Shounen DON’Ts! – How Hiro Mashima is ruining Fairy Tail

A fantastical tale set in a land where magic is an essential part of life. Where mages of all shapes, skills, and sizes unite in guilds to take on job requests, helping those in need and making lifelong comrades. A story filled with unforgettable bonds, thrilling adventures, and enough emotion packed in it to make a grown person cry!

That’s what I signed up for when I first started reading Fairy Tail two years ago. Back then, I was convinced this manga would be the next Shounen legend. But 500 odd chapters later, as the story is finally hitting its last arc, I find myself doubting my initial opinion. The truth is, Fairy Tail just isn’t as great as it used to be. Ever since the Avatar arc (three arcs from the last one), things have taken a turn for the worse. Plot became repetitive, characters grew stale, and what should be the most interesting arc in the entire series has become nothing great to me.

What could have caused this change, you ask? I’ve managed to boil it down to a few reasons. Let me know if you agree:

 

1. Overuse of deus ex machina

“Deus ex machina: a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object.” There are many ways to execute a good deus ex machina, but Mashima is infamous for using it when he runs out of ways to continue the story. This is a habit that stems back to Rave Master, his first serialisation, and unfortunately still sticks around till this day.

What consequence that has on his story shows in its predictability. It’s reached a point where readers are so sure that characters in Fairy Tail will never die because of all the times Mashima has reversed time or stopped it or revived that character through sheer Shounen will. Don’t even get me started on the “power of friendship.” This practice of his has all but sucked out all the excitement from the story, no wonder everything eventually feels predictable and stale.

NAKAMA POWER! (Image Source: Fairy Tail chapter 237)

2. Disjointed story arcs

Evident from the first point, Mashima isn’t the most talented storyteller. His plot development leaves much to be desired and his overarching story is only barely present. I can tell from the lack of foreshadowing in his story that he hasn’t put too much thought into the way events connect together and affect things down the line. That’s why so many seemingly apocalyptic events can appear out of nowhere, then be resolved without any consequence!

The harm in that is, nobody really knows where the story is going. In one arc, they’re dealing with family issues, and in the next, they’re dealing with an alternate reality. There is no obvious overarching story that links everything together. At times, it almost seems like an anthology of adventures rather than a cohesive plot. And you know what, that would be fine, except that’s obviously not what he’s aiming for.

 

3. Poor character development

Fairy Tail has some of the weakest character development I’ve ever seen in a Shounen manga. Most of the character growth only occurs around the time the character is introduced, to which they undergo a big change in character traits (e.g. evil to good), then everything henceforth remains relatively stagnant. Same goes for romantic subplots; even though they exist, it is often characterised by a sudden change in feelings, followed or preceded by complete stagnancy.

This peeves me because, having read Rave Master, I know Mashima has it in him! But unlike his first series, Fairy Tail boasts a huge cast of characters. I think, too huge for him to handle. In the end, by giving certain characters extra time in the limelight, he loses time for development in other characters. At the same time, he cannot focus the limelight on anyone for an extended period of time because he has to remain equal to every main character. Whew, talk about writing yourself into a hole!

It looks almost the same, but Rave Master had a considerably smaller cast. (Image Source: Rave Master chapter 200)

4. The story has no final goal

Lastly, Fairy Tail doesn’t fulfill the most basic of Shounen rules: Always have a goal. When you think of Naruto, you think “I want to become hokage!” When you think of Fullmetal Alchemist, you think “I want to save my brother!” When you think of Fairy Tail, uh, let’s go on adventures and have fun together?

I know there are several people out there who would contest this point, but the fact is, what goals do the Fairy Tail characters have except “eventual peace”? That’s why it seems like with every arc, they are simply fighting to remain alive, which I don’t think is a good enough goal. Everyone wants to stay alive and be happy together, but what drives them beyond that? I find it hard to answer that question.


And so, those are my reasons for losing interest in Fairy Tail. I still follow the manga, just to see how it ends, but there are a lot of aspects that are a bit too problematic for me to digest. I don’t know what it’s like for you, so leave me your opinions in the comments below!

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