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Lucy is a 17-year-old girl, who wants to be a full-fledged mage. One day when visiting Harujion Town, she meets Natsu, a young man who gets sick easily by any type of transportation. But Natsu isn't just any ordinary kid, he's a member of one of the world's most infamous mage guilds: Fairy Tail...
Graduating from the pages of the ultra-successful Weekly Shonen Jump manga anthology, Fairy Tail is the latest series to make it into the medium of weekly TV anime and join its established forerunners such as Naruto and Bleach in the officially licensed English release stakes. Like those series it features many elements common to boys' action manga: a large cast of broad characters centred around an impetuous young male protagonist, diverse superhuman abilities that evolve and grow more impressive as the heroes face progressively more dangerous foes, unsubtle slapstick comedy, cute girls in eye-catching outfits, and an overarching plot involving some looming threat to be confronted after the heroes have been through sufficient trials and faced numerous opponents, sealing their bonds of friendship with one another along the way. It's a well-established formula, and like any other can be executed well or badly. Regrettably, on the basis of this early showing Fairy Tail doesn't do much to stand out from the shonen pack.
The problem is the show's lack of confidence, evident in the derivative magical-world setting and one-note characters who are imagined and portrayed with the minimum of effort. Hero Natsu has no obvious character traits other than a boneheaded tendency to rush into action for the sake of his friends, his passionate obstinacy embodied by his flame-based powers; predictably, his taciturn rival Gray wields ice magic, summing up the lack of invention on display.
While series creator Hiro Mashima has some experience in the shonen field - his earlier series Rave Master being a modestly well-known success - he seems unable to bring anything of his own to Fairy Tail, the art style and character designs for which owe a glaring debt to the blockbusting One Piece. Sadly, where that series (undeservedly yet to achieve the success in the West it has in Japan) has both genuinely unhinged inventiveness and unmistakable heart on its side, Fairy Tail seems content to crib from better series, lacking both excitement and character depth.
It's a little unfair to dismiss a series with a long run ahead of it on its first episodes - Bleach, which outstrips Fairy Tail easily for style and characterisation, showed only a fraction of its promise early on - but the blatant lack of originality and uninspired plotting is hard to forgive. I'll be keeping an eye on the show to see how it develops, but I can't say this initial volume left me wanting more.