Studio: J.C. Staff
Episodes: 10 (Ongoing)
Director: Ishihara Shinji
Genre: Sci-fi, Shounen, Fantasy, Action, Comedy
It is Space Year X492. The B-Cuber video streamer Rebecca meets the young boy Shiki, on the machine planet of Granbell, who has the ability to manipulate gravity. After a series of events, Shiki is taken out into the unknown outside world by Rebecca who became his friend on an adventure in space. Together, they will venture into the cosmos while stumbling upon various planets with different landscape and people. All while discovering the truth of the cosmos.
There’s no denying it: While Hiro Mashima is known for his creations Rave Master and Fairy Tail, his recent series, Edens Zero, took a direct hit from the fandom when it was first announced on Shounen Jump. At first glance, it looked like a rehash of Fairy Tail in space, especially the character designs, some of which are just carbon copies of each other. (I’m looking at you Happy, Plue and, Erza-look-alike.)
That perception carried all the way to the anime adaptation with some not even daring to touch the series. However, does Edens Zero really deserve that treatment? Manga readers, contrary to early belief, actually adore the manga’s story direction at the moment. So what is Edens Zero and how does it compare to the unfortunate disaster that was Fairy Tail?
We can’t go further without addressing the elephant in the room which is the character designs. While they may be identical and some even with the same voice actresses, that is where the similarities stops. The characters have different morals that push them forward or values they uphold in comparison to Fairy Tail where friendship reigns over everything. Weisz is a good example of that. He joins the team not because he’s fond of them, but to save his own skin. He will jump ships if it benefits him, but he still has a good heart in some situations.
Rebecca, or should I say, the better Lucy Heartfilia is a more relatable character coming from poverty and working her way up. She literally blasts her way out of the damsel-in-distress trope and saves herself in several situations. An instant that explains both Weisz and Rebecca well would be the fight against a group of tentacle humanoids.
While Rebecca was caught by said tentacles, Weisz instead stood by, ‘admired’ the view and tried to make it more ‘appealing’ before being dragged away by his own set of tentacles. There, Rebecca had enough and blasted her way through, not without doing a quick role reversal on what Weisz did to her. I adored that mutual-teasing interaction so much that I wish they did not cut back to the main character.
While it may be hard for some to unsee the similar character designs, their fresh and engaging personalities and interactions shine through. It even feels more genuine as they are not forced into the ‘guild is a family’ trope to be friends. They became friends from their own choices.
Characters aside, what adventure is Edens Zero trying to tell? One thing that sets Edens Zero apart from Fairy Tail is a clear end goal – meeting the Goddess of the cosmos, MOTHER. This can help give us a clear goal of where Edens Zero is heading towards or perhaps a red herring to its true goal.
While Fairy Tail usually lies on the more happy-go-lucky tone, Edens Zero is not afraid to dabble into dark themes such as slavery and human trafficking. The story so far has shown how AI Robots are treated badly in this predominantly human cosmos. They are seen as inferior and made to be laughing stocks, tortured and thrown away once proven to be useless.
This is where Shiki comes in as the main protagonist, who is human was has been raised among robots. His empathy towards robots is reasonably built up and wasn’t plucked out of thin air. This then brings out a plausible conflict Shiki might find himself in. As mentioned by MOTHER at the end of the first episode, she ponders if he will become a hero of legends or the king of demons like his adopted robot grandpa and bring about destruction. His ability to feel for the oppressed droids minority might lead him in that direction.
Another fun thing within Edens Zero plot is the number of meta jokes and Fairy Tail easter eggs scattered throughout the series. As someone who both loves and hates Fairy Tail, it is quite endearing to see Natsu and Lucy in the background or a Wendy-lookalike but with a well-developed chest and contrasting personality.
On the production end, the creator seems to have a better idea of Edens Zero’s story direction too. It won’t be a lengthy mess like Fairy Tail but instead, a healthy combination of important plot points being ironed out (like Rave Masters) and making up things on-the-go (like Fairy Tail). Also, if you ever find yourself wondering why Edens Zero’s sound design feels so familiar, it is because the original sound designer for Fairy Tail (Hata Shouji) is also working on this series!
But ultimately, the story and characters provide a fun and interesting journey to watch unfold despite the initial drawback the series faced. There are only so many things 10 episodes can show for a long-running series and yet they are doing the best they can to get viewers hooked to their world-building with the concept of chronophage (a dragon that steals a planet’s time) and time paradoxes. With how manga readers are hyping future arcs, expect great things to come from the shounen series.
Trivia about Edens Zero
- Edens Zero is also featured in Hiro Mashima’s spin-off manga series called HERO’s. The 22-chapter manga features the protagonists from his two previous works — Fairy Tail and Rave Master — in an island adventure. There, we get to see the shenanigans of all three groups as they fight against each other and join forces to remove the main antagonist. It is an amusing read, especially with all the meta-references and banter. Beware of character spoilers, though!
- Edens Zero already has a game announced by Konami in September 2020.
- Hiro Mashima is currently working on multiple projects at the moment. Some of them being Fairy Tail’s sequel manga, Square Enix’s Gates of Nightmare character design, and overseeing the RPG game production of Fairy Tail and Edens Zero. Yet, he still has time to play Monster Hunter every day.
- Mashima has stated in an interview that the reappearance of Happy and Plue is influenced by surreal gag comics’ (e.g., “Utsurun Desu.” by Sensha Yoshida) usage of strange mascot characters.