I liked Rave Master (the anime) a lot when it came out, and read 12 volumes of Fairy Tail/watched the first “season” as Netflix and Funimation call it of the show. My take on Hiro Mashima is that it feels like he writes more page to page, and panel to panel than having a long term plan. He kind of just draws what is cool in the moment and works backward to figure out how it works. I don’t think that’s bad on paper, but based on future information I’ve heard about Fairy Tail, and some of what I’ve seen it is not a very tactical finish, but just get overpowered and beat the villain. So the questions is: where does Edens Zero fit into this man’s body of work?
The story follows rising Influencer Rebecca and her blue cat Happy. They land on a planet called Grambell, an amusement park island with robots running the place. Her goal is to grow to a million subscribers. Only, on a quest she runs into Shiki, the mechanic of the planet, and grandson to the demon king robot. When the demon king reveals it was all a trick to get a ship so they could leave, Shiki’s gravity powers awaken. After they escape the fight Rebecca and Shiki leave to explore the cosmos. Their first quest is to find Mother a celestial being worshiped by adventures. The title however, comes from something discovered 20,000 years in the future. A cube we see earlier on with the Edens Zero transcribed on it.
Plot wise, Mashima has a theme. He really likes competent women to run into men who destroy things and are pretty dumb. Rave Master, Fairy Tail, and this all have that in common. This does have a more open end goal than Fairy Tail or Rave Master did. In that Natsu wanted to find his dragon dad, and Haru wanted to avenge his dad and get all the different sword powers. They both do that (and i don’t know anything else cause I haven’t read or watched that much but I know it happens!), and they keep going for (plot) reasons i don’t know (the real reason is money I’m sure). In this it is just go out and explore, get into mischief and make friends. That fits his style of story telling more than one with a concrete end goal you have to pass and still keep going.
The setup of going to new planets and exploring in search of smaller goals to reach a big one works to make the read very quick and enjoyable. Mashima is also able to introduce new concepts at any time. We go from a robot park, to an underground planet, to a space dragon that eats time, to a planet that is basically a video game all in a short span. This does have its drawbacks, but in the moment it feels nice to see so many different ideas just tossed at you as setup.
The reader mystery (we the reader want to know, but the characters don’t) of what Edens Zero is solved early on (in volume 3 specifically). It is the ship the characters use to travel. It belonged to Shiki’s grandfather, the demon king, and when he gets a hold of it, it registers him as the ships new owner.
If there is one sin Edens Zero has it is character model reuse. From Rave Master to Fairy Tail it felt like Mashima only reused the main villain with blue hair and eye tattoo look for Jellal from Fairy Tail and Sieghart from Rave Master; he also reused the “dog” that is really a snowman with a carrot nose. Other than that they felt pretty original. But oh boy is reuse all over this book that it feels like an alternate universe version of Fair Tail. The main girl, Rebecca looks like Lucy. They both have an identical cat named Happy, there is a red head with a tough demeanor that looks like Erza. It is kind of ridiculous
As far as these clones go, their personality is very typical Shōnen action. Every character has a single personality trait. Shiki is dumb and wants to make friends, Weisz is snarky and rougish, Rebecca is just Lucy again, Homura (a samurai with a space sword) just talks out loud. They’re not real developed at all (yet. Everything will basically be yet because I’ve only read the first 5 available volumes in English). This development harms the villains the most. The villains are all very one dimensional. They want to do the bad thing because they are bad. Ones a gang leader who abuses robots and wants to use robots to take over his planet for money. A frog alien wants to keep woman as trophies because he’s rich (that actually makes a lot of sense, but he’s very annoying), and a player killer wants to kill because he thinks he’s chosen. None of them go beyond those traits. That should make it satisfying when Shiki nails them, but it doesn’t feel satisfying because I’m not really invested in Shiki as a protagonist, and the art isn’t amazing.
Mashima has a great sense of character and world design. It’s plastered all over this book in city shots. The cities seem vibrant and inventive; as do the character outfits (and revealing which I’ll get to). The problem comes from how little that energy is in every panel. Most panels are flat characters with limited background. There is little to no shading, and what shading there is only shown to make a character look mad or sad. The characters themselves also feel flat. Their look is adapted from other characters for one, but then they aren’t brought to life. That is except for the girls. The girls are brought to life through at least one sexually revealing panel a chapter. I am fine with sexuality, but it doesn’t feel organic, instead it’s just what Mashima wanted to draw. I respect that, but I skim over those pages because very little is often being done.
With all that said this is still a look at the first five released volumes in America. This story feels like it has a long place to go. There are factions like space pirates, galactic militaries, and strong soldier groups. There character turns being hinted and building up to throughout that work okay. This has potential to be sure.
To give some context into other series only 5 volumes in One Piece is in the Usopp arc, Naruto started the Chunin Exam arc, Bleach introduced the Quinys and Uryu Ishida, My Hero Academia was in the Sports Festival, Black Torch was over (bad example, but it would have benefited from being weekly over monthly), and Mashima’s on Fairy Tail was on their S-Rank mission fighting Gray’s old friend. There is still a lot of places for this to go, but some concerns (the art mainly) still makes me hesitant. I will read the next volume because it is still a nice breezy read.
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