Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Soul Eater Complete Series
Anime Studio: Bones
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action / Dark Fantasy / Shounen
Released: December 2nd, 2019
Language: Japanese / English
Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon. As students at the Grim Reaper’s Death Weapon Meister Academy, their study habits couldn’t be more different. But in a battle against the supernatural forces of evil, they’re a freakin’ lethal team. That’s when Soul transforms – literally – into a razor-sharp scythe, and every defeated wicked soul he sucks down makes him more deadly. That’s when Maka unleashes the merciless slayer within, wielding her partner and dropping monsters. Seriously. Monsters. Like the witches, werewolves, and zombies that lurk in the shadows and feed on the souls of the innocent. Every freakish ghoul Maka and Soul take out strengthens their bond, and fighting alongside their fellow Meister/Weapon classmates, Maka and Soul are the world’s last line of defense against evil.
First airing in 2008, Soul Eater was adapted from the manga of the same name. When you look at it contextually, it’s actually a real visual treat for the era. Anime and manga aimed at the shounen market tend to fit within certain styles. While there have always been the odd exceptions, for 2008, a lot of shows still had a very Bleach feel to them design-wise. While that’s absolutely fine, there’s no denying that Soul Eater was a breath of fresh air in that regard.
Atsushi Okubo’s manga had an interesting art style that made it immediately stand out. The eyes and faces, in general, were very different to everything else out there, and it helped make the series instantly recognizable. So, when Bones (Wolf’s Rain, Noragami, Fullmetal Alchemist) took on the anime, they made of point of keeping this style intact. The result is that Soul Eater remains a visually interesting piece, even today. This is all aided by some excellent background work that, rather than taking the realism-based approach of Okubo’s current series Fire Force, opts for a Tim Burton-esque feel.
Both the subbed and dubbed voice cast are on fine form throughout the episodes, with nobody stumbling into poor performance territory. If anything, I’d say that I actually prefer the dub in this instance, thanks in part to seeing that first. In particular though, the main performers all put in fine performances, especially Laura Bailey (Maka) and Micah Solusod (Soul). And let’s not forget how awesome the first opening theme, ‘Resonance’ by T.M. Revolution, is! It’s an instantly memorable track and fits nicely with the tone of the show.
The characters really shine too, even on multiple viewings. While sometimes fitting comfortably within the standard tropes of the genre, the core cast is presented in a way that makes them feel fresh enough not to be over-familiar. That the series does such a good job of balancing silliness and serious storytelling is a definite bonus too.
The story itself is also an interesting one. It moves swiftly from the basic rules set up in the early episodes to a much larger arc that draws in all manner of magical beings. The focal antagonist changes as things progress, leaving bigger threats for the heroes to face as they grow, but does so in a natural feeling way. This is then used as a backdrop to some genuinely good character development for the main players as they traverse their world. Meanwhile, the world itself shifts from feeling cartoon-gothic to having a serious horror edge as we hurtle towards the end of the run. This, again, feels natural with the progression of the story.
Unfortunately, the series doesn’t quite reach its full potential. While there are minor divisive points – such as the character Excalibur (who I actually enjoyed, for the record) – the most common criticism is the ending. You see, the manga ran from 2004 to 2013. Meanwhile, the anime began in 2008 and ended in 2009. As you can no doubt guess, that means that the anime diverges from the manga partway through.
The issue here isn’t that the team behind the series had no idea where to go when they hit that point though. On the contrary, while different from the source material, the tale offered is a good one at its core. The problem is that it feels like the team tried to squeeze about ten episodes of material into the final couple. As a result, the final conflict and eventual resolution come across as a little rushed. If you can look past this, and not compare the second half of the series to the manga, it’s not really bad. It is slightly disappointing though when placed alongside the general quality that the show produces up until that point.
So, how does that leave things overall? Soul Eater is a visually interesting mix of anime designs with a Tim Burton flair. It’s fun, but not afraid of getting dark when appropriate. Sure, the ending isn’t perfect, but the overall ride is one that provides plenty of entertainment. I give this early 2000’s classic a solid 4 out of 5.
As a bonus bit of trivia, if you head over to my Cosplay: The Early Works 2011-2013, you’ll see that…my first ever cosplay/crossplay was, in fact, Medusa from Soul Eater.