Home > Manga Reviews, Reviews > Fairy Tail, Vols. 43 – 48

Fairy Tail, Vols. 43 – 48

Fairy Tail, Vol. 48Fairy Tail, Vols. 43 – 48
by Hiro Mashima
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13 +)

The men and women of Fairy Tail face their greatest challenge to date, when a group of demons known as Tartaros enacts a plan to destroy all magic in the world! Can Natsu, Grey, Erza and the rest defeat these powerful new foes? And if so, at what cost? Hiro Mashima pulls out all the stops to deliver a non-stop action adventure tale in Fairy Tail, Vols. 43 – 48!

In the past, I’ve been rather lukewarm to Fairy Tail. I came on board with the Grand Magic Games arc and was less than impressed with it. Well, thankfully, it looks like Hiro Mashima corrected course with this Tartaros arc. The focus is much narrower, with the members of Fairy Tail taking the spotlight as they battle a group of incredibly powerful demons. Shrinking the cast down really allows for the story to flow and develop in a much more natural manner, and the dramatic beats and character moments generally don’t feel forced or shoehorned in, with a few rare exceptions. The battles are intense and they rarely let up. These six volumes practically fly by with nothing to drag them down. As a result the drama is constantly being ramped up and the battles grow in intensity reaching ludicrous levels by Fairy Tail, Vol. 48… and that final volume isn’t even the climax of the story arc!

While the focus on Fairy Tail really helps with some of the character building and development, the massive cast is still one of the series’ weak points. Much of this arc is dedicated to Natsu, Grey, Erza and Gajeel, but there’s about six or eight other supporting characters who also all get their own subplots, and that’s where the problems begin to arise. With a cast this large it can be hard to keep track of who’s doing what, who’s where and what their particular problem is, especially for those characters not in the big four or five. To further clutter up the field, early on there’s an subplot which is only tangentially unconnected to the main story. While there’s still room for it to return and play a roll in the climax, its inclusion and seeming abandonment felt a little weird. Likewise, some of the flashbacks for the supporting cast, and even for the main characters, feel awkward as well. There’s a flashback which expands on Gajeel and his relationship to an incredibly minor character who only appeared on a handful of pages, which pops up in the middle of a battle and feels horribly out of place. This is something that Mashima himself seemingly agrees with as he laments his inability to build it up properly in one of the notes from the author later on.

A Page from Fairy Tail, Vol. 44

Things get a bit dark.

Hiro Mashima’s artwork has always been a little hit or miss with me, but here he does bang up job with the crazy action scenes and life or death struggles. His character designs still strike me as something of an acquired taste in places, but it’s to deny the visceral thrill or contagious excitement contained within the pages of these six volumes of Fairy Tail. One of the highlights is his backgrounds. A large chunk of the action in these volumes takes place in a weird floating fortress. When things start off it looks like a fairly solid castle, with the typical hallways, doors, turrets and more that you’d expect in a castle. Over the course of the arc it’s slowly but surely reduced to rubble, along with most of the casts clothing now that I think of it. It’s a small thing, but it’s appreciated and it helps lends a sense of weight and consequences to the epic battles.

I’ve been reading Fairy Tail for just under twenty volumes at this point, and I have to say that Fairy Tail, Vols. 43 – 48 are easily the best this series has been during that time. These volumes are full of shonen-y goodness, such as insane fight scenes, power ups driven by emotional and personal break throughs or realizations, and well placed heroic come backs paired with dramatic exposition explaining a characters motivation and driving force. Despite my quibbles, Hiro Mashima does a bang up job with the Tartaros arc and for the first time I can really see why this series is so popular.

Fairy Tail, Vols. 43 – 48 are available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copies provided by the publisher.

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