Maybe the death of TokyoPop is serving as a lesson to other publishers, but as of late, it seems as though they’re adopting a “less is more” sort of attitude. Less books, sure, but at least they’re bothering to make sure that what comes into print over here is worth reading. This week is a shining example, with a slew of powerhouse titles such as Biomega 6, Gantz 17, Gente 3, all of which will surely end up proudly in your manga collection. And that’s just the primer! Be sure to also snag new volumes of Bride of the Water God, Jormungand, and Kurozakuro while you’re at it.
But if it were up to me (and in a perfect world, it would be), you would yield on all of those awesomesauce titles in the name of but one book, the newest of which snuck in sometime last week; and that book is none other than Fairy Tail. Some of you may have heard tell of it, as it seems to be the new up and coming shonen title, but for once that’s okay with me. Maybe I’m just being stubborn because I really like it, or maybe it’s because I haven’t had a big, dumb, long anime (TM) to follow since I kind of fell off the Naruto bandwagon and Inu Yasha finished up, but Fairy Tail is exactly what I’ve been missing in shonen for quite some time, and by golly, am I happy to have unearthed it!
Don’t let the art style fool you, though: it’s not by Eiichiro Oda, creator of One Piece, but rather Hiiro Mashima, who gave us Rave Master. Rave Master was never my favourite thing, but Mashima seems to have hit a stride with Fairy Tail, and it really shows. The artwork is both incredibly detailed, but also very clean. There is a wide range of colourful, unique characters to frame the incredibly likeable and dynamic main team, which is made up of Natsu, the fire-eating fighter, Gray, the ice-maker, Ezra, the fast-paced armour “requipper”, and Lucy, the celestial spirit summoner. Anyone who’s ever played an RPG in their life, especially a traditional J-RPG such as Dragon Quest, will recognize what sort of trope this rag-tag band of magic-users is taking after, but that’s half the fun! What makes Fairy Tail a keeper is the fact that even though the plot doesn’t do much more than follow Natsu and company on a variety of mission-like quests, each a new story arc, there is always a hearty helping of character development and discovery. Might be just me, but I’ll take a good character-driven premise over some overworked plot any day.
That’s not to say there’s no story to tie everything together, though. Join Lucy, a young wizard who has just set out on her own to join the guild of her dreams, Fairy Tail! On her way, she runs into gluttonous Natsu, another wizard who just so happens to be a member of that very organization! After some haphazard adventuring, Natsu is more than happy to help get Lucy into the guild, where a few more hijinks land the pair of them in the same party as Natsu’s icy rival, Gray, and super strict Ezra, the magic knight. But all of them have their reasons for doing as they do, such as Natsu’s quest to find the fire dragon, Igneel, who raised him, or Gray’s determination to find his adoptive family. With each new quest the group takes on, the pot stirs, whether it’s in secrets unearthed, betrayals that come to light, or friendships and alliances forged. Mashima manages to wonderfully balance heartfelt emotional drama and hilarious comedy for a really engaging manga that you should snap up and get carried away by (before it gets too long and becomes intimidating!).
And keep an eye out for official Fairy Tail dubs, subs, and merch, because word on the street is that Funimation has picked it up!