Fairy Tail 5 by Hiro Mashima: B

From the back cover:
Gray’s old training companion Reitei Lyon is trying to revive a calamity demon, but doing so will make their former master’s sacrifice meaningless! What’s the secret of Gray’s past, and why does he keep taking off his clothing? Gray is revealed (metaphorically speaking) in this pivotal volume!

You know, there are things one sees in Fairy Tail that one is simply not going to see in any other manga. I’m talking about stuff like a gigantic flying rat carrying a bucket of poisonous jelly and a cow-man squaring off against a malicious tree. Sometimes, things are so cracktastic that one just has to admire them.

I actually liked this volume more than the last one, perhaps because I’ve moved past the foolishness of their embarking upon a quest that could get them expelled from the guild and become invested instead in their successful completion of the task at hand. The variety of magical abilities continues to be one of the most enjoyable parts for me, and I’m particularly glad to see Lucy’s skills increase in this volume. She’s by no means a match for Natsu or Gray magically, but both of them would have their butts handed to them by Erza, so there isn’t any annoying gender inequality going on.

Well, not in the realm of combat, anyway. There’s certainly a lot of fanservice in this volume, mostly on the chapter splash pages. In one of them, Lucy is wearing a sleeveless t-shirt that is held up by ginormous boobs and a prayer. The most egregious example, however, is an image of Erza wielding a sword while dressed in a négligée. Lucy’s garb is at least in character. Erza’s definitely is not.

We also learn more about Gray’s backstory, and I’m impressed with how deftly the flashbacks are woven in with the fighting in the present moment. It manages to be seamless but yet not confusing. I think partly this was achieved through pacing, as a little bit of information would be revealed at a time and when it seemed like the right time to switch back to the present, it would. The backstory itself isn’t much to get excited over, but the mechanics of it are really well done.

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