Anime Reporter takes a gander at Soul Eater manga volumes 16-20 now, picking up from the rather dramatic finale that was Volume 15. With that much in mind, the following spoiler alert is probably unnecessary.
So here we are, Maka and Soul have overthrown the wicked witch and Soul has finally become a fully fledged Death Scythe. Volume 16 sees Maka and Soul trying to master some of their great new abilities as a team. Meanwhile, the other illustrious star students are adapting to their new war-time roles as members of the new strike force, Spartoi.
These story arcs boil down to a revelation that being a Death Scythe is still a long way from reaching the full extent of their power and Maka and Soul are still more or less wading around in the kiddies’ pool while the strike team storylines amount to a lot more action and fight scenes without a lot of story behind them.
When everyone gets around to remembering that Death the Kid has been kidnapped, the story moves one nicely with the whole junior-soul-reaper-squad, (awesome team-name patent pending), setting out after Noah. This storyline uses an appropriately gothic premise, with Kid’s prison lying just on the other end of a journey through the Seven Deadly Sins. Unfortunately the plot fails to live up to its potential and the seven sins themselves are little more than opportunities to tell us what we already know. Lust is little more than an opportunity for some weak boob jokes while Envy is merely another instalment in the series of reminders that Maka’s and Soul’s bond is incredibly strong despite the fact that one or both of them seems to constantly need reminding of this. We also learn (revise) the fact that Black Star is a power hungry egomaniac but that everyone around him is pretty much fine with it. Things get interesting when they finally make contact with Death the Kid and find out exactly what his time away has done to him.
Kid may have gone ever so slightly over to the dark side, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up about a tremendous climactic battle. This battle will be fought mainly with words, and they’re Black Star’s words, so it’s a little weak.
The mission to bring Kid back from the enemy takes the series all the way to Volume 19. There are plenty of asides and allusions to big, ongoing villainous plots and the constant threat of Madness which everyone is terrified of but still unwilling to properly define. After this, you can fill in the blanks. Black Star is the greatest. Black Blood is ominous. Madness is everywhere. Someone who was killed probably wasn’t. Volume twenty ties a bow on the Kid-rescue arc, but, aside from a few twists and cliff hangers which are starting to lose their punch, Soul Eater is starting to feel more and more like the same plot points told over and over again amidst a fairly vague and unimpressive plot.
Ultimately, Soul Eater volumes 16-20 prove the folly of building a story up too much. Repetitive plotlines and stale characters make this a more tedious read than it should be while the tone seems determined to pull off cartoonish and fun while being ominous and dramatic. Eventually, it wears itself out, failing to do either. Storylines set up some time ago á la, Soul’s visits with his inner ogre, have been treading water since a very early stage of the series and prove unsatisfying when they finally attempt to move forward.
Soul Eater Volumes 16-20 are currently available from Yen Press. If you haven’t started the series yet, this might be a timely warning that it doesn’t quite live up to some earlier expectations, but, if you’ve read through the first fifteen volumes and want to stick around, there are certainly worse series out there.
Character Development: 4.5
Plot Development: 5
56% – “Getting Stale” – Soul Eater Volumes 16-20 offer little that hasn’t been seen before, with old situations in shiny new packaging. The never-ending stream of villains arising from the ashes of their fallen comrades is becoming painful while twists and resolutions either appear so quickly that we don’t get to see enough character development or take so long to arrive that we may have stopped caring when they do. Not terrible, but certainly disappointing.