Netflix has been steadily establishing itself as a force for great animated shows. It isn’t quite on the level as the anime-centric Crunchy Roll but it’s getting there. Recently, they’ve been knocking it out of the park with some quality animated programming of their own. Are you looking to laugh? They’ve got “F is for Family”, “The Midnight Gospel” and “Close Enough”. Looking for a horror fix? Jump on over to “Love, Death & Robots” or “Devilman Crybaby”.
Then there’s “BoJack Horseman”, a series that is easily one of the most agonising and poignant explorations of the vanity of Hollywood. A heart wrenching, unapologetic and wickedly funny window into the slow destruction of one man. And it all takes place in a world full of talking animals!
Netflix is at its best when it takes wild and crazy risks. Yes, there’s a lot of really bad misses on the streaming service but you cannot deny that innovation is what drives it to success. Recently, they made history with “Castlevania” establishing itself as the greatest video game adaptation of all time. They took a chance and it paid off! Which is exactly why it’s so frustrating to watch “Eden”. A bland, uninspired, middling series that reeks of borrowed plot lines from better sci-fi films.
The show takes place in an apocalyptic future. It’s been years since the human population has mysteriously disappeared from the Earth. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) and robots now rule the world. Mankind seems to be a myth to them. Stories of ancient creators who first gave life to machines. The ruthless robotic overlord, Zero has worked to stamp out this dangerous idea, through violence. That all changes though when two kind-hearted robots adopt a little human girl named Sara.
Over time, she rallies the robots to her side to finally topple Zero’s tyrannical regime. Along the way, she and her merry band of misfit machines will uncover a secret. The truth behind mankind’s vanishing from the Earth. She will be the key to restoring a human-robot Eden on Earth.
Look, we’re not expecting “Eden” to be the next “Westworld” or “Ex Machina” but still, what’s left here doesn’t leave much to your imagination. If you had to play a game of generic A.I.-gone-wrong science fiction cliche bingo, you’d probably score in the first round. The series does start off with a pretty interesting premise. It has its own version of Isaac Asimov’s “Three Rules of Robotics”. The show explores the obligatory essentialism vs existentialism themes. Asking the deep questions of what it means to be truly alive and how robots, much like humans, are not confined to their nature.
Unfortunately, that’s all it remains as – questions. Never answered in any meaningful way. For those who’ll attempt to give a pass to the show due to its branding as a children’s show, we’ll have to call bullshit on that! Shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Dragon Prince” both managed to explore rich and complex themes. All while delivering plenty of fun and humour through the eyes of their young protagonists. Balancing dramatic gravity with youthful levity, injecting rich thematic elements within personal and relatable character arcs.
The series’ plot mainly revolves around the character of Sara Grace and Zero. Two distinct voices calling robot-kind to their side. There is some excellent potential for a dialogue between their differing beliefs. Especially when you realise how much the both of them have in common. Unfortunately, “Eden” doesn’t bother to explore these themes. And how can it when it’s paced out over four 25-minute long episodes? There isn’t enough time to properly set up an interesting premise or draw out the mystery in any meaningful way. Frankly, there’s little reason for “Eden” to even be a series. It might as well have existed as a 2-hour long feature length film on Animax.
Now, we watched it in both the original Japanese and English dub. As far as voicework goes, we found the Japanese cast to be a better fit for their characters. For Sara, Marika Kono definitely brings that childlike wonder and indignation where voice actor Ruby Rose Turner falters. The villain, Zero voiced by Koichi Yamadera does a decent enough job. That being said, actor Neil Patrick Harris brought a little more humanity and personality to Zero. As the creators have stated, it requires a lot of personality and effort to give life to these faceless robots. Regardless, any charisma found in these performances only serve as the mouthpiece for the show’s middling dialogue. We get it, humanity is a cancer on the Earth. We get it, in spite of our flaws, humanity is worth saving.
How many times must we hear this song and dance?
Credit where credit is due, the aesthetics and animation in “Eden” are incredibly polished. Colours and lights pop whether illuminated by the light of the sun or through the artificial glow of automatons. The choice to use primarily 3D-animation for movement and character designs is one that feels appropriate to its setting and audience. That being said, there is some sluggishness due to frame rate speeds. There’s also a significant lack of presence. Yes, the character models all look shiny and new but there’s no real weight to the way they affect the environment around them. So while the world looks pretty and clean, it falters in its attention to detail.
These issues are rather similar to the ones found in the first season of “The Dragon Prince”. The final battle involving two large mechs (of course) is surprisingly fluid and dynamic. Devoid of the awkward stiltedness found in the other scenes. Sure, it’s a little floaty but there’s enough style and excitement to scratch that primal giant-robot itch at the back of our brains.
“Eden”, much like its automatons, is a dull, soulless and predictable machine. Its plot and premise is a relic of the 2000s’ flirtation with speculative A.I. science fiction. The characters are anime archetypes lifted right out of an algorithm. Ultimately, it is an inoffensive 2-hour time killer for toddlers. Beyond that, it’s hard to recommend the first season of “Eden” to anyone else. Unless its second season goes through some radical re-imagination or retooling, this series is doomed to remain another number in the endless sea of better animated shows.
Still, if you’d like to give “Eden” a go, or are looking to take a quick break from your little one, you can now catch it on Netflix today!
So, what are your favourite animated shows on Netflix right now? Are there any upcoming releases you’d like us to review next? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Netflix's "Eden" Season 1 Review
"Eden", much like its automatons, is a dull, soulless and predictable machine. Its plot and premise is a relic of the 2000s' flirtation with speculative A.I. science fiction. The characters are anime archetypes lifted right out of an algorithm. Ultimately, it is an inoffensive 2-hour time killer for toddlers. Beyond that, it's hard to recommend the first season of "Eden" to anyone else.
- Netflix's "Eden" Season 1 Review