Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fairy Tail 12

By Hiro Mashima. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Del Rey.

I hadn't reviewed Volume 11 of this series, mostly as it consisted of one giant fight, and I always find those harder to review. This wraps up the Tower of Heaven arc, though, and gives Erza a lot more emotional kicks to the teeth, something that was the purpose of this arc.

I am rather glad I read it in Volume format. One thing I've noticed about shonen series with long strings of fights, be it this series, One Piece, or Bleach is that they read a lot better 11 chapters in a row than they do waiting from week to week for the next punch to be thrown. Certain fandoms have arcs they dislike more than others - Skypeia in One Piece, Hueco Mundo in Bleach - and a large part of why they may be disliked is this is when the online fandom 'caught up' and started to read it week to week... and realized that, yes, 40-50 chapter fights over the course of an entire year CAN feel like they drag out.

The majority of this book features Erza finally battling her old friend and now mind-controlled enemy Jellal. How mind-controlled Jellal actually is is left up in the air, and things aren't helped by the arrival of Council Member Siegrain, which is an incredibly obvious and poorly handled revelation even though the author didn't intend for it to be a secret. It's possible I'm missing the subtle parodying going on here - this is a shout out to Mashima's previous work, Rave Master, which I haven't read - but in general if villains are going to stand around being smug jerks, they need to be better than this.

The ending, featuring Erza sacrificing herself to destroy the Tower and save her friends, works much better. I will have to go back and look at previous volumes to see if we only saw her crying from one eye before, but it's a cool backstory bit that gives a nice emotional punch to the final page of the volume. Likewise, Erza 'seeing' her own funeral is heartbreaking, and is a great answer to all those shonen sacrifices who are 'dying so that others might live'. It's in the characters and their love and affection for each other, rather than the fighting and posturing, which is where Fairy Tail really shines.

Of course, that's still just one chapter, and it has to be said that while this book read very fast, in the end I was slightly disappointed. There's really no way that Mashima's going to avoid his series being compared to One Piece, not as long as Natsu and Lucy are the hero and heroine. The problem with that is that if he wants to get attention here, he really needs to step up his game. It's hard not to compare this to the Arlong arc from One Piece, and in most respects it simply pales by comparison.

Fairy Tail continues in Japan, of course, and is about 14 volumes ahead of North America right now. That will only increase, as we may not see a new volume for a year or more with Kodansha's titles in Limboland. That's a dangerous state, one that can easily kill off a series that depends on people knowing there's a new volume every 3 months, and with the ending this volume has, I wonder how many casual readers might think the series finished? Still, if you want to read Kodansha's answer to One Piece, I'd get it at the library, and just read Chapters 99-100. They're really good chapters.

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