Having now completed Fairy Tail (if you don’t count the sequels and spin-offs that are now being made) Hiro Mashima has created a brand new series – or has he? The cynics would argue that Edens Zero (no apostrophe) is just “Fairy Tail in space”.
This argument of a lack of originally is not all helped by the book’s cover which shows us that one of the main characters in it is Happy the blue cat. However, there are some differences, as this Happy does not have wings and thus doesn’t fly. There is also more to him as we progress.
Despite the space setting, this is still a fantasy series, which is arguably the biggest argument when it comes to not being original, but in the afterword Mashima defends himself by saying that he decided to do a space fantasy series, “because nobody else is doing it.” Thus, you can argue that the series is original in the context of what else is available to read regarding other manga. Most sci-fi manga tend to be set more in the real world, but Mashima is combining his sci-fi setting with the elements of fantasy that he is used to.
It begins by following a girl called Rebecca, who is accompanied by the afore-mentioned Happy, who is a blue cat from the planet Exceed (another Fairy Tail reference) and her closest friend . Their ambition is to get a million subscribers to their online Aoneko Channel which is on a streaming service called B-Cube. Their latest idea to bring in the viewers is to visit the abandoned amusement park Granbell Kingdom, on the planet Granbell. When they arrive, the robots that help run the park awaken, having waited 100 years for a visitor, and treat her to all the attractions they have to offer.
During one of these attractions, Rebecca and Happy encounter a boy named Shiki. Shiki is the only human on Granbell and his job is repairing the robots. His lack of human interaction leads to a few problems (i.e. grabbing Rebecca’s boobs, not knowing this is rude) but slowly they start to become friends. The only thing Rebecca changes is Shiki;s hair, as he hasn’t had a haircut in all the years that have passed.
The following morning however, things have drastically changed. The robots have all rebelled and are holding Rebecca and Happy hostage. They demand to be freed from serving humans, but Shiki, saying that they are all friends, decides to fight back. He is able to do so using an ability called “Ether Gear”, this “Ether” being the equivalent of magic power. For example, his “Gravity Ether Gear” allows him to float in mid-air. Shiki defeats the robots, with Rebecca and Happy deciding to take Shiki on their space ship and escape the planet, which they do successfully. Meanwhile on the planet, we readers learn that the robots’ plan all along was to get Shiki off Granbell by faking a rebellion, in order for him to live a happy life elsewhere, with the robots dying in peace.
The trio go through space, flying through the cherry blossom petals of the Sakura Cosmos and past dragon-shaped space ships, before arriving on Rebecca’s home planet of Blue Garden. As soon as they land, they encounter some problems: someone tries to kidnap Happy, but Shiki uses his powers to free him, and then Rebecca fights back using Happy. We learn that when they were younger, Happy was nearly killed by a drunk driver, but a scientist saved him by turning Happy into a robot, that can also transform into a pair of guns that fire non-lethal ether bullets that Rebecca can use.
Eventually, they arrive at Rebecca’s place of work, Shooting Starlight – a guild for adventurers. Shiki believes a guild is where everyone works together, and while Rebecca comments that, “There… was a manga like that, long ago”, in this guild it is everyone working for themselves. One of the other members for example, is someone else on B-Cube with a much bigger following than Rebecca. While at the guild, Shiki encounters a hologram of a giant being called Mother, considered to be the goddess of the cosmos. No-one has ever been able to meet her, which gives Shiki an idea to set out on an adventure to be the first to meet Mother. Rebecca agrees to go along as it would make a great video, and thus begins their true adventure.
It is hard not to comment on the similarities between Fairy Tail and Edens Zero, and the biggest criticism for this manga is a lack of originality. Aside from Happy, other characters from the former appear in the latter. For example: the trio go to a restaurant served by aliens who all look like Plue; many Fairy Tail guild members appear in the background of the Shooting Starlight guild and one character who makes a brief appearance but is being built up for a large role is an armoured space pirate named Elise Crimson, who is seemingly modelled on Erza Scarlet and also clearly has a surname that is a shade of red.
However, because of the similarities, you quickly come to accept many of the weirder aspects of the story. The idea that the ether is this universe’s version of magic and can be used for all kinds of different things becomes acceptable once you familiarise yourself with the setting. The other advantage of the space setting is that it gives the author more tools to play with. For example, these characters have things like the internet, which is what allows Rebecca to have her online job. Other than this, there are no major issues. Mashima’s artwork is still fine, and the translation by Alethea and Athena Nibley appears to have no problems.
The best way to comment on this series is that if you are a fan of Fairy Tail, then Edens Zero should also be right down your street. It is hard to tell what will come next. We haven’t even seen the actual “Edens Zero” yet, and the manga itself is very new. The second collected volume was only released in Japan a few weeks ago (it will come out in English in February), although individual chapters are available electronically every week. While I personally doubt it will become as successful as Fairy Tail, it is still worth a read, and I, for one, plan to look into some later chapters.