So there’s a new guy on the block.
Before we get acquainted, however, I’d like to say (for the record) that I only agreed to write for this blog because its parent podcast’s name is a Gurren Lagann reference. I find it’s often best to be up-front about these sorts of things; there may or may not have been violent coercion involved, but if there was, it was all the Anime Cow’s idea. Now that we’ve got that business out of the way, I’d like to say that it’s a real pleasure to meet you! I am called Naraxes, and I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
In fact, it’s amazing I’m even alive to write this post at all. How many of us absolutely love having to drive to work on roads composed of snow, ice and the twisted burning wreckage of that one asshole who still thinks he ought to cruise at 75 MPH? There was an upside to taking it slow, though: plenty of time to think about Soul Eater.
It rather amazes me how little I hear about this excellent little slice of action-fantasy-comedy goodness. Although the anime is only four seasons long and comes to a distinctly different conclusion to its main story arc than the manga, it still manages to weave a thoroughly enjoyable tale and develop a wide cast of characters you’ll come to love by the end of the first season (Death itself takes the form of a comical school headmaster!). Reminiscent of Baccano!, the story centers around multiple groups of characters- primarily two pairs (and one trio!) of students attending Death’s DWMA, or Death Weapon Meister Academy- and, at first, their attempts to collect 99 wicked human souls and the soul of a witch.
One of the more unique aspects of Soul Eater are the weapons, or humans able to transform into living armaments to be wielded by their partners, or meisters. Collecting the aforementioned souls, whereby the weapons literally consume the souls, transforms the weapon into a Death Scythe. Not necessarily exclusive to scythes (though there are two in the series), the Death Scythes are the elite soldiers and representatives of Death himself. Though this objective holds fast through the early episodes of season one, it’s left by the wayside as a much more standard plot begins to unfold: there’s a Big Bad out there and his only aim is to sow madness and chaos throughout the world. Can you guess what happens next? I bet you can, you savvy anime addict. The heroes have to put a stop to his evil scheme! No details, though- I don’t deal in spoilers. It’s safer to say that a lot of crazy awesome bullshit goes down, and you’ll eat up every minute of it.
Despite the (again, rather generic) plot, Soul Eater is a lot of fun. There’s at least one character for everyone to fall in love with, guaranteed, and plenty of smoothly-animated combat to sate the blood thirst. Since it refuses to take itself seriously, you’ll probably begin drawing a lot of parallels between its characters and those of other popular anime. It’s also not afraid to fall back on well-known writing conventions; there’s a reason it has an enormous page all to itself on TVTropes.org. Also worth noting is Excalibur! because, after all, every show needs a little filler now and then- it may as well be amusing filler.
So to sum it up: I love me some Soul Eater, particularly when the ladyfriend is over (all that rhetoric about the bond between partners just makes it so appropriate). It’s definitely got replay value and, if you fall for it like I did, you may find yourself trying to convince all your friends to give it a try- if only for an excuse to watch the epic introductory episodes all over again.
Here’s the deal, folks: Art, Animation, Story, Music and Overall. 5/5 scale, just the way you like it (or not, but bear with me).
Art: Fantastic. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say someone kidnapped Tim Burton to consult for Soul Eater’s distinctive, pleasantly colorful but none-too-garish art style. It’s clean, straightforward and puts detail in all the right places. That said, it could definitely use work on human proportions in shots with lower/higher angles, and some of the character designs are… uninspired (read: BlackStar). 4/5
Animation: Smooth and easy on the eyes. Bones (of Fullmetal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club fame) obviously didn’t skimp on the budget, and the combat especially is incredible to behold- just watch a Scythemeister fight anyone, you’ll understand. I really have no complaints here. 5/5
Story: Despite falling back on a fairly straightforward and simple plot, Soul Eater manages to make it work by filling in the formula with its own brand of silly and badass action-adventure. Not to mention the Big Bad has a fairly original background and motivation, and most of the main characters undergo some degree of discernible character growth. 4/5
Music: The right score (or lack thereof) can make or break an anime. I’m sorry to say that not much of Soul Eater’s soundtrack stuck with me- except for its brief intermission tune which was, in this blogger’s opinion, cringeworthy. Then again, there really wasn’t anything wrong with its music otherwise. So we’ll settle for a nice middle-ground sort of rating. 3/5
Overall: This is as shonen as it gets- everyone needs to spar and become more powerful, otherwise they won’t be able to (insert goal here), or perhaps they are driven by (insert loopy philosophy here). But it all makes sense; the series introduces you to the central characters right off the bat, gives you reasons to love them and cheer them on and come back for episode after episode. And since ever season is on Netflix, you can do just that from the comfort of your own current-generation console. It’s not perfect (read: not Gurren Lagann), but then it doesn’t try to be. It tries to be good, classic action-adventure with a modern twist, and it accomplishes just that. 4.5/5
That’s all I’ve got for now, but if I didn’t suck too terribly, I’ll be back later on in the week with a look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and how its new engine and approach to sidequests is going to change the way you look at RPGs- and leave you needing new pants.
(P.S.: If you’ve read this far, I feel like I owe you for giving the new guy a chance. Post any one question in your comment [you’ll leave a comment, won’t you?] and I’ll answer it as fully and honestly as possible. Go to town, dear reader!)