Fairy Tail's anime resumes this April. It's been a long, pensive wait for the climax of the Grand Magic Games arc. I don't know how much further the anime will extend beyond that arc, but if they can at least finish the arc they're on that will offer some closure for everyone's anime experience. The manga only has one small arc after that moment completed, that just sets the scene for the new clash with Tartaros, which is still ongoing in the manga as we speak. Perhaps by the time the anime gets around to it, that arc will also be done, in which case the anime could cover the next two arcs as well. But I wouldn't get my hopes up, as manga is essentially a very slow business.
So viewing the Fairy Tail anime as being from genesis until the end of the grand magic games, I'd rate this series as the 4th best anime ever. It can't compete with One Piece which is much longer and likely to continue airing for much longer, even though individually its episodes are better than One Piece. The same is true of Pretty Cure. The only difficult ranking is between Clannad and Fairy Tail. But I think Clannad edges out in this case because Clannad is full of merits while making no faults. Fairy Tail is a mixed bag of equal greatness and awful nonsense, and that second portion really drags it down.
Why does Fairy Tail have so much nonsense? Like Ichiya from Blue Pegasus? Like the dumb looking Celestial Spirits? Like ugly villains such as Wally or Hikaru? The answer is the author just can't restrain himself. He's always enjoyed drawing silly or stupid things into his creations and Rave is ten times as bad about this than Fairy Tail is. We should be rejoicing in how serious Fairy Tail is compared to how Hiro Mashima surely wishes it to be. For that matter, Rave and Fairy Tail share so many things that Rave is included in the Fairy Tail ranking, but Rave is so bad that it doesn't help said ranking in the least. Even so, people who watch Rave will have a deeper appreciation of Fairy Tail and enjoy all the easter eggs referring back to Rave in Fairy Tail, so I can't say it's a bad idea to watch it too.
There's also a lot of ecchi fanservice in Fairy Tail, but I don't mind this at all. Fairy Tail's girls are gorgeous, so they can wear whatever they want as far as I'm concerned. In addition, it doesn't get in the way of the plot so it never wastes our time. In fact, the worst problem Fairy Tail has down this vein is the censorship that covers up blood and injuries, so it's impossible to tell who is hurt, why, or how it was done. It's a little ridiculous that Erza wields a sword but ends up never actually cutting anyone because that would entail, you know, bleeding. So paradoxically we have censorship making Fairy Tail's fights 'for kids' while showing off all the girls in revealing clothes at almost all times, go figure.
The last demerit I have with Fairy Tail is the Nirvana arc. I dislike how the Oracian Seis easily beat the heroes but didn't opt to finish them off when they had the chance, over and over. Like how Master Zero, who only desires destruction even of unmoving injured people, opted not to kill Natsu, Lucy and Gray when he had the chance for God knows what reason, even though he was killing his own comrades just for being too noisy. It's this sort of inconsistency that really makes a viewing experience sour. Why on Earth would Brain attack Cobra from behind in order to save Natsu when Cobra beat Natsu fair and square? Cobra also beat Erza fair and square, making him virtually the strongest character in the series. And yet Brain stabbed him in the back because he was 'useless trash' and he wanted Natsu as Cobra's replacement so he had to keep Natsu alive. It's just pure nonsense that doesn't fit the facts. The villains basically had to try to lose all arc long.
The early arcs of Fairy Tail were also weak but you can forgive them for that, they were just trying to assemble their cast and introduce their characters as quickly as they could, so obviously their adventures at that time were less important and less well thought out. The story only really begins when we get into Gray's back story while fighting Lyon, only then have all the pieces genuinely been assembled and story telling is allowed to take precedence.
So why is Fairy Tail so good in the remainder of its aspects? Emotion! This show can make people laugh and cry. It can make people care. And it does so through the strength of its bonds. The Fairy Tail guild is a wonderland full of powerful bonds attaching every member to every member. This is the best group of friends, lovers, and family all rolled up into one you could ever ask for. If you want a story to be emotional, it must revolve around bonds, and Fairy Tail has as close knit ties as Little Busters. It won't lose to anyone in this field, which is Fairy Tail's strength in the why fans like it sense, and also why it manages to win all of its battles in the story as well. The strength of Fairy Tail's feelings for each other and their collective identity is the most powerful thing in the universe. If you want to talk about heartfelt scenes, just start with Lucy x Natsu, Wendy x Charle, Happy x Charle, Happy x Natsu, Natsu x Lisanna, Lisanna x Mirajane, Lisanna x Elfman, Elfman x Mirajane, Ul x Gray, Ultear x Meldy, Gray x Juvia, Lucy x Loke. . . it just goes on forever. But even more subtle than that are the heartfelt moments between the main cast and people like Cana, Levy, Laxus, Mirajane, Fried. . . all these support characters who always have a word or two of friendship and understanding for other guild members, that makes the guild feel so vast and bright and warm no matter what's happening.
The opening showing all of Fairy Tail holding hands in a circle in a desperate attempt to survive a dragon's breath attack that obliterates an entire island says it all. In the end love conquers all, and not just having the hots for a member of the opposite sex. In Fairy Tail there is love of all types. Old friends. Grandfather and grandson. Father and daughter. Sister and brother. Unrequited crushes. Married couples. And then the even more abstract, refined, and beautiful loves for the guild as a whole, for one's homeland, for the dead, for those yet to live, for people you've never even met, for people you've just met who have been done an injustice, on and on. Fairy Tail seems to have enough feelings to spare for everyone and everything. They're just that passionate, like a raging fire that can't be stopped and devours the whole countryside. One Piece has a more well thought out plot and setting, but as far as passion goes it's a welterweight compared to Fairy Tail.
Fairy Tail's cast of well characterized, well rounded out characters is enormous. Natsu, Gray, Happy, Makarov and Laxus are all great guys. Fried, Elfman, Gildarts, Gajeel and Loke aren't bad. But naturally, the cast of girls is where the real nectar lies. Mirajane, Wendy, Lucy, Lisanna, Erza, Levy, Charle, Ul, Ultear, Meldy, Yukino, Juvia, Kagura, Mavis, the list just goes on and on. Any one of these girls would have been an impressive protagonist for some other show, but Fairy Tail like usual doesn't stop at one or two people and insists on expanding its story to dozens, to the scale of hundreds of people all interacting together at once. With that level of richness, the number of likable girls scales to infinity and you don't know where to look, whose beautiful voice to listen to, or when to start crying. Everything is just so good, so close to the heart, there's always something new to appreciate.
If Fairy Tail had avoided all of its nonsense portions, it would have been #2, despite the fact that it will probably never receive an animated ending (unlike Naruto, Dragon Ball and One Piece), because each of its episodes just burns so much brighter than its competition individually. There are a huge number of mysteries left in Fairy Tail which still need resolving. Who is Zeref? How does he know Natsu? Why couldn't Natsu or Gajeel get through Fried's 80 year old excluding runes? Why could Wendy heal Natsu's muffler like it was alive? Who is Aknologia and what is his/her true objective? Why did the dragons leave 14 years ago? Why are the dragons going to invade in the near future? How will our heroes handle these nigh-omnipotent dragons? What is Lumen Histoire? Where are Igneel and Grandine? The anime probably won't last long enough to answer any of these questions, which means it will never be a completely satisfactory series. But it's done enough already. The story of Lisanna on its own is enough. Everything else is just bonus.