Soul Eater NOT! Complete Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 301 minutes approx.
No this isn’t an outdated riff on the old Wayne’s World “not” gag (for those of you of a certain age) but it is a new Soul Eater spin-off, well prequel is more accurate. In this case “NOT” stand for “Normally Overcome Target” and is essentially a beginners class for weapons and meisters to cultivate and control their talents.
If the above sounds like gibberish then you may want to investigate the superb series that spawned this follow-up, a whacky and innovative take on the shonen fantasy involving people who can turn into weapons and their partners who wield them as they do battle against evil humans and supernatural beings in the aptly named Death City.
While familiar faces from the prior series pop up on occasion the focus is on three new students to the DMWA (Death Weapon Meister Academy) – nascent weapon Tsugumi Harudori and two meisters, the ditzy Meme Tatane and aristocratic Anya Hepburn. Unlike before where the order of the day was the intense training and monster battling missions of the teams, this show is more about what the characters get up to in between lessons.
That doesn’t mean it is action free but any physicalities with other students or evil enemies are rare. The tone is therefore very much geared towards lighthearted comedy but can get a bit dark and gruesome when necessary, but the familiar surroundings of Death City do help ease returning viewers into this new situation.
Our hapless trio meet on the first day during the induction ceremony where meisters are instructed to pair of with weapons, and as the lone females, Tsugumi is the prime candidate for both Anya and Meme, although with the former being a haughty rich kid she hides her interest behind a snobbish façade, leaving Meme to maker he move.
When a lascivious male student trying to engage Meme, Tsugumi and Anya team up and take him down, forming a bond between the trio who, as luck would have it, end up as roommates. But, as the friendship steadily grows and solidifies, the issue of who should be Tsugumi’s meister is far from resolved which is a small problem with this series.
Suffering from the same fate as many other anime, an overarching storyline to drive the show is substituted for a comical look at the growing relationship of the girls and their adventures around Death City. An antagonist named Shaula Gorgon appears in episode seven – instigating the bloodiest and most shocking scene in the whole show – only to resurface again in episode ten to provide a prolonged threat for the finale.
This would be the biggest departure from the original Soul Eater series, which was full to the brim of mini adventures with a concurrent theme running through them. In defence of NOT however, it only has 12 episode as opposed to 51 to tell its tale, although it can be argued that it could have sued them better to tell a complete tightly knit story in that time.
It is just as well as the chemistry between our three protagonists results in lots of fun through their personality quirks and of those around them. Tsugumi has a strong moral compass but lacks confidence, yet is the nominal driving force of the trio. Meme is the busty airhead prone to sleep walks and shedding her clothes (mild fan service alert), but has a good heart and fighting spirit. She also as an incredibly short-term memory which provides some transitional laughs.
Anya is a cultural tsundere in the sense that as a clearly well bred young lady she is fascinated with “commoners” but feels the need to hide her enthusiasm at things usually beneath her standing. But beneath her chaste outfits and lofty attitude is a fearsome fighter and someone who begins to learn the value of true friendship and hard work.
Of the returning faces, the Thompson Sisters Patty and Liz are the most prominent to become an integral part of the group dynamic although fans won’t recognise them from their disrespectful, bullying behaviour until Tsumugi wins them over. Another major character’s future is decided in this series serving as a nice backstory to explain the circumstances of how they came to be as we remember them from the Soul Eater series.
Two other returning faces also afforded a retro-origin story are Kim Diehl and her weapon Jacqueline O’Lantern Dupré, prior to them becoming a partnership in a minor sub plot with blatant yuri connotations – but without any graphic depictions (this is a 12 rated show).
Because most of the events take place away from the academy, very little of the schooling process is sown thus the progress of the girls is only really measured when confronted by one of Shaula’s minions. Otherwise, we are treated to scenes which could be lifted from the plot of a regular anime school comedy – such as the sports lessons or cleaning the school pool, etc.
It seems Soul Eater creator Atsushi Ōkubo wanted to try to fit his characters into a more mainstream setting with his series, hence the girls working at Deathbucks Caffe, complete with maid uniforms, and other conventional scenarios not featured in the other series. In other words the bespoke creepy quirks of Death City have been slightly diluted in favour of a lighter aesthetic.
Another give away is how the characters designs of Tsugumi, Anya and Meme are closer to that of KyoAni then Ōkubo’s own unique styles of the other characters who remain unchanged. Studio Bones resume the animation duties creating some visual consistency, yet the vitality of the original series feels compromised here.
Despite trying too hard to appeal to a mainstream audience, Soul Eater NOT! delivers a tidy slice of supernatural fun and frolics just in time for Halloween. An amiable adjunct that does a nice job expanding on the established world of the DWMA and Death City.
Japanese Stereo w/ English Subtitles
English 5.1 Surround
Episode 5 Commentary
Soul Eater Whoops!
Episode 9 Commentary
Textless Opening Song – “monochrome”
Textless Closing Song – “Yugure Happy Go”
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black