Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fairy Tail Volume 5 by Hiro Mashima

Still on the Cursed Island, Natsu, Lucy, Happy and Gray are still stuck on the cursed island, but the inhabitants of the island. or more precisely their leader, think that the curse can be ended by destroying the big purple moon that hangs over the landscape. But Natsu, Lucy and Gray aren't sure that the moon is to blame.

They are betting that the people on the island stealing some sort of power from the moonlight to bring back a demon monster so that one of the people can kill it dead (an outcome which is by no means assured) to avenge his and Gray's mentor, a female wizard with power over ice and cold, are to blame. Most of the villagers aren't sure who has the right of it- their leader, or Natsu, Lucy. et al. All they want is for the curse to be ended, and as long as that happens, it doesn't matter how our crew end the curse.

So Natsu and friends descend upon the people who are trying to bring back the demon-y creature, only this time, they have someone else on their side, Ezra, who hasn't really come to help them, but to bring them back to the Fairy Tale Guild and punish them for taking on a job that could kill them. But even though she only shows up partway through, she, too, gets caught up in the fight that is going on.

Gray gets more of his history and backstory revealed when he ends up in a tremendous bossfight with Reitei Lyon, his former mentor's other student. Both have powers over ice, but their powers are slightly different in aspect- one can create with ice, while the other can only destroy. They clash repeatedly, and while Gray seems to have lost at one point, he is counseled by Ezra into going back and finishing the job even as everyone else is taking on Lyon's minions/friends, which include a man with a face like a lion and a rat-woman who can fly.

Lyon and Gray blame each other for their mentor, Ur's, death. But here we get to see what really happened. Both wanted to learn a specific forbidden magic known as Ice Shell that could defeat the demon-creature Deliora. But when Gray sneaked off to take Deliora, who destroyed the town he lived in and everyone that was dear to him, it was up to Ur to come to the rescue- and give up her life to seal away Deliora in a sheath of ice, for that was how Ice Shell worked- the wizard was required to give up his or her life to Power the spell, and Ur, who loved both her apprentices, was not about to allow either of them to kill themselves to destroy Deliora.

But when Gray, who witnessed Ur's death/transformation, reveals to Lyon what really happened, and how Ur told him to lie to Lyon about what really happened, will Lyon forgo his revenge to do the last request of his master and learn to live his life for other reasons than vengeance? Or will he reject her request and go on with his plans to release and then kill Deliora with the power he has siphoned from the moonlight? And if Gray decides to sacrifice himself to strengthen the prison around Deliora, will Natsu allow him to get away with it?

Well, this story, which was so interesting in the last volume, goes on a bit too long here to be really interesting. It ended up feeling a bit like an episode of Dragonball or Dragonball Z, where a fight goes on for far too long with all the separate characters beating up on the minions of the leader while the strongest character or two decide to unload on the leader.

But even though I got the feeling that Ezra could have blasted through Lyon with very little trouble, considering how uber-l33t she is portrayed as being compared to Natsu and Lucy, she seems to stand back, allowing the characters to prove themselves, or not. Another interesting bit is how strange the minion characters are. Here you have these minions who seem to view themselves as all that and a side of fries, and at the same time some of them are strangely emotionally fragile about their appearance. I mean, really?! One moment, a character is all "Ho. Ho. Ho"-ing evilly about how they dropped a vatload of acid poison on a whole town, and the next someone insults the fat ratwoman and she's blubbering in tears about how they were mean to her.

It certainly makes the readers take the characters much less seriously. I mean, if you want the threat to be credible, the villains have to be credible. And the whole "sensitive" issue makes my respect for the villains as any kind of real threat go down by several million points. And that makes Natsu and his friends, who can barely overcome them look even worse. Are Natsu and his fellow wizards badass or are they jokes depending on the only three real badass wizards in the guild and the guildmaster, who is badass to the nth power? On the whole, it makes the series seem schitzophrenic. The enemies start out looking cool and become jokes- jokes the heroes can hardly deal with. So what does that make our heroes? And these villains constitute an S-level threat?

On the whole, I am still enjoying this series, but the constant up and down of the main characters, and of how they seem to go from "Good, or at least respectable at what they do" to "Barely able to keep up with villains who look like jokes" drags down my enjoyment of it. Recommended for the series, but this book ends up at YMMV, and I'd neither recommend it nor not recommend it. It's a good concept betrayed by execution, and I am glad I am not spending money on this series. Truly.

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