Hiro Mashima (born May 3, 1977) is a Shōnen manga artist most widely known as the creator of Fairy Tail. Getting his start as the winner of an amateur manga competition in 1998, Mashima learned most of what he knows about drawing on his own through his first official serialization, Rave Master, once dropping out of a professional manga school because he felt he wasn't learning anything useful besides the basics.note He went on to crank out quite the number of series and one-shots over the years, eventually becoming one of the most successful artists for Shōnen Magazine.
Mashima's works are packed with inside jokes and self-references for his long-time readers to chew on, including a cast of identical-looking characters with different names and roles in the same vein as Osamu Tezuka's Star System. Most of his one-shots are compiled in a two-part collection called Hiro Mashima's Playground, which details his early career and some of the budding ideas for his later work. This collection was originally released in Japan in 2003, and eventually published in English in 2018.
As an artist, Mashima's most notable traits are his lightning fast drawing speed and expert time management skills, making him one of the few in the industry to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep per day, even prior to his switch to digital drawing doubling his work speed. Because of this, he's managed to pull off stunts such as releasing batches of two-to-three chapters for weeks at a time, and juggling up to two other short-term weekly serializations with his usual work, all while finding the time to goof off playing video games for hours and still getting all his work done before his assistants.
He has a Twitter account, which he regularly updates with artwork and sketches. As of 2022, he also has a YouTube account.
- Rave Master (1999–2005)
- Monster Soul (2005–2007)
- Fairy Tail (2006–2017)
- Fairy Tail ZERØ (2014–2015): A Prequel to Fairy Tail
- Fairy Tail: 100 Years Quest (2018–present, storyboards; art by Atsuo Ueda): An Immediate Sequel to Fairy Tail
- Monster Hunter Orage (2008–2009)
- EDENS ZERO (2018–present)
- Mashima HERO'S (2019): A Crossover between Rave Master, Fairy Tail, and EDENS ZERO
- Magician (1998): The first manga he drew for an official magazine (but the second one published)
- Bad Boys Song (1998): His first published manga (but the second one he drew for an official magazine)
- Magic Party (2000)
- Fairy Tale (2002): A Pilot for Fairy Tail
- Xmas Hearts (2003)
- Cocona (2003)
- Fighting Force Mixture (2003)
- Nishikaze to Taiyō: Zephyr and Sol (2010)
- Hoshigami no Satsuki (2014)
- Gate Of Nightmares (2021): Provided character designs and world-building; also adapted into a manga illustrated by Yoshinori Matsuoka.
Tropes applying to Mashima or his works:
- Action Girl: Mashima is notable for creating a roster of powerful female protagonists, with some being roughly equal to or greater than the number of male protagonists.
- Approval of God: He is vocally supportive of any adaptation of his work, and has stated in one interview that he gave the cast of the Fairy Tail anime carte blanche to interpret their roles however they saw fit, which also influenced how he wrote the manga.
- Art Evolution: Mashima's style has changed so radically over the decades that comparing the first chapter of one Long Runner to its last chapter is like looking at the work of two completely different artists. At the start of Rave Master, he drew his characters with lanky limbs and wide, boxy-looking faces, with very basic body and visual angles. Over time, as he refined his character positions, his faces became longer and more angular, and then wider but rounder until the start of Fairy Tail, which is when most readers compared his art to that of Eiichiro Oda. After that, his body proportions gradually became more realistic, while his faces have continued to shift between long/angular and wide/round, but in a more subtle fashion.
- Author Appeal: Every one of his works shares at least three or more of the following: True Companions; heroes with names based on seasons and/or missing fathers (including father figures); expies of his own characters, either as different characters or cameos; bizarre-looking creatures and people with equally bizarre personalities; dragons; themes of prejudice towards non-humans; an aversion to suicide or self-sacrifice; plots and/or characters revolving around Time Travel alongside the consequences of Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
- Author Avatar: Mashymre, a character from his Crossover series Mashima HERO'S, is transparently based on himself—albeit 40-60 years older than he is.
- Breakthrough Hit: Mashima might have seen success with Rave Master, his first manga series, but Fairy Tail is what gave him international attention.
- Creator Cameo: He lent his voice to a single scene in the final episode of the Rave Master anime as a fedora-wearing, dot-eyed guitarist named "Majima".
- Gonk: His most unique-looking characters tend to be butt-ugly or extremely bizarre-looking, like the Butt Jiggle Gang or Ichiya, with equally bizarre personalities to match.
- One of Us: He is an avid gamer and movie lover, and frequently tweets whenever he's completed a new game in between his manga work.
- Only Six Faces: He tends to add very little variety to his characters' facial designs both within and across his series, especially his main leads, who tend to have very minor differences besides the hair color or style. It especially affects the female characters, who almost always have the same basic "cute, round-face with wide eyes" or "broad, mature face with narrow eyes". This discounts the designs that are deliberately identical to other characters.
- Recurring Element: Mashima's works don't just recycle character designs, but also entire characters, names, places, and terms with a new spin:
- Plue/Nikora, a trembling, ball-headed "dog" with a carrot-like nose, is a recurring Series Mascot who predates all of Mashima's works as a doodle he drew in school. He/she has appeared in more Mashima works than any other to date, with a multitude of different roles: in Magician, Mashima's debut one-shot, Plue is a regular female dog whose bizarre appearance is the result of a super serum; in Rave Master, he is a main character who guides Haru on his quest to find the Rave Stones; in Fairy Tail, he's part of a breed of Celestial Spirit called Nikora who Lucy keeps a seldom-seen Team Pet; and in EDENS ZERO, Nikora is a Servant Race of aliens seen in a single chapter.
- Etherion, a highly destructive magical power. In Rave Master, it's the ultimate magic that has the capacity to either save or destroy the entire world, and central to the plot as a whole. In Fairy Tail, it's a magical Kill Sat used by the Magic Council that can wipe out nations. In EDENS ZERO, it's the titular ship's Secret Weapon that is related to the power to control time and made from the corpse of an alternate version of one of the heroes.
- The Oración Seis are a team of six who stand among the stronger characters in whatever series they appear in. In Rave Master (where they're renamed the Oracion Six), they're the elite generals of Demon Card, the main antagonistic force of the series. In Fairy Tail, they're one of the three strongest dark guilds on the continent of Ishgal. In EDENS ZERO, they're two groups of six warriors reputed as some of the strongest warriors in the setting: The Galáctica are the six most powerful lawless warriors of the cosmos capable of destroying planets with their power and influence, though not all of them are necessarily "evil" even if they don't follow the Cosmic Government; and the Interestelar are the six most powerful members of the Interstellar Union Army meant to counteract the threat of the Galáctica.
- Mildian, a mystical place usually associated with time. In Rave Master, it's a town of sorcerers and mages who aim to prevent a Time Crash. In Fairy Tail, it's an ancient civilization where many of the series' known time spells originated, and whose people have worshiped a god of time. In EDENS ZERO, it's a planet that exists outside of normal time, and home to an oracle that can see the past, present, and future.
- Heart Kreuz, an in-universe brand of clothes worn by Elie in Rave Master, and by Lucy and Erza in Fairy Tail.
- Happy, a talking blue cat, is one of the Series Mascots of both Fairy Tail and EDENS ZERO. However, both series give him completely different backgrounds: in the former, he's a magical winged cat from another dimension, while in the latter, he's an alien who was killed and reborn as an android.
- Tanchimo, the giant rabbit/emu hybrid creature—er, "horse"—from Rave Master, has a role in EDENS ZERO as an MMORPG character whose backstory matches Tanchimo's role as the Rave Warriors' steed, and whose name is made out to be a shortened form of "Turn-to-Timonium".
- Reused Character Design:
- Sieg Hart from Rave Master is the second most prominent case behind Plue, usually playing a noble Villain in a White Suit with extremist ideas, or who otherwise opposes the heroes before becoming an ally: in Fairy Tail, he is Jellal (a.k.a. "Siegrain"), a Brainwashed and Crazy Fallen Hero who later becomes a heroic vigilante, and has another self from a Bizarro Universe; in EDENS ZERO, he's an Inspector Javert-type Space Police officer named Justice; and in HERO'S, he's a straight-up villain named Genesis, who only looks that way because of his Imagination-Based Superpower.
- Bis, an Elite Mook from Rave Master, appears in the Fairy Tail manga as a nameless Mook who Panther Lily steals his Musica Sword from. The Musica Sword is also named after the Rave character Musica, who plays a major role in the story arc where Bis appears.
- Aquarius from Fairy Tail had her design repurposed from Undine, queen of the Water Tribe from the Pilot manga Fairy Tale.
- Erza Scarlet, one of Fairy Tail's main characters, resurfaces in EDENS ZERO as a supporting character named Elsie Crimson. Appearances aside, however, their personalities are polar opposites: Erza is a Knight in Shining Armor with a strong case of Good Is Not Soft, while Elsie is an Ambiguously Evil Space Pirate and Lovable Rogue. Both also have a strong relationship to Jellal and Justice, respectively, both of whom were inspired by Sieg Hart from Rave Master.
- Sisters Mirajane and Lisanna from Fairy Tail make a minor appearance in EDENS ZERO among a group of girls Rebecca is kidnapped with. The two also end up wearing a demon and cat costume, respectively, reflecting the sisters' powers to transform into those creatures in Fairy Tail.
- Angel from Fairy Tail appears as an in-universe anime character in EDENS ZERO called "Angela".
- Self-Deprecation: Whenever Mashima draws Crossovers of his own works, there's at least one moment where he pokes fun at how similar (and in some cases, identical) his characters look and act.
- Surreal Humor: Many of his earliest gags revolve around characters getting introduced to utterly bizarre creatures and trying to make heads or tails about what they are and why some characters seem unfazed by it.
- Temporal Theme Naming: He has named several of his protagonists after the Japanese words for seasons, which he intended to fit within his non-Japanese settings while still appealing to Japanese audiences: Rave Master has Haru (spring); Fairy Tail has Natsu (summer); Monster Soul has Aki (autumn); Fighting Force Mixture has Mafuyu, from "Fuyu" (winter); and Monster Hunter Orage and EDENS ZERO have Shiki (four seasons).
- Transatlantic Equivalent: For his formula of high octane action-adventure and comedy and having a Plucky Comic Relief as a sidekick for The Hero and a spunky and snarky Action Girl as the female lead in his works, he can be considered Shōnen's answer to Hollywood's Stephen Sommers of The Mummy Trilogy, Van Helsing and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra fame.
- True Companions: You won't find a single Mashima series where the hero isn't or doesn't become part of a tightly knit group of friends. These sorts of characters will always call someone out for betraying or killing one of their own, no matter what side they're on, and will always take it personally when a villain hurts a fellow main character or makes them cry (especially if it's a girl).
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Zig-Zagged. Several of Mashima's works lean heavily into themes of prejudice against non-humans. In Rave Master and EDENS ZERO, the heroes are all accepting of non-humans and androids; in Cocona and Monster Soul, the heroes are part of the marginalized group. However, in any instance where a non-human group is Always Chaotic Evil, the heroes have no qualms breaking their Thou Shalt Not Kill rule.
- Write What You Know:
- Mashima has drawn from his own experience of losing his father as a boy when writing about the relationships the protagonists of Rave Master and Fairy Tail have with their missing fathers (foster father in the latter's case).
- Many characters' quirks, such as Gray's unconscious stripping habit or Shiki's squeamishness towards bugs, are reflections of Mashima himself.
- Write Who You Know: Mashima has modeled and named a number of characters in his works after his assistants. He also turned people he's met at conventions into characters, such as journalist Jason Thompson as Fairy Tail's Jason, or YouTuber Nino Kerl as EDENS ZERO's Nino.
- Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Mashima does this to varying degrees depending on the work:
- For Rave Master, this only happened in minor doses as he was planning ahead, with the only major change being the first quarter of the manga where he jumped into his planned Final Battle as per his editor's suggestion to boost reader interest. After switching out the Big Bad with another, Mashima was able to correct course relatively smoothly, with the rest of the manga playing out more or less exactly as he wanted from the second half onward.
- Fairy Tail plays this completely straight, with the one pre-determined story element being The Hero's search for the dragon who raised him. Everything else—from the reasons for said dragon's disappearance to entire story arcs—was made up on the fly, though not without Foreshadowing; it's just that the things he foreshadowed were typically either made up in that moment or weren't worked out yet.
- EDENS ZERO, according to Mashima, lies somewhere in between his levels of planning for Rave Master and Fairy Tail, setting specific characters and story beats in stone while making up everything in between. Some of his plans have wound up being slightly distorted because of this, with certain characters being introduced earlier than anticipated.