Publisher: Del Rey
Story and Art: Hiro Mashima
Rating: T 13+
Wow, I don’t see how Eiichiro Oda has the time to work on a new series with the continued explosive success of One Piece. Talk about hard work and gu… what? Really? Alright, it turns out Fairy Tale is the new series from Rave Master creator Hiro Mashima, but you can’t really blame me for jumping the gun, can you?
Beginning its serialization in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine in 2006, Mashima’s magic-woven adventure certainly shares a lot in common, stylistically at least, with Oda’s high seas legend, but it also sparks its own quirks, gags and action, making it easy to eventually separate the two from one another. Regardless, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mashima had a woefully underfed Oda locked up in his office closet, using the last of his strength to pen just one last panel of the latest chapter.
Enough art nitpicking, though, because the style works well for Fairy Tail, a high-spirits story that begins by following the young wizard Lucy, still developing magical talents and hoping to find some sweet deals on items at a local town shop. Her zealousness leads her to an entanglement with a player that’s passing through town, using charm spells-and in Lucy’s case, the promise of joining the world famous Fairy Tail wizard guild-to lure ladies to his slave ship.
His plan is cut short when the fiery Natsu busts onto the ship with his feline buddy Happy and rescues Lucy, destroying the town’s harbor entirely in the process. His main concern: some dolt besmirching the good name of Fairy Tale, of which he really is an active member. Natsu is a tough kid with a penchant for flaming hot magic, overeating and, oddly enough, severe motion sickness. He’s got a lot of Monkey D. Luffy spunk to him, honestly, but he becomes his own character fairly quickly.
Lucy has some pretty cool tricks up her sleeve, as well, the most notable of which involves using Celestial Keys to create contracts with and summon the help of Celestial Spirits. In the beginning, these range from spirits like a giant clock, Horologium, to a hulking cow that wields an axe larger than any of the lead characters. In the same way you’ll be looking forward to seeing the team’s next adversary, the Spirits serve as their very own carrot and stick for the reader.
The first volume covers Natsu and Lucy’s first meeting, as well as her introduction into the guild and their first mission together. The second kicks off with an assignment offering appropriately higher stakes: a two million jewel reward for the seemingly simple task of destroying a book hidden deep within the mansion of the hideous Duke Everlue.
So far, the series admirably wears its influences on its sleeve, a proud beacon that won’t distract in the least from a truly enjoyable read. What it all boils down to is the fact that Fairy Tail is just plain fun. The characters are likeable, the quests engaging, and the enemies are very large, very cartoony, and hopefully this will only continue to increase in all respects as the series continues.