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DVD Review

DVD cover

Soul Eater
Part Three


Starring (voice): Chiaki Omigawa, Kouki Uchiyama, Akeno Watanabe and Chieko Honda
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available: 20 September 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.

New enemies are gathering, drawn by the Kisshin Asura’s contagious psychic emanations. A deadly three way arms race ensues, as the DWMA locks horns with Medusa and Arachne’s forces in a desperate scramble to recover all the powerful magical tools created by the mysterious Eibon. But with Lord Death acting suspiciously, Stein losing his grip on sanity and Crona manipulated by his former allies... is the greatest threat to the DWMA the one from within?

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 third DVD release contains episodes 27-39 of 51.

The third quarter of Soul Eater suffers from a crippling lack of momentum and consequence. The focus of the series is diluted considerably by the introduction of a host of new characters, so many that it’s hard to believe that any of them will receive a satisfactory story arc in the twelve episodes that remain. The enemy is split into factions under the leadership of Medusa and her older sister Arachne, but there’s no explanation regarding why we should care about their rivalry or whether it makes them more or less of a threat. Meanwhile the unanswered questions surrounding Eibon and his magical tools are relentlessly uninvolving, framed neither as compelling mysterious nor as a legitimate threat, and principle villain Asura (the series’ one genuinely terrifying antagonist) is almost completely absent.

Soul Eater consists almost entirely of MacGuffins, Alfred Hitchcock’s term for barely explained plot devices that exist solely to drive the narrative. The inexplicable criteria for becoming a Death Scythe (the seemingly arbitrary consumption of the souls of 99 evil humans and one witch); the Kisshin under the DWMA; the borderline insultingly shallow depiction of mental illness as a means of either temporarily debilitating a character or giving them a convenient power-up; Eibon’s tools... barely any of the major narrative components stand up to a second’s scrutiny. That would be fine if this were the first few episodes, but after the sixteenth hour of a twenty-one hour series it’s inexcusable for the story to be so insubstantial.

The series main redeeming features are its action sequences and humour. The former are still abundant and superbly executed; however the latter becomes increasingly sparse as the series progresses (even a third appearance from the hilarious Excalibur falls flat, simply retreading old ground). Worse still, it appears that the final episodes of volume three mark the point at which the story substantially deviates from the manga on which it is based, which does not bode well for the show’s final volume.

Simply put, there’s nothing here that warranted the adaptation into anime. If the material from the manga original was exhausted by episode thirty-five then there simply was not enough original story to make this a worthwhile venture. If Atsushi Okubo had a point to make then by this stage of his comic he had yet to make it, and it’s almost certain that the writers of the adaptation won’t be able to retroactively hammer this mess into a coherent shape. Soul Eater already feels truncated, without enough running time to tie up its loose ends and incurring debts that it cannot repay. Enter at your peril.


Seth Cooke

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