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DVD Review

DVD cover

Soul Eater
Part Two


Starring (voice): Chiaki Omigawa, Kouki Uchiyama, Akeno Watanabe and Chieko Honda
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 27 July 2010

Feisty teenager Maka Albarn is a Weapon Meister and Soul is her human weapon, capable of transforming into a razor sharp scythe. As students at the Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA) their study habits couldn’t be any more different. But in the battle against the supernatural forces of evil they’re a lethal team. Can they stand against the villainous Medusa, whose henchmen stand poised to move against the DWMA and its headmaster, the eccentric Lord Death? Allegiances are questioned in a desperate battle that tests Maka and Soul beyond the limits of their sanity...

Soul Eater was adapted by Studio Bones (RahXephon, Eureka Seven, Ouran High School Host Club, Fullmetal Alchemist) from the Square Enix manga by Atsushi Okubo and released in the UK by Manga Entertainment. This second DVD release contains episodes 14-26 of 51.

You don’t have to be mad to be a character in Soul Eater, but… actually, that’s not true at all. Dr Franken Stein, the series’ sadistic science teacher, says it himself: everyone is mad in some way. Most of the time Atsushi Okubo’s colourful cast can handle their symptoms, so it’s extremely inconvenient that their latest enemy - the hideously powerful kishin known as Asura - emits a wavelength that exaggerates and exploits their most maladaptive tendencies.

This, then, is the series’ subtext; that mental illness is present in everyone, and that it is the way the individual responds to it that makes the difference. While such subject matter is laudable, in practise the theme is mainly deployed via comic relief; convenient power-ups or horrific imagery. It’s serious material that demands more robust treatment. So far the only real indication that it will be developed to the extent it deserves is the unexpectedly moving depiction of Crona’s childhood abuse. Otherwise it is merely an extension of the ‘enemy within’ theme that crops up throughout these episodes in so many iterations; whether it’s Soul and Maka being tempted by a red skinned devil, the personification of the former’s black blood; Medusa posing as the school’s science teacher and controlling Eruka from within using her snake familiars; or Asura himself being sealed in the DWMA’s dungeon).

It’s a subtextual problem that needs addressing soon. While the manga is ongoing and has plenty of time to respect its subject matter, by the end of volume two the anime is already halfway through and running out of time. A similar problem afflicts the pacing: Soul Eater doesn’t feel like a story that’s reached its mid point. It’s hard to believe that the students of the DWMA will be able to attain sufficient power to defeat the series’ antagonist within the next twenty five episodes and the overall tone is that of a series that is just starting its second act.

And yet the series’ demented energy, fluid animation and peerless comedy somehow keep it from being a write-off. The stand-out moments are enough to sustain any viewer regardless of their doubts: Asura’s horrific jailbreak from a sack made of his own skin; the beautifully judged anticlimax of the fight between Soul, Maka, Chrona and Ragnarok; or the murderous stand-off between Medusa and Franken Stein... it’s rare that such dubiously conceived nonsense is so thrilling.

Still not convinced? Then believe me when I say that episode seventeen - almost entirely devoted to a confrontation between the hapless Ox Ford and the frankly inexplicable Holy Sword Excalibur - achieves a level of hilarity that verges on hallucinogenic, comedy of such moronic virtuosity that it induces a gibbering slack jawed fugue state. It’s a contender for the funniest single episode of any of the television that it’s been my good fortune to encounter in this sad little wasted life of mine. You have been warned.


Seth Cooke

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