are just too easy. Fairy Tail guild members just win too often for their own good.

I get the sense that no matter how long Fairy Tail lasts, it won't surpass its rivals from Shonen Jump. Maybe I'm underestimating the author though, maybe he's saving his most dramatic moments for later and he's about to blitz the world by storm. What I will say is that Fairy Tail's anime does improve upon the manga, with perfectly cast voice acting, a wonderful music score that completely fits the setting of the story, and cool special effects accompanying their spells. I wish the people making openings and endings for Fairy Tail would learn something from the rest of the anime world, they all suck! Openings and endings are supposed to showcase your series, not become the weakest point of each episode!

Fairy Tail is great at accepting the outcasts and the people-with-nowhere-to-go. The grandfather who runs the guild has a big heart, and he's always looking to help the people who wash up at his place. Natsu and Wendy, who were abandoned by their dragons, are one example. Erza, who escaped from slavery, is another. Gray, who ended up killing his master, is another. And Lucy, who ran away from home, is another. All of these people who couldn't fit in anywhere else, fit in perfectly with each other. They went from being victims, 'heroes of suffering,' to saviors, 'heroes of accomplishment.' All the credit goes to the institution of Fairy Tail and its members, who take these victims in and churn out powerful mages that earn their pay helping the citizens of the world and fighting dark guilds that would use their magic to kill or conquer. So far in Fairy Tail our heroes have had to face a rival guild that simply hated the competition, a dark guild that wanted to reverse good and evil, a misguided fool who wanted to revive a powerful demon, and an insane villain who wanted to revive the ultimate evil, a dark wizard named Zeref. None of these villains come off as particularly interesting or question-posing. However, one plotline was amazing, a civil war inside of Fairy Tail between a more serious faction that wanted Fairy Tail to be regimented like an army and focused solely on merit, instead of the carefree and rambunctious and open system it was today. Ultimately Luxus' faction was defeated, but he did bring up points about what he hated about Fairy Tail, and how it could be improved. The point is that Fairy Tail does not include the 'set of all good things.' To get some good things, others had to be excluded. People had to make tough choices, choices Laxus was unwilling to go along with. A utopia for everyone is impossible, because some people value some things more than others, and they're mutually exclusive.

Another plot line that has shown up in the manga but not yet in the anime is amazing, it's the story of people harvesting Fairy Tail's world as magical fuel for themselves. The native world has none of its own magic, and has to harvest it all from its designated 'victim' planet. But from that point of view, why is it any fairer for Fairy Tail's world to be full of magic and this world to have none? Isn't it stealing to keep the magic to yourself? This another world plot finally comes up with the answer, "Rather than having infinite magic, I'd rather have a world of infinite smiles." Spoken from the mouth of a young girl, she's opposed to all the sacrifice harvesting magic from other people causes, thinks magic isn't truly necessary to lead a fulfilling life, and wishes her world could concentrate less on materialism, and more on spiritual goods. Ultimately, that's the only answer we can come to, unless we want to fight world wars forever over every last mineral deposit and oil well. Greed and materialism are powerful forces that can turn people of this world into villains just as easily as Fairy Tail's world. Reviving dark demons and wizards, or changing people's moral alignments with spells, has no earthly equivalent, so these 'villains' are correspondingly uninteresting and philosophically weak.

I hope the author of Fairy Tail continues to create more villains like Laxus and the king of 'another world,' and fewer villains like Gerald or Brain, who just enjoy destruction and have no depth. As for the heroes, Natsu, Lucy, Erza, Gray, and Wendy, they're all perfect just the way they are, and I am always happy to see them on screen. They're a great cast of characters full of different traits but also full of love, which ends up making them the 'strongest team.' I'd love to see Fairy Tail just go on and on, like Naruto and One Piece before it, because I'd miss these characters and this world if it ever went away.

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