This is sort of a continuation from my previous post. I do feel the need to clarify that, despite my criticisms, I really do enjoy Fairy Tail. It’s just that I have a tendency to nitpick and compare series to each other.
My main gripe here is the fact that, beyond vague and flowery drivel about believing in yourself, magic is given no kind of methodology in Fairy Tail. You don’t know how magic is taught, you don’t know what actually makes some people stronger than others, you don’t get any sense of magic being technically difficult, beyond just requiring magic reserves. All this does a does the series a disservice in my opinion.
It’s about putting power and abilities in context. Without context, achievement is meaningless. For example, the Guinness Book of World Records is pretty unimpressive if you don’t know what is and is not normal for humans in the first place. What the audience has to do in Fairy Tail is just wait to be informed by the characters whether or not they think something is impressive.
Compare this with Naruto, for instance. On the surface, magic and chakra are really quite similar. Both originate within the user and have ‘reserves’, both tend to manifest themselves differently in different people and both allow the user to defy the laws of physics. Where they differ is that chakra is a lot more understood. We know what chakra is in fairly precise terms, we know how it travels round the body, we know how it is harnessed and how one acquires the ability to mold it. All this makes it so much more impressive when you see a character do something particularly awesome or unusual.
The lack of explanation in Fairy Tail can also serve to make plot elements seem contrived. For example, during the Edolas Arc Dragon Slayer Magic apparently has special properties, you can use it to fire the Dragon Chain Cannon and convert lacrimal into people, but why? It’s never explained why exactly Dragon Slayer Magic is so special, I couldn’t help but feel that Mashima was just making random crap up as he went along. Similarly, it’s never explained my Exceeds are the only race in Edolas with magic nor is Lisanna’s entry into Edolas explained very well either.
In summary, Mashima needs to write a rule book of magic and then stick to it. Even a basic guiding tenet, like the Law of Equivalent Exchange in Fullmetal Alchemist, would be enough.