Working Through The Queue: Eden (2021)
If you're in the mood for a quick and easy sci-fi piece with a positive tone (and yes, I guess do consider the extinction of humanity a generally good thing), then you should give Eden a look as you sift through your streaming queues.
Directed by Yasuhiro Irie of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Eden is a CGI animated story about artificially intelligent robots finding a human long after we've been thought extinct. Knowing they should report her as humans are considered to be evil creatures, the pair who find her can't bring themselves to do so as they know she will likely be terminated.
The couple leave the paradise like city called Eden they work at to try and raise her safely, and after a time jump we follow Sara's path as she struggles to learn more about her identity. Meanwhile, the enforcer of Eden, a Baron Karza-esque figure named Zero, is actively weeding out other robots who want to learn more about humans and think they may be good. Zero eventually learns of Sara's existence and starts to pursue her, while Sara may be on the brink of finding other humans.
The plot is very straightforward but is well told, and the same could be said for the themes. There's a general environmental sub-plot that's not too hamfisted due to it being fairly built into a story where our creations have to figure out if we're worth the trouble of having around. Likewise, the scripting and characters are solid, but again fairly basic. Sara has a very typical arc for a protagonist, and I generally found her to be annoying so it was tough to care. Zero worked as an antagonist, but his revelation and arc were also fairly telegraphed. For me the robot parents, A37 and E92, were the strongest and most engaging as their arcs from drones to loving caretakers willing to sacrifice everything just had more emotional oomph.
I think the greatest strengths of the series though lie in the tone and worldbuilding. The score by Kevin Penkin really reinforces the beautiful atmosphere of the world design, and the bright nature of everything is just incredibly inviting. Which brings us to the actual animation. If you've read my reviews before you probably know I hate this type of animation, but the the trick is I really only hate it when it's used for humans. When used for architecture, landscapes, and especially robots then I can really get behind CGI animation. And considering this show is 90% robots I felt like the majority of it was very fluid and aesthetically pleasing. There's a giant mecha battle and this is exactly what this style was meant for and it looked solid.
And while Sara herself looks ok when you freeze frame (although her character design is a little too video game for me), her actions look out of synch with everything else. It's the core problem I have with CGI animation as it just jerks me right out of the storytelling.
When I watched this I did so with Japanese language and English subtitles. Afterwards though I found out that the English dub features the talents of David Tennant, Rosario Dawson, and Neil Patrick Harris. So I flipped to English and re-watched some portions and well........it was fine. I may be biased because of the initial watch through, but the Japanese voice actors just delivered a stronger performance. Harris' turn as the villain Zero was ok, but I felt that Kōichi Yamadera just brought more presence to the character. And I judge a lot of a story's merits by the strength of the villain, so I'm just going to lean more towards the version with a stronger performance.
There's no real earth shattering story or revelations to be had with this series, but it's a very enjoyable and relaxing watch due to the music, design work, and solid directing. And while I think it's possible they could have expanded the series, I'm glad they didn't because it feels concise. They got in, told what story they wanted to showcase, and then they tied everything up neatly. There may be room for a season two, but honestly, I think it's best to leave it on the note they closed on.