by Rich Kirby

If you never picked up or tuned in to Fairy Tail because you thought it was an anime-eyed rehash of some played-out Brothers Grimm stories, get in line. We reckon the series has the most misleading moniker since, well, Bleach. Make it past the ambiguous and too-twee title and you will learn that “Fairy Tail” is the name of a mage guild on an alt-earth brimming with mage guilds. Like some suburb with too many plumbers and not enough toilets, rivalries fester, fights break out, and the kaka really starts to fly.

The franchise may be the first post-modern manga juggernaut: the speed at which creator Hiro Mashima’s brainchild has branched out across multiple media is truly startling. The first manga began serialization in Weekly Shōnen Magazine in 2006, and officially ended in 2017. But during that eleven year period Fairy Tail birthed seven manga spin-offs, two seasons of an anime series, nine OVAs, two feature films, five video games, four soundtrack CDs, and an ongoing radio show.

What’s the appeal? We figure it’s all because the Fairy Tail guild has a flare for blowing stuff up, real good. In a gentle, mystical world of Harrys and Hermiones, these guys are The Expendables.

Natsu Dragneel by Taylor Sasha

Take Natsu Dragneel, for example. The pugnacious, time-traveling card-carrying dragonslayer is every bit as short-tempered as you would expect a fire mage should be. Natsu breathes, bleeds, drips, eats and is eaten by fire, pretty much continuously. Cosplayers looking to add a Natsu to their portfolio should consider honing their Photoshop skills, or enlisting the aid of an already-honed friend.

Natsu Dragneel by Sato

At the other end of the thermometer is ice mage Gray Fullbuster. He does all the temperature dropping/icicle shooting you’d expect from your party’s cryo-kinetic, but adds a helpful Green Lantern-esque ability to create pretty much anything he can imagine from ice. He has been known to imagine swords, axes and, in true Expendables fashion, a rocket launcher.

Gray Fullbuster by Jayem Sison – photo by Lea Navarro

What he can’t seem to rustle up with any regularity is a shirt. Or pants. The character has a peculiar penchant for disrobing at the most inopportune moments, and Lord knows there are plenty of those in Fairy Tail. For cosplayers, this means crafting a crucial prop that no amount of Worbla or 3D-printing mastery can convincingly duplicate: Abs. Cosplayers looking to portray either Natsu or Gray will also likely need to spring for a wig, or else go really heavy on the hair gel or (better yet!) egg whites.

Gray Fullbuster by Ryuzaki Tsukasa

The ladies of Fairy Tail sport considerably less hair product and slightly more clothes than their male guildmates, which might very well be a first for the genre. Sword mage Erza Scarlet could be a cosplayer’s dream character: her magical specialty allows her to instantly summon and change into all manner of outfits, from suits of armor to… really intricate, elaborate and badass suits of armor. Okay, so maybe there’s not quite so much variety as we remember. Sure, Fairy Tail’s all about fighting dragons and ridiculously over-powered demons, and heavy armor helps with all that, but would it have killed her to summon up a nice red off-the-shoulder gown or natty black cocktail dress once in a while?

Erza Scarlet by Cooper of Wintay & Cooper Cosplay – Photo by Thistle Photography

Erza Scarlet by Olivie Lo

If you were expecting water mage Juvia Lockser to dive into her battles in a mermaid tale or the latest Hunza G two-piece, think again, Buster Crabbe. Resembling more cossack than conjurer, Gray Fullbuster’s main squeeze is trimmed in enough fur to outfit the second reel of Dr. Zhivago.

Juvia Lockser by Nagihan – photo by Altuğ İşler Cosplay Photography

Juvia Lockser by Owl Depot Cosplay – photo by OscarC Photography

Sartorial modesty was never an issue for the walking, talking, whip-cracking fan service who is spirit mage Lucy Heartfilia. Using the magical keys that dangle from her belt to open mystical gates, she can summon various “spirits of the zodiac” into her body. Happily, each new spirit brings with it a wardrobe change, each cleverly reminiscent of the zodiac sign that inspired it.

Lucy Heartfilia Cosplay by Miya

Lucy Heartfilia by Kinpatsu Cosplay

Fewer in number but way scarier are the wardrobe changes and power upgrades of Mirajane Strauss, another Fairy Tail guildie. She possesses a power that allows her to take on the aspects and abilities of certain demons. Her signature transformation, “Satan soul,” is cosplayed here by Dido Joung and Draw Me A Cosplay.

Mirajane Strauss by Dido Joung

Mirajane Strauss by Draw Me A Cosplay – photo by Phillostar PGB

Season three of Fairy Tail is set to drop in Japan in October 2018, and by all accounts it will be the show’s last.

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