This is the second most undermined series I know of, right after Brigadoon Marin to Melan. Practically everybody I know of consider it ugly and weird to the point they hate it. Well, I personally liked it a lot.
Soul Taker is in effect a very dark and mysterious approach to superheroes, blending a futuristic dystopia with mystery, religion, aliens and conspiracies, all in just a half season show. It is also a somewhat tribute to Devilman and Gatchaman because of the hero’s outfit but it takes the premise far further by not making it easy to follow. It overdoes it unfortunately as the first episode is made to be as confusing as possible, with very trippy colors and animation and with the plot making no sense. It is all supposed to reflect the mentality of the protagonis, as he wakes up after being seemingly murdered by his mother and has no idea of what is happening to the world. He suddenly has superpowers, his sister is missing, and everybody is out to kill him, while the world is on the brink of destruction by a virus as well as the first alien encounter. Bizarre? Wait, it becomes more later on.
From the second episode and onwards, the animation becomes a bit more easy to understand, although it still looks weird, as the colors remain too antithetic or pitch black, and the backgrounds are static pictures with religious motives to the most part, scrolling through the screen. Many claim that this is cheap, and yet most of the same people worship it when SHAFT is doing the exact same thing. Why? Because SHAFT has moe girls that make you think it’s better than it really is. Hypocrites! And I mention that studio in specific, because it so happens that the director of this series is none other than Shimbo Akiyuki, the man who practically made SHAFT the colossus it is today. This is one of his works before he moves there.
Anyways, even Soul Taker has some of that; a cute little nurse witch named Komugi. She feels totally out of place with her cheery personality and bright colored outfits, yet at the same time she is part of the story. You could see her as the mascot of the series or even as pedo-bait; whatever, I liked her seemingly useless role for most of the show and then how she was actually important in some way. I also liked the very unorthodox visuals; which although they do seem cheap and crude, they also give the show a very uncommon style that makes it stand out from the bulk of anime.
Speaking of useless, the first half of the show will indeed feel like that, as the hero is roaming around the world looking for his sister and fighting random mutants and other freaks of nature. It is very easy for the average viewer to be bored or confused enough with it because the battles aren’t made to be cool and the bits of the mystery provided are still confusing as hell. It is only during the second half, where revelations come one after the other and you are constantly going WTF with what is going on. I must say that I was amazed how they made it look so complicating without feeling like it has significant plot holes. They also threw in allusions to religion, science, philosophy, and made the whole thing look far more interesting.
Speaking of interesting, the main music theme is simply amazing. I must have heard it in repeat at least two hundred times so far; it is one of the most powerful metal pieces I have ever encountered in anime. As for the rest of the sounds, the sound effects are average and the characters sound cryptic and rather monotonic, fitting the mood of the story. And as expected, Komugi has a naive high pitched voice but it is one of the few cases I didn’t find that irritating. She is clearly much smarter than she looks; she just plays it dumb.
All the characters besides Komugi will probably feel like stock material for most viewers. In reality they are given more immersion and development than in most series but the weird presentation of the series will probably not allow their charisma to shine. The atmosphere of the setting and the mystery behind the story end up being more imposing than the characters interacting in them; a thing not so good when you are supposed to care about the characters.
If you look the series as a whole it looks much better than when you try to see it as separate elements. The first half is indeed rather uneventful and a slow build up towards a confusing second half, where the action doesn’t really help you keep looking. The characters do look great in the end, and so does the story, which indeed seems to be twice as long as it needed to be but still excused somewhat as means to help you familiarize with the world. It takes effort but it can be rewarding.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (weird in a positive way)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny 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: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (lots of stuff happen)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 2/2 (solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (all the important people have some)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of the confusing plot)
Memorability 3/4 (uncommon to the point of easily remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 6/10
Art 1/1 (looks artsy)
Sound 1/2 (good soundtrack)
Story 2/3 (confusing but has lots of good elements in it)
Characters 2/4 (they are ok but nothing great)