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?
Fairy Tail has always had a problem creating any kind of consistent tone. I think my big pet peeve with the series is the opposite of yours, though, in that it will sometimes become far too dramatic too quickly. Remember Acnologia? I know I wasn’t the only person who found that whole thing jarring.
Sudden drama honestly bugs me far less than sudden comedy, I guess it’s just a matter of preference. Either way, shows should attempt to introduce these two aspects gradually rather than letting them hit the show like an atomic bomb, leaving disaster in its wake!
Clannad After Story Ending.
You would’ve preferred a miserable ending?
Oh, meant the ending song!
But the series ending was bogus.
Oh God, the Ed was horrific! Should’ve stuck with Dango Daikazoku from series one, huh?
Oh, I liked the AS finale, I’m not usually one for happy, happy endings but, boy did Tomoya deserve one!
That’s just how Natsu and Happy react, it’s their personalities. It would actually be wierd if they didn’t over react. With Lisanna they were happy, but with Lucy it was a sharp turn around. At best I think they could have ended the scene, but then they’d miss out on the comedy. Natsu and Happy do have their uses, if they hadn’t gone there, Lucy would probably have stayed in her room for longer.
OK, I can understand how they acted when seeing Lisanna again, though the average Joe would be shocked or confused, I think we’ve established by now that Happy and Natsu’s brains don’t operate in the same way as the average person’s! I still wished the show had dealt with Lucy’s mourning a little more sensitively though, even if that would have involved cutting the following scene with Natsu and Happy, having a little ‘time has passed’ montage and then maybe having that scene…
I’ve been reading the manga, and while I’m still at the 10-volume mark, it’s something that I haven’t really encountered. The few tender moments were allowed to be. Or the comedy recovery wasn’t as harsh. So I’m wondering if there is a difference in how it’s handled between the anime and the manga.
I read the manga too, and I have to admit, it’s not something I’ve noticed either! Perhaps it is still present in the manga but, seems less pronounced due to there being none of Natsu’s ear-piercing Uwa~!s…
Maybe! xD All I know is at the end of Erza’s arc, the tender moments were at the very end of the volume, and there were no ‘uwa’s’, or irritating jokes during them. They were let to be. It was back to normal in the next volume and they were back in the guild, but… that was the next volume. So there was spacing and letting it be.
That’s one of the things about the show that bugs me. But, I still like the show very much (when it isn’t filler) and can’t wait to watch it.
I’m surprised, what with how experienced you are as an anime watcher, you haven’t become disenchanted with shounen shows yet…
I see your point, although personally I love the 180’s. The thing is, Fairy Tail is marketed for quite a big age range, think of it like a family show. Stuff like the 180’s is so that it is cartoonish enough for kids to enjoy it, while more serious moments and more adult jokes are for the older audiences. That’s my interpretation at least.