The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
by Zac Bertschy,
What's It About?When intrepid B-Cuber (think YouTuber) Rebecca sets out to explore Granbell Kingdom, she's just expecting to find an abandoned amusement park staffed by derelict robots. What she gets is a place that hasn't been visited by a human in one hundred years, run by bots thrilled to see her…and a human boy around her own age named Shiki, who has been living in the abandoned park.
Shiki's grandfather (another robot) urged him to make as many friends as he can, and Rebecca's arrival seems like the start of that, until all of his robot friends begin to go mad and try to kill her. The two, along with Rebecca's cat Happy, escape Granbell, and Shiki learns that he's actually been living on a separate planet from the rest of the universe, and that Rebecca's ship is really a spaceship! Together they set out to learn the secrets of the galaxy as Shiki finds that making friends may be a lot harder than his grandfather made it out to be – and even more important.
Edens Zero is the latest manga from Hiro Mashima. Kodansha published the first volume both digitally and in print in November, and both sell for $10.99.
Is It Worth Reading?
Edens Zero embraces the hallmarks of the archetypal hero's quest, and it's off to a solid start. Shiki hitchhiking a ride away from the only home he's ever known into the vastness of the universe is just the beginning, and the well-paced initial outing pays offs in multiple twists revealed at the end of the chapter. Rebecca, who initially comes across as vapid, reveals some depth by volume's end and the overall quest they decide to go on to keep the story going seems to suit them aptly. Happy the sidekick cat rounds out the trio nicely, though the manga could use more of his humorous commentary throughout to add more levity.
Mashima crafts characters and even worlds reminiscent of his long-running Fairy Tail, creating a “space fantasy” more than a sci-fi, as he explains in his author's note. In some ways, it might look too similar at first glance, the spaceships the only noticeable difference that sets it apart as a creation of its own. Even Happy is simply too reminiscent of Fairy Tail's Happy cat, though given the world-traveling nature of Edens Zero, that's likely intentional.
The first volume of Edens Zero may not blow anyone away, but it's a highly satisfactory introduction to Mashima's new (space) fantasy universe. It may seem like more of the same to those familiar with Fairy Tail, but that could work to its advantage, considering the franchise's popularity—and it's not unwelcoming to people completely new to Mashima's work, either. All in all, with its likeable characters and pleasant art, this first installment promises another grand adventure.
Edens Zero feels like Hiro Mashima's darkest work thus far, or at least the most overtly dark. (Both Rave Master and Fairy Tail definitely got grim in places.) The story is also his first science fiction work, although he calls it “fantasy in space,” which kind of works – Rebecca and Shiki's adventures are more akin to those fantasy heroes have than science fiction protagonists; the only major difference is that they're traveling by starship to different planets rather than by carriage to different towns. There's also the same strong suspicion that Shiki is the “chosen one” figure who will do something major to affect the world, although the epilogue of the book, which takes place 20,000 years in the future, does seem to cast a bit of doubt on that.
Regardless, Mashima's using some of the themes that helped to make his previous series Fairy Tail work so well. Shiki and Rebecca (and Happy, to an extent) are both orphans without anywhere to really call home. Shiki's been playing mechanic on Granbell, but Rebecca's more of a grifter, currently trying to make things work as the in-world version of a YouTuber. She's more cautious in her relationships as well, which is going to make for an interesting confrontation next week when someone she thought she knew turns out to maybe not be. The two complement each other well, and if Mashima's character designs make them look like the children (or at least descendants) of characters from Fairy Tail, that may be on purpose – there's an Exceed Planet mentioned, and the “Ether” power Shiki uses used to be referred to as “magic,” which ties in with the magic system from that earlier series. Shiki and Rebecca also don't act like Natsu and Lucy 2.0 – he's a lot more aware of girls, for one thing, and she's much more cynical.
There does seem to be some potential for confusion going forward, however. When Rebecca and Shiki head off to a different planet, Elsie Crimson (why yes, she does look like Erza Scarlet, why do you ask?), a space pirate, comments that it's “already dead,” which may mean that there's some time travel going on here. What does that imply for the 20,000 year gap between main story and volume epilogue? It's hard to say at this point, but there's almost certainly something more going on here. That could get to be a problem if Mashima doesn't handle it carefully, but at this point he's a good enough storyteller that I'm not terribly worried, and I'm definitely looking forward to see where this is going.
Edens Zero surprised me. It let me see the appeal of Hiro Mashima in a way I wasn't able to before. It's nothing great, but it is home to some genuinely inspired and imaginative science fantasy.
The most noteworthy shift is in the little details. The main character is more Tarzan than Luffy; someone who has been isolated from all human contact and has no understanding of etiquette as a result. His aspirations aren't as specific becoming the best mage ever, he just wants to see the universe and make friends. And the move from high fantasy pastiche to Star Wars reminiscent sci-fi honestly enriches Edens Zero in a way I wasn't expecting. A defunct theme-park planet inhabited entirely by dying robots, a cosmic, larger-than-life goddess figure who no one has interacted with before and more ridiculous things like a cyborg cat who can turn into a set of guns are classic, beautiful space opera. They add a spark of life to the more trite aspects of Edens Zero's story, such as the special destiny plotline our main character seems to be a part of.
For all his artistry has improved, however, Mashima's sense of humor hasn't evolved a bit. So many of the jokes are contingent on the main character doing something like feeling up the female lead's breasts, and it really does a number on the main character's likability and generally takes me out of the narrative. It also does the sad-backstory-as-substitute-for-character-development thing, with the flashbacks themselves being somewhat resonant as a depiction of social isolation (and allowing us to see why our main characters connect so well), but leaving me wary of if any of these ideas will be explored in the main story, especially since I don't have much faith in Mashima's ability to write complex, evolving characters
But then there are the final moments of the volume, where the story flashes forward in time to hint at something far grander, more mythic in scale and aspirations. Something close to tragedy, even. Edens Zero still has a lot of room to falter, and ultimately, it's held back by the elements of Shonen convention it chooses to keep intact. Even still, I enjoyed Edens Zero, and for reasons I wasn't expecting. There's a lot of potential here, and my great hope is that it does capitalize on the things unique to it and becomes something special.
Landed on a amusement park planet, upcoming vlogger, Rebecca and her cat Happy explore an abandoned amusement park called Grandbell Kingdom. After being met by several automatons, Rebecca is told that she is the first visitor in the past 100 years! While exploring the park, Rebecca runs into mechanic, Shiki, another human. After a robot uprising, Rebecca and Shiki must join together to run away from Grandbell Kingdom. Once they escape Grandbell, Rebecca introduces Shiki to a new life of humans, adventuring, and powerful robots in Edens Zero.
Edens Zero may look familiar both in characters and in art style. Hiro Mashima is the creator of Rave Master and Fairy Tail, and several people at first glance assume that Edens Zero is a rip off of Fairy Tail. His characters blend together, and the mascots are exactly the same with the same name! Lucy and Rebecca are next to identical and Happy is by both of their sides! Though the characters are incredibly similar, their stories are definitely different. This is an adventurer's story but instead of high fantasy, it's science fiction-ish.
Ok, so maybe not a whole lot is different, but most shounen doesn't really differ from each other. Shiki of course fights for his friends, is very passionate, and of course can use some high tech gear that hasn't been used since the Dark Ages. Nothing is really spectacular or outstanding about Edens Zero but for fans of the genre, it seems like an epic journey that very much may be the next manga by Hiro Mashima that will have a cult following and introduce shounen to a whole new generation.
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