By Hiro Mashima. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
It’s been a long time since I last did a full review of Fairy Tail. In fact, the last time I did the blurb above said “released by Del Rey”. But this is a pivotal volume of the series, for many reasons. It also suffers from the same problem that has plagued the series since it began, one that many fans, particularly in the West, have trouble getting past: it feels like a One Piece ripoff. What’s most interesting about this volume is that Mashima, who surely must have heard this about five thousand times, goes ahead and duplicates one of One Piece’s most famous moves… but with a slight twist. He is embracing the One Piece-ness of his manga.
But before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at Gildarts and Cana. I’ve always liked Gildarts, who is a great way of showing that goofy grinning shonen boys grow up to become goofy grinning shonen men. This shows in Cana’s confession to him about her parentage, where he can’t resist making jokes about it, till he realizes that this is exactly what she doesn’t need right now. After that, it’s all heartwarming. It also ties in tragically with the end of the volume, where Lucy has to deal with the death of her own estranged father, who she discovers wanted to make amends with her. Lucy’s emotions, where she’s sort of at a loss and vaguely sad at first, are handled in a mature and understandable way.
This brings us to the timeskip. Yes, a timeskip, just like One Piece. This one is a full seven years, though. What makes this one interesting – and divisive – is that in those seven years our heroes were held in a sort of stasis bubble of magic, so that the outside world has aged but they haven’t. This was quite upsetting to many fans, who wanted to see older, non-teenage versions of their heroes start beating things up. But Mashima defends his choice, and I see his point. Fairy Tail as a guild has spent 30 volumes building itself up from a minor laughingstock of a guild to the very best in the land… and now everything is right back to where it started, with our heroes having to climb up once more.
This does lead to a few issues. Most of the main cast whose faces we see a lot were on the island, so for a while when we’re back at Fairy Tail 7 years later we’re following some characters that we haven’t really focused on since Volume 1, like Romeo. It’s meant to be heartbreaking, but lacks the emotional resonance simply as we haven’t seen any of these people enough to feel their frustration. Fairy Tail’s cast is huge, but Mashima sometimes expects us to have an encyclopedic knowledge of it.
So Fairy Tail has done a timeskip, and honestly there’s really only a few shonen cliches it hasn’t gone through yet. I’m not quite sure what could be left to go over in the next volume… oh hey, did someone say tournament arc?