A show about a bunch of crazy kids chasing witches and turning to weapons under a mad looking sun. Oh my…
Soul Eater (SE) is one of the few times a perpetual on-going shonen anime didn’t turn to a complete travesty. It starts dynamically, has very good pace and development to the most part and ends before it becomes dull because of repetitiveness and stale progress. Ok, chances are it eventually WILL become all the above if they ever remake it like they did with Full Metal Alchemist (FMA), because its themes in the manga run dry from a point on. But let’s leave this for the future and if they ever do it; this is about the current adaptation.
The reason I mentioned FMA is because just like there, the story in the anime splits away from the manga, because it was running out of material to adapt. As weird as it felt, I definitely prefer this method to slowing down the pace of the show and inserting a million ridiculous filler episodes. Hear that Naruto and Bleach? That was your downfall. It is actually interesting to see how the directors try to provide their own version of the story instead of lazily following others or writing pathetic plots. It is also interesting to see how they attempt to wrap it all up within the allowed episodes. So did they do a good job? Well… not so much. Just like in FMA, the anime original story feels messy and confusing, with some parts feeling rushed and silly. The last episode for example is, amongst the people I chat with, the most hated ones in existence for the lame way everything ended. Nice try you guys but… really, that sucked. Although that was expected of studio BONES, since it’s their trademark to have a storyboard that makes no sense.
As for the rest of the story, I can only appreciate its fast development, liveliness, and core themes. The actual line of events is still very juvenile and a thing all aspired scriptwriters should NOT get pointers from. Although each arc provides further insight to the story and its cast, the way everything initiates is plain silly. Something like “Hey guys we need villains so let’s make one appear out of nowhere.” Somebody does not know what foreshadow is in here or is it just me?
It is not exactly a bad thing the target audience will mind, but it does make you wonder how competent the witch hunter organization is, if Arachnophobia could roam around unnoticed for centuries and how they were just thrown in the story, because Arachne needed an army of mooks to slow down the final battle. Even if you follow the story in the manga, you see the exact same thing happening with the later villains. It is also very hard to accept how Shinigami was powerful enough to bind himself to the city just to keep Ashura there trapped, but as soon as Ashura escapes, he leaves the city without a problem with Shinigami unable to leave it. How the blazes does that even work, or what was the point of it, if it doesn’t work both ways?
Anyways, the storyline is weak and the first thing the viewer should not mind much. Better focus on the characters and how they think and interact with one another; a thing which I adored. The core theme of the series is cooperation, as teams are made of the ones turning to weapons and those using them. It also requires harmonic resonance between them so their battle prowess will be at its best and later there are several well excused ways to improve even further this concept by introducing chained resonance with others, evolved forms through collection of evil souls, even unlocking hidden powers through age and experience.
To be honest, the in-laws of how everything works is like a videogame, where you gain experience through battles, gather souls from defeated enemies to unlock new forms, and even have synchronized motions or button-mashing with your co-player for extra boost in damage. All that are present in other shonen series as well but never before were they presented so well excused.
- Naruto is also about its characters learning to work as a team, so one covers the other in battle, yet that didn’t prevent most of the character to be quite useless in most battles, and always having the bigshot amongst them to do all the work alone.
- Dragonball had the concept of cooperation late in the show in the form of Fusion Dance, but it never went beyond dancing in the same way as your partner and making it seem all too easy.
- Then there is also Elemental Gelade where people turned to weapons as well, yet the plot and the setting were terribly simple to matter after awhile.
* SE just owns them all.
Furthermore, each character is both crazy and with a dark past of sorts. Although to the most part they will be acting as idiots, when the time calls for it they will reveal some really creepy sides to themselves that practically excuse their personality of being as such. Also, unlike most shonen who do very little to develop their characters, SE constantly shows internal monologues, their fears and hopes, and even reflects all that in their progress as fighters. So character development and leveling up are chained together. This is no Final Fantasy, lol. You also don’t improve by constantly fighting or training; it always happens by opening up to others, accepting them as they are, and working as a group mind. It is all very interesting and nothing alike Naruto or Bleach, or Dragonball, series with hundreds of characters who barely matter or develop.
Anyways, even if one does not notice the above, he will still love how stupid and crazy they all are. Being extreme makes them very easily memorable. It may go overboard at times and cause unnecessary complications during battles but it is still great to see how each one’s crazy antiques are affecting the course of battle and it’s not just super attacks between emotionless drones. It makes every battle chaotic and more unpredictable too. They are also not that straight-forward either, as many of them have a secret agenda, some get exploited, some get betrayed, some get disappointed and go mad. Special mention must be given to Excalibur, a character completely unimportant to the plot and practically filler material, who is so obnoxious that you just love to hate him.
The second thing that was done great in the show is the overall atmosphere. The world looks plain crazy like its characters, with a goth motif being present everywhere that further emphasizes the mood of the show and makes it more memorable. Many shows have very generic-looking settings and become forgettable just for that but SE with its mad looking moon and sun, as well as the scull themed palace with the lit candles, plus the several allusions to occult and famous names from mythology and history, help to further give a unique identity to the show.
Quite good to the most part. Aesthetically, it looks and sounds insane and humorous, with a huge array of twisted goth backgrounds, as well as numerous uses of darkness, fish-eye perspective and zoom to insane facial grimaces. The battles are also full of energy and passion, a constant change of angles, and motions, vibrant body poses and lots and lots of screaming (in a good way). Acoustically the soundtrack is very catchy with rather memorable dynamic songs. Voice acting is good I guess, although some characters can be more annoying than funny. Maka sounds weird, Black Star is irritating, Soul has too adult tone of voice for his age, etc. Nothing terrible but I have heard better.
Later on, the quality of the show starts to drop and we get lazy drawings and sloppy motions, plus the later songs are not as good. Combined with the sloppy anime original storyline, that hurts the overall feeling but never too much to ruin it all. In all, SE is a very good fighting shonen thanks to its aesthetics and good pacing. It has its share of problems, mostly the silly storyboard and the quality drop in production values, but it still remains a very entertaining anime for the fans of the genre.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (eye-catchy)
Character Figures 2/2 (memorable)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (smooth for a tv series but drops in quality later on)
Visual Effects 2/2 (whacky)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Premise 1/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 1/2 (sometimes silly, sometimes makes sense)
Conclusion 1/2 (solid but weak)
CHARACTER SECTION: 9/10
Presence 2/2 (whacky)
Personality 2/2 (silly but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (everyone has some)
Development 2/2 (everyone gets some)
Catharsis 1/2 (solid but weak)
VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Historical Value 2/3 (quite famous)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high, if you skip some silly episodes)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely whachy to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Art 1/1 (looks great)
Sound 2/2 (sounds great)
Story 2/3 (rather basic and has its issues, but overall ok)
Characters 3/4 (they are very good for their roles)