When I first got into anime and manga, I was a huge fan of Hiro Mashima’s work, specifically Rave Master. Through the years, mostly due to Fairy Tail and the god almighty mess it has become, I’ve handed in my official fangirl card. However, with the new release of Edens Zero on Netflix, I couldn’t resist taking a peek, torn between a critical eye and what might still be the heart of a fangirl. So let’s see!
Clearing the elephant in the room – yes, character designs do look very similar to Fairy Tail, which looked very similar to Rave, which looked very similar to Monster Hunter Orage, etc. Mashima recycles designs in his series, at this point there’s not any use in complaining, it’s what he does. If you’re a sucker for originality, well, this might not be the best fit for you. Unfortunately, this character design also includes the over-the-top amounts of fan service that swing right back around into fan dis-service levels.
The second elephant is the power of friendship! Unlike Rave, which worked the themes in more naturally at first, and Fairy Tail, which made a big deal out of friends like family at the guild, Edens Zero just smacks you in the face with it, right out of the gate. Literally the first scene in the first episode is the main character Shiki declaring he wants to make all these friends and get a wish granted by a space goddess to have friends. Personally, I think that’s a stupid thing to waste a space goddess’ wish on, but what do I know?
Between the friendship, the designs, and the whole “let’s have an adventure with a group of randos!” plot, Edens Zero is clearly cast from the same mold as the rest of the series. Is that really a bad thing though?
While Rave and Orage were much-beloved series, Fairy Tail managed to start out strong and then proceeded to drop the dumbbell on its own foot, as it were. Honestly, I expected Edens Zero to pick up where Fairy Tail left off and drop the bar through the floor, if at all possible. What I wasn’t expecting was a series taking potshots at its predecessor whenever the chance arose, nor the oddly self-loathing jokes it adds.
Edens Zero stars Rebecca, a “B-cuber” who is basically a space vlogger, only it is abundantly clear that Mashima and possibly the entire staff of the anime, really don’t like vloggers. The story pokes fun at her mercilessly, at almost every opportunity. She’s not presented as a bad person or a bad character, but you get the feeling that Mashima himself wouldn’t exactly be rushing to watch her Twitch stream, ridiculous fanservice boobs notwithstanding.
She also constantly takes digs at Shiki and his “I wanna be friends with everyone!” mentality, and at the premise of a guild like Fairy Tail where everyone is friends. It’s refreshing to see a series admit that its predecessor made mistakes, but at the same time, it turns into a state of self-loathing where you can tell that, despite the digs, friendship is a very important component of the series. There are also several other cheap shots taken at Fairy Tail that seem to be a little too pointed to be taken in a friendly manner, but admittedly, if you were not a fan of the series, that makes them all the funnier.
Edens Zero’s best feature is probably its setting as a space fantasy series in the fictional Sakura Cosmos. It definitely retreads the “fantasy” setting of its predecessors, but there are aliens and spaceships and more of a sci-fi kind of feel to it, which helps it feel a little fresher, though I keep expecting to see Griff pop out of nowhere.
Does Edens Zero live up to Rave Master? Not quite. The characters, themes, and plots retreading the same lines gets old and lacks some of the bite that Rave Master had, at least so far. However, compared to Fairy Tail it’s much more self-aware, and Happy is exponentially less annoying in this incarnation. While I still have my doubts about the series holding up long-term in either manga or anime form, I wouldn’t yet put it in the “total write-off” category.