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Fairy Tail 207-209

November 4, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Fairy Tail reviews return with a triple-chapter week mega-post! My anticipation and expectation is high for this series of chapters.

(207) We begin with Mest demystifying himself by trying to eat snow. Right out of the gate in such an important week, Mashima uses comedy to kill the tension (and, by association, interest) surrounding a character with limitless potential. His comedy moments are decently funny, but these character traits could either have been assigned to someone else, or saved for much later, when this character isn’t at the center of attention.

Comedy is well-covered, thanks. Be serious.

Mest and Wendy losing this early can’t be right. Regardless of any criticism I may have towards Mashima, he’s not foolish enough to build up a character this much only to swerve us this badly. Something is amiss.

As evidenced by Gray and Loke failing to remember any vital details about him, Mest is apparently a completely unknown quantity. A mystery element would add considerable excitement to this arc.

Poor Gazille. Certainly, he was the last person who would have wanted the “Quiet” route, even less so than Natsu. As far as a writing choice, though, having Gazille avoid fighting right now is the right decision. He needs the spotlight firmly on him for his next fight, instead of sharing it with others fighting around him.

Juvia lost?! What was the point in including her in the S-Class Exam, then? Mashima better have something major planned for her in this arc, or I’m going to be incensed. Well, I’ll be more incensed than I am now.

That's quite the understatement, Gray

Uh, Natsu, perhaps you missed the point of … well, this entire exam… but you already are challenging your fellow guild members to see who can become an S-Class mage. That’s the whole reason all of you are here. (Seriously, generic shonen hero statements are one thing, but this is a slap in the face.)

The last page unveils the major plot twist: Mest really isn’t who we’ve been made to think he is. We don’t really know who he is, but to an extent, we know who he isn’t. Also, we know he can make one hell of a creepy face. Incidentally, having Pantherlily be the character to figure things out is a nice touch, given both his association to Mystogan and the fact that he’s the last person to join Fairy Tail, meaning that if Mest is using some kind of manipulative magic, Pantherlily should be the least affected by it.

Fantastically scary

(208) Suddenly, Tenrou Island has become Little Garden.

I still don’t like Happy, but a comedic straight-man was definitely needed in the scene where Natsu interrogated the beast, and Happy duly delivered.

Halfway through, the chapter still hasn’t shaken the comedy focus. Fairy Tail is good at comedy, but an unprecedented triple-chapter week might not be the best time to get sidetracked from the main story. Incidentally, the Conan O’Brien “If They Mated”-esque concept of what Elfman and Evergreen’s baby would look like is nowhere near as funny as Mirajane’s head-in-hands reaction in the following panel.

World's unhappiest would-be aunt

In a twist that wouldn’t shock even a child whose first reading material is Fairy Tail, romantic tension is being developed between Elfman and Evergreen. The most insulting aspect of that plot cop-out is that, if predictable and unnecessary romantic development is all we’re set to gain from Elfman and Evergreen progressing in the exam, they might as well have lost instead of Juvia and Lisanna.

Emo kid is back, and he’s still on the verge of tears as he tries to get Elfman and Evergreen to run away. Sadly, those two don’t have the chance to prove their worth, as Natsu enters the scene from out of nowhere to save them from “Death Preying,” which is one of the most redundant names ever given to an ability.

Oh, nevermind. Emo kid isn’t on the verge of tears at all; he actually is crying.

Cheer up, genocidal terror

(209) It really is unfortunate that this whole “depressed character with an unwanted devastating power” storyline has been done enough already, because each individual aspect of this storyline is being handled well. Still, I can’t overlook obvious authorial laziness.

Emo kid has been waiting for Natsu to grow strong enough to kill him? Again, that’s tried-and-true at best. More interesting to me is the fact that Natsu has no idea who he is.

As unusual of a sacrificial lamb as a muffler is, any involvement in the storyline from Igneel is worthwhile. We’ve had to wait far too long for any advancement of this plot; I’m certainly not suggesting that Mashima should have had Natsu head directly for a reunion with Igneel without any adventures along the way, but entire arcs have gone by without even the mention of his name. This is a good sign.

Do you have any idea how few Targets exist in Earthland?

Mest is apparently aware of the existence of emo kid. His creepy face conveys mixed messages, however; it’s difficult to tell whether Mest is fearful or excited.

... or both fearful AND excited, perhaps?

Emo kid now has a name, but I don’t like “Zeref” as much as “emo kid.” I suppose I ought to let the manga speak for itself, though.

An airship full of baddies shows up, headed by a man named Hades. Could there possibly have been a more boring way to introduce the antagonists of this arc? Here is an airship, this guy is named Hades, this other guy is ugly, this narrative box says “Dark Guild.” Completely unimaginative.

As long as none of you are secretly Gérard

Final Flash: 207 was the standout of the three, but each chapter had some quality to it. That said, there was no incredible event or unified storyline that warranted a triple-chapter week. In that sense, then, this was a bit of a letdown.

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Fairy Tail 202

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

I hope the cover page’s claim of “The strongest cat in all of FT history!!” is intended to imply that Pantherlily is the strongest cat in the entire series universe, rather than simply the strongest one yet in the series timeline, or the strongest we’ve seen. Him being the strongest overall lessens the chance of future cat introductions.

Natsu choosing Happy as his partner is such a boring choice. This is a rare chance for Mashima to explore chemistry between characters who rarely interact, and instead we’re given the most obvious choice right from the start. Often, series with side characters more interesting than the protagonist translate to praise for the author, for creating such interesting diversions; in Fairy Tail, unfortunately, the side characters are more interesting than Natsu because Natsu is boring.

It may only be conjecture, but an explicit mention of Igneel after so long is pleasing.

Gray’s choice of Loke is an excellent one. That’s exactly the kind of surprise choice that I wanted from Natsu.

Lisanna pairing with Lluvia hopefully means that Lluvia will play a major role in this arc, considering how immediately relevant Lisanna is.

Elfman with Evergreen! Levy and Gazille! Mest and Wendy! With each choice, I’m more incredulous as to how Mashima can mess up Natsu so badly, given how well he’s pairing up everyone else.

Partner contrast is vital

Cana will obviously be integral to the upcoming plot. Whenever we finally do get to learn her backstory, I hope it’s convincingly sad. Natsu bears obvious rooting interest, whether relying on the crutch of being the protagonist or in hope that attaining S-Class really will facilitate a meeting with Igneel; others such as Lluvia are personal choices at best, with little established reason for success; Cana’s plot will need to be important enough to strongly rival Natsu meeting Igneel for the arc to carry real tension (again, as with last chapter, assuming that only one person will be promoted, which isn’t the kind of super-happy arc ending that Fairy Tail tends to provide).

Final Flash: Mostly exciting choices (save for Natsu), thus another promising chapter. That’s enough promise, though; it’s now time to start delivering.

Fairy Tail 201

September 29, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Hello again, fanservice. Invite yourself in, why don’t you?

It took six pages to get to a character wearing clothes. Maybe I shouldn’t have complained all those times Fairy Tail cover pages have been so shameless; Mashima is evidently deciding to move things around.

This kind of bustling activity within the guild is considerably more exciting than the usual incessant partying.

Charle’s power of precognition must be kept as explicitly limited as shown here for her character to fit it with the ensemble cast at all.

Lluvia deserves so much more involvement in the main plot. She’s such a fun character, and she isn’t lacking in ability.

More of her, please

The S-Class Wizard Promotion Trial is very promising. The strength of Fairy Tail has never been originality, but rather solid execution of classic shonen formulas. An exam- and/or tournament-style arc is the perfect way to get the series back on its feet.

Tenrou Island is designed interestingly enough. It should prove a good backdrop for the arc.

...

Most importantly for such an arc, the eight chosen participants provide great variety. Natsu and Gray are obvious choices, Lluvia and Elman are welcome surprises, Fried and Mest are the necessary unknown quantities, and Cana provides great plot tension in relation to the more “main” characters, given that only one entrant passes. (… that is, if we are to take this information as gospel; it’s entirely possible that some sort of crisis will befall the Trial and multiple wizards will display enough skill to warrant the promotion.)

Charle’s premonition is a worrying note amid an otherwise intriguing chapter. An exam among guild members is exactly the kind of positive change of pace the series needs right now; weighing the arc down with this sad-looking boy and whatever depressing plot he carries makes the arc lose its freshness. Mashima needs to learn that not every arc can be a climactic masterpiece. For an author who looks to One Piece so much, it’s a surprise that Mashima completely overlooks Oda’s “serious arc, fun arc” approach. Would Water 7 / Enies Lobby have felt nearly as powerful without the Davy Back Fight right before it, to relieve the tension built up over the course of Skypiea? Fairy Tail has a fun cast of characters with excellent comedic traits, but they (and, by proxy, we) are rarely given the chance to relax anymore.

Final Flash: Hugely promising setup with an undertone of worry. I wish I could trust Mashima more not to screw this up.

Fairy Tail 200

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment
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I’m always hesitant to agree when a series praises itself, such as Fairy Tail describing itself as “Super Popular Battle x Fantasy.” Popular, yes, but new volumes of Fairy Tail are consistently outsold by new volumes of not only One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach, but also Katekyo Hitman Reborn! and Detective Conan.

While the first color page is excellent, the color cover is lackluster. The motif is a little too sickeningly sweet, and Natsu’s face seems off.

Lluvia delivers a pretty good punchline.

That makes one of us

Please, Gazille, there was more than enough cat activity in the last arc. Don’t spur on any more cat plot.

The Gorousei — I mean, the Magic Council don’t play a particularly interesting role in this series, and a sudden re-introduction of their desire to dissolve Fairy Tail will not be enough to redeem them.

Punishable by death

Some sad-looking boy with an apparently-unwanted power to kill anything around him appears, and he’s looking for Natsu. “Burden of a terrible ability” plot is overdone as it is; did it really need to be paired with such a dour-faced character?

Cheer up, emo instrument of genocide

Final Flash: Not much of a milestone chapter, and not much to pique interest in future chapters, either.

Fairy Tail 199

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment
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It’s the “real” Lisanna! That bodes well for this arc right away.

Natsu’s initial incredulous reaction to Lisanna’s reappearance is far better than his later, typically-Natsu excitement. It’s a pity Mashima didn’t choose to explore a new side to Natsu’s character.

Can't find his reaction too surprising

Lisanna’s story is convincingly sad. It isn’t so weak that it can be overlooked, nor is it so overly dramatic as to be ridiculous, and it even manages to make decent use of the setting created by the disappointing Edolas arc.

The graveyard scene is fairly touching, but it’s a scene that could have been saved to carry more impact after at least a few chapters have been spent establishing Lisanna further.

As heartwarming as one-chapter resolution can be

While this is certainly one of the best Fairy Tail chapters of the year, it’s slightly unfortunate that the entirety of the chapter was devoted to explanation and reunion. These are positive moments, but they don’t provide much to drive the story forward into the next chapter, meaning the new plot and conflict will have to be developed from scratch next week. Again, it’s a comparatively strong chapter, but it isn’t without missed opportunities.

Final Flash: Don’t misinterpret the brevity of this review; there just simply aren’t many individual moments to comment on. Overall, a good, encouraging chapter.

Fairy Tail 198

[scanlation by Binktopia]

Fanservice? On a Fairy Tail cover?

It’s a huge relief that everything so far seems back to normal, but the other shoe is poised to drop.

The miserable sound of tumbling shoes

The Exceed are being further glorified with a new convoluted explanation of their plan to send their children to the parallel (real) universe. In the end, Mashima is unable even to follow through in keeping the cats even minutely evil. It’s not insulting, because I have no remaining faith in the cats or in Mashima that is left to be insulted, but it’s the sure sign of a poor author, trying to make any ending as comprehensively happy as possible.

In fact, it’s a bit worse than that: Charle has the power of prediction, and all Exceed were just being manipulative and two-faced to her, “for her benefit.”

and Charle is a princess. Why not have everyone get married, while you’re at it? I can’t stand any more saccharine.

Some things are better left unlearned, Natsu

Pantherlily is small and cute now. Great. He was fine just as he was, thanks, particularly considering whose cat he is.

Lisanna. That actually is interesting, given how serious Natsu has become every time she’s been brought up in conversation. That said, I refuse to get my hopes up, considering how promising the disappearance of Fairy Tail was, compared to how hugely awful the Edolas arc has been.

Final Flash

Fairy Tail 197

August 26, 2010 1 comment
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“Bye Bye Fairy Tail” is a misleading and cruel title.

In case it wasn't already obvious

Natsu combining the fight with the Fairy Tail farewell ceremony is a pretty good touch, but I have absolutely no emotional connection to the scene, because it involves Gérard. Why couldn’t Mystogan just have been a completely original character?

The Moria-lookalike cat is unnecessarily creepy.

Also, that hand gesture...

It seems Gazille will get Pantherlily as his cat after all. Unfortunately, it also seems like all the other cats are coming back to the real world.

Final Flash: This miserable arc is finally over.