Do fairies have tails? It was a question that often popped up through Fairy Tails impressive 545 chapter run which after eleven years has finally reached its end with “Irreplaceable Friends”. Fairy Tail is the latest long running shōnen manga to see its end, as recently the genre has undeniably entered into a new phase of its life. One where new series are quickly replacing the old. Looking back now completed, it is clear Fairy Tail achieved something many manga have failed to do, remain relevant and engaging for its entire substantial lifespan.
Nobody would accuse Fairy Tail of being a deep story, nor is it particularly original. Even series creator Hiro Mashima himself would likely agree with these critiques, as he admits Fairy Tail borrows a lot from other series including his own Rave Master. However despite these less then raving assessments Fairy Tail remained one of the leading shōnen manga for a decade.
This is all the more impressive as Fairy Tail was not serialized in the juggernaut that is Weekly Shōnen Jump, but was serialized in Jumps rival Weekly Shōnen Magazine. In many ways Fairy Tail was seen as one of the few and at times only shōnen manga that could stand up to Jumps titans such as Bleach, Naruto, Toriko, My Hero Academia, and One Piece. Not only did Fairy Tail do so consistently it arguably even beat many of its rivals save One Piece and Naruto.
That was because Fairy Tail avoided a common pitfall that many shōnen manga face, declining popularity and declining quality. I would make the arguement even right up until the last chapter Fairy Tail remained consistent in both quality and art. In fact over time Fairy Tail continued to improve as Mashima-sensei improved with it.
The key to Fairy Tails success was not its art though, nor even the story. It was the characters. Fairy Tail was clearly a manga that relied heavily on its characters and relationships. With the core group of Natsu, Lucy, Erza, Grey, Wendy, and Gajeel as clear standouts, if one did not care for them Fairy Tail would have ended years ago.
However it was more then that, as even minor characters and villains from previous arcs often found themselves woven into the greater tapestry of the narrative, while being oddly compelling in their own right. While many people criticize Fairy Tail for its power of friendship theme it is this lightness that drives Fairy Tail forward. With former villains such as Laxus and Jellal becoming clear fan favorites.
Never too heavy, the manga was always a good time and could make you smile even at the series bleakest points. Perhaps Fairy Tail is a bit too upbeat for this jaded world now. However for people who enjoy series based on the simple idea of if it gives them pleasure, Fairy Tail is hard to beat. It is these reasons why Fairy Tail will be one of the few long running shōnen manga to have every chapter animated. A feat very few of its peers have achieved.
Fairy Tail was also adept in the shōnen art of the “Hell Ya!” moments as the series is littered with them. While many manga of the genre make liberal use of transformations and specialized attacks, Fairy Tails use of them is oftentimes quite exciting and special. I can only speak for myself, however I can assure you there has been more then a few times the manga (and anime) have elicited this strong reaction from me.
In fact, the final chapter is the perfect distillation of what made Fairy Tail so long lasting and special for many people. If you ever liked Fairy Tail even if you put it down years ago, you will smile at least a little bit with Chapter 545. Honestly of the major endings that have come in recent years Fairy Tail feels the best. As it provides closure while still being open ended enough for your imagination to run wild. Be it some ships that are tantalizingly close to canon, while others will elicit fan debate for years. Fairy Tail managed to stick the landing that eluded series like Bleach and the “ending” Naruto was never really allowed to have.
This was achievable because even after eleven years Fairy Tail knew what it was, where it was going, and most importantly what it was trying to say. It is not complicated; Fairy Tail is a story about friendship and the unbreakable bonds people forge between themselves. The interconnected bonds connect the world of Fairy Tail and made it feel alive and vibrant. A place the reader could imagine having a good time with friends.
So yes, Fairy Tail was not what you would call inventive or revolutionary but it was comforting, it was exciting, and most importantly right up until the end it was fun to read. One of the final lines of the manga reads:
At the end that is why Fairy Tail concluded so well. It knew when to end as a manga, as the story presented had run its course and reached its logical conclusion. However the relationship between Fairy Tail and its readers will go on, while Hiro Mashima may not write more stories, or perhaps he will, it does not matter. As the readers if they so desire can continue to ask “ do fairies have tails” and always return to Fairy Tail.