As of February 2020, the Fairy Tail manga had 72 million collected volumes in circulation. According to Oricon, Fairy Tail was the eighth best-selling manga series in Japan for 2009, fourth best in 2010 and 2011, fifth best of 2012, dropped to ninth in 2013, to 17th in 2014, and was 15th in 2015. The fifth volume of Fairy Tail was ranked seventh in a list of the top ten manga, and the series once again placed seventh after the release of the sixth volume. About.com’s Deb Aoki listed Fairy Tail as the Best New Shōnen Manga of 2008. It also won the 2009 Kodansha Manga Award for shōnen manga. At the 2009 Industry Awards for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the organizers of Anime Expo, Fairy Tail was named Best Comedy Manga. Volume 9 of the series was nominated in the Youth Selection category at the 2010 Angoulême International Comics Festival.
Reviewing the first volume, Carl Kimlinger of Anime News Network felt Fairy Tail followed standard shōnen action manga tropes, writing “the mix of goofy humor, face-crushing action, and teary-eyed sap is so calculated as to be mechanical.” Carlo Santos, also of Anime News Network, agreed in his review of volume three; having positive views towards the art, particularly the action scenes, but citing a lack of story and character development. By volume 12 Santos suggested that Mashima’s true talent lies in “taking the most standard, predictable aspects of the genre and somehow still weaving it into a fun, fist-pumping adventure.”
Kimlinger, his colleague Rebecca Silverman, and A.E. Sparrow of IGN all felt Mashima’s artwork had strong similarities to Eiichiro Oda’s in One Piece. While Sparrow used the comparison as a compliment and said it had enough unique qualities of its own, Kimlinger went so far as to say it makes it difficult to appreciate Mashima’s “undeniable technical skill.”
The anime has also received a positive response from critics and viewers alike. In Southeast Asia, Fairy Tail won Animax Asia’s “Anime of the Year” award in 2010. In 2012, the anime series won the “Meilleur Anime Japonais” (best Japanese anime) award and the best French dubbing award at the 19th Anime & Manga Grand Prix in Paris, France.
In reviewing the first Funimation Entertainment DVD volumes, Carlo Santos of Anime News Network praised the visuals, characters, and English voice acting, as well as the supporting characters for its comedic approach. However, Santos criticized both the anime’s background music and CGI animation. In his review of the second volume, Santos also praised the development of “a more substantial storyline,” but also criticized the inconsistent animation and original material not present in the manga. In his review of the third volume, Santos praised the improvements of the story and animation, and said that the volume “finally shows the [anime] series living up to its potential.” In his reviews of the fourth and sixth volumes, however, Santos praised the storyline’s formulaic pattern, though saying that “unexpected wrinkles in the story […] keep the action from getting too stale,” but calling the outcomes “predictable”.