This evening I was having a conversation with Patches comparing various shounen manga and we got onto the subject of Hiro Mashima, the mangaka of Fairy Tail. This led to an interesting discussion about how we feel Mashima is somewhat of a cross between Eiichiro Oda (One Piece) and Tite Kubo (Bleach) in terms of both art and storytelling.
Much like Kubo, Mashima's narratives are thinner than some of its shounen brethren, but focuses more on getting to the nitty gritty fighting. Since most of Fairy Tail's arcs are shorter than those of say, One Piece or Naruto, it's not too surprising that the storyline isn't as epic as the two aforementioned series. Don't get me wrong, both Kubo and Mashima build their stories fairly well, but they don't weave such intricate plotlines that really pull you in and give the final clashes that massive, shounentastic impact. While his method of storytelling appears to be more Kubo-like, Mashima adopts several Oda-like qualities to make his plotlines more entertaining. The main similarity between the two is the comedy element. Both Fairy Tail and One Piece share a very similar style of humour, with wacky and almost silly humour that can at times border on the slapstick. Likewise, Patches makes a good point when he says that while the battles share a similar level of importance to Kubo's works, the Fairy Tail wizards have such varied and distinctly recognisable abilities that they are much closer to the various Devil Fruit powers in One Piece than the Zanpakutou in Bleach.
The similarities however do not stop at the story. When it comes to artwork, there's no doubt that Mashima's visual language is more akin to that of Oda's One Piece, especially when it comes to some of the wackier character designs (think Wally and Hot Eye). On the flip side, Mashima's art is very bold and the dynamic battles throughout have slightly more of a Bleach vibe to them - though with more comprehensive imagery and fewer action lines of doom, Mashima's fights are generally easier to follow than Kubo's.
Maybe it's unfair tolook at a single mangaka's work and inherently compare him to others, but when you've read and seen a certain amount of work, it's hard to stop yourself. Likewise, all artists and authors will take inspiration from existing works that they admire to the point where noted similarities can be spotted (the resemblance between Fairy Tail's Kageyama and Naruto's Shikamaru both physically and in their abilities still amazes me to this day). Mashima certainly seems to have taken on board a lot of Oda's strong points such as the comedy and visuals as well as Kubo's dynamic battles. Sadly, he also seems to have gravitated towards less-developed plotlines in the same way that Kubo has, though thankfully by going for shorter arcs, he manages to avoid the pitfall of boring the audience with a string of battles centring around one simple and underdeveloped plotpoint. Let's hope he just doesn't pick up any of Kubo's other bad habits...