Fairy Tail 8-9 by Hiro Mashima: B

fairytail8The battle between Fairy Tail and rival guild Phantom Lord rages on. Two of Phantom Lord’s elite group, Element 4, have been defeated, but Gray must finish off his opponent (Juvia, a lovelorn lady possessed of rain magic) while a wounded Erza summons the strength to achieve a victory of her own. Though they’ve foiled part of Phantom Lord’s plans, however, Lucy still ends up getting kidnapped by Gajeel, the Dragon Slayer of Phantom Lord.

After some encouragement from Erza, Natsu heads to Lucy’s rescue and several chapters of fighting between he and Gajeel ensue. Unfortunately, I didn’t find these very fun to read, since there seemed to be more speedlines than usual and sometimes the action was confusing. Also, there was an unnecessary pervy spectator who kept commenting on Lucy’s undies whenever the latest explosion of battle happened to toss her about.

While this is going on, the headquarters of both Fairy Tail and Phantom Lord are destroyed, at which point the Fairy Tail guildmaster, Makarov, recovers his powers and proceeds to be a great badass. A subsequent investigation by the Magic Council finds Fairy Tail innocent in the affair, but Lucy feels responsible (it was, after all, her wealthy father who hired Phantom Lord to retrieve her in the first place), so she heads home. I really like how this chapter plays out; I was all set for a tiresome and angsty, “Oh no, it’s my fault. You’ll all be better off without me” story where her friends have to show up and convince her that she’s worthy. Instead, Lucy goes home simply to tell her dad that if he pulls anything like that again, he’ll have made an enemy of her and Fairy Tail, which is like her second family and, so far, much better than her first one.

fairytail9Upon her return, Lucy, Natsu, Gray, and Erza officially become a team and handle a couple of episodic missions without straying too far from home. I really like that most of the focus these two volumes has been on Fairy Tail itself, which has presented many opportunities to introduce or flesh out other members of the guild. The latest character to merit that treatment is ladies’ man Loke, who has a rather surprising backstory and needs Lucy’s help in order to continue to survive. Help that she, I might add, very competently provides (although it is managed a little too easily, I thought). Even though Mashima continues to use Lucy’s appearance for fanservice, he is, at least, allowing her to grow in confidence and general usefulness as the story progresses. At first, it was inconceivable that she could be an equal member of a team with powerhouses like Natsu, Gray, and Erza, but now it doesn’t seem so unlikely at all.

Although it has its ups and downs, Fairy Tail continues to offer a fun escapist story that works on a few levels; if you aren’t thrilled by the requisite shounen battles, then perhaps Lucy’s impassioned speech about finally finding acceptance will be more your cup of tea. Or maybe it’ll be the giant cow-man. Who knows?

Review copy for volume nine provided by the publisher.

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