First Impressions Digest – Edens Zero, Shaman King 2021
Edens Zero – 01
The sheer volume of shows crossing the initial interest threshold this season means the cutoff for “digest” status is going to be higher than usual. And that applies both to first impressions and general coverage posts, though as ever scheduling is going to have a lot to do with that. That said, Edens Zero is not a series that was high on my expectations list going into the season, so it might just have landed here anyway.
Edens Zero has made the move from A-1 Pictures to J.C. Staff, though Fairy Tail director Ishihara Shinji is back in the saddle to provide continuity. Happy is back too, though not having read the manga I have no idea if the character itself has any connection to the one from Fairy Tail or Mashima Hiro is just including him for marketing purposes. I had my moments with Fairy Tail, but was pretty bored with it by the time I dropped it. And as a general rule Edens Zero doesn’t seem to be as well-regarded by Mashima fans, though that in itself is hardly decisive.
This premiere is just fine, even if perceptibly cheaper-looking than Fairy Tail. I imagine it will please Mashima fans as the usual standards are here – lots of T & A, panty jokes. an amiably goofball protagonist, and Happy being Happy. This time around the focus is on a boy named Shiki, being raised by robots in a kingdom called Granbell that it turns out is actually a theme park planet. Lucy lookalike Rebecca eventually turns up in a spaceship with Happy in tow, adolescent ecchi mishaps ensue, and eventually she and Shiki flee the planet – where the robots are revolting – and Shiki can fulfill his dream of going to space and making friends.
The twist in the story (though one could argue the whole space thing was a twist, I suppose) was that the robot revolution was just a ruse to get Shiki to leave before the robots ran down and stopped working. That was kind of a nice turn, though above and beyond that things felt pretty much by the book. It’s a prequel episode so it would be pointless to draw any conclusions about Edens Zero until the real story gets underway (presumably next week). With Ishihara in charge you know the direction will be competent, so it’s really going to come down to whether Mashima has crafted a story worth following here.
Shaman King 2021 – 01
Just to reiterate, I have almost no baggage with Shaman King 2021. I’ve never read the manga and have probably seen less than 2 episodes of the 2001 series in total. All I know is it was extremely popular, ran for 32 volumes and had a 64-episode partial adaptation, and reportedly had a pretty crappy ending. Apparently there were also some racially insensitive characters as well, though that’s been cleaned up some (whatever that means by Japanese standards) in the remake.
With that said, I can take this series as it is, for better or worse. And the first episode was pretty good, on the whole. The material definitely feels “dated”, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The casting is a mix of old (like Konishi Katsuyushi as Amidamaru but also Manta and Hao) and new (like Hikasa Youko as Yoh), and the animation looks pretty clean and modern in a very Saturday morning way. I can’t speak to pacing, because I have no idea how fast the manga lays out these introductory events, but I know that if you can’t do a complete adaptation in 64 episodes you certainly can’t do one in the 52 this version has been announced to run (for now).
One niggle for me is that I have a bit of a block with characters who smile constantly (it was an issue with Yakusoku no Neverland). I get that Yoh is a super nice guy and all, but seeing that smirk non-stop – even if it’s sincere – does grate just a bit. A pet peeve. The premise itself is about at stock shounen as it gets – a kid born into a destiny that impact the whole world, a twin as a rival for that destiny, spirits and spirit battles, a butt-monkey best friend. It’s the sort of thing that can work if embraced unreservedly by the writing, and has the added advantage in 2021 of riding a nostalgia wave since we don’t get so many shounens like that these days. But why do so many guys in this town wear their shirts unbuttoned?
I have no idea whether Shaman King 2021 will interest me enough to blog it. It’d have a better chance in a season with less sheer volume, and it has the feel of a show I’d watch but not have a lot to say about. Still, there’s enough pedigree here that I want to give it a fair shot before I make the call on that, and that means at least one more episode to show me what its made of.
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