Jun
03
2021
0

This Week in Anime – Is Netflix’s EDEN Worth Watching?

Years in the making, Justin Leach‘s Eden is alive on Netflix as a four episode short series featuring a plucky heroine and her family of robots. Made with plenty of love and backed by an all-star cast, Nick and Jean-Karlo find out if Eden sticks its landing.

This series is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.

Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nick

Well Jean-Karlo, I knew the day would come where we’d have to talk about this show. I figured it’d be in Netflix Jail a little longer, but I guess we couldn’t be free from talking about Hiro Mashima‘s milquetoast shonen oatmeal forever. Let’s get this over with and talk Edens Zero.


Huh, there’s a lot more CG than I was expecting. And nowhere near as many big-boobed women in bondage as the manga. That’s kinda…wait a minute.

Jean-Karlo

I’m surprised Mashima didn’t bolt a massive pair of boobs onto those robots, yeah.

Checks notes
Ah shit. My bad.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
We’re doing regular flavor Eden this week, not the Zero Calorie version. Whoops.
Wait, you mean these apples have calories…?

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
So yes, this time we’re covering Eden, a 4-episode original miniseries that just released on Netflix. And if nothing else I’ll give the show this: you can do a lot worse for a sci-fi dystopia anime on Netflix. For one, it actually has color!

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
There’s a lot of effort and care put into Eden and it definitely doesn’t feel like the usual Netflix Original Serialized Action Show By Studio Mir™. Also, that dub has a lot of casting cash put into it—Neil Patrick Harris, Rosario Dawson, David Tennant… people definitely loved the crap out of this show. I was excited to watch this, because you guys all know I’m a total mark for robots, but…

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
I actually had no clue about the dub! I tend to watch everything with JP audio for the sake of not clashing with the subtitles, so that’s pretty neat. And I’d also like to compliment the work of always wonderful composer Kevin Penkin. I get the feeling we’ll be spending a lotta time on the faults of this show, but that music is consistently excellent and elevates the whole project practically on its own.
I don’t know Kevin Penkin from Adam, and I’ve never seen Made in Abyss so all I can say about Eden‘s music is that it sure was musical. Shout-out to Sara’s little lullaby, that did make me well up a few times, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, it’s like this: it’s the year 3000-ish. Humanity has vanished from this world. All that’s left is restored apple orchards and Eden, a massive robot-run edifice.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?

As far as dystopias go it’s pretty nice. Lots of greenery, clean air, boxy robots who looks like action figures. There are certainly worse versions of the 31st century out there. But then wouldn’t you know it, a couple of those robots stumble upon a time capsule with a baby inside to stink up the place.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
A37 (left) and E92 (right) encounter a human, whom they find is named Sara Grace. Their first instinct is fear—their programming encourages them to dispose of “organic substances”. But they quickly get attached to Sara—and Sara’s baby-talk activates their ability to speak English. It’s kinda like in Hunt for Red October when they zoom into Sam Niel’s mouth while he’s speaking Russian and then he suddenly starts speaking in English and doesn’t go back to Russian.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Cue the first of like three montages of these parent-bots raising a kid, and struggling with concepts like “oh shit where do we plug it in?”

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
That’s perhaps the defining feature of Eden. It is very cute. It’s all rounded edges and bright colors, and you could probably show this to a little kid with no problem. And that’s a perfectly fine thing to be, but also kind of leaves me, as an adult with a sore back and tax paperwork, grasping for things to talk about.

Yeah, I didn’t want to get ahead of myself but Eden reminds me a lot of a Mamoru Hosada movie in that it desperately wants to be About Something™ but it ultimately just doesn’t have much to say at all, so all you’re left with is a lot of saccharine scenes of families being cute together. And make no mistake, that’s perfectly fine! Kids or people who don’t overthink their media like I do will find a lot to love here. But for other folks, Eden is just kind of a nothing-burger.

I mean, I did still find some stuff to like in here. Like once the Mom and Pop robots leave their robot compound and find a human-sympathizing cowboy robot just hanging out in the outlands.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Look at that guy. He’s great. I want to see him square dance and never learn where he got the hat.

Ah yes, John! I like how the sculpting on his chassis looks kinda like a cowboy’s mustache.

Does he do much? Not really. But you put a funny had on a robot and I’ll be amused for a good while.

At any rate, A37 and E92 find themselves in a pinch—Eden isn’t very open to the idea of humans being around, and the overseer Zero especially hates them. For the sake of keeping Sara safe, A37 and E92 escape to a commune headed up by John there.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Though they only decide to leave after Zero cracks down on the underground pro-human Robot Cult, which is maybe my favorite detail in this show’s lore. These guys just get together in a cave and look at idols for a couple hours every Tuesday.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?

Even robots cannot avoid the allure of VTubers.

It’s just a neat little idea, and I kind of wish the show leaned in harder on left-field details like that. Would make it stand out a lot more.

At a length of four 25-episodes, this is just a little under 2 hours long. You don’t have terribly much time to do much, and as a result Eden feels a bit insubstantial from how quickly it breezes by. Details like this would definitely make this world feel more lived-in, although considering the world is inhabited by unfeeling robots I guess feeling sterile is the point?

I mean these are definitely cartoon robots, so despite being programmed to pick apples and nothing else, they very quickly just become anime parents. So having a little more character to the robo-culture could have been just fine.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Full credit to David Tennant; even when he’s doing the annoying “BEEP BOOP AM AUTOMATON WHAT IS THIS CONCEPT YOU CALL IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME?”-voice his charm comes through. His “dad” routine is a lot of fun.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Then of course there’s the baby herself. Sara actually grows up very quickly through episode 1, just in time to become a rebellious teen. And like every good anime teenager she stumbles across a giant mech with a mysterious distress signal to get the plot started.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
A touch I appreciated is that Sara picked up on some of the weird beep-boop robot sounds, so she can “curse” in Robot if she’s flustered. Her speech and inflection are otherwise normal for someone who has only been around robots who possibly mispronounce every other word like Norbert Beaver.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?

Sara’s the biggest aspect of this story that feels like missed potential. As-is she’s not bad, but for a character who has to carry 90% of the emotional stakes of this story, she’s a little too plain to really leave an impression.

She definitely is. She loves her robot parents, she’s rebellious, and… that’s about it. Put her in a crowd of other Ghibli heroines and I wouldn’t be able to pick her out.

She even has an adorable pet/sidekick. Really completes the package.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?

At any rate, Sara hopes that following the distress signal might lead her to other humans like her. So she packs her bags and heads back to Eden, knowing that Zero would blow his fuse if he catches her.

But it turns out Eden has pretty worthless security, so she immediately infiltrates the place and finds her way to The Exposition Machine.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
As it turns out, the Eden project was more than just a fancy building. Several hundred years ago, 35,000 humans were put into stasis with the hope that the automated Eden facilities would be able to restore the ruined environment to liveable levels. Unfortunately, the timer broke and only a human voice speaking the password can break the humans out. This is especially problematic, because once a dramatic timer runs out the stasis pods will shut down and the humans will die out.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
An unfortunately there’s only one human who knew the password so unless Sara gets really lucky reading from a dictionary they’re all kinda screwed. Either that or try to track down this walking Sad Dad science guy.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Before Sara can go too far in her search for the password, Zero catches up to her and kidnaps both her and her parents, who apparently went ahead and followed her back to Eden. Zero forcibly reprograms A37 and E92 right in front of Sara in a genuinely tragic scene, and prepares to dispose of Sara afterwards.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Also, Zero somehow justifies this because “humans are evil” (that old canard) and his proof is that… Sara defends herself from his robot guards when he sics them on her? Because self defense is bad, apparently?

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Zero’s whole thing is that he’s convinced humans will just fuck up the Earth again like they did before the robots rebuilt it, but of all the ways to try and present that idea, the best the show can come up with in the moment is her causing non-permanent damage to a handful of robots that are trying to kill her. And this is enough to make Sara question whether humanity deserves to live. It’s real dumb.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Girl I’m pretty sure committing mass murder is a lot more evil than giving some robot dented chassis.
Also, pretty curious that Zero is even capable of killing humans considering that his guards are apparently Three Laws compliant—they let go of Sara the moment she tells them to, but he can decide to ignore that.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
And it’s even more curious that someone would build a robot whose job is to kill humans—when Eden begins, we are presented with a list of rules that roboticists must follow in designing robots.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
The answer is probably that Zero was programmed by Amazon engineers.

They’re basically The Three Laws of Robotics, For STEM Students. And while starting your robot-themed anime with a breakdown of The Three Laws is kinda hackneyed (anime writers, I wouldn’t mind if you used Tezuka’s Ten Principles someday!) it’s nice to see that someone in this world had the foresight to impose ethics upon techbros.

Well they tried, anyway. Unfortunately the world’s last Silicon Valley resident decided to upload his brain to the cloud and bring along all the misanthropy a tragic anime backstory can carry:

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
So as it turns out, Dr. Fields has both a dead wife and a dead daughter. His wife wasn’t well enough to be considered for being put into stasis, and his daughter died of Sickly Anime Girl Disease before she could be put into stasis.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
In his daughter’s honor, Dr. Fields preserved his house (which his daughter cutely designated the first Eden location, “Eden Zero”). But when he woke up, looters had apparently ruined the place as the rest of humanity died off. And so even though the perfect world had been made, he just… decides humans aren’t worth it and turns himself into a human-killing robot.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
And to seal the deal, he even locks away his human memories. Also, as it turns out, his wife was a mathematician, and her favorite number was Zero. See what they did there?
This is where Eden kind of gets lost in its own sauce. While a despondent person choosing to end humanity rather than risk more destruction is a solid idea for a villain, this guy’s story basically takes up the last 1/3 of the story and leaves the rest of the show feeling lopsided. Sara basically becomes a vessel for a) watching his story play out and b) becoming his surrogate daughter to bring him back from the darkside. And that kinda sucks.

Though at least the climax is a big mecha fight. It’s not amazing, but it’s something.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?

Even John gets in on the action, bless his Western-loving heart!

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
They also set up a makeshift cannon to plunk Zero with apple barrels. It’s like they’re tiny metal ewoks.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
At the end of the day, it’s a replica of Dr. Fields’ daughter that restores his human memories and helps him regain his humanity. Which is cathartic enough, I guess. It’s a redemption scene.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
I did have to laugh at Sara using her innate powers as a young girl in a dystopia story to immediately unlock Dr. Fields’ deeply buried Dad Emotions to save the day.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
As it turns out, the Techbro Oath was the password for the safety pods. Sara recites it, humans are restored, and it’s otherwise Happily Ever After.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Congrats Sara, you’ve completed your journey and become an Anime Mom. You’ll be dead within the year!

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Sara even manages to restore her robot-parents’ memories, and Dr. Fields has a new lease on life as a little robot dog.

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?
Some real KC Green Fire Dog energy in that last picture.

Jokes aside, while Eden isn’t bad per se, it’s definitely slight. The solid design work, animation, and excellent musical score make it a fine enough watch, but it also kinda feels like something you put on to keep a 6-year-old occupied while surfing Netflix.

Like I said earlier, I feel bad about tearing into Eden because there’s effort in here and I know for sure people will latch onto the cute emotions. But it definitely feels like it has higher ambitions and it just doesn’t reach that point. A lot of the robotic fiction in here is hackneyed. Sara herself doesn’t have much to go off of. Eden is pretty and I appreciate that it’s more of a low-key series and not another attempt at making a Serialized Action Cartoon™. But I sure am bummed that I don’t love Eden more than I do.

I’ve had far, far worse experiences with CG Netflix sci-fi, so I’m certainly not going to go in on this show. But if you asked me if I wanted to watch another season, or even another episode? Well…

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?

This has been a great season for robots and emotions. Eden tries its hardest, but you’d best turn to another show to see robots demonstrate how scarred souls shine like stars…

I mean, where could they possibly turn for something like that?

This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?This Week in Anime - Is Netflix's EDEN Worth Watching?


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