It’s the year X492. Rebecca, a B-Cuber video streamer, meets Shiki, a young boy who can manipulate gravity, on the machine planet Granbell. Shiki is taken out into the unknown outside world by Rebecca, who becomes his friend on an adventure in space after a series of events. They will travel through the cosmos together, encountering various planets with different landscapes and people. All while discovering the truth about the universe.
While Hiro Mashima is best known for his works Rave Master and Fairy Tail, his most recent series, Edens Zero, received a direct hit from the fandom when it was first announced on Shounen Jump. At first glance, it appeared to be a rehash of Fairy Tail in space, particularly the character designs, which are near carbon copies of one another. (I’m looking at you, Happy, Plue, and Erza impersonator.)
That perception persisted all the way to the anime adaptation, with some refusing even to touch the series. Is Edens Zero, on the other hand, truly deserving of such treatment? Manga readers, contrary to popular belief, are currently enamored with the manga’s story direction. So, what exactly is Edens Zero, and how does it compare to the catastrophic disaster that was Fairy Tail?
We can’t go any further without addressing the gorilla in the room: character designs. While they may look the same and even have the same voice actresses, that is where the similarities end. In contrast to Fairy Tail, where friendship reigns supreme, the characters have different morals that propel them forward or values that they uphold. Weisz is a prime example of this. He joins the team not because he likes them but because he needs to save his skin. He will jump ships if it is advantageous to him, but he still has a good heart in some situations.
Rebecca, or, to put it another way, the better Lucy Heartfilia, is a more relatable character who comes from a low-income family and works her way up. She blasts her way out of the damsel-in-distress trope, saving herself in a variety of situations. The fight against a horde of tentacle humanoids perfectly explains both Weisz and Rebecca.
While The tentacles engulfed Rebecca, Weisz stood by, ‘admired’ the view, and attempted to make it more ‘enticing’ before being dragged away by his own set of tentacles. Rebecca had had enough and bashed her way through, but not before doing a quick role reversal on what Weisz had done to her. I was so taken with that mutual teasing interaction that I wished they hadn’t cut back to the main character.
While some may find it difficult to ignore the similar character designs, their unique and engaging personalities and interactions shine through. It feels even more genuine because they are not coerced into the ‘guild is a family’ trope to be friends. They became friends through their own volition.
Aside from the characters, what adventure is Edens Zero attempting to tell? One thing that distinguishes Edens Zero from Fairy Tail is a clear end goal – meeting Mother, the Goddess of the Cosmos. This end goal can provide us with a clear idea of where Edens Zero is heading, or it could be a red herring to its true purpose.
While Fairy Tail usually has a more upbeat tone, Edens Zero isn’t afraid to explore darker themes like slavery and human trafficking. So far, the story has shown how AI Robots are mistreated in this predominantly human universe. They are viewed as inferior and are made to be laughingstocks, tortured, and discarded once proven to be useless.
This is where Shiki, the human protagonist but was raised among robots, comes in. His empathy for robots is well-developed and was not created out of thin air. This then raises the possibility of Shiki becoming involved in a conflict. As Mother mentioned at the end of the first episode, she wonders if he will become a legend’s hero or the king of demons like his adopted robot grandpa and bring about destruction. His empathy for the oppressed droid minority may lead him in that direction.
Another enjoyable aspect of the Edens Zero plot is the abundance of meta-jokes and Fairy Tail easter eggs scattered throughout the series. As someone who loves and despises Fairy Tail, seeing Natsu and Lucy in the backdrops or a Wendy-lookalike but with a well-developed chest and contrasting personality is quite endearing.
In terms of production, the creator appears to have a better idea of Edens Zero’s story direction. It won’t be a long, drawn-out mess like Fairy Tail, but rather a healthy mix of essential plot points straightened out (like Rave Masters) and making things up as they go (like Fairy Tail). Also, if you’ve ever wondered why Edens Zero’s sound design sounds so familiar, it’s because the original Fairy Tail sound designer (Hata Shouji) is also working on this series!
Despite the series’ initial setback, the story and characters provide a fun and exciting journey to watch unfold. There are only so many things that ten episodes of a long-running series can show, but they are doing their best to hook viewers with the concept of chronophage (a dragon that steals a planet’s time) and time paradoxes. Expect great things from the shounen series based on how manga readers are hyping future arcs.