Fairy Tail and the Alvarez Rewrite: A Fanfic that was Better Than the Real Ending?
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the last arc of Fairy Tail’s manga
Fairy Tail has been one of the most well known manga/anime series for over 10 years. Its manga came to an end this July after 545 chapters, which were regularly published since 2006. It’s truly a landmark work for this generation of Japanese media.
So why does its ending trip and break both knees at the final hurdle?
Yes, the final arc of Fairy Tail’s manga (known as the Alvarez arc) is widely regarded by fans as a failure. But how did this happen? After all, it had so much hidden potential.
Even from people who love anime and manga, Fairy Tail tends to get a bad rep. Its power system has no sense of scale, battles are decided by plot convenience rather than logic, and everyone is drawn like a supermodel. None of these criticisms are incorrect, but this series has a lot of depth once you take the time to find it.
Hiro Mashima, the author of Fairy Tail, has shown himself to be a master of foreshadowing even in the early arcs of the story. In the Battle of Fairy Tail arc, a barrier that prevents people over the age of 80 from leaving the guild hall traps two of the main characters inside, despite that they seem to be teenagers.
The explanation behind this somewhat minor mystery wasn’t revealed until 392 chapters later (with an additional dimension revealed 64 chapters after that), and it turned out to be vitally important to the plot. Readers were stunned that Mashima was able to plant something in 2008 that paid off in a big way all the way in 2014.
Even Natsu, Fairy Tail’s resident stereotypical shonen protagonist extraordinaire, has hidden depths to his personality. He seems to just be the typical fighting-obsessed knucklehead, but when he loses to a character who far surpasses him in strength, Natsu is shaken to his core and admits defeat. This experience helped him mature as a person, and it colored his reactions to other strong opponents later on.
The most terrifying of those opponents is Zeref, the main villain for the vast majority of the series. Very little is known about him, other than that just about every previous antagonist worshipped him and committed horrible acts in his name. In reality, Zeref is a tragic character who wants nothing to do with them. He’s cursed to kill anything or anyone that he cares for, so he must remain cold-hearted in order to keep everyone else safe. For a mainstream shonen series, he’s a surprisingly complex villain – and only became more interesting once his backstory was revealed.
And then came Alvarez, the war arc.
We may never know what happened between Mashima and his editors, but something had clearly changed. All of Natsu’s character development was shoved aside to mold him into a berserker force against Zeref, who himself had gotten a personality facelift to make him straight up evil. Motivations were thinner than balsa wood, characters were constantly dying and being brought back to life a mere handful of chapters later, and long-established rules of the world were being tossed aside for the sake of the plot. Some fans only kept reading because they’d sunk so much time and energy into the series already that they had to see it through to the end, no matter what.
Then, a fan named OharaLibrarian started publishing his own highly ambitious project – The Alvarez Rewrite. It consisted of 44 chapters that were edited, using art from the entire run of the manga, to fix all of the problems that the original story had created for itself. Ohara spent around 1000 hours storyboarding, polling other readers for ideas, and handcrafting entirely new plotlines and battles for Fairy Tail. The result is astounding, and it manages to stay true to the characters and themes of the story much more so than the real ending did.
My favorite aspect of the rewrite is how Ohara fixed Natsu’s character derailment. In the original manga, Natsu is a demon called END who was created by Zeref to replace his deceased younger brother. Juicy stuff, but unfortunately Mashima didn’t really do anything with it. Natsu destroys the demon part of himself with no consequences and that’s the end (tee hee) of that. He then goes on to defeat every other opponent with brute force.
In Ohara’s rewrite, END is a separate being who lives within Natsu and tries to consume him. Natsu’s weird violent moments, which were unexplained and out-of-character in the original, were attributed to END in this version. There’s even a revised fight between Natsu and Zeref that actually shows END possessing Natsu and fighting with his own power.
The Alvarez rewrite gives this treatment to every single problem from the original arc. Some of them I agree with, some of them I don’t, but overall this is a fanwork that deserves far more attention than it has received. If you’re interested, head over to the subreddit and take a look.
I believe that fanfiction is highly valuable for understanding how stories can change and grow when viewed from many different perspectives. And if the original work has a strong foundation and memorable characters, even its derivatives will feel like they belong in the same universe. Fairy Tail may have fallen apart at the end, but it’s due to Mashima’s hard work in creating his world and characters that OharaLibrarian was able to create a better conclusion for this wonderful series. I’m grateful to both of them.
...Oh, and if you’re wondering: best girl is Meredy, best guy is Loke, and best ship is Loke x Lucy. Yeah, I said it.