Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Addict Overview: Soul Eater

Shounen anime is a pretty popular genre. It's been so since way back during the  hay day of Dragonball Z. For those of you who don't know, shounen is a term used to categorized a certain type of action anime. Usually ones that run for a long time and follow a common story structure of the main characters having to deal with an ever-increasing threat. Think DBZ, Naruto or Bleach. Today's overview will focus on a shounen series that's been gaining popularity over here in the past few months. I watched the series not long before the dubbed version hit DVD and it's become one of my favorite action anime. So let's dive into the surreal world of Soul Eater...

Maka Albarn is an up and coming meister who's just bagged her 99th soul and is one more away from turning her partner weapon, Soul Eater Evans, into a Deathscythe, a personal weapon to the powerful Grim Reaper. Unfortunately a strange turn of events has lead her to capture the soul of a catgirl instead of that of a witch and our duo now must start over from the beginning. That is the supposed premise of Soul Eater right from episode one. You'd think the rest of the series would follow the cookie-cutter "Villain/Creature of the Week" formula that shows like Pokemon follow, but after a few episodes that completely changes as a lurking evil plans to make it's move, which could plunge the world in madness and lead to the downfall of Lord Death himself. The world of Soul Eater is really unique. It takes place in an alternate version of our world where monsters, zombies, witches, werewolves and other creatures exist alongside normal humans. This world is watched over by the Grim Reaper himself, who forms a special academy to train a future generation of fighters who will carry out missions that involve keeping the peace and hunting down anyone who has decided to consume the souls of the innocent and willingly corrupt themselves to gain power, also known as Kishins. These fighters are known as Meisters, individuals with exceptional fighting skills, and Weapons, special individuals with the ability to transform themselves into certain weapons. All who attend the Death City Weapon Meister Academy, or the DWMA, live in Lord Death's personal city, known as Death City. This location serves as the main hub for most of series.

Then there are our main characters. Besides the previously mentioned duo of Maka and Soul, there is also Black Star, a feisty, loud-mouthed assassin in training with the goal of surpassing God, and his partner Tsubaki Hatsuyuki, a sweet girl who usually goes along with whatever Black Star says. Rounding out our core team is Death the Kid, the son of Lord Death who suffers from an OCDish obsession with symmetry, and his two partners Liz and Patty Thompson, former street punks who act as a counter balance to Kid's obsession. Our last main character is the team's mentor, Professor Franken Stein. Stein acts as the guide for our young heroes while also dealing with his own issues, falling in and out of madness now and again, but also doing what he can to make sure his students can take any opponent that have to face. All these characters are wonderfully characterized and aren't overly complex or have complex backstories. For instance, Maka is trying to become as great a Meister as her mother, who was able to turn Maka's deadbeat father, Spirit, into Lord Death's current Deathscythe, and will work as hard as she can to reach that goal. That's pretty much it. No lengthy origin, no tragic past. Just a simple to follow backstory that tells us why the character does what he or she does and is lightly built upon as episodes come and go.

On the other side of the spectrum is our cast of antagonists. Like most shounen anime, the threat level in Soul Eater constantly rises from arc to arc. At the beginning of the series, our heroes spend the time doing some training exercises while hunting down would-be Kishins, most based on real-life figures and myths such as Jack the Ripper and Al Capone. After a few episodes though, the true plot emerges. Enter the main antagonist for the first half of the series, the Snake Witch Medusa, a vile women who studies the uses of Black Blood, which can infect a person's soul. Medusa's plan is to awaken the most powerful Kishin in the world that can not only defeat Death, but can also corrupt everyone in the world with insanity just by existing. She is joined by her son, Crona, an emotionally disturbed boy due to his mother's treatment, and his partner, Ragnarok, a demonic sword that resides within Crona, forming some of his blood. After the Kishin's revival and Medusa's defeat our second antagonist makes herself known and wouldn't you know's Medusa's sister, Lady Arachne and her cult organization Arachnophobia. From here on Arachne's goal is to do whatever is necessary to keep Death and the DWMA away from anything that could aid them against the Kishin as a revenge plot against Lord Death for hunting her down 800 years ago. Both bad girls also have a few noticeable underlings who we also follow closely, though not as close as their masters. So not only do you have Medusa and Arachne, but there's also Free the Werewolf, Eruka the Frog Witch, Mosquito the Butler and a few other baddies that round out our main cast of antagonists, which proves to be just as diverse and colorful as our heroes.

The animation style and action scenes go hand in hand with one another. The characters can convey emotion fantastically, ranging from exaggerated looks of disgust (You'll see what I mean...) or shock to stone-faced seriousness and confidence. The fluid movement and acrobatics during fights are fantastic to watch and can be very intense, a trait that stays constant right up to the series-ending fight with the Kishin himself. The comedy stay constant and as natural as possible, with a few one-off joke episodes here and there to help break up the constant doom and gloom the main plot carries. As for the drama, it ranges from typical issues, such as lacking confidence or the ability to do the impossible to actually questioning the concepts of madness and fear, which is brought up towards the show's end. The whole show's layout is pretty much standard shounen-styled fare, but it's not a bad thing. For all I like about Soul Eater though, there IS one nagging little con that kind of keeps it from being perfect and that is it's ending. The Kishin battle at the end of the series is, in a world, epic. Maka, Black Star, Kid and their partners are pretty much fighting an unbreakable wall for most of the battle and by the end only Maka, battered and somewhat broken, is the only one still able to fight......then it just....ends. Not only does she defeat the Kishin is a weird way, but after that it just starts rolling the credits with a few pictures for an epilogue. At first I was pretty much ok with the ending, but the more I think about it....the weirder it seems. The end is actually the biggest complaint about Soul Eater and I kinda agree. That and even though the anime is over, the book is still going and actually has some pretty cool stuff going on that I would have absolutely LOVED to see animated.

So to wrap things up, does Soul Eater deserve a watch? In my opinion, absolutely. It's the perfect gateway drug to shounen anime since it's one of the few that ends after about 52 episodes where most continue up to over 200. The characters, both good and bad, are likable, the premise is pretty original from what I can tell and the fights....ooooh god the fights. I really hope we see some sort of second season in the future, because with the way the series is going in the manga, they'd be crazy not to do at least and OVA or something. And while the series is still relatively new in the states, I'm sure it'll do very well. In fact, I bet my soul on it.....

Notes: Soul Eater Parts 1 - 4 are currently available on DVD from Funimation. The first 5 volumes of the manga are available from Yen Press.

1 comment:

  1. great put up, very informative. I'm wondering why the other specialists of this sector do not realize this. You should proceed your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers' base already!
    Hugo Boss Men's Woven Silk Robe