A few days ago, the final season of the Fairy Tail anime began to air. It will involve the final battle between the magic guilds of Ishgar and the nation of Alvarez, which Zeref rules over. However, the manga of Fairy Tail itself is being continued with a new addition, “The 100 Year Quest”. To add to that, mangaka Hiro Mashima is continuing his own work with the creation of an entirely new story called Eden’s Zero.
Many have criticized Mashima’s work. It is often dismissed as “too cheerful”, “corny”, “too obvious”, “not realistic enough” (this coming from an industry that considers the notion of ninjas walking on water and shooting fire out of their mouths acceptable) and even extremely sexist, as the depiction of naked teenage girls has become a common theme within his chapters.
Yes, if you’re reading a Mashima-manga, you can expect that no one is gonna die. That everyone is gonna make it out unscathed on the other side, even if they’re dealing with extremely unfavorable odds. If you turn to the final chapter, you’re more than likely gonna see the same main characters from the very first one, all sitting there, smiling, like it’s another day at the beach.
It was the same with his first attempt at a manga, Rave Master, that had a much smaller cast than Fairy Tail but the same premise. Main hero, main heroine, small creature, some other guy also joins in along the way, they fight, they learn secrets about their identity, blah blah blah. And after just 14–15 chapters in, Eden’s Zero is starting to feel like a lot of the same as well. In fact, it feels much more like Rave Master than it does Fairy Tail, but that’s an entirely different story.
So yeah, unrealistic, even within the realm of manga, and extremely suggestive. Those are two words that someone could use to describe Hiro Mashima’s work with. And yet, for some reason, it seems like he is the only mangaka that has the ability to pull on the heartstrings in such a unique way.
Watching Naruto for close to a decade, I only cried once: when Naruto met his mother, Kushina, whom he had never seen before in his life. It was a touching and emotional scene that was very well done and showed how much the young hero had been through and how much we had been through with him.
However, Fairy Tail manages to do this in almost every single episode. The messages it conveys about friendship, solidarity, a sense of belonging, bonds, having a place that feels like home and people around you that are willing to help you are so strongly emphasized that it’s hard to hold back the tears. I’m not ashamed to say, I don’t remember how many times I’ve cried, even while watching re-runs of the show.
The battle with Phantom Lord when Lucy realized she found a new place to call home, when Wendy found out her guild was just a lie, the death of Simon at the Tower of Heaven, the times in Edolas when Happy found out the truth about why he and Carla were sent to Earthland, when Ultear decided to face the truth about her mother, Acnologia’s attack on Tenrou, the return of the team after seven long years in stasis and the tears in the eyes of young Romeo, Natsu’s proclamation during the grand magic games’ chariot event, Fairy Tail’s return to number one (which is something that predictable, but still emotional in the way that it happened), Grey’s battle with his dad and the return of the dragons that had raised Natsu, Wendy and Gajeel and especially Igneel’s death, all these were moments that struck at the heart.
Fairy Tail even managed to bring tears to my eyes through its manga, since there was a point early on in its final season that hasn’t been animated yet. Lucy and a few others return to Magnolia where the guild used to be. They go there in the hopes of meeting everyone after it disbanded over one year ago but she desperately attempts to keep her expectations low, seeing as all she did was sent out a few letters and it’s not as if everyone would gather back just because of that. And yet, there they all are, waiting to see her again. And, in her own words, it brought so much joy to her, it even hurt her.
The thing is, this is a work of fiction. And even though it might not be as philosophically heavy as Naruto or main characters might seem to have immunity to death or you might even see ridiculous things happening like Erza smashing a meteor with her two legs broken, it’s still nice to have that sort of escape, and to see a group of friends that go through troubled times only to come out stronger on the other end because they have each other. It makes you feel a little bit better about life.
Mashima knows how to do this well. He’s good at creating pick-me-up stories with happy endings, no matter how difficult things may seem and he always tries to push forward the message that “we’re always stronger if we’re together”. In my personal opinion, as sappy as his work may seem, that’s an optimistic outlook on life to maintain.