Against the constantly growing backlog of Japanese anime, one show has always stood out as exemplifying all the quirks that make anime so appealing to Western audiences as well as staying true to its Japanese roots. Grand fight scenes, goofy characters, a surprising amount of heart, and exploration of prevalent themes surrounding the word ‘family’; Fairy Tail has always felt much more than just a show for enjoyment’s sake. Don’t get me wrong, there’s never a dull moment on the continent of Fiore, but you’ll always find many meanings and heartwarming moments packed into its whopping 339 episodes that will make you laugh, sometimes drop your jaw and even perhaps tear up at times.
Following chiefly the story of Natsu Dragneel, Lucy Heartfilia, Erza Scarlet, Gray Fullbuster, and the flying talking cat (well, technically an Exceed) Happy, Fairy Tail is an episodic adventure split into narrative arcs, some lasting two episodes, some 53. These stories have them battling childhood rivals, competing against friends for honour, saving the world from disaster (multiple times), and even competing in Olympic-style team events to be named the Kingdom’s greatest guild of mages. At the heart of the show, there’s always a celebrated core of friendship and family, something that is often explored to poignant depths. In fact, with most of the main characters lacking blood-related parents, Fairy Tail is often a show about the friends that become our family. You’ll watch Fairy Tail and constantly feel this idea empowering its host of characters to overcome even the greatest of trials, with backstory that often predates its villains and sometimes drives them towards good. It makes the show simultaneously about loss and pain as well as being about how we can find a true family in those we love around us.
Yet that’s not the only thing that makes Fairy Tail so captivating to watch. While covered in messages and shrouded in subtle moments of reflection, it’s just as much of a power fantasy and feels exhilarating to experience. It has characters that breathe fire, summon spirits, and switch armours at will; these only just scratch the surface of the weird and marvellous abilities that the show’s wizards often have. It’s like a Japanese interpretation of the world of X-Men, except it’s not limited to Western sensibilities that often make shows or films “too safe”. It’s completely unadulterated fun, often taking moments to extremes for the simple fact of enjoyment, never fearing in taking a pause from narrative to simply get people laughing. Granted, its sexualisation of the human body (often more so of women than men) sometimes leaves an air of awkwardness that doesn’t feel necessary, but its acute awareness of the absurdity of these moments as well as many others, often pave the way to great jokes and witty one-liners that always hit their mark.
Fairy Tail was the first anime I ever watched and I doubt it will be my last. It made for the perfect entry point and always takes me on an unmatched journey of enjoyment whenever I watch it. It’s a show that is as equally about fun as it is about exemplifying a message, and it never fails to balance these two aspects with perfection. It cannot be stressed enough at just how good this show can be, and as an entry point into the Japanese art-from that is anime, it’s a perfect start to become acquainted with another culture’s approach to media and storytelling.
Fairy Tail is available on Funimation and Crunchyroll. You can watch a trailer below.