Anime Reporter hits the manga archives once more for a look at Soul Eater manga volumes 1-5 (chapters 1-18).
Soul Eater focuses on a handful of students at the prestigious Death Weapon Meister Academy (or DWMA for short). Meisters are capable of perceiving souls while weapons are actually people capable of changing their form into… well, weapons, though typically some variation on a sword or scythe. These meisters and weapons are teamed up to harvest the souls of the undeserving and, after a weapon has consumed ninety nine human souls (hence the title) and the soul of a witch, they can become a Death Scythe, a weapon worthy of being wielded by the head-honcho, the chief supreme soul-reaper, Shinigami (but you can call him Death).
The series focuses on three groups of youngsters making their way through DWMA and Death City. Firstly, we have Maka and Soul Eater (okay, so there’s another reason for the manga’s title). Maka is a top-notch meister and great friend to Soul. The two work well together and are driven by strong ambition. While Soul is eager to become a powerful Death Scythe, Maka is more interested in replacing Death’s current weapon of choice, Maka’s adulterous father whose past meister was Maka’s mother. Maka’s pop is eager to win her respect and affection, though it doesn’t seem like that’ll be happening any time soon.
Next up on the roster we have Black Star and Tsubaki. Tsubaki is a capable and versatile weapon, able to change into a number of weapons, though even when she’s in the spotlight, there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount to her personality. Then again, there isn’t much room for personality on the team when her partner is Black Star. This self-styled ninja assassin can’t help but announce himself theatrically even when sneaking up on a target and more than anything, he hates the idea of someone else getting glory/respect/attention. Black Star is a strong and competent fighter, but only when he can manage to stop reminding everyone how they’re supposed to be worshipping him at any given time.
Last up, we have the dream team, Death the Kid and the Thompson twins. Death the Kid is indeed the son of Shinigami and is an incredibly capable and powerful meister. He’d be virtually unstoppable if he wasn’t consumed by a symmetry-based case of OCD. This kid can’t even attack something if he sees it as being symmetrical and therefore beautiful. He may occasionally also leave his friends in mortal danger because a picture frame at home may or may not be slightly askew. He even insists on symmetry in his weapon, hence the use of two partners, the Thompson twins (though he even openly laments their differences in height, hair length and breast size). The Thompson twins, Liz and Patty, lived on the street until an encounter with Death the Kid made them his brand new partners. The pair transform into matching pistols and even seem capable of using each other as weapons even when their meister is away. The twins are remarkably different to Kid, sharing none of his obsession with order and symmetry or his serious nature.
As the series starts, all three of these teams find themselves under the scrutiny of Shinigami. Maka and Soul are victims of their own overconfidence, making a mistake that sets them way back on their paths to success, while Black Star and Tsubaki have never managed to capture a single soul thanks to Black Star’s showy nature. As a result of this, these teams have to take some extra credit courses which mainly involve tackling foes ever so slightly out of their league.
Behind the scenes, a witch’s vicious plot involving the use of child’s cursed blood, a weapon with the appearance of a leather-clad spider-man and a prisoner held captive for two centuries sends everything askew. The first two volumes do an excellent job of setting up the characters and the world they occupy and after that it’s nicely down to business.
While the use of death/shinigami/soul reapers isn’t exactly new to manga by any means, Soul Eater starts off nicely, with more of an emphasis on humour and gags than the likes of Bleach or Death note. The setting of Death City is fantastic, filled with imaginative takes on gothic characters and a landscape that feels like the inside of Tim Burton’s mind. This would make the series ideal for kids if it wasn’t for some slightly disturbing use of blood and the very frequent use of shower scenes and air-brushed nudity. While it’s far from explicit as a series, it might be best avoided by the very young.
The first five volumes of Soul Eater are a joy to read, with truly enjoyable characters, a hell of a lot of humour and the very beginnings of what feels like a fresh new world and some bloody good plots on the horizon. Soul Eater volumes 1-5 are currently available in English from Yen Press.
82% – “Off to a Great Start!” – Soul Eater Volumes 1-5 give us an eerie new world to explore and get the ball rolling with surprising helping of character development and plot in such a short time. Well worth a look!