Let's talk for a moment about pacing. Pacing is the rate at which a story progresses; the speed at which the plot develops can make or break any narrative effort, but appears to me to be an acute issue in anime. The deft, non-linear approach of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni keeps its viewers on the edge of their seats. Conversely, the plodding half-formed yarn of Aoi Hana withers when almost nothing happens (even by the statue-speed standards of yuri romance, that anime fails). Of all anime, shounen shows tend to embody the worst practices of uneven storytelling: Dragon Ball Z is so ponderous that the remastered Dragon Ball Kai manages with 1/3 the original's air time; Naruto, an otherwise fun and action-packed romp, stuffs its final EIGHTY episodes with filler. EIGHTY--and don't even mention Bleach. Then, comes Soul Eater. The series' tight, energetic approach stands out despite the show's heavily derivative feel. Fifty-two half-hour segments rarely yields as satisfying experience overall. Especially in this genre.
That said, Soul Eater offers little original to anime as far as its story goes. A special school devoted to training warriors? Naruto. A virtuous organization of supernatural fighters trying to prevent humans from turning into demons? D.Gray Man. And the writers stuffed the cast with tropes borrowed from well-known horror works. Mad Doctor? Check. Zombie? Check. Werewolf? Check. Witches? Double-check. In the end, the series' execution sets it apart from its copycat foundations. After a brief set of explicit introductions, the story gets on the rails to placing the its child protagonists outside their comfort zones. The powerful cast gets more in over its head with each passing episode, which helps maintain tension in the anime and adds to the believability of the villains' repeated escapes.
If the viewer stops to think about the story, things start to unravel a touch. The twists and turns of the series' second half are hardly surprising, and the simple fact that the faculty leaves the fate of the world to a group of students seems implausible at best. BUT Soul Eater's plot lacks adequate breathing room for these doubts to ruin the experience. As each entry snaps seamlessly into the one that came before, even the over-the-top climax makes perfect sense when it arrives in context. However, the breakneck pacing paints the show into a bit of a corner, and the final episode comes to an end in a manner so disappointing and abrupt that it borders on impressive. In retrospect, however, the sting of the dismal finale fades--the juddering mess only comes as a terrible shock because everything that precedes it fits so tightly together.
Soul Eater sports a stylish look ripped right out of a Tim Burton movie. The dark background palette, unnatural angles, and stark scenery set the mood perfectly for the horror themed show. But moreso than the overal art direction, the details bring the effect home. Whether it be the creepy, anthropomorphic sun and moon, the graveyard feel of Shinigami's room, or the subtly concave perspective in Soul's mind, the animators spare no opportunity to add character to every environment. Consequently, every location feels like an organic part of the anime's world. In addition, the three primary leads maintain the series' feel by embodying the three pillars of goth style: Maka in her plaid skirt, dark greatcoat and tie; Black Star decked out in zippers and steel-toed kicks; and Kid in a plain black suit. Just like in the backgrounds, little touches like the stars on Black Star's shoes, or Kid's skull bolo-tie and rings give the characters a concrete feel that seems to say "personal style choices" instead of "designed by an artist"; these considerations extend into the villains' wardrobes as well, from Free's canine facial features to Arachne's preponderance of spider symbolism to Eruka's spotted cheeks and amphibian eyes (am I strange for finding her cute?).
In the end, however, the quality of a shounen anime's visuals depends on its action sequences, and here Soul Eater delivers with mixed results. When the series wants to, it offers up kinetic action that feels fluid and engaging. However, the overly-dramatic angles cause more than a few issues with characters deforming and also results in more than a few instances of still-frame posing in each conflict. The little details again help the effort along, whether it be the lithe motion of Medusa's Vector Arrow or Black Star's Shadow Star, or the variable forms of Crona's Black Blood.
Gusto. That describes the Soul Eater audio in one word. Each episode starts with one of the two solid opening themes, and ends with one of the fantastic endings. While in this reviewer's humble opinion, Diggy Mo's "Bakusou Yume Uta" stands out as the best, the fourth song, "STRENGTH" fits the mood of the series best--its mournful strains form the ideal compliment to the darker content at the series' end. In between the OP and EDs of each episode, the hard rock soundtrack matches the gothic visuals to a "T", making use of guitars to communicate emotion in places normally reserved for pianos and strings.
Strangely enough, no one voice actor stands out above the crowd, because everyone turns in a solid performance--unusual for a shounen show. While the series' protagonists bring nothing remarkable to the table, the rouges gallery and side characters provide ample opportunities for interesting voice work. Koyasu Takehito (Excalibur), Uchida Yuuya (Franken Stein), and Koyama Rikiya (Shinigami) all bring texture and humor to the otherwise straightforward proceedings.
Since a good deal of its material appears derivative, Soul Eater goes to great lengths to set apart its characters from their source material. For every "been there, done that" entry like Mifune (samurai bodyguard--how novel!), the writers supply a quirky member like Joe Buttataki. The construction of the cast demonstrates an acute sense of self-awareness that helps to carry the whole effort. At its best, the show sinks deeply into self-parody in pursuit of originality with the horribly OCD yet undeniably cool Death the Kid, the painfully peculiar Excalibur, and the font of fan-service, Blair.
Too add some extra oomph to the series' less original characters, Soul Eater peppers its cast with interesting interactions and relationships which help add dimension to each person. From Black Star's friendly rivalry with Soul to the creepy sexual tension between Stein and Medusa, the show bristles with tiny moments of interplay that either brighten plot-related pauses in the action or ice the delicious combat cake with moments of development. Much like the stylistic enhancements in the visuals, these interpersonal moments help the actors in the anime feel like whole people and less like typical shounen protagonists.
Soul Eater is, to me, a tale of disappointment--and I'm not referring to the any statement the plot makes on this subject. The series itself squanders its otherwise great potential. It could have been a unique, brilliant anime...instead, it is merely mediocre.
The plot is nothing to write home about. There's some high-school age students enrolled in a special academy. Not a whole lot original in that. There's an evil force out to destroy the world. Yeah, seen that before, too. And of course, this evil force--the Kishin--has to be stopped. In terms of pure plot progression, the story is fairly predictable. Even when it tries to throw in a little sense of betrayal, the tension remains relatively low. The writers have an annoying habit of injecting comedy into what should be tense scenes. An example of this is a crazy "mecha" (I use the term loosely) battle between Lord Death and Mosquito near the very end of the series. Its ridiculous. It's also at a point in the plot that should be most serious of all. The true strength of this series did not lie in its story, but the atmosphere.
This brings me to my next point: the unique feeling that the show has in the beginning, and then loses. This could have been one of its greatest qualities, had the developers capitalized on it. Allow me to elaborate: the show feels quite "Halloweeny," for lack of a better term, and it is thrilling. The world has a creepy (though not frightening) charm, which, as AnimePlanet reviewer "ThePatches" said: "(feels like it is)...ripped right out of a Tim Burton movie." This extends to more than animation, which is why I am including it here.
The finale is awful. If you are looking for an epic battle with evil, don't get your hopes up.
Character designs were mostly pleasing to me and seemed creative. Combat is fluid and vivid, at least until the end of the show. At that point it isn't really given a chance to be dynamic (think "boom, boom, big death laser"). The color scheme is very good, except in one fight between the Kishin and Lord Death near the end. The blue skies and white clouds kind of offset the mood there.
Music was good, if not terribly memorable. The openings and closings I initially disliked, but they grew on me with time. One comment: two of the English voice actors are terrible. The first one is for Black Star. The VA should have had a much deeper, more mature voice--actually having a teenage boy do it might have helped. The second is the Kishin's VA; again, an instance of sounding too young. The Kishin, madness incarnate, should have sounded sinister; instead, he just seems whiny.
The Kishin was a great disappointment to me. He was portrayed as a young man, with a voice matching this in the English version. For someone who is supposed to be the epitome of insanity, he seemed quite...mundane. I could rant for a long time about things I would have done differently with this series--portraying the Kishin as more of an omnipresent force, perhaps--but I will restrain myself. He is simply a weak villain.
The protagonists are bearable, though Black Star got on my nerves at times. A few of the villains introduced in the first half of the show seem to fade away into unimportance near the finale: I'm looking at you, Free.
Soul Eater is a solid anime; it is not the best, and if you are a bookworm/plot critic like me it will leave you frustrated. I would still probably recommend that you watch it.
Upon looking back at the series as a whole, I have decided that my previous score (5/10--average) was too harsh. Soul Eater is an enjoyable, if somewhat flawed show that I give a full recommendation to.
This anime is one of my favourites, but it dissapointed me with it's ending. SPOILER- I mean , how in the world can you kill a Kishin with your fist! Death the Kid had those motherfucking awesome and badass guns and he couldn't kill it but Maka with her bare fist.....-End of SPOILER- The animation is great from my point of view and the characters...I must say it, those creepy faces are the best part.( also the Excalibur reaction ) But I didn't like that Crona was such a cool character and by the end she's soo scared. Overall it's a must see, but the end of the story is pretty dissapointing.
Story: Soul Eater is an anime about school kids that train to exorcise evil which is slightly reminiscent of d.gray-man yet it manages to itself. It starts off well and keeps building momentum until it ceases with an extremely sub-par ending which is so disappointing because had it not been for the rather abysmal ending, this would be one amazing anime. However, except for that flaw, Soul Eater is quite an anime that balances a high level of humor with a lot of action keeping it fast paced and without any dull spots. Even it's filler episodes are hilarious and don't take away from the overall action.
Animation: I was a huge fan of the Tim Burtonesque feel of the animation. It was bright, lively, clean and sharp, and expressions were highly exaggerated for comical effect and though it was somewhat cartoonish, it was done very well and fit the overall attitude of the anime. It stood out from other anime because of it's rather distinct, halloweenish art in a good way.
Sound: Quite original and very suitable. It never detracted from the scenes and actually enlivened them. It was most definitely not forgettable with its mixture of hip hop and action music. Both opening were good though I really had a preference for the 2nd. The 3rd ending was the most original and catchy to me but the 4th described the anime the best. Although the 2nd one was cute, it was not suitable at all because it was so glaringly out of place for the intense action scenes that were taking place. Other than that, the music was very well done.
Characters: THough most of them fall under a stereotype, they each have rather unique personalities with the exception of maybe Black Star, who seems to me to be a Naruto parody/rip-off? They are all rather extreme in personality and have such hilarious dynamics that add to the overall feel of the anime and take it up a whole level. They make the anime what it is and could easily have fallen flat but thanks to their voice actors and depth they each shone. Even Black Star, who really annoyed me in the beginning, grew on me.
Overall: Definitely an anime worth seeing despite it's lackluster ending. The whole of the anime really does make up for it's not so great ending. There are a few ecchi moments, but they don't last long and are fairly forgettable in conjunction with the other elements of the anime. Watch if you love comedy and action because it's quite a wonderful blend of both.
I thought this anime was pretty awesome. I loved the characters, especially Kid/Stein/Spirit/Excalibur/Soul/Crona/Everyone...They were well thought out and funny. I found there to be a bit too much filler for this to be an absolute favorite of mine, but its still up there pretty high. It took me about half of season one until I really got into this and even then it was hit and miss. I thoroughly enjoyed season 2 though and was watching episodes back to back to see what would happen. The only problem was that when the season ended, the story arc stalled and I think thats why season 3 was a let down. I was bored during some episodes and the plot was running thin. However, the final season was a blur of awesome action violence, great overall plot arcs and emotions so it bumped this one back up for me. The final episode was hit and miss (and cheesy), but the fourth and second season arcs were so fucking cool. I love the characters and the voice actors and the personality quirks. A nice blend of action, humor, and imagination which, unlike the kishin, I'm glad to experience.
Overall, a fun and exciting ride with some bumps along the road. 7.5/10
Watched dubbed. All of my favorite voice actors are in it.
P.S. The music was perfection in this one.