A Worthy Successor?: Natsu (Fairy Tail) VS Shiki (Edens Zero)

by MrAJCosplay/Cartoon Cipher,

Love it or hate it, you can't deny that Fairy Tail easily cemented itself as one of the most popular long-running shonen anime to come out in the past few years. The franchise is still going strong with the Hundred Year Quest installment, however running alongside that we have Hiro Mashima's newest work in the form of Edens Zero which just finished airing it's first anime season last year with another season forthcoming. One of the main things that stood out to people, myself included, was this new series' rather uninspired designs. The main protagonist of Edens Zero, Shiki, looks almost identical to Natsu from Fairy Tail minus the hair color, while other characters are just straight up design copies with minimal tweaks. All of this unfortunately gives a strong first impression that Mashima was being lazy and is more than content with letting his new show ride off the coattails of his former success. However, I genuinely think there's more to both shows than what appears on the surface and what better way to highlight those differences then by pitting the main characters of each show against each other? My name is AJ from the Cartoon Cipher and today on Anime News Network we will break down who would win in a fight: Natsu Dragneel from Fairy Tail or Shiki Granbell from Edens Zero. Naturally, SPOILERS AHEAD!

So let's start with our veteran Natsu Dragneel, a wizard from the kingdom of Fiore. Ever since he was a baby, Natsu was raised by Igneel, one of the most powerful dragons in all the land. Acting as a father figure, he taught Natsu how to read, write and the art of dragonslayer magic, mystic arts that were specifically designed to take down dragons, some of the most powerful creatures in the world. Being a fire Dragon Slayer, Natsu is able to convert his magical energy into various fire-based attacks including physical punches and kicks that are strong enough to pierce a dragon's scales but he's also able to attack like a dragon in the form of fire breath attacks and even fire dragon secret arts. However, a unique trait of dragonslayers is their ability to consume the element that they specialize in. As a fire dragonslayer, Natsu was able to eat almost any form of fire be it magical or otherwise, which allows him to restore his energy and deliver even more powerful attacks as long as he doesn't eat his own. Later on, Natsu would take some risks and absorb other forms of elemental magic in order to combine said power with his fire. This included lightening magic from his fellow guild member as well as eating crystal infused with pure magical energy. Naturally this gave Natsu a huge burst in power but there were a lot of physical drawbacks in doing so. Once his magical capacity exceeds a certain limit, Natsu is able to enter Dragon Force mode which means that his body takes on even more properties of a dragon, increasing his physical abilities and magical attacks.

True to his nature as a fire wizard, Natsu is a hothead always itching for a fight in order to prove himself as the strongest, especially in the face of those much more seasoned and powerful than he is. He's defeated some of the most powerful wizards in all the land, oftentimes with the help of his friends who he would do absolutely anything for. The series does keep establishing that there are other wizards more powerful than Natsu and some are even within his own wizard guild. However, Mashima almost always makes it a point to have Natsu be the one to deliver the final blow.

Next up we have Shiki Granbell from the planet…Granbell! A long time ago, a robot by the name of Ziggy traveled throughout the universe in order to find Mother, an entity believed to be a myth by many. However, one day he came across a small boy who he named Shiki and retired to his home planet of Granbell in order to raise him as a loving grandfather. Ziggy would unfortunately stop working one day as most robots do but not without teaching Shiki how to use Ether Gear. Ether Gear is a rare and ancient type of ability that allows people to manipulate the energy within their own bodies in order to manifest it with different properties. In Shiki's case, he's able to manipulate his inner energy in the form of gravity based techniques. Shiki can alter his own center of gravity in order to “fall” in multiple directions and thus giving the illusion that he is flying. He can alter the gravity of other people and objects in order to make them float in the air or make them so heavy they come crashing into the ground. He could also fine-tune his gravity abilities into specific points in order to make his fist attacks more destructive by having them carry more weight or he can concentrate gravity into small projectiles for long range attacks. In time, Shiki is able to exceed his own limits and enter a form called Overdrive where he takes on a physical change complemented by all of his gravity-based abilities increasing exponentially.

Having grown up on a planet almost entirely composed of robots, Shiki is very socially awkward and is driven by his desperate need to make as many friends as possible. His upbringing gives him a huge love and respect for robots with his main goal being to finish the journey that his adoptive grandfather didn't. Along the way he makes friends with many people and robots from different walks of life and seeks to one day find Mother with his crew so they can all have their wishes granted. However, the universe is far from forgiving and the question is if he can keep up that adventurous optimism after being tested time and time again.

Right off the bat I think it's fair to say that Shiki's abilities and moves are a lot more creative than Natsu's. While Natsu's dragon theme and his ability to consume any form of fire is fun, his attacks are primarily straightforward and a lot of battles generally come down to Natsu just hitting his opponent harder than they hit him. Shiki on the other hand offers more versatility with his arsenal. Since his attacks are primarily physical, that doesn't really give Natsu a lot of opportunities to consume his energy as a means of powering up. Shiki could also displace Natsu's fire with gravity based attacks and there are also opportunities for Shiki to manipulate the kinetic energy from Natsu's attacks to either strengthen his own or throw them right back at him.

Granted a fight between these two would not be a quiet one by any means so there are bound to be a lot of explosions that can produce fire and offer Natsu a means of recovering mid battle. Plus, Natsu is slightly older than Shiki and has way more battle experience. Shiki only really started getting into fights once he left his home planet whereas Natsu was getting into fights with other wizards more powerful than him since he was a kid. Battle experience does go a long way so when push comes to shove, Natsu could overwhelm Shiki who is a bit more naïve on the battlefield. Shiki also just isn't in love with fighting nearly as much as Natsu. He usually does it when other people are in danger or to defend himself whereas Natsu is always looking for a new person to fight. And while this means that Natsu has technically lost more fights than Shiki has throughout his life, this also means that Natsu has had the opportunity to learn from more mistakes in challenging bigger and more threatening foes. So while I don't think it would be a curbstomp, I do lean more towards Natsu coming out on top when we also factor in the narrative implications of what fighting seems to represent to these two characters in their respective series.

While Natsu has lost fights throughout Fairy Tail as a part of gags or for the sake of establishing a lesson, he's never lost a fight where there were stakes involved. At its core, Fairy Tail is a story about overwhelming optimism always winning out regardless of how severe the circumstances. Natsu almost always wins but he and his friends are supposed to win because that's what the story is about: friendship always taking down forces of cynicism and depression. The Fairy Tail guild is bright, colorful, and adventurous so anything that threatens that peace is always going to be defeated. Mashima has made it clear that he wants all of his main characters to have a happy ending and while this obviously has hurt the show's ability to add any significant or dramatic tension when arcs reach their climax, it's…interesting to see how hard he tries to stay committed to this. His characters will almost never stay down in Fairy Tail. Edens Zero, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite.

The world of Edens Zero is far more cynical and cutthroat; filled with people that are only out for themselves and driven by greed or racism. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Edens Zero is acting as a direct response to a lot of criticisms that people had with Fairy Tail's narrative. It has a darker and edgier story masquerading as some kind of happy space opera. While it never loses that idea of friendship being important, it does push the limits of how far that can go, establishing that no matter how much you want things to turn out all sunshine and rainbows, Shiki ends up realizing that it's not up to him to decide whether or not things will actually turn out that way. The world is full of different timelines and possibilities where anything can happen but you may not end up on the timeline where the heroes win. In fact, a lot of people have died in Edens Zero and the heroes are put in worse situations every arc. Sometimes they genuinely get lucky and sometimes they end up losing things that are important. The question is how do you walk away from these difficult trials? Do you let them change you into something a bit darker and more cynical or do you try to keep your eyes wide and open to the possibility of more optimism? Fairy Tail will always have a special place in my heart for how it celebrates that pure sense of adventure and sharing stories with your friends but I think Edens Zero is shaping up to be a much better and important narrative. Fairy Tail gives us a sense that everything will turn out OK if we have our friends and we try hard enough while Edens Zero presents us with the possibility that…no not everything will work out OK but you can still move forward, it'll just be really hard.

Mashima has always had a bit of a meta-sense of humor and playfulness with his stories. Everyone wonders if the new series will be as good as the old one so maybe he was inviting and even encouraging those comparisons instead of pretending they don't exist? What seemed lazy at first might have actually been a clever way to put us in Shiki's shoes; much like when he first takes off, we think we're going on another safe adventure where the good guys always win…kinda like what happens in Fairy Tail. But just because you might recycle the same wrapping paper doesn't necessarily mean that the gift inside the box is going to be the same. This isn't another Fairy Tail…this is Edens Zero.

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