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I liked Shiba too. Liked how he was all but forgotten at some point, and then came back to beat some sense into Haru. That fight of theirs was amazing. Too bad Berial got one hit ko-d after that by pissed off Haru.
I've watched Rave when I was in grade school, and it was one of the few anime that I really loved that time. I had read the first few chapters of it but I eventually stopped. I can't also compare if the anime did follow the manga, or not.
But I think in terms of character development and emotion with the story, Rave is much superior than Fairy Tail. I've read all of the Fairy Tail chapters, but each chapter didn't left much of a trace for me, unlike with the Rave anime, I still remember some of the heart-warming scenes of Elie and Haru. And also, the problem that I usually see in FT, is the battle scenes. Sometimes, the styles were seemed to be, redundant or repeating a certain cycle/pattern.
But being "redundant or repeating a certain cycle/pattern" is still a flaw in all popular long-term manga that run longer than a year. Rave ain't an exceptional case, either. I really don't think it's something that makes Fairy Tail extraordinary bad...