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Why Was Fairy Tail So Divisive Among Anime Fans?

Fairy Tail was big among shonen fans, but others hated the anime for its poor plot and characters, reliance on fanservice and the magic of friendship.

Fairy Tail is still a fairly popular manga and anime series, especially as far as shonen titles go. Rising to popularity around the same time as One Piece and Naruto, it’s very similar in its sense of adventure and action. Unfortunately, while Fairy Tail has an entire guild’s worth of fans, it has just as many if not more detractors.

Constantly harangued for its poor character development, excessive fanservice and relying too much on the power of friendship, Fairy Tail is seen by many as everything that’s wrong with shonen anime. At the same time, it’s arguably just as emblematic of some of the demographic’s strengths. Here’s a look at what Fairy Tail succeeds and fails at, as well as whether it deserves the hate it still gets.

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If nothing else about the series is praised, it goes without saying that Fairy Tail has very dynamic and eye-catching artwork. Creator Hiro Mashima has a style very similar to Eichiro Oda of One Piece fame, and the character designs in Fairy Tail resemble that other manga in only the best way, The cast members, especially Natsu and Lucy, are instantly recognizable, with each design being expressive and jubilant, all without being too generic. The female designs are particularly well-liked, at least in part for some of their fanservice elements.

In being such a quintessential shonen adventure, Fairy Tail is easy to get into and binge-watch. Not requiring too much thought or deep reflection, the show is what many viewers imagine when they think of anime. Likely recalling the feeling of watching shows on Toonami or Adult Swim back in the day, these fans are comforted by how cozy and familiar the show seems to them. Unfortunately, good designs and a sense of Saturday cartoon nostalgia don’t save Fairy Tail from a lot of its deserved criticism.

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For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the show’s quests and bounties, Fairy Tail feels incredibly low-key. The stakes are almost never high, and this includes its generic and formulaic battles. New arcs involve the latest one-dimensional villain easily trouncing a member of Natsu’s guild to prove that they’re “the strongest ever,” only for Natsu to come back in the second round and defeat them with the power of friendship. Even though this is a common criticism of shonen anime, Fairy Tail takes it to a laughable extreme, making every quest and fight scene have all the stakes and tension of a local bake sale. Given that shonen shows live and die by their action scenes, it’s the kiss of death that Fairy Tail‘s are so boring.

As mentioned, none of the villains are well-written or even just mildly interesting, mostly due to their lack of narrative connection to any of the heroes. In One Piece, many of the villains have some sort of thematic tie to one of the Straw Hat Crew members, especially in the earlier story arcs. This, when combined with the lack of a concrete “ranking” for its magic system, again makes the action and the story in general rather boring.

Another common criticism is the fan service, and although some are fine with it, it’s definitely seen as over the top in many instances. Although One Piece, Naruto and even Tite Kubo’s Bleach all have some fan service elements, they’re not nearly as blatant or distracting with it. Given the lack of depth in any other part of Fairy Tail, this lowest-common-denominator titillation results in a mind-numbingly dumb and strangely boring series that’s rightfully criticized as perhaps one of the worst “popular” shonen anime ever made.

The sequel and spinoff Fairy Tail Zero and Fairy Tail: 100 Years Quest respectively are both marked improvements (at least in their manga forms), while the Rave Master and Edens Zero anime (based on manga from the same mangaka) are far better titles. This showcases not only the wasted potential of Fairy Tail, but also why it deserves all the hate that it gets.

Timothy Blake Donohoo is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing.

A professional freelance writer and marketing expert, he’s written marketing copy and retail listings for companies such as Viatek.

In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, watching documentaries and catching up on the latest Vaporwave and Electro-Swing musical releases.

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