Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fairy Tail Volume 4 by Hiro Mashima

After an attack by the Dark Guilds, which the mages of Fairy Tail only barely beat off, the guild has been called to account by the Council of Guilds, and Ezra, who was the nominal leader in charge, has been summoned to face charges. Natsu, turned into a tiny lizard by the other mages, begs to be freed from the glass case they have imprisoned him in, but they all know that he will just get into another fight, this time with the council itself, to defend Ezra, so they leave him where he is for now.

Meanwhile, Ezra meets with Siegrain, one of the members of the council, who tells her that the council is running scared. They are afraid that the blame will fall on them for the conflict, so they are looking for a scapegoat. He tells her not to speak of a certain matter to the "old farts" of the council.

Back at the Fairy Tail Guild House, Lucy wants to go the trial and speak on Ezra's behalf. Natsu has been unusually quiet, which one of the other members notes with concern. The Lizard trembles and turns into... not Natsu, but Macao. He confesses that he owed Natsu a favor, so he pretended to be turned into a lizard and took Natsu's place while Natsu went to help Ezra. But will Natsu help or harm Ezra's case when he shows up at the Guild Council trial?

After the trial, everyone goes back to the Guild to unwind. Natsu tells Ezra that they have to complete their duel, but she puts him out in one shot. Then the entire guild falls asleep. A strange, masked wizard comes in, takes one of the quests off the second floor quest board, and leaves. Afterwards, Lucy, who got a glimpse of the man, wants to know who that was. Ezra tells her that was Mystogan, a mage with a very powerful sleep spell. He goes masked so that no one can see his face. Only one other wizard knows... the Master. Or does he? Another Wizard, Laxus, claims that Mystogan happens to be very shy, and that's why he puts people to sleep.

But Lucy asks about the quest he took and finds out that the second floor holds S-Class Quests. Only those approved by the Guildmaster can take them, because they are certain death otherwise. Lucy agrees, and heads home, only to find Natsu and Happy in her place. Happy stole an S-class posting, and he wants to take the job- it pays 7 million jewels. He wants Lucy's help, but she wants nothing to do with certain death... until she sees that part of the payment is a gold key- one of the rarest aids to celestial magic.

Natsu, Happy and Lucy are discovered by Gray, who knows they are up to something no good and has been tasked to bring them back to the guild for a talk with the Head about what they have done, but Natsu doesn't want to go, and persuades Gray to come along.

They try to find transport to the cursed island mentioned in the mission, but without success, until one sailor discovers that they are magicians, and agrees to take them there. He is one of the people who suffers from the curse, as one of his arms is black and strangely... withered?

But on the journey, he strangely disappears, and when they reach the village, they find out the truth of the curse. The villagers have always lived on the island, and lived in peace and harmony. One day, the moon turned purple, and that night, the villagers turned into demons under the light of the moon. When they finally changed back, each retained one demon body part.

They are sure that the purple moon has something to do with their curse, and they have noticed strangers on the island who always keep their distance. But now they think that perhaps the strangers may have something to do with the curse. The strangers, and the ruined city that lies on the island. So what could be the cause of the curse?

But at least one of the "Strangers" on the island isn't a stranger to Gray. Gray was the apprentice of a woman, Ur. And the man leading the strangers is a magician named Lyon, Ur's other apprentice, who stood by while Ur died imprisoning a horrible creature/demon named Deliora. But can Gray fight a man who uses the same magic and does the same thing his powers do?

Why are the strangers siphoning the Moon's power, and is this siphoning causing the curse on the villagers? Or is it just a curse that one of the magicians in Lyon's group cast? Can Lyon really awaken and defeat Deliora for all time, or will he only be able to awaken it and die, making its menace once again roam the world? And will Ezra be able to save them all, or will she arrive too late to save Gray and the others from their own folly?

This manga was... interesting. It still reminds me a lot of Rave Master, but now it has finally come into its own, with actual stories that finally set it apart from the series that came before with all of the exact same characters... except their names are different, and Pluie is now a summonable... thing instead of a sidekick. But I actually like Happy better and not just because it/he is a cat. It's because he can actually talk and interact with the other characters like a normal human and not just a Pokémon that can only repeat its own name over and over.

I felt that this volume also broke away from the pact because I found the Haunted Island storyline interesting. Yes, it plays to the "Natsu is being bad and convinces Lucy to be bad along with him and Gray comes along to be bad for the ride", but the mystery is beautifully set up. with enough. "Whoa! What the heck is that?!" to keep your interest and increase it as the story rolls along. Sadly, towards the end, it was starting to devolve into "Eesh, another pointless minion fight." territory.

Nonetheless, this book captured my interest and kept it, at a slowly increasing strength right up until the end. It did go down a bit at that point, but I still wanted to find out what the heck was going on, and why the moon had suddenly turned purple. There was also a subplot in the uncertainty that if they stayed on the island long enough, Natsu, Lucy and Gray might suddenly be cursed as well, which made you worried for the characters, as at any point, they might wind up with gnarled black limbs or something. I'd definitely recommend this book, and this series, as it finally seems to be breaking out of the mold of Rave Master.

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