Soul Eater

Vol: 25; Ch: 113
2003 - 2013
4.291 out of 5 from 6,119 votes
Rank #1,986
Soul Eater

In a bizarre fantasy world, students known as meisters are trained at the illustrious Shinigami Weapon Meister University; but the tools they wield are no ordinary weapons! Each meister is paired with a human-like being who can transform into a weapon at will; and after defeating a pre-kishin - a human whose soul has darkened - the weapon eats the soul within it. A meister's ultimate goal is to collect ninety-nine pre-kishin souls and one of a witch so that his or her partner will become an all-powerful Death Scythe. Maka and her partner Soul Eater; Assassin Black Star and his partner Demon Blade Tsubaki; and Shinigami's son Death the Kid and his partners the Demon Twin Pistol Thompson Sisters each vie for their ultimate goal, but plenty of challenges and adventures lie in their way!

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Soul Eater, A Satanic-Feminist Interpretation; Or, A Moral Justification Of Fanservice by nathandouglasdavis Fan service (aimed at femisexual fans) is in many ways the antithesis of feminist ideals. It involves the objectification of female characters, a demeaning and disrespectful act that sends the message that women are lesser than men and are more useful as eye candy than as actual characters. Soul Eater includes quite a few instances of fan service. To be exact, out of its 19,125 panels (give or take a few), there are 418 panels (or 2.2%) that include some form of fan service. Most of these panels are just aesthetic flourishes, like the inclusion of cleavage, but it also does include scenes which interrupt the flow of the narrative to show off the female form--basically all of Blair's non-cat appearances, several bathing scenes, skirt flips, and some groping. But it's not as though every female character is just a sex object. The protagonist, Maka, is a well-rounded female character whose courage and strength inspire those around fem; fe is an exceptional leader--kind and accepting, but willing to bring the Maka Chop down on those who deserve it. Medusa is also easily the most interesting antagonist of the entire series, and quite possibly the most interesting character out of everyone. And Soul Eater even goes so far as to explicitly condemn the objectification of women and portrays characters like Spirit who give in to their lust as pathetic and not worth emulating (chapter 0.1 is a succinct summary of Soul Eater's view on this issue). At this point, you may be thinking that these ideas appear to be inconsistent or hypocritical, but I will show that by applying lessons gleaned from the moral guidebook we all live our lives by, The Satanic Bible, and by paying attention to some of the philosophies this manga itself espouses, we can find that these seemingly incongruent ideas are in fact...congruent. Every character in the manga is shown to have insecurities, and the existence of insecurities is actually very central to the plotline. The primary thing the students of DWMA and the other allies are fighting against is Madness, spread through the black blood and through the kishin's presence. But as the ogre says, "Madness isn't inflicted from the outside. It bubbles up from within" (ch. 103). The manga portrays insecurities as leading to fears, and fears as leading to Madness. It also relates character flaws and vices to the negative parts of oneself which can lead to Madness (see the infiltration of the Book of Eibon, ch. 72-79). But it suggests that fears, insecurities, and characters flaws aren't something to be gotten rid of, but rather accepted as part of oneself. At one point, Stein says "I quit quitting. My original plan was to quit smoking so I wouldn't get sucked deeper into Madness on account of giving in to my vices, but well, the more I refrained from it, the more irritated I got" (ch. 70). Trying to abstain from the vice was actually more harmful than allowing femself to do it. And during the climactic fight, Soul says "I hate to admit, but it's true. This creepy room and my awful piano playing are part of me" (ch. 110)--which makes very little sense out of context, but totally relates to my point about characters not suppressing the negative parts of themselves. Kid sums everything up pretty well, "There is no one person without some evil in [fem]. Everything is about balance! As long as 'good' and 'evil' are in perfect balance, there's no problem" (ch. 13). In other words, Madness is taking something normal to a state of unrestrained excess. And at this point, we should all have realized how this relates to the satanic teachings on abstinence, indulgence, and compulsion. We're all familiar with the text that says "Satanism advocates indulging in each of these [seven deadly sins] as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification" (1.3). And on the surface, the idea of indulgence sounds like it's advocating for unrestrained self-gratification. But Satanism in no way teaches to be unrestrained; it is, after all, "a form of controlled selfishness" (1.3). In fact, a state of unrestrained excess is what Satanism would call compulsion. It is taught that "a compulsion is never created by indulging, but by not being able to indulge. By making something taboo, it only serves to intensify the desire...When a person has no proper release for [feir] desires they rapidly build up and become compulsions" (1.8). Just as Satanism teaches that abstinence can lead to the propagation of compulsions, Soul Eater promotes the idea that attempting to suppress parts of oneself will just lead one closer to Madness. Indulgence, in the satanic sense, is more about not denying your desires--accepting them and fulfilling them in a controlled and healthy way. And this conclusion of self-acceptance is paralleled within Soul Eater. Rather than live in self-righteous denial, one should accept even the negative aspects of oneself just as Maka did in regards to feir angel wings (ch. 64).  So how does this relate to the inclusion of fan service? Well, assuming that we all agree that objectifying women is a bad thing to do, then there are really only two responses: abstaining from it or allowing yourself to indulge in it in moderation. The argument for indulgence is the argument of "inoculation"--that by venting your carnal lecherousness in small doses, it will prevent it from building up under the surface and perhaps coming out later in a worse form. The argument for abstinence is the argument of "normalization"--that if you allow yourself to objectify women in even small doses, then your subconscious will become used to seeing women being demeaned and treated as inferior and you will be less likely to recognize when mistreatment is happening around you (or even by you). Satanism teaches that, as a default, we should treat everyone with decency and respect until they do something to deserve otherwise. So if fan service could lead us to not treat women and men with the same level of decency, then that's something we have to take very seriously. But I still don't think abstinence is necessitated. Just as we can eat a cake while keeping in mind that it's bad for us and that we have to be mindful of the intake, we can objectify manga characters while keeping in mind that objectification (of real people) is bad. And that brings us back to how Soul Eater presents lecherousness as both a despicable thing and as something it allows its readers to indulge in, and how those two ideas aren't just congruent but, in fact, probably should be paired together.

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