Critic’s Log - Earthdate: October 31, 2013. Review #65: Soul Eater
Men and Women of all fandoms, would you like to see something strange?
Come with us if you will see, in this placecalled Death City
This is Soul Eater, This is Soul Eater. Kishins scream in the dead of night.
Set in the Shinigami technical school for weapon meisters known as the Death Weapon Meister Academy. This series revolves around 3 groups of each a weapon meister and a human weapon. Trying to make the weapon a "Death Scythe" and thus fit for use by the Shinigami, they must collect the souls of 99 evil humans and 1 witch. But it won’t be that easy. However, something creeping this way comes, and it won’t be pleasant.
To be technical, Soul Eater is a Studio Bones production and the animation is really vibrant but it also looks bizarre as it should be since this is an adaptation of a manga that did look pretty bizarre at first. But looking past that, Soul Eater has good animation. This is evident in the action scenes and humor. The character designs, the expressions, the backgrounds, and even the effects are animated very well, and even though it may have some hiccups, it still looks good and remains faithful to the source material.
The music by Taku Iwasaki is really fitting in this show. There is some hip-hop, and jazz and a few other genres which makes for a unique soundtrack. There’s even a little mix of hip-hop beats and orchestral strings. Here’s the kicker, it works. I see Taku Iwasaki as a male equivalent of Yoko Kanno, I have noticed he is just as experimentive and talented as her. The soundtrack to Soul Eater is pretty awesome. But you know what else is awesome? The first opening theme. The first opening is 90 seconds of adrenaline pumping, ass-kicking awesome. Yeah, just go with it. I hardly ever skipped this opening after I saw it for the first time. This open will definitely get you pumped up with all the awesomeness it has. The first closing theme is pretty awesome too. The second closing theme is catchy and pretty cute too. The second opening theme is also pretty badass and does fit the tone for the rest of the show. The third closing theme has kickass visuals, and the fourth closing theme is pretty damn hardcore. I bet you that if Soul Eater gets a remake, any opening or closing theme may have a hard time topping the awesomeness that these openings and closings have. I really love the soundtrack to this show and it’s worth a listen without the show.
In terms of voice acting, Chiaki Omigawa debuted as Maka Albarn and she was terrific. Kouki Uchiyama was great as Soul. Yumiko Kobayashi was fitting as Black Star, and Kaori Nazuka was great as Tsubaki. Mamoru Miyano was terrific as Death the Kid, Akeno Watanabe and Narumi Takahira were pretty good as the Thompson Sisters. Also, Maaya Sakamoto was terrific as Crona, Toru Ohkawa was great as Death Scythe, and Rikiya Koyama was fun to listen to as Shinigami-sama. Other noteworthy seiyus were Houko Kuwashima as Medusa, Michiko Neya as Arachne, Takehito Koyasu as Excalibur, Toshio Furukawa as Asura, Yukana as Azusa, Yuya Uchida as Stein, Nobutoshi Canna as Giriko. Soul Eater has a great Japanese cast and it is a recommended version to watch it in. But I will say the exact same thing with the English Dub. I will say that the dub isn’t perfect, but it is damn worth watching anyway. The dub has a terrific performance by Laura Bailey as Maka, but Micah Solusod was a tricky gentleman to begin with. To those that have seen enough anime Dubbed, you may think that Mr. Solusod sounds a lot like Johnny Yong Bosch. I even had the same impression. But the performance was very good for Micah Solusod. Brittney Karbowski is great as Black Star but her performance isn’t perfect, this was a role that viewers had to get used to at first, but Ms. Karbowski did improve greatly at first. I could say that Kobayashi-san played the role better, but unfortunately… this little turd is annoying regardless of the version choice. Monica Rial is also terrific as Tsubaki and she usually has a whiny girly voice. She is actually a very good voice actress once you get used to her voice. Todd Haberkorn was also terrific as Death the Kid, especially when he’s serious or freaking out. Jamie Marchi and Cherami Leigh were great as the Thompson Sisters. Maxey Whitehead was pretty good as Crona, Vic Mignogna was great comic relief as Death Scythe, and John Swasey was a delight as Lord Death. I do want to point out that the reason that Shinigami-sama was named “Lord Death” in the Dub was because the word “Shinigami” can be translated as Death God, but the closest equivalent that American translators went with is “Reaper”, but with Soul Eater, they decided to call him “Lord Death” which is good enough. Call him Shinigami-sama if you prefer. I call him by either title. Other noteworthy voices in the dub are Chuck Huber which was a delightful viewing experience, Colleen Clickenbeard as Marie, Eric Vale as Justin, Kent Williams as Sid, Sonny Strait as Ragnarok (Wha!? HUGHES!?) Mark Stoddard as Mosquito, Luci Christian as Medusa, Stephanie Young as Arachne, Troy Baker as Excalibur. J. Michael Tatum as Giriko, Travis Willingham as Free, and Kyle Hebert as Masamune. Mentioning these voices in either cast is quite a mouthful, but it goes to show you that they picked some well known voices as well as having performances worth listening to along the show’s progression. Both the Subtitled Version and the Dubbed Version are good and definitely worth watching both if you have the time.
What does make the show memorable are the characters. One of my favorite characters in the show is Maka, for a Shonen anime, it is a rare sight to see a female protagonist as the main character. Making this a nice change of things. But despite of that, her personality and her character becomes a bit interesting as the show progresses further. Her greatest attribute is Courage. Soul is a guy that just wants to be cool and he actually is pretty cool, but there’s more to him that keeps viewers interested instead of bored. Black Star is an annoying little brat, but that’s what makes him...Lovab…uh, Grea….uh, how about memorable… Yeah, that’s more like it. But his greatest attribute is his strength, after all… he is the strongest member of the DWMA. Tsubaki is great since she is a polar opposite to Black Star, and even though Black Star is annoying as hell, Tsubaki is totally content with Black Star’s personality. Death the Kid does have an annoying side because of his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with…Symmetry. Wait, Symmetry, WHAT THE HELL!?. How is that even pos… Well anyway, Death the Kid gets a pass for this. He is also an expert at some skills and he is also pretty smart despite his faults.
Also, Why am I thinking of The Triforce from the Legend of Zelda series? Come to think of it. The greatest attributes of the three meisters can be compared with Link, Princess Zelda and Ganondorf. It may not to be a direct homage, but I find a little similarity regarding this or maybe I am somewhat Obsessive Compulsive on talking about the Zelda series since I tend to talk about the Zelda games from time to time with some of my friends (True Story), who can blame me? It’s a pretty popular series as well as being a prominent one at that. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Why does the moon in Soul Eater have a creepy face. Play Majora’s Mask much?
Well, the major difference is that the Moon in Majora’s Mask is a full moon with an angry face while the Moon in Soul Eater is a crescent moon and is laughing. Coincidences? Who knows. At least the Sun is happy and laughing and not as pissed off like the Angry Sun from the Mario games
*Shivers* Moving on.
The Thompson Sisters do compliment Kid, and they are great sources of comic relief when the right opportunity hits. Crona is an awkward character but has his/her moments…Thank Goodness I remembered this little trivia, Crona’s gender was never confirmed or specified. Atsushi Okubo intentionally left it to the interpretation of those viewing it. Death Scythe is great for his silly antics. Stein is a blast to watch along the way despite his awkwardness at first. Medusa is such a slithering bitch, but she’s written well that you would hate her. Arachne was an interesting villain for a while. Mifune was pretty cool and here’s a fun fact. Mifune was named after a famous Japanese actor named Toshiro Mifune who was involved in quite a number of samurai movies and he was most famously involved with the influential Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa. Movies like Yojimbo and Seven Samurai are his most famous roles. Anyway, it is a great homage to a famous Japanese actor. Mifune is a samurai, but he serves as a bodyguard to the witch Angela. In all due respect, it is a very fitting homage. Lord Death is a riot. I love his funny personality, but once shit goes down. Well, you’ll have to see for yourself, If I ruined it for you, I would get a Reaper Chop/Shinigami Chop for doing so. Those that have seen it do know what I mean. Characters like Marie, Azusa, Naigus, Kim, Jacqueline, Ox Ford, Kilik, and the sexy kitty Blair are decent characters along the ride, but if there’s one character that would make the average viewer cringe as well as making the characters in the show cringe. It would be this incessant ham who just so happens to be ten times more annoying than Black Star… You guessed it, I am talking about Excalibur…
Excalibur being ten times more annoying than Black Star is saying quite a lot. But you wanna know something, despite the annoyances that some of these characters bring, it does bring some humor as well as some dilemmas for the characters that surprisingly can relate to real life situations. We do deal with some annoying jackasses from time to time, This anime could bring some example to this. But what about Excalibur? Ugh… I guess he’s written that way to be as annoying as ever, but still…
Most of the characters are memorable, my only main issue is Asura. He is promising at first, but is a bit disappointing at the end, if you haven’t seen the show… see it for yourself. But if you have seen the show, you may get an idea why I am saying this. But regardless, the characters make the show a blast to watch, flaws and all.
Which brings me to the story of Soul Eater, it isn’t the greatest factor in this anime. It starts off decently and becomes your typical shonen anime, but with some twists and turns. It does get pretty good at the middle, but once it nears its end. It does deviate from the manga and goes to an anime-exclusive direction, this isn’t the first time Studio Bones has done this. Back in 2004, Bones was in the middle of airing Fullmetal Alchemist and it deviated from the manga during its second season, yet it still managed to really good despite going it’s own direction with the conclusion. Fullmetal Alchemist was not the first anime to do this when its compared to its source material, but it was the first for Studio Bones, this was the second anime by Studio Bones to deviate from the manga and conclude by their own terms. Both ending in 51 episodes, the only difference is that Fullmetal Alchemist had a movie that concluded that series while Soul Eater does not. The ending may be a cop-out for some, but here’s a surprise for some of you… I don’t care if the ending was a cop-out. Allow me to explain, The ending isn’t great, but the reason I was still satisfied was because Soul Eater never failed to entertain. That was Soul Eater’s greatest strength. This anime is very entertaining. The action is adrenaline-packed and energetic, the humor is mostly funny. and it even manages to have some thrills along the way. This is one of those animes that is not acknowledged as a Masterpiece and yet it manages to entertain viewers, flaws and all. The ending could have been better, but I am not complaining much. What Soul Eater does is deliver entertainment to the average viewer as well as others that are not so average. This is an anime that’s best to binge-watch around Halloween.
Soul Eater is available by Funimation, the manga by Atsushi Okubo is avaliable by Yen Press. The Video games Monotone Princess, Medusa’s Plot, and Battle Resonance were never released stateside, another manga called Soul Eater Not! is available by Yen Press.
With all that said, Soul Eater is an entertaining anime with a decent story, memorable fun characters, great looking animation, and a groovy soundtrack with kickass opening and closing themes. As an action series, it does deliver. But it has its flaws, but in spite of that. Soul Eater is a must-see, flaws and all. It is definitely worth your time and it’s even better when you watch it around Halloween considering all the imagery in it. Soul Eater is simply a blast and if you haven’t seen it, Do yourself a favor and find the time to watch it. It may not be perfect, but it still will be a fun experience. You will not be disappointed for the most part. Out of all the animes that Studio Bones has made, allow me to make an analogy. Their adaptation of Soul Eater wasn’t the best pumpkin carving of the bunch, but it still holds up compared to its original source material.
I give Soul Eater a 9.1 out of 10, it is EXCELLENT!
Feel free to leave a comment, and Happy Halloween!