Ok! Let’s do this in a cool way! Soul Eater!

There is no denying it; for Soul Eater and me, it was love at first sight. Bursting with an adorable “look-at-me” style and eccentric attitude, it’s probably the coolest looking anime I’ve clapped eyes on since Gurren Lagann. 6 episodes in and every single one of them has been weird and wonderful, just one surreal trip after another, and naturally, being such a shameless action junkie and all, I’ll never tire of seeing such beautifully animated battles. Considering its over-the-top, scythe-swinging choreography and fun-loving attitude, there’s no denying I’m extracting some immensely good, hot-blooded entertainment from Soul Eater, but still, and it’s important to note (because I know this is a big issue for some), this series is (traditional) shonen fighting anime. There, I said it.

It may look unconventional, but if you can’t enjoy the likes of Naruto, Bleach, One Piece or D.Gray-man, you won’t last long with this either. Soul Eater could be construed, at least at first, as a parody of those other anime; Black Star is probably the most blatant joke; he is a complete rip-off of the original noisy ninja, Uzumaki Naruto. But it’s clearly a loving parody, like Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, because as much as it is knowingly poking fun at the cliched ‘shonen fighting’ anime, it obviously wants to be taken seriously as ‘shonen fighting’ anime too. Interestingly, this is another point of comparison with Gurren Lagann, because, early on, it was just as self-aware and over-the-top, being so referential of the mecha (super/transforming robot) genre. Starting a story with these archetypal ‘raw materials’ is very much akin to planting flower seeds and waiting for them blossom, as with every passing episode, the archetype, by virtue of its own experiences, takes root and grows into a unique personality. Already, Black Star is Black Star.

Soul Eater is, in many ways, very superficial. At this point, it has been looking great, the jokes are quite funny and the characters are likable, but there has been no real conflict. What I really love about a lot of my favourite shonen anime, like One Piece, is the heart-warming, strong bond of friendship shared by the characters, and we see, time and time again, that they will sacrifice everything, or die trying, to protect that bond. I’ve been looking for signs like that in Soul Eater too, something that suggests these relationships between meister and weapon amount to more than just plot convenience, and indeed, when pushed to their limits, I think there is definitely that kind of sentiment between Maka and Soul. I’m reflecting on a certain moment in episode 5, when the defeated Soul senses danger and covers Maka’s body with his own, growling “I won’t let you lay a hand on my Technician!” It just goes to show that there are deeper feelings there; that Soul Eater isn’t just parody and action, but has something quite inspiring to say about comradery and sacrifice too. I think that’s important, or at least, it is for me.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

23 thoughts on “Ok! Let’s do this in a cool way! Soul Eater!”

  1. indeed, however you may want to keep your eyes peeled even more so, we haven’t even hit the true conflict of the story yet, and probably wont for a bit if the anime doesn’t branch off the manga before then..

  2. Great post, loved how you probably sent half your audience out the door the moment you mentioned Bleach, Naruto and such hee. I’ve just watched an episode of this and I can safely say that this is quality entertainment even if the plot is paper thin. The show is expertly directed and generously produced, having Taku Iwasaki compose the music is the icing on the cake. I just know that they’ll come around with something meaningful during its 52 episode run. The last time they disappointed me was when they released the underwhelming Mars Daybreak, which was an ok show at the time just not up to the usual Bones standard. There I go again babbling to myself lol, anyways a little question. Are you watching the normal version or the uncut version?

  3. The Shounen Jump influence is the only thing that’s made me a little wary of this show – does it mean that we’ll see the drawn-out battles, fillerish dialogue and repitition with no satisfying end in sight? Or a story with a discernable beginning, middle and end that’s merely taking on the SJ style? I’m hoping it’s the latter because, despite the fact that Bones are animating it, this is very, very, New-Gainax (your Gurren Lagann comparisons are spot-on) and pure all-out entertainment.

    I really appreciated the attention paid to giving depth to the characters and the way they interact – I just hope Black Star shows some sign of growing up or developing, because I can see his obnoxious personality grating on me over the next few episodes otherwise. This is why I’m worried about Soul Eater following the SJ template really, because it would be a waste of potential if the story and characterisation stay on the same course and offer more of the same over and over.

  4. I (unsophisticated action-head that I am) dropped this after the terribly unsatisfying battle in the fourth episode, though I rather liked the three introduction episodes (especially the first and third ones). I can see it has considerable merit if you’re up for Shounen Jump fare, but I wanted frenetic action to go with the bizarre aesthetic, rather than the standard posturing.

    Is the run absolutely limited to 52 episodes? If it is, that at least might suppress the amount of filler and focus the plot.

  5. Regarding the personal bonds with the cast, at the end of ep6 (when stuff got pretty bad) I really didn’t feel all that bothered considering the situation, more mildly surprised. So yeah, in these SJump shows fondness has to be earned over time. Thing is, in Soul Eater, there hasn’t been a sense of structure to these introductory episodes. I mean it’s not Monster of the week or new mission or anything – just really cool stasis.

    I suppose it’s just as well there hasn’t been too much in the way of meaningful action, since the cast is still earning that emotional link to the audience which can make the big stuff matter. Anyway, since I’m really into the show when it’s not even going anywhere I shudder at the thought of the unabashed fannerry to come.

  6. This is pure eye-candy for me, I love how it sounds and looks. I like the way its panning out even though I don’t really know where its going to lead to since I’ve labelled it FMA-esque since the beginning.

    I think the dialogue itself its quite clever since it seems to be weary of what’s actually happening, the boundaries its demographic sets and such. The normal and uncut showings might begin to show a bigger difference as the show progresses but as of now, its pretty much the same show.

    The technician and weapon reminds me of Seishi Kishimoto’s O-Parts Hunter with each character (if being a technician) wields together their spirit energy (or form of) with the weapon to make them coincide with each other.

    I love shonen and this is currently the best series and has the most potential to escape to its given formula – If it works right, that is.

  7. I’m still somewhat split over Soul Eater, but it’s slowly winning me over. Episode 5 certainly marked a shift in my attitude towards it. Frankly, at the moment I think it’s a matter of getting in tune with the superficiality you mentioned, because as a purely audio/visual delight Soul Eater is pretty exhilarating. For now at least it’s holding my interest; not all entertainment needs depth, however I’m wondering when and if we’ll see any over it’s 50 episode run.

  8. @Inuhanyou: As this is Studio Bones, I’m expecting Soul Eater to eventually divert from the manga, a lot like what happened with Fullmetal Alchemist; kind of looking forward to seeing a shonen fighting anime like this that has a conclusive end for once!

    @Ivy: Uncut version; I’m following Rumbel’s fansubs of this. Not sure why it merits being “Uncut” though, may be it’s just a tad more ecchi than the censored version, and has red blood? Anyway, I really wanted to say something about Taku Iwasaki in this post but couldn’t find a way to get a mention in, and it’s just another point of comparison with Gurren Lagann too! Basically, after hearing his work with Soul Eater, I went and downloaded every Iwasaki score I could find; Rurouni Kenshin, NTHT and R.O.D.. At this point, he is, by far and away, one of my favourite anime soundtrack composers.

    @Martin: With this being Studio Bones and all, I’m expecting something more in-line with Fullmetal Alchemist (speaking of which, the manga is still on-going). Also, the fact they have stated it’s only going to be 51 episodes in length is probably the biggest hint that this will, most likely, be an SJ-style with a beginning, middle and end. The action is moving a lot faster than the likes of Naruto, so I’m hopeful that Soul Eater will be like a strong distillation of everything that’s good about shonen fighting anime without any of the “fat”.

    And actually, I enjoy characters like Black Star. May be there is something wrong with me? I can see why people would find him annoying, but that doesn’t really effect me because I can see that his character is supposed to be annoying anyway.

    @IKnight: It’s apparently 51 episodes and Bones haven’t worked on a TV series any longer than that so I’m confident of it actually ending at that point. To be honest, I’m disappointed that you dropped this after just one middling episode? Seems a bit unfair, especially since Soul Eater doesn’t strike me as posturing at all, or at least, none more so than something like Gurren Lagann. I guess that’s a sign that you just weren’t into this kind of anime in the first place? The revelation that you’re watching Kanon and dropped Soul Eater is a bitter pill to swallow ;)

    @Hinano: Thanks for the advice, I had your epic fan-girling in mind when writing about Soul and Maka.

    @coburn: Indeed. I’ve been quite impressed with its unconventional narrative structure up to this point too, it makes anticipating the next episode all the more interesting, as I’ve absolutely no idea where the story might end up going. The little details are fun too, like having a witch called “Blair” and one of the villains named “Jack the ripper” etc.

    @Jayme: Yup, and I’ve heard bits and bobs about O-Parts Hunter (666 Satan, right?) over the last few years, was mainly interested because the mangaka is Masashi Kishimoto’s twin brother! Anyway, didn’t it just end? And basically, was it any good? I see it had a time-skip too… I love shonen anime with time-skips! :)

    @Wildcard: Glad that it’s winning you over. As I’ve said in a few other paragraphs above, Bones don’t tend to go over 51 episodes, so I’ll be amazed if it does surpass their usual limit, as I’m sure the animation style must be costing them a bundle too.

  9. See, I’m in the camp that watches Soul Eater purely for the bloated front and the frenetic action, and like IKnight I was pretty unimpressed by the fourth episode. The prologue episodes had just the right amount of satire while honouring all the good aspects of shonen action; episode four suddenly reverted to the worst – protracted banal talking, half-arsed action, overuse of flashbacks. I got strong whiffs of DragonBall Z’s anime from it, and no reasonable anime fan wants to deal with that rubbish again.

    It undermined the experience, I have to say, but I haven’t dropped it. Episode five picked up its feet a wee bit more but it has yet to meet the bar it set in the prologue. And I guess it’s not fair to expect that for 51 episodes, which is why I’m not hopeful about seeing through to the end.

    Still, I agree the parodies are brilliant and I enjoy its sense of humour. A lot of the animation style reminds me of parts of FLCL, too, which is uber ingratiating. We’ll see, I guess.

  10. . . . what Hige said. You’re right, this isn’t my genre, and when Soul Eater completely dropped the ball in the fourth episode I didn’t have any patience with it. Which is not to say it isn’t a good show. But it doesn’t (yet) have the reputation that something like Kanon has, which can stimulate my curiousity.

    Since you bring Gurren-Lagann up, the posturing there never felt to me like it was slowing down the action (or rather, nearly entirely replacing the action). And it was probably less irritating because the posturers were rather more successful. But that’s just an impression.

  11. yeah i enjoy it
    but still there is a long way to top hxh naruto onepiece and bleach
    i am waiting for more

  12. Indeed, O-Parts Hunter otherwise known as 666 Satan recently ended, Seishi announced a while back a anime series for it, Nothing else has been heard since but I really do think a great/epic show (provided the studio behind it) could be made covering the entire series.

    As for the manga itself, Its really rather enjoyable. It resembles Masashi’s Naruto a fair bit but toys with that, I still think its fairly easy to separate the two series’ apart, though. I like most of the themes within it (I’ve been following, and picking up VIZ’ release of it, when I can) and the characters and settings are actually very good. They all have their shonen dreams and ambitions that they want to achieve at some point, which of course is very cliché but.. There is something about that that jumps out about it, and separates it from the rest..

    I can’t say I know much about the time-skip, Haven’t read that far. I know it happens earlier than Naruto, though.

    I think Square’s Shonen Gangan might be something special offering the likes of FMA and Soul Eater, along with 666 Satan. ;p

  13. “It just goes to show that there are deeper feelings there; that Soul Eater isn’t just parody and action, but has something quite inspiring to say about comradery and sacrifice too. I think that’s important, or at least, it is for me.”

    That is what, probably, what I love most about shonen. I shan’t say anything too spoiler-ish, but I’m looking forward to episode 8. Shonen is a genre that has it hard around here, judging from a glimpse of the comments. But, if Naruto and Bleach and One Piece weren’t so tediously long, I’d be as crazy and zealous as the next Narutard.

  14. @Hige/IKnight

    May be a point that separates my opinion from yours is that I watched episodes 2 to 6 in a batch, one after the other, on Sunday afternoon? To that end, I didn’t note that the pace had slowed simply because I knew I had the next few episodes lined-up anyway.

    I can understand not watching Soul Eater on the basis of it not being your thing (for example, I used to enjoy Dragonball Z, so that’s where I’m coming from here), but something about the complaints you’ve posted above strike me as a tad bit petty, almost as if you’re looking for an excuse. I mean, let’s face it, “protracted banal talking, half-arsed action, overuse of flashbacks” has always been a defining feature of shonen fighting anime and those qualities are kind of what I like about it too. I guess it just disappoints me that someone, who has already made it to the fourth episode, would consider dropping (or indeed, has dropped) Soul Eater for those reasons, just because it seems so… easy. Next thing you’ll be telling me is that you don’t like Jean Claude Van Damme movies…

    @qwertypoiuy/Jagd

    Good to hear, and qwertypoiuy: I promise, Hunter X Hunter is climbing my list to things to ‘properly watch’ :)

    @Jayme

    O-Parts Hunter sounds like my kind of thing. I might just go ahead and read the manga, seeing as it’s finished and all. I do love me some epic shonen, especially with the added bonus of a actual end! Also, since some anime company found the money to animate the likes of Buso Renkin, they’ve got to do this too. Fingers crossed on that.

    @Xerox

    You’re awesome! Enough said, I think :)

  15. @bateszi: I think the point is that Soul Eater presented itself as a show that would be free of all the flab that makes most shounen anime tedious and generally unenjoyable entertainment. The prologue episodes suggested that it would be different, which is why the dip felt so apparent. I can’t speak for IKnight, but I’m certainly not looking for excuses to slag it. I love shounen done well – Naruto remains one of my favourite shounen (manga) series and I fondly remember the DBZ manga.

    The way I see it is that most shounen anime is the product of franchise building, which is why a lot of it treads water in these dull ways. Soul Eater was exciting because it appeared free of the overt cash-in intention of most Jump adapted shows. Yet, seemingly it’s abiding by the crippling flaws of its peers.

    Accusing my opinions of being ‘easy’ when it’s just reasoned criticism (note that I judge it on its own terms, not some heightened intellectual perspective) itself feels like a lazy counter-argument. I’m not out to get Soul Eater because it isn’t the usual pretentious crap I favour – I’m just not going to let its obvious faults slide because ‘that’s how these things are’. Most shounen anime provokes these criticisms. Soul Eater sticks out because, at least initially, it seemed to rise above the lazy tropes and finally do shounen in the badass, flab-free way it should always be done.

  16. @Hige: I guess I see your criticism as a bit like calling a “spade a spade”. Because, as you say, a lot of shonen (fighting) anime provokes this kind of criticism anyway, as it’s a part and parcel of the genre. That’s why I’m saying your stance seems a bit “easy”; it’s the generic stance taken by almost anyone who opposes this brand of shonen anime in the first place. That doesn’t mean your complaints or opinion is any less valid, but knowing all of this coming into Soul Eater, I just wish that you (and IKnight, who has actually dropped the series completely) might be a little more sympathetic to it, especially given the verve and style of presentation. Indeed, I’m quite confident that Soul Eater will be “shonen done right”, but at the same time, my idea of right and wrong compared with yours is slightly mis-matched; I’m more forgiving of (and probably enjoy) a lot of stuff you’re complaining about. To be honest, I can’t disagree with a lot of what you’re saying, but at the same time, I can’t help defending Soul Eater either…

  17. Hmm I have to admit I was really not that impressed with the 3 episodes I saw of Soul Eater. Don’t get me wrong it had a really neat style but the story itself came off as way too generic for me, like I saw it a million times before. I do give credit to Bones for keeping it at 51 episodes and not dragging it out like the other huge Shounen properties but besides that they haven’t done anything that makes it seem any more impressive (except maybe better animation) than any of the other shounen fighting series that are out there. Or maybe I am just not into Shounen as much as I used to be. I am glad you are enjoying it though. Who knows maybe it will end up being better than I expect.

  18. What’s wrong with calling a spade a spade? I don’t like semolina, so I don’t eat it; Soul Eater 4 had a lengthy conversation where there should’ve been a witty action sequence as per the previous three episodes, so I dropped the show. If I see semolina I’m going to avoid it – I intend no disrespect to all the semolina lovers out there, and I hope the semolina’s good quality.

    I’d be more sympathetic to Soul Eater if I had the time and energy to watch everything that’s airing – but I don’t.

  19. Knowing full well that you don’t like semolina, why would you go ahead and eat up four spoonfuls anyway? Seems a bit pointless, and that’s my issue, really. Regardless of whether it’s pink or yellow, semolina always tastes like semolina… For the record, I haven’t had semolina since I was in primary school.

  20. The semolina equates to the ‘lengthy conversation where there should’ve been a witty action sequence’, not the show as a whole. The thing is that the first three spoonfuls weren’t semolina, which is what made the fourth one such a let down: I’d enjoyed three episodes in a row of a long-running shounen action show, which I hadn’t done since marathoning 120 episodes of Bleach a while back, and then . . .

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