Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Anime First Impressions: Fairy Tail

No, “Tail” is not a typo.

So yes, I’ve been watching Fairy Tail lately.  I’m about 15 episodes in, which is a bit lengthy in terms of a “first impression” post, but it’s looking like it’s going to be a long-runner.  I was really hesitant to start another long-running anime after professing that One Piece would be the one and only one I’d bother with, but I’d started seeing Fairy Tail around more recently and figured I’d at least try to give it a shot.

So why this change of heart?  Well, I watched a few episodes of it.  Hulu often has the first two to four dubbed episodes of a show available, especially if it’s a popular one.  I was interested by what I saw, and when I started writing “Warrior, Wizard,” I noticed that I had been drawing some from what I had seen of Fairy Tail, especially in terms of the “guild” structure. That’s what made me give it a shot—seeing if I could draw inspiration from it and/or separate myself from it.

Fairy Tail takes place in the land of Fiore, a land filled with magic.  There are guilds of wizards who take on various jobs.  One of the most famous guilds, and the one that the show focuses on, is the Fairy Tail guild.  It’s filled with a lot of powerful wizards—but also a lot of colorful personalities.  Which is a win-lose in-universe, but definitely a win-win for us!

Basically, there are five primary characters at this point in the show.  There’s the protagonist, Lucy, a celestial wizard.  She uses magical keys to summon different beings, and even has several golden keys, which are extremely rare keys based on the Zodiac.  I don’t know at this point if there are multiples or if there are only twelve of these keys in existence (in which case, how did Lucy manage to get her hands on them? I’m sure these questions will be answered in time), but I like the idea.

Then there are Natsu and Happy, a fire wizard and his friend who happens to be a talking cat that can transform into a flying talking cat (Happy is pretty much just there to serve as the show’s mascot).  Natsu is an ability-type wizard, meaning that he can use fire magic naturally, and he was…personally trained by a dragon or something?

Natsu’s greatest rival is Grey (Gray?  I never know the proper spelling since the color can correctly be spelled both ways), who is also an ability-type wizard, though he uses ice instead of fire.  He also has a habit of taking off his clothes.  Which is, um, actually explained in his backstory, oddly enough.  He and Natsu have a very “red oni, blue oni” relationship.  The term is a mostly Japanese trope concerning a specific foil: the hot-headed, aggressive “red oni” (in this case, Natsu) and the distant, logical “blue oni” (in this case, Grey, though “logical” is a bit of a stretch for anyone in Fairy Tail).  If you’ve ever seen Digimon, it can be explained pretty quickly as “Tai and Matt.”  Anyway, it’s emphasized in Fairy Tail by their “fire and ice” dynamic.

The fifth member the show focuses on is Erza, a woman who uses a type of magic called “requip.”  For those familiar with anime terminology, it’s basically magic hammerspace.  For those who aren’t, it allows her to store weapons and armor in an alternate dimension and quickly retrieve them for whatever purpose she wants.

At the point I’m at, the show’s starting to pick up storywise.  The groundwork has been set and there have been a few short arcs to set up the characters some.  Now it’s starting to go into some character backstories and set up storylines that will probably span multiple arcs.

As for my opinions on it?  Well…I’m not sure.  I’m torn at this point.  It kind of feels like Fullmetal Alchemist meets One Piece (and due to appearance and English voice actresses, Lucy even seems like a cross between Winry and Nami).  That’s not a bad thing, though.  Overall, I’m enjoying it.  It’s got a solid storyline, decent characters, a great world…but it’s just…lacking.  It feels like a shonen anime (i.e., anime targeted at younger boys)…probably because it IS a shonen anime, but it feels like it’s very much part of its genre.  At this point, it doesn’t quite have the emotion I’ve seen from One Piece, though it may grow into it. 

The main issue I have with it, though, is the writing.  I don’t know if this is the fault of the Funimation dub (I refuse to watch long-runners subbed), but it just doesn’t wow me.  It just feels a bit flat.  Not quite to the level of the Hunger Games trilogy—a series I felt had excellent potential that was destroyed by a few terrible writing choices—but still a bit of a disappointment.  I guess that’s to be expected to an extent with shonen, though.  My past experiences with shonen are Shaman King, Rurouni Kenshin, and One Piece, and I felt that the third went terribly downhill and wasted great potential while the latter two had some very mature, solid writing.  The creators of Rurouni Kenshin and One Piece have also worked together in the past, so it’s not too much of a surprise that I’d enjoy the works of both.  Maybe their excellent writing and characters have spoiled me?

Anyway, Fairy Tail is still a very solid series, and I’m going to continue watching it.  I’m just currently holding it to a high standard.  Maybe it’ll improve as it goes along?  Who knows?  These are just my first impressions, after all.

If you’re into shonen or fantasy, and especially if you’re big on worldbuilding, give Fairy Tail a look.  It gives some good explanations of its magic systems (it has multiple magic systems and pulls them off well), and it’s definitely something worth looking into for that.  Of course, if you hate shonen…you’re probably going to hate this, too, since it’s more of the same.

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