Even though Fairy Tail has come to a close, its creator Hiro Mashima is not done with the manga industry at all. In the summer of 2018 he launched a brand new series called Edens Zero and its first volume came out recently. Is it good?
The official summary from Kodansha Comics reads:
At Granbell Kingdom, an abandoned amusement park, Shiki has lived his entire life among machines. But one day, Rebecca and her cat companion Happy appear at the park’s front gates. Little do these newcomers know that this is the first human contact Granbell has had in a hundred years! As Shiki stumbles his way into making new friends, his former neighbors stir at an opportunity for a robo-rebellion … And when his old homeland becomes too dangerous, Shiki must join Rebecca and Happy on their spaceship and escape into the boundless cosmos.
The Initial Impression
While I did bow out of reading Fairy Tail a long time ago, I did enjoy the early portions of the series quite a bit. So when the creator launched a new series, I was definitely interested in seeing what they thought of next. From my first impression of it, Edens Zero Vol. 1 feels like a prologue or just the first chapter where things the aims of the series are not fully clear. There are certainly ideas of what the characters want to do and the impression is that something big is on the horizon, but not a whole lot is really given to us at the start. The series has some good bits to it, but I’m left unsure after my first reading what to really make of it.
The first volume of Edens Zero feels like it’s missing something. Having read through it a few times, I think it’s that the manga is lacking a hook or a strong, central goal. The series so far feels like a generic sci-fi tale with a shonen paint job. There’s little action to it, the sci-fi concepts and settings are familiar, and we’re not given much of a taste of this universe to really make it unique. The series also feels reminiscent of the last manga Mashima worked on with similar themes of friendship and familiar looking characters (some of which might as well be the same characters to a point). It isn’t until the final fourth of the book that we are given some sort of direction for where the series will be taking us.
Really, this book is just pure setup without much context or purpose. For the most part, the story is kind of aimless with Rebecca and Happy taking Shiki from Grandbell to Blue Garden, thinking he may want to be an adventurer. We meet some characters, learn more about the ones we’ve got, and then the cast decides to go find this cosmic being for basically YouTube money and clicks. There’s just not much here and when we do finally get direction it isn’t exactly thrilling. Admittedly, there are hints of something grander out there, alluded to by side characters and a flash-forward to the distant future, but there’s just not enough going on at the moment to really make the story click well.
The characters are a bit of a mixed bag here, but they’re certainly more enjoyable than the story itself at this point. Shiki is a guy who has been alone forever in a sense, with all of his friends and family growing up being artificial beings. He’d never even met a human until Rebecca arrived. As such he finds humans and living beings to be fascinating, constantly wanting to touch them (for better or worse) or make friends with them. Traveling to another planet and seeing so many other lifeforms completely blows his mind. While his goal is to meet people and make more friends, it feels believable enough with his backstory that it makes sense and doesn’t feel too corny or cheesy.
Rebecca is essentially a YouTube star (or in this case, a B-Cube Star), constantly exploring the Sakura Cosmos for adventure and popularity. She certainly has the potential to be annoying with her attempts at taping herself or mugging/playing up for the camera, and it can be like that on occasion. She never goes over the line however, and with the added background of her past her desire to become a popular star with tons of fans gains a different context. She has shades of being an action girl as well, but who knows going forward. Happy the Blue Cat is… pretty much a lot like he was in Fairy Tail, being this cute mascot character there to provide comic relief or exposition. I will say that I like the character’s new backstory and how it’s executed, which is both absolutely heartbreaking and gives him a new role on the team. It’s an okay main cast of characters with potential, but they’re all diamonds in the rough for the moment.
I will say the other parts of the writing and story work fine enough, but they don’t dazzle. We don’t get much time with the supporting cast; they’re just established for later. We have Clarisse Layer, a receptionist for the Adventures Guild who is nice towards everyone; the mysterious space pirate-hunting Shiki called Elise Crimson; and Rebecca’s B-Cube rival Labilia Christy, who is super arrogant. No one is particularly deep or standout worthy yet, but they may serve a purpose later on. The story moves at a slow pace, taking its time to worldbuild and set up the cast, but it’s oddly lacking in direction until the end. The humor occasionally lands a funny moment with the visuals and writing, but not often enough.
Where the book does succeed with flying colors is in its drama and heavy emotional moments. Mashima really knows how to craft a hard gut punch of a scene, adding weight and power to events that strike accord in just the right way. They don’t feel manipulative in execution, fitting in perfectly well with the underlying darker tone that resides between the lines of the series thus far. The ending of chapter one is incredibly good on that front with Shiki leaving his home planet and the fate that befalls everyone left behind, as well as the backstory with Rebecca and Happy. As silly or awkward as they can be at times, those moments hit like a truck. I recall Fairy Tail having some good big, dramatic moments as well, but never this many all at once.
The artwork by Mashima is good enough. It’s his bright, cheery, anime and cartoony mix style that we’ve seen before in Fairy Tail. It’s excellent at depicting body language, facial expressions, and good, funny visual gags, while also showcasing some intense action. He also has really nice visual designs for the sci-fi technology and locations, leading to some amazing double-page spreads that are a pleasure for the eyes (like the shot of the Sakura Cosmos). His character design is fine as well, but that’s where things start getting…iffy.
Edens Zero recycles a LOT of character designs from previous series Mashima has done, from Rebecca looking similar to Lucy from Fairy Tail, to Elise essentially being Ezra from Fairy Tail, and the Nikora just stepping straight out of Rave Master. It could be that Mashima is reusing designs and names to mess with expectations, but it’s just odd and kind of pulls me out of the story. Also, the fan service is a bit much in some areas. Thankfully, it’s toned down from his last year where it just got out of control at times, but it is still feels awkward seeing Shiki grope Rebecca’s breasts or look up her skirt.
Is It Good?
Edens Zero Vol. 1 is just an okay debut from a popular manga creator. While there are certainly signs for future improvement as well as strong points within the story at this time, this first volume doesn’t do enough to dazzle. The story feels too aimless and unengaging while also seeming too similar to the creator’s last work. If you are interested in Edens Zero I would recommend holding off until the second volume drops before getting in on this one. Perhaps a better picture of the series will become clear by then.
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