I’ve been watching Fairy Tail since it began airing back in 2009, and whilst enjoyable overall, there’s something about it that’s been persistently bugging me right from the very start, something which has significantly marred my viewing experience. I hadn’t originally intended to post this today but, the post I was gonna post, I can’t- I have to wait to speak to someone about it first, and, having just picked up FT again, it seemed an appropriate time to share this.
As I mentioned above, I really do enjoy Fairy Tail. It has such an array of characters, with such quirky personalities, you can’t help but have fun watching it but, even this aspect of the show, (which is, in my opinion, the strongest aspect of the show) is horribly stunted by its use of bathos. That’s an abrupt shift in tone from something intense to something quite commonplace, usually done for comedic effect, to those of you outside the English literature circle. This technique is almost revered by critics but, to me it’s on par with the “It was all a dream” technique, (if you can call it that!) In short, I despise it. And, much to my displeasure, FT uses it all of the time! Whenever things look to take a serious/sentimental turn, e.g. the time Natsu and Happy encountered Edolas Lisanna, or recently when Lucy discovered her father had passed away during her 7 year absence, FT does a complete 180 and decides to attempt to make the scene funny, usually by having Natsu yell REALLY LOUDLY about something. But, why do I despise FT’s use of bathos so? Let me elaborate…
One reason why I hate FT’s tendency to ruin a sad, tender moment in an attempt to make it funny is that, as the shift occurs so suddenly, it’s often incredibly jarring. Angel Beats has received a lot of stick for much the same reason. But, if you ask me, Angel Beats trumps FT in that it was capable of churning out some really heart-breaking scenes without going on to ruin them; it knew where to draw the line. FT doesn’t seem to realise that a line even exists! OK, that’s a bit harsh- there have been a couple of occasion where a sad moment has escaped unscathed by bathos, the conclusion of Gray’s arc, for example but, out of over 100 episodes, for there to have been just a couple of sad moments that aren’t ruined? That’s a pretty poor track-record! There’s nothing worse than to really engage in a scene, the intended consequence of including a potentially tear-jerking scene in a show in the first place, for it to then completely warp into something else entirely at a moment’s notice! In other words, FT’s made it impossible for me to emotionally invest in it- I’m no longer able to take anything about it seriously!
Another, more obvious consequence of using bathos to the extent FT does is that it begins to have an effect opposite from that that is desired, as in, it stops being funny and starts becoming boring and predictable. OK, I never found FT’s dashing of the mood to be funny in the first place but, some people probably did. But, I’m sure after a certain amount of time those people stopped thinking: “Ho, ho, that was just what that awesome and dramatic scene needed- a hyperactive, pink-haired boy running in dressed as a girl!” and started thinking: “Oh look, here comes yet another, otherwise dramatic, scene that’s about to be ruined by our loud-mouthed protagonist, fetch me my blanky- I’m going to sleep!” Not a smart movie Fairy Tail, not a smart move.
But, perhaps the thing that boils my blood the most about FT’s use of bathos is that it undermines character development, precious, precious character development. Just when you think the bond between two characters might have grown some… WHAM, have a pair of great, big Lucy boobs in your face Natsu! Or just when you think a character may have come to terms with an issue they’ve been struggling with their entire lives… here’s Happy and Natsu screaming in shock at an obese landlady in a very snug outfit! Basically, I’m far too distracted by the complete and utter lack of sensitivity FT has in regards to its characters to care about how they may have grown. And quite frankly, this approach makes it seem as though FT doesn’t want us to care about the development of its characters. If they can’t be bothered to resolve characters’ outstanding issues in a mature, sympathetic way, why should us viewers be bothered? This use of bathos during scenes where characters are developing just comes across as thoughtless and clumsy and I hate it, hate it, hate it!
I’m sure this use of bathos probably comes as a breath of fresh air to those out there who detest melodrama, and I’m sure FT is well received by those looking for a show that doesn’t take itself seriously so, perhaps I have no right to complain about it when I could simply choose to watch any of the wide variety of shows out there specifically produced to quench one’s thirst for melodrama…? But, it’s just so frustrating when a fairly good show could take such tiny measures to make itself even better, using bathos a little bit less frequently and only when appropriate, but, flat-out refuses to do so on a regular basis… ya’ know?