Fairy Tail, Vol. 30

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?

Bookshelf Briefs pointer

For those who read my reviews by category, I have reviews of Fairy Tail 14 and Magic Knight Rayearth in this week’s Bookshelf Briefs.

Brief Reviews On Sundry Manga

I have a pile of backlog here, but can’t quite work up the energy to post a full review for them. Hence these brief thoughts.

My Girlfriend’s a Geek 3: We basically have more of the same here, which is very much what I expected. Taiga deals with his girlfriend’s fetishes as best he can, while getting increasingly exasperated. Introduced here is Yuiko’s cosplaying friend Akari, who turns out to be Kouji’s younger sister. But honestly plot is sort of irrelevant to this series. I did enjoy seeing a brief snippet of Yuiko’s thoughts when she was dealing with the sleazy guy at her office – it shows that she actually does view Taiga as a genuine boyfriend, even if the depth of her feelings for him is still in question. That’s more than I usually get out of Otomen. A bonus at the end of the manga gives us a fake chapter of Sepatte Takuro, Yuiko’s BL obsession, and they even bring in another mangaka to draw it – Hiromi Namiki, who writes the ice hockey manga 88 for Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine. Unfortunately, the chapter itself is quite dull, being far TOO close a parody of shonen sports manga, to the point where the joke is lost.

Oh My Goddess! 38: We finish off the Chrono arc here, and thank God for that, as it’s one of the weakest in the series to date. Chrono’s fear of cats is incredibly lame, the dojikko maid thing continues to be done to death, and everyone’s praise of her at the end thus seems overdone. On the bright side, once she’s gone we start a new arc that will prove to be more dramatic, as Urd’s mother Hild gets overthrown in Hell by a sneaky trickster, and is now in a chibi body and relatively powerless. What’s worse, now the new demons in charge are arriving on Earth and granting wishes – but as ever, they twist them and make people suffer. I was amused at seeing Chihiro and Megumi actually SEE Hild appear before their eyes, and the building subsequently destroyed – but when the building is magically reconstructed later, they just edit their memories to fit the facts. All in all, not a great volume, but I’m hoping for better things now that Hell has new ownership.

Fairy Tail 13: As ever with Fairy Tail, I enjoy the volume when I’m reading it, but have difficulty retaining any memory of it five minutes after the fact. Erza’s backstory arc gets a bit of an epilogue here, and we see that we probably have not seen the last of Ultear – or Jellal, for that matter. There then follows some goofy comedy as they head back to a now-rebuilt Fairy Tail and welcome Juvia (unsurprisingly) and Gajeel (somewhat more surprisingly) in as members. This mid-section is particularly noted by the cameo appearances by Jason Thompson and Dallas Middaugh, whom Mashima had met when he was a guest at SDCC 2008 and decided to write into the series. Jason in particular makes a great dorky reporter. This is counterbalanced with Lucy’s attempts to use her charms for various purposes – and failing miserably. However, we then head into the next arc, where Laxus returns to town, just as big a jerk and twice as pissed. He and his colleagues decide to have a ‘festival’ where the Fairy Tail members have to fight each other in an elimination bout – and the female members are all turned to stone and used as hostages to make them do it. A sadly predictable plotline, but certainly effective. Fairy Tailo remains good, solid shonen, but I just can’t get into it more than I need to.

Natsume’s Book of Friends 7: Been a while since I reviewed this one. I enjoy the series a great deal, but rarely have much to say about it. This volume is notable for having a plot arc that lasts a good 2/3 of the volume, and features what may prove to be a new ongoing ‘villain’. Someone is attacking yokai in order to get their blood for some unknown purpose – and the attack is human! The main thrust of the plot, however, as with a number of previous chapters, is getting Natsume to be more proactive and choosing to do good, rather than drifting along trying to avoid being hurt. This volume is very much yokai focused – Tanuma and Taki don’t even show up – but that helps, as the whole thing ends up being almost like an action movie. There are a few flaws to the volume – the revelation of the human attacking the yokai turns out to be very anticlimactic, and the unrelated short story at the end is clearly a case of needing to pad out the book, as it’s not that hot. Still, the main story itself is an excellent relaxed shoujo horror, and I look forward to seeing Natsume’s further development.