Soul Eater Review: Human Weapons and Madness
It seems that an era of manga conclusions really is upon us, as not too long after Deadman Wonderland, another one of my ongoings has also finished. About a week ago I read the final chapter of Soul Eater, and it’s sad to think that another series I’ve kept up with for a good amount of time is actually all done. I didn’t enjoy this series quite as much as Deadman, but it’s still awesome in any case and to begin with, those two series are hardly comparable anyway. Soul Eater is quite an interesting case, as one might describe it as a Shounen action but it’s hard to compare it to a lot of the other popular ones out there and it really does have a style of its own.
Soul Eater takes place at Death Weapon Meister Academy, a school for the major characters of the series run by Death, the shinigami of the series (and thus referred to as Shinigami). However, what makes it an interesting school is that it facilitates individuals who can transform into weapons as well as their partners who wield them. One such team is Maka and her partner Soul Eater Evans, who can transform into a scythe. These two, as well as the others, start off on their missions to absorb the souls of 99 evil humans and a witch in order for the weapons to become death scythes, which can be wielded as the weapons of Shinigami. However, things get more complicated pretty quickly and soon a number of evil individuals threaten DWMA, to the point where even the world itself could be threatened by the destruction that begins to surface.
Soul Eater doesn’t have the strongest of stories, as a lot of it is pretty straightforward. Villains threaten the order of the world and DWMA and the good guys go on their way to stop it, and of course a lot more happens along the way but that’s how a lot of stuff happens for the major arcs. That said, Soul Eater is much more entertaining than this simplistic evaluation suggests. One thing that Soul Eater does quite well is setting its atmosphere depending on the situation. While many other action Shounens can go from light and happy to dark and serious, Soul Eater amps that up in both directions. Early Soul Eater in particular is really wacky and silly, even having quite a bit of fanservice at times, at least more than most action Shounens. However, when the story gets serious, Soul Eater knows how to make the tone really dark and intense, and while it can still be wacky at times, it’s wacky in a much more crazy, demented way and this shows in a number of cases throughout the manga. Soul Eater is a series with a style of its own and even though there are some elements it shares with quite a few other Shounens, there isn’t any single Shounen action that I’d say it’s very similar to because it’s really quite an unusual case. Even though it doesn’t break a lot of ground contentwise, it’s a series that doesn’t completely feel like a lot of other Shounens despite obviously having that atmosphere to it.
The characters of Soul Eater are quite an unusual bunch and some of them really contribute a lot to the unusual style of the series. Maka and Soul, though quite different from each other, work together very well and while they may not be the most original characters they are likable and develop a good deal over the series. Much of Maka’s development revolves around her relationship with the other characters, especially Soul and Crona. Soul, on the other hand, has significant inner development as he tries to deal with his insecurities about the past and he matures quite a bit as the story goes on. Black☆Star is comparable to many other loud, overconfident male characters in Shounens, while his partner Tsubaki (a sword) is much more subdued and a very gentle character by comparison. Of the major characters, however, my personal favorite would be Death the Kid. Kid is a very eccentric character who is obsessed with symmetry and freaks out if he sees something particularly asymmetric, making for some very amusing moments. This obsession shows in the fact that he has two partners, Liz and Patty (both of whom turn into guns for battle), although the irony is that they’re both far from ideal as far as symmetry goes, which only depresses Kid further. That aside, however, Kid is a powerful and respectable character that can truly pull through when he’s serious and his precision really can do more than just disturb him for comedic purposes. Other characters I’m particularly fond of are Franken Stein, who serves as the curious, experiment-loving mad scientist of the series, and Mifune, a badass and honorable swordsman who takes care of a young witch named Angela. There are many more characters in the series and the cast has quite a bit of variety with the unusual individuals that make it up.
One thing I found quite interesting about Soul Eater was its implementation of madness into the story. While it’s nothing new to see twisted, disturbing characters in a Shounen manga, the term “madness” isn’t such a limited thing in this series. Madness actually connects quite closely to the abilities of the characters in Soul Eater, and in some form another every character has it. While some of the characters actually harness madness itself to become stronger and more unpredictable (particularly some villains), there are quite a few characters who must cope with madness and prevent it from dominating their minds. Some might draw parallels to those violent, raging forces/powers present in protagonists of other Shounens (Kyuubi in Naruto for example), but this isn’t quite the same as it doesn’t come from one being with great power and it affects not just one person but a number of characters, both good and bad. It’s interesting how the series presents madness not just in a mental way, but also as a method of portraying the abilities of the characters as well as the different ways they handle it.
Truth be told it’s been quite a long time since I began to read Soul Eater, so much of my memory about the events is pretty hazy and I’ll definitely have to reread it to remember a good portion of the stuff that took place. Even then, I could certainly say it was an interesting, unusual read that does distinguish itself from another Shounen action series in quite a few ways. For a while I had this at a 7/10, but looking back on it I really do feel that it’s worthy of an 8/10 and I’m hoping that my enjoyment of the re-read will reflect that. Either way, it’s still hard to believe that yet another ongoing manga is already finished up and who knows what could be next.