Soul Eater Complete Series (Cert 15)

6 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 1204 minutes approx.

Release Date: December 2nd   

Welcome to the Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA) where the pupils are allowed to bring their weapons to class – because half the pupils ARE weapons! Paired with wielders called “meisters”, their ultimate goal is to achieve the status of Death Scythe – a weapon worthy of being wielded by Death himself.

To attain this goal they must collect the souls of 99 evil humans and one witch, the last item being the trickiest of all, and if they fail, they must start again from scratch. But the plucky group of student meisters and weapons are about to find themselves pushed to the limits as Death City has to come together to prevent a global calamity from turning its denizens mad.

From the opening it is readily apparent Soul Eater is not your average anime series and is all the better for it. The creation of Atsushi Ohkubo, the sprawling adventures of the DWMA students first appears as a manga in 2004 and this anime adaptation followed in 2008. Some of you may recall its DVD release here in the UK back in 2011 – this Blu-ray only re-release is for those who want to experience its vibrant presentation in HD.

Quirky visuals and instantly recognisable, likeable characters are just part of the appeal and charm of this series, fulfilling every shonen remit with big battles, busty babes, and wicked humour yet is happy to subvert them by virtue of its unique setting in a world in which nothing is as it seems. The horror-esque motifs may be vital to the aesthetic and drive the general narrative but there is so much more on offer, touching on relatable themes of alienation, self-confidence, teamwork, and friendship.

At the centre of this tale are studious meister Maka Albarn and her weapon, the ineffably cool Soul. The bond they form both as friends and as a fighting team is the axis around which the main story occurs, but not limited to just them as this is a crucial factor for the other teams in the academy. If a weapon and meister can’t connect, they have already failed and will perish at the hands of the dangerous foes hell bent on causing chaos in Death City.

In these supporting roles, but quite easily capable of supplanting Soul and Maka as the main stars, are the similarly structured pairing of the noisy and brash Black Star and his weapon the meek and shy Tsubaki. Black Star is the Naruto of the show – his dialogue delivered at full volume, his confidence too high for his current status and his rashness his downfall. But he is very entertaining with it and the dichotomy of his arrogance with Tsubaki’s subdued poise and grace is a compelling one.

The there is Death The Kid, son of the DWMA headmaster. Obsessed to the point of OCD driven paranoia with symmetry, Kid finds himself often unable to enter into combat if the slightest thing out of whack catches his eye, be it his opponent’s appearance, the décor or the architecture. It’s a running gag that should grow stale quickly but never does. As a bane of Kid’s foible, his weapons are the Thompson Sisters, Patty and Liz; they turn into pistols but in human form are asymmetrical, with Liz being tall and Patty short.  

Comprising the other main recurring roles are Maka’s father Spirit, a Death Scythe and hopeless romantic failing to rebuild his relationship with his daughter; dissection happy Dr. Stein (you can guess his first name) and zombie teacher Sid Barrett. The puns and pop culture references don’t stop there with Academy swot Ox Ford and Blair the Witch, actually a cat with witch powers who turns herself into a sexy woman to cover the fan service quota. And there is also Excalibur but the less said about him the better.

With 51 episodes at its disposal, the main story takes its sweet time to reveal itself, the first seeds of the bigger picture planted around chapter 7. The students have been sent to Italy on a mission where they meet the morose, gender fluid Crona, possessed by the black blood of his/her weapon Ragnarok. Crona is the child of Medusa, a witch currently posing as a nurse at the DWMA, who developed the black blood to spread madness in people with Crona being her first test subject.

Gradually, the story begins to pan out further, introducing additional antagonists like Arachne, Mosquito, and the very dangerous kishin Asura in their own mini arcs, before converging for the explosive finale. Their appearances lead to the revealing of deep secrets about some of the cast, whilst the occasional victories held over the students forces them to face their inner most fears in order to become stronger.

As broad and zany as the humour regularly is (and very funny too), the darkness of the philosophical and existentialist introspection is often a huge contrast to adjust to. Whilst the characters may be creepy in appearance (except for Death who is pure goofiness) relating to their quirks, like spiders, zombies, witches, etc, the truly horrifying moments are the psychological ones relating to Crona’s emotional torture as child and descent into madness in the current time line.

It should be noted that the final batch of episode from 39 to 51 are not based on the then still running manga, but instead of abandoning the story, the producers followed examples set by Fullmetal Alchemist and Fruits Basket, and wrote their own ending. If you’ve not read the manga you’d never know the difference, such is the seamless flow from the source material to the bespoke conclusion.

Soul Eater may carry many traits and follow conventions of the shonen fantasy template but never to the detriment of its originality, visual inventiveness, and individuality. That the recent sequel Soul Eater NOT! was unable to garner the same interest speaks volumes about the might and impact of this hugely enjoyable and undisputable modern classic.

 

Extras:

Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0

Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Subtitles

Disc 1:

Episode 7 Commentary

Disc 3:

Soul Eater Late Show

Episode 23 Commentary

Textless Opening Song – Resonance

Textless Closing Song – I Wanna be

Textless Closing Song Style (Version 1)

Textless Closing Song Style (Version 2)

Disc 4:

Episode 30 Commentary

Disc 5:

Episode 44 Commentary

Disc 6:

Soul Eater Late Show 

Textless Opening Song – Resonance

Textless Opening Song – Papermoon

Textless Closing Song – Strength

Textless Closing Song – Bakusou Yumeta

 

Rating – **** ½   

Man In Black

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