Friday, February 22, 2013

Fairy Tail – Chapter 1: Fairy Tail

Synopsis: Inside of a large building, a black haired woman named Urrutia rolls a crystal ball up and down her arm, somehow breaking and mending it again and again. Across a table, a shadowed figure named Sieglein tells her to stop playing around during the meeting, but she complains that she's bored. A blue haired male complains of his own boredom, causing outrage with an old man who wants to know how they became council members in the first place, to which the male says it's because of how strong their magic is. Another unseen face hushes them both, saying that the Magic World has many problems, but their main problem at the moment is 'Fairy Tail'.

The scene changes to a train in the town of Harujion, where a boy named Natsu is sickly after his ride. The conductor asks if he's okay, but a small cat named Happy says that this happens all the time. Natsu shakes himself awake and says he'll never ride a train again, while holding in his vomit. Happy says that their info, if correct, says that Salamander should be in this town, but agrees to let Natsu rest for a moment before getting off the train - which promptly departs once again with Natsu still on board.

Elswhere in town, a girl named Lucy is annoyed that there's only one magic store in Harujion. The store's owner says that the town does better with fish than it does magic, citing that less than 10% of the town can use magic at all, so most of their business comes from travellers. Lucy thinks she's wasted her time, but the shopkeeper convinces her to stay and look around. He unsuccessfully tries to sell her on "Colors" magic which can change the color of your clothes, but Lucy is looking for strong 'Keys of the Gates' Lucy spots one, 'White Doggy', inside a glass case, and though the shopkeep says it's not very strong, she wants it. She asks how much it is, to which he says 20,000 jewels. She asks again and gets the same response, prompting her to try to win him over with sex appeal, showing off some of her cleavage. In the end, this tactic only gets her a 1,000 jewel discount, frustrating her into kicking a cafe's sign. Suddenly she hears a croud of other girls freaking out about a famous mage in town, Salamander. Hearing his name, Lucy gets excited too, and heads off to see him for herself.

Natsu finally managed to get off the train, and is now broke and starving. He asks Happy if the intel of Salamander probably meant 'Igneel', and Happy agrees, saying he can only think of him when he hears 'Dragon of Fire'. Natsu is happy to have finally found him when he spots the crowd, and rushes in to see him.

Lucy can't figure out why her heart is beating so fast when she sees Salamander, and it only gets worse when he looks her way. As she wonders if it's just because he's famous, Natsu bursts through the crowd of women shouting Igneel's name, only to not recognize the man. He asks him who he is, but even as Salamander responds, Natsu leaves. Salamander's fangirls drag Natsu back to force him to apologize, but he says that the boy probably didn't mean it, and signs an autograph for Natsu. When Natsu says he doesn't want it, the women drive him back again, and Happy says that it wasn't him after all. Salamander thanks the women, but says he has errands at the port to attend to, and after summoning a pillar of flame, he rides away on it and invites everyone to a party on the ship that night.

Natsu wonders what Salamander really is, and Lucy approaches him saying that he (Salamander) is disgusting. She then takes Natsu and Happy out to eat as a thanks for saving her from Salamander's 'Charm', an attraction magic that was already banned years ago. She tells Natsu that she is a mage as well, but one that hasn't joined a guild yet, and explains what a guild is - a mage's association that mediates jobs and other information to it's members. A mage isn't considered full-fledged until they work for a guild. As they continue to eat, she goes on about how hard it is to get into one, especially the one she's eyeing, and then apologizes saying that this must all be over Natsu's head. Lucy asks who it was Natsu was looking for earlier, and he says that he'd thought Igneel was in this town. When Happy remarks that Salamander didn't look like a Salamander at all, Lucy wonders how any human could look like that. Natsu says that Igneel's not a human, but rather, he's an actual dragon. Lucy freaks out and says there's no way such a thing would be in Harujion, Lucy says she needs to get going, but leaves enough money for the two to continue eating. This causes them to sob hysterically and bow to her in thanks, which is too much for her. She says that they helped her before, so they're even now, but Natsu says it doesn't feel even to him. He offers her Salamander's autograph, but she angrily slaps it away.

Later, Lucy sits in a park reading a magazine, 'Weekly Sorcerer'. She reads aloud how Fairy Tail has caused trouble again by destroying multiple houses while taking down the Devon thief family, which causes her to laugh uproarously. She then flips to another page and sees pictures of a woman named Mirajane in a bikini, and she wonders if that member is as reckless as the rest of them. She then ponders how one goes about joining Fairy Tail in the first place. Suddenly, Salamander pops out of the bushes beside her, saying he wanted to invite her to his party. She warns him that Charm won't work on her this time, but he says it's okay, because they're both mages. He just wants her to attend the party. Lucy starts to leave, saying she has no interest in his party, but he stops her by asking if she's ever heard of Salamander from Fairy Tail. He claims that he's indeed that same Salamander, and if she comes to the party, he'll talk to the master about her joining, so long as she doesn't tell anyone about his using Charm. She agrees to go, thinking that she'll just have to be friendly with him until she's a member of Fairy Tail.

More time passes until nighttime, and Natsu and Happy have finally left the restaurant. They notice the boat on the water far away, and Happy wonders if it's the one with Salamander's party, while Natsu starts to feel sick just by thinking about it, to Happy's disbelief. Two girls come by and see the boat too, and start talking about Salamander from Fairy Tail, catching both Natsu and Happy's attention. Natsu looks back to the boat once more, fighting off more vomit, but seems unusually determined.

On the boat, Lucy is away from the main party, having wine with Salamander. She asks if he shouldn't be attending to the other girls as well, but he assures her that it's fine, and gets her to drink small bubbles of wine that he makes levitate out of the glass. At the last moment before they enter her mouth however, Lucy feels uneasy, and knocks them away, asking him what he's playing at by trying to give her a sleeping drug. She says that she wants to join Fairy Tail, but has no intention of becoming his girl. Salamander smirks and says she should have just gone to sleep peacefully, so she wouldn't get hurt. A group of four other burly men appear, grabbing Lucy from behind and saying they haven't had such a pretty girl for a long time. Salamander reveals that the party was only a front, and that this is a slave ship, making her their latest 'merchandise' acquisition to take to Bosco. The men say that since Charm doesn't work on her anymore, they'll just have to train her instead. Frightened, Lucy wonders how this could have happened, while Salamander takes away her Keys, tossing them out the window as only contracted mages can use them, making them useless to him (though he remarks that she must be a Stellar Spirit Mage herself). Lucy is enraged thinking that this is what a Fairy Tail mage is really like, as Salamander prepares to brand her as a slave.

Suddenly, the roof above them breaks in, and Natsu drops to the ground, causing the men to let go of Lucy in shock. Natsu is almost immediately struck by motion sickness however, ruining his dramatic entrance. From the hole in the roof, Happy asks Lucy what she's doing there, and she quickly explains it to him before noticing that Happy now has wings. Happy extends his tail and picks Lucy up to get her out of there, leaving Natsu behind as he can't carry two people at once. Outraged, Salamander sends a burst of flame after them, which they narrowly dodge, so he sends one of the men to the deck above to shoot at them, saying they have to stop her from reporting to the council members. Happy barely manages to dodge the bullet, but then his transformation wears off, and they both fall into the water. Still distressed by the truth about Fairy Tail, Lucy looks for her Keys.

Back on the ship, Natsu starts to say something about Fairy Tail, but is still too sickly to get the words out. Outside, Lucy surfaces, and and uses one of her keys to summon Aquarius, a mermaid holding a vase. She explains to the astounded Happy that because she's a Stellar Spirit Mage, she can use the Keys to summon Stellar Spirits from another world. She tells Aquarius to send the ship back to the coast with her power, which Aquarius reluctantly agrees to do, but warns Lucy that if she drops the Keys again, she'll kill her. Aquarius successfully sends the ship flying back to the shore with a mighty wave of water - inadvertantly sweeping Lucy and Happy along with it - until it crashes into the port. Once it stops moving, Natsu regains his footing. Lucy chews out Aquarius for catching her in the attack as well, and Aquarius apologizes (kind of) before fading away and telling Lucy not to call her again for a while, as she's going on a trip with her boyfriend. Happy remarks that the two don't get along, but Lucy says that now they have to tell the military personnel about what's happened and save the other girls.

Lucy and Happy return for Natsu, whose now standing his ground before Salamander. Lucy wants to save him, but Happy tells her not to worry because Natsu is a mage too. Natsu asks Salamander if he's truly a mage from Fairy Tail, and asks to take a good look at his face as two of the other men rush him. Natsu ends up knocking both men away with a single movement, and says that he's from Fairy Tail himself, but he's never seen Salamander before. The remaining men freak upon seeing a mark on Natsu's arm, saying that it's Fairy Tail's mark, meaning Natsu is the real thing. In their freakout, one man accidentally calls Salamander by his real name of 'Bora', whom Lucy and Happy - who is now revealed to have the same mark on his back - has heard of. Bora of Prominence was banished from the 'Titan Nose' mage guild years before for committing several thefts. Angrily, Natsu says he doesn't care if Bora is good or bad, but he can't forgive him using Fairy Tail's name. Bora doesn't care and launches flames right at Natsu, and Lucy advances to help him, but Happy stops her.

Natsu walks out of the attack, still covered in fire, revealing himself to be unharmed. He asks if Bora is really a fire mage, as he's never 'tasted' such awful fire. He proves this literally by eating the flames, thanking them for the food, as both Bora and Lucy freak out once more. Happy says that fire won't ever work on Natsu, and Lucy says she's never seen such magic. Having eaten, Natsu is fully charged, and takes a deep breath. One of Bora's few remaining men recognizes Natsu at last, saying that he's the real 'Salamander'. Natsu blows away all of Bora's men with a huge breath of fire, before coating his fist in flames. He strikes Bora with a direct hit to the face, telling him to remember what a real Fairy Tail mage is like.

Lucy wonders how such magic can really exist, and Happy explains that it's an ancient spell that converts the user's body workings to be like that of a dragon's, and that it's originally a dragon interception spell. He then says that Natsu was taught this by Igneel, and Lucy comments that it's weird that a dragon would teach someone dragon interception magic. She watches in awe at Natsu's power, but says that he's overdoing it as he destroys almost all of the port, which doesn't surprise Happy in the least. The military shows up at last, but before Lucy can talk with them, Natsu drags her away, and asks if she really wanted to join Fairy Tail, convincing her to go along with him.

Back in the meeting room from the beginning of the chapter, one of the unseen faces remarks that Fairy Tail is at it again, this time having destroyed a port. It then remarks that an entire town is probably next, and another one warns him not to jinx it. A third says he reported to the government that it was done to capture Bora. The blue-haired male says that he likes Fairy Tail, and most of the rest of the group agrees that though they're idiots, they have a lot of skillful mages, hence the sticky problem with which they're faced. The blue-haired guy says to just leave them alone, because if they didn't have idiots like that, the world wouldn't be fun.

Elsewhere, Natsu has taken Lucy to the entrance to Fairy Tail's headquarters.

Thoughts: Phew, talk about a whopper of a first chapter. I'm used to the first chapters of a series being longer than normal, but this thing clocks in at a massive 80 pages. That's unbelievably long, and while I can't say I didn't enjoy it, it doesn't feel like much more than normal happened here, so I can't imagine why it couldn't have been cut down some.

When I say 'normal' or 'usual', I speak of course in comparison to other weekly shonen manga, a genre that I'm extremely familiar with (it's what got me started as a fan, and it's what most of my favorite titles are). I'm most used to Shonen Jump however, whereas this is a Weekly Shonen Magazine title, so maybe it's not different from the norm after all.

I do still recognize a lot of the usual shonen serial starting tropes in this first chapter though: goofy guy is new to town, meets girl, turns out to actually be a badass, and the story will truly get started in the next chapter. Gee, where have I seen this before...? Not that I'm complaining really mind you, this familiar territory is a very comfortable one for me – it's just something to note. I'm getting ahead of myself anyway.

The first two main characters we get to meet are going to set the standard for the rest of the cast as being fun and quirky if I had to guess. Natsu's weakness of not being able to handle transportation is a new one for me, but it is pretty funny - he's got the worst case of motion sickness I've ever seen. And in Happy we've got out cute mascot character, which every shonen needs really. Now all we're lacking is the busty, seductive, pretty girl character. And that's where Lucy comes in.

Despite Natsu being the main character really, so far as I can tell anyway, we spend much of this chapter from Lucy's point-of-view, and for good reason. She knows a lot about the world we're entering here, so she's a great source of exposition for everything, but she also isn't aware of what's really going on, so it serves well to keep us all in the dark about Natsu's true identity until the end - even if you can pretty much tell where this is all heading anyway.

Oh, and as far as Lucy's 'seduction', attempt goes, I'll say it right from the get go here - she's not too shabby. I'd say she's attractive enough to be sure, and has a fun enough personality so far, but she's no Nami. Oh yeah, One Piece - more on that shortly.

I'm also wondering if 'jewels' is the name for the currency in Fairy Tail (like how Dragon Ball has zenni and Kingdom Hearts has munny), or if that was a literal case of being charged in jewels instead of cash. I'm assuming it's the former though.

The magic of 'Charm' took me a little by surprise honestly, though I knew something had to be up, because Salamander - er, Bora - isn't a particularly good-looking guy by any means, despite how the women were all over him. And Lucy's face when faced with her own desire told me something was up there too. Ah well, I got a decent laugh out of the guy when he signed an autograph out of nowhere. We've got a real Professor Lockheart here.

Natsu and Happy's ability to pack it away when eating is another shonen staple that you just about have to have at least once, if not making it a regular staple of a character. I'm not sure if this trend started with Dragon Ball, or if it dates back further too. Anyway, I have to call into question Lucy's automatic assumption that Natsu's NOT a mage. There's not been anything to suggest he is of course, but there's also not been anything to suggest he's not either. It's quickly being established here that this is a world where mages are everywhere - a fact later reinforced even harder by there being an entire magazine about them - so wouldn't it be safer to assume that anyone could be a mage? Maybe Lucy's just not particularly bright.

The name 'Salamander' gets thrown around way too much in this chapter, to the point of confusion. I'll admit, this could be due to the translation I'm reading (I'll admit it's a scanlation I'm viewing at the moment), but it gets used as Bora's false name; another name for Igneel; a description for what Igneel is; and for an alternate name for Natsu himself. That's four different occasions of this name being thrown around in different ways, it's all a little much.

Bora got another big laugh out of me when he popped out of the bushes all stalker-like, but after that, he pretty quickly devolves into a complete dirtbag, and an extremely creepy guy if you want to analyze it. I'm probbaly digging too deep into it, but...he takes Lucy to an area of the boat alone, tries to drug her, wants to sell her into some kind of slavery, his crew notes how pretty she is, and then they all note that since Charm won't work, they'll have to 'train' her. Mother of G- QUICK. Someone get Lucy an adult, fast!

...Come to think of it, how old are these characters supposed to be? There's some nice little tags that pop up during their first appearances noting their names and at least a tidbit of what they are (Lucy being a 'Magic Girl', for example, not to be confused with 'Magical Girl'), but not a bit of info has been given on their ages. That's not all that unusual, but I do have to wonder...hmm. I'm venturing a guess that Natsu and Lucy are both at least 14 or 15, leaning more towards 16; Happy could be ageless for all I can tell; and Bora's probably in his early-to-mid 20's. Hopefully I'll find out on some of this soon.

How did Lucy figure out that there was a sleeping drug in the wine? My current theory is either that she smelled it, or she just got a feeling, but neither one seems to fully fit. If she smelled it, there was certainly no indication in that panel. And if she just had a feeling, that's an oddly specific feeling, not to mention that there was no indication of that in the prior panels either - she was only mentioning how annoying he was, not about anything suspicious. She can figure out that there's a sleeping drug, but not that there's more to Natsu than meets the eye...maybe she's an idiot savant. She does keep on thinking that Bora's really from Fairy Tail for quite some time.

Nothing has been fully said or set up yet, but I'm already sensing some world-building on the author, Hiro Mashima's, part, regarding different 'branches' of magic. Lucy specializes in some kind of summoning, Natsu's a pyro, as is Bora. Bora can also use 'Charm' however, so I'm guessing there's probably nothing that stops a person from being able to use multiple kinds of magic.

Lucy's use of the Keys to summon spirits from another world is certainly interesting, and it seems almost tailor made for an RPG video game, but I did love that it seems like the summons are going to have some real personality. I'm looking forward to seeing what else she's got up her sleeve with those things. I already kind of know of one, thanks to various trailers for the anime and such that I've seen, so I can't wait for that one.

With the big reveal of Natsu's shoulder and his Fairy Tail mark, I had to take a second look at this weird tattoo on Bora's face. I'm wondering if it's not really a normal tattoo at all now, and if it was maybe the mark of his former guild.

Natsu's comment about not caring if a person is good or bad could prove to be a pretty telling statement about who he is as a character, depending on how things move on from this point. It'll certainly be interesting.

Natsu's ability to eat fire is one of the few other things that really caught me off guard too. I hadn't seen that coming. I wonder if he has to have eaten fire recently to be able to 'feel his power', or if that line was more about his eating in general.

Despite my complaints about Lucy's lack of intelligence at times, I have to agree with her at the end - why would a dragon be teaching someone magic specifically made to stop other dragons? Curious, very curious...

Natsu (and presumably the rest of Fairy Tails' members, based on other comments) tendency to go a little overboard during a fight was a great gag, and I can see why it'd make them both popular and unpopular as a guild. Sounds to me like they need some damage control guys in the guild to sweep back through after the fights and use some kind of magic to fix everything if you ask me.

It's not said in words, but I can't help but think that Natsu's bringing Lucy along to Fairy Tail for her to join, or try to rather, as payment for the meal earlier in the chapter. Surely she's going to have to actually prove herself to the guild on her own terms, it's not like Natsu really saw her summoning. Happy did though, so I guess he could put in a good word for her.

I'm extremely curious about this committee of people that show up at the start and end of the chapter. We only names for two of them, Urrutia being the black-haired female, and Sieglein being someone else (his shadow is shaped like a cat, curiously enough...another of whatever Happy's race is perhaps?). I thought that they were bad guys based on the start of the chapter, but their second appearance puts me more in the mind of them being a group that's in charge of the various Guilds themselves, and the people who have to make sure no one guild gets too out of control, which Fairy Tail seems to be doing. I'm sure there's going to be more with them later, especially conflict wise.

I mentioned One Piece earlier, because that's the complaint I see about this series most often, is how similar it looks to One Piece. After reading just this chapter alone, I have to say that while there are some pretty big similarities in the art style, calling this a One Piece ripoff is both an insult to One Piece, and a misjudging of this series, so far anyway. Sure, there's a lot of Mashima's art that is pretty similar looking, but there's a lot of things he does that I can say don't make me think of Oda at all - and trust me, after reading all of One Piece to get caught up fairly recently, I know Oda's work pretty well. The character designs are a little One Piece-like, but overall the strangeness of their looks are a lot more constrained than what Oda typically does. Mashima also seems to have this recurring gag where someone's eyes will get large and cat-like, but remain flat on their face rather then bulging out, instead of the usual tricks that Oda uses in those situations. The main difference I've noticed is the fight choreography, just in the end of this chapter alone I noticed a lot of angles and styling decisions that, with a close eye, don't look anything like One Piece at all. So I'm more or less debunking this complaint against the series, but don't get me wrong - I'm not decrying the people who think this way. I was one myself for a while, my girlfriend was as well and may still be, and there are some token similarities. I just no longer feel they're strong enough to pull this down as a work.

That pretty much sums up this first chapter. As far as where the next chapter is going, my only real predictions are these: We'll see more members of Fairy Tail, but probably not everyone (the head honcho will be hinted at but not fully seen); Lucy will have to prove herself and will have some trouble doing so but succeed in the end; and Natsu will get to fight some more too, somehow or another. We'll see how much of this pans out for me.

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