Since I'm a few volumes behind on Fairy Tail I decided to start it off with this series. After all, a while back the anime was my flagship review series, and it will be again once I get off my lazy butt. But for now it's time to go back to where it all start, the manga.
Volume one starts with Lucy, a young mage, who wants to join the mage guild, Fairy Tail, meeting Natsu, and his cat Happy. Lucy explains how the mage world works to Natsu, who tells her that he's looking for a dragon. Lucy later runs into the mage Salamander, a member of Fairy Tail, who tells her he can help her into the guild. Later on his ship, Salamander reveals that he has been using magic to seduce women onto his ship, with the intent of selling them into slavery. Before Lucy can be taken, Natsu bursts through the ship ceiling, having heard that Salamander of Fairy Tail was there.
Natsu's badass entrance is ruined when his motion sickness gets the better of him. Happy flies in and save Lucy, revealing that both he and Natsu are wizards. Happy's magic allows him to fly. Lucy uses her stellar spirit magic to beach the boat, and once they are on solid ground Natsu is able to take care of Salamander. Natsu reveals that he's a member of Fairy Tail and that he's never seen this "Salamander."
Natsu, the real Salamander, beats the fake and his men, before making a run for it when the guards arrive. He grabs Lucy and when she protests he asks her if she wants to join Fairy Tail. When they arrive at Fairy Tail, Lucy finds that the place is inhabited mostly by eccentric lunatics. As a fight breaks out among the guild members, she comments on how much fun it looks like.
Romeo, the son of a guild member, Macao, comes in and asks the guild master, Makarov, if his father had returned from his mission yet. Makarov tells him not to worry about it, but Natsu disagrees, and goes looking for his guild mate. Lucy follows him, and the two discover that Macao was injured while exterminating a plague of body taking over monsters known as Vulcans. They beat the Vulcan, which turns out to have possessed Macao's body, and return home with their guild mate.
The volume ends with Natsu, Happy, and Lucy taking a job to steal a book from Duke Everlue. After she agrees, Lucy sees the bounty note, and realizes that Natsu and Happy asked her to team up with them because they needed a blonde to dress up as a maid to get an in with the Duke.
There's a short special at the end of the volume, where Lucy, Happy, and Natsu take a job to catch some flying fish. It's only a few pages long, and a good showcase of the kind of humor readers can expect from the series.
Originally I was attracted to Fairy Tail because the art kind of reminded me of One Piece. The price per volume did not appeal to me though (this was when volumes of Viz's shonen jump imprint went for eight dollars), and I put it aside until later. I have to admit that I've been a bit perplexed by all the accusations of Fairy Tail ripping One Piece off. Sure Fairy Tail's art had some similarities to the art of One Piece, at a time, but anyone comparing the art of the two series now wouldn't be able to see the similarities.
And really, if a series is similar to another series you love, and it actually has some skill put into it, is that such a bad thing? I try to judge manga on their own merits and flaws, and not on what they may or may not resemble. So to bring up the similarities between Fairy Tail and One Piece is to shut down critical thought. "It's like One Piece, but not as good," is just about the most assinine comment any critic of manga could make.
So instead, let us talk about Fairy Tail on its own merits. I personally feel qualified to talk about the series mostly because, apart from One Piece, Fairy Tail is the one series I've read over the most. For a while it was my second favorite series, and while it has fallen somewhat in the rankings, I still consider it with fondness, no matter what anyone else may say. But does the series stand apart as an actual good manga? As far as I am concerned, and I think others should be likewise concerned, yes, it does.
My first fandom was fantasy, so swords and sorcery, and epic adventures. The first real book that I ever read was The Hobbit and I read The Lord of the Rings not long after that. From then to now I've read a lot of fantasy, and it's always been a bit of an annoyance for me that there aren't more fantasy themed manga. Sure most shonen manga have fantasy elements to them, but since they're coming from an asian perspective, they don't have the same trappings that I love in my fantasy. Fairy Tail takes a step in the right direction for me, by having the magic actually be magic, rather than "chi" or some junk, and the characters actually be mages. Of course they are nothing like the wizards I grew up with, but I'm willing to let that slide.
At its most basic Fairy Tail is an action adventure, very much like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, but with slightly different trappings. The characters very much fall under the basic shonen stereotypes. Natsu is the high energy, rude, "it's all about spirit" main character, and Lucy is very much "the girl." I would go into more detail about them, but I've read so much manga that the characters are all blending into one right now. Their biggest strengths are that their personalities come across from the very beginning. With Fairy Tail we know exactly what we're getting into from the very first chapter. I've read series that have amazing first chapters, but the rest of the series is absolutely terrible. Or they have a terrible first chapter, and the rest of the series is great. Either way, Fairy Tail follows up the first chapter by providing a little more of the same in the rest of the volume. This is a good thing because it provides a constant tone to the story, allowing readers to decide whether the series is worth continuing, based on just the first volume.
But since this is a review, I should probably at least make an attempt at telling you what to do. In this case I highly recommend making the dip. If you like shonen action manga, good humor, and aren't bored by just a little bit more of the same, then Fairy Tail is a great series for you to start buying. The price is still a little higher than some other manga, but the overall quality of the books offset that price difference.
Support the series by purchasing the manga: Fairy Tail Volume 1