Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh,Detective Conan, InuYasha, Shaman King, One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist and so on. the list of world famous shounen is long. Fairy Tail is only the newest of them.
The first episode catches your attention immediately. A boy looking for a dragon, who are said to be extinkt, travelling together with a talking cat and turning out to be one of the most famous members of one of the worlds most famous magic guilds? Not something you see every day. Of course, the new girl on the scene seems to have some skills, too. The first three arcs are halfway interesting, as important characters introduced and the world is explained further. The appearance of dark guilds is especially imporant.
One of the best things about the story is, that the story keeps switching from incredibly funny moments that make you laugh until you drop, to serious or sad moments that keep you on the edge of your seats in a matter of seconds without seeming ridiculed.
But as the story proceeds, everything repeats itself. One of the characters past makes trouble in the present, the main character finds his way there some way or another and sends the villains back to the holes they came from.
One of the biggest problem's of Fairy Tail, is that the big arcs have a lot of clichès, that take away a lot of the anime's originality. We have the typical hidden powers that appear in the middle of the fight, the characters fighting for their friends and getting angry at the way the villains treat their 'nakama', the main character getting to beat up the main villain and so on.
However, if it is originality you're searching for, then the shonen fandom isn't exactly the best fandomn to search in, as they all seem to steal from each other. Although there are a few exceptions, Fairy Tail is definitely NOT one of them.
Now, as soon as the Deliora arc is in full motion, you start to realize that there seems to be a lack of a real plot. There are different arcs that have a pretty clear beginning and end, but id doesn't seem to go anywhere. For anybody who needs to have reassurance that such a thing as a plotline exists, this anime will be a drag for a very long time.
If you look at it closely, though, youÄll notice that hroughout the story, tiny little hints are dropped that there is something big to come. As an example, we have the lack of a decent past from the main characters although they're pasts do seem to have connections. Also, the dark wizard Zeref is mentioned over and over again. For all those who look closely, hints of a real plotline are dropped all over. The only problem is, that they are too tiny to be able to read them.
Also, as the story continious, more characters join the guild and keep appearing all over again. It seems weird that villains don't just died as they should have. It give the entire story a feel of childishness, as the author seems unable to seriously kill one of the characters he had created.
So, after many, many episodes of pulling yourself through endless clichés and repeating, seemingly unneccesary plots, things finally take action when the S-level exams begin. People ... villains that only apperad in cameo appearances so far come to the foreground and things finally start coming together. Zeref appears and knows Natsu, although he was said to have lived eons ago, a little bit of Fairy Tail's past is revealed, all the great forces that have joined Fairy Tail throughout the arcs come together in one place and most impressive of all; a dragon finally appears. Saying anything more would be spoiling too much, but the end of that arc is the first big twist in the story and things are promised to become very interesting.
The arc after that one is a filler, and although it seems annoying, there is the possibility that you need it to be able to understand the one or the other detail in the following arc. But if the nest anime arc is as good as in the manga, then another twist that makes the anime epic is soon to come.
When looking at Fairy Tail, the art style reminds a little bit of One Piece. The reason for that, is because Hiro Mashima has worked under Oda, which is why influences are inevetible. That might also be the reason why many people say that Fairy Tail in itself is similar to One Piece.
The quality of the animation is what you would expect from a modern manga. It is clean and clear. Most of the times, the backgrounds are nice and full of loving detail. During the fillers and in some of the fighting scenes, they do become pretty sloppy, though. When watching it the first time, you hardly notice, but when watching over, you notice it right away.
At the beginning of the anime, the animation of the magic spells had me groaning out in despair. I expected to have one of these cliché circles and co. seen every time the characters did their magic. In the first few episodes, they actually do keep it up. But as the story progresses, they luckily dump them and the attacks, tranformations and summoning are being fitted to the situation, which makes fighting scenes a lot more bearable to watch.
The one thing that makes the fighting scenes ridiculous, is that the produces seems to have a problem with blood and injuries. It makes the anime seem very childish, which is definitely below the standards it could have.
All in all, the animations are not bad, but nothing that would make you fall out of your chair when watching.
In nearly 150 episodes, Fairy Tail has had a lot of openings and endings. Some were good, some weren't, but they all went into the direction of J-pop. Wether that is a good thing or not is for everybody to decide for themselves. I personally don't mind. The only thing that really bothers me, is that the openings have a lot of spoilers, so if anybody doesn't like spoilers, skip the openings.
The voices are fitting and very convincing, though. It doesn't matter what situation the characters are in, the voice actors always fit them perfectly. Many of them have spoken in various other anime and therefore have a lot of experience. That shows in this anime, so that the voice actors really aren't a point you could complain about.
But the most epic thing about are the entire cherade are the soundtracks. They have a bit of a celtic touch to it, which fits perfectly into the world of wizards and magic. The soundtracks differ from fast and exiting to slow and heart-wrenching. But each and every time, they fit perfectly and if nothing else does, they make the anime worth watching.
Most shounen have unique, crazy and yet lovable characters with a stronger personality, than you could ever find in the real world. The same goes for Fairy Tail. Every important member of the guild (and there are quite a few them) has their very own ticks that appear over and over again, often in hilarious scenes that just makes you love them. The important character outside the guild each have their own personalities as well, sometimes being so extreme, that you feel completely overwhelmed.
Natsu is an especially good character. Although his whole 'nakama' thing is another cliché, the character in himself is very original. As many other shounen protagonists, he is short tempered, but his temper is rather friendly, as he loves brawling with his friends, only being stopped by the perfectionist (or a seriously pissed Lucy). If he is not brawling with his friends, he jumps from being a sadist, to being just plain adorable, to being so mad that nobody would even dare coming close to him. Also, he admits weakness or fear every now and then, although he does it very relucantly and even goes so far, as to shed tears of relief or of shame over his own weakness. Although situations like these are rare, they do give him a huge amount of depth.
The one thing, a very important thing, that is missing, is the development of the characters. While in the arc that reveals their past, they overcome their issues and learn of their true strength, but that was it. After that and before that, the characters stay the way they are, not learning of their mistakes and not trying anything new. That is a huge minus. With them staying the way they are, they seem two dimensional and become annoying after a while. Only during the S-level exams, when all come together, do they seem to start growing again, but wether they keep growing or not, is something that only Mashima-sensei knows.
Some people hate it, some people love it. Fact is, Fairy Tail is another typical shounen. It has the typical clichés, but it also has a lot of originalities. Although the first few arcs become boring, I do believe it is important to watch them in order to understand what happens when it all comes together. Does it deserve it's place in the top three shounen? That might be a bit difficult, but all in all, I'd say yes.
Fairy Tail does have it flaws and it has a lot of them, but it also has at least as many good points that definitely make this anime worth watching.