Back in the distant past of February 2010, Funimation released the first set of Soul Eater, which I bought. For some reason after watching it I felt like writing a review, and then posting it on the Internet. That was when I got into this whole anime blogging thing. That review is long forgotten and will likely never be shown to anyone, but now I have an opportunity to talk about the show again. It’s interesting to give a second look to a show you’ve (partially) reviewed already, even more so when it’s the first one you reviewed.
The Death Weapon Meister Academy is a school dedicated to educating and training students to hunt down kishin, humans who have started devouring others’ souls to gain more power. The students at this academy are divided into two types: weapons and meisters. Weapons are people with the ability to transform into different kinds of weapons, while meisters are the people trained to use these weapons in combat. If a weapon and meister pair collects 99 kishin souls and one witch’s soul the weapon can become a Death Scythe and gain tremendous power. Maka and her weapon Soul are close to this goal until a mistake results in them having to start all over again. While the two go about hunting down kishin, a more sinister plot is lurking in the shadows.
Right off the bat Soul Eater has one thing going for it that is a very important aspect of any shonen fighting series, the fights are amazing. This is clear from the first fight in the first episode of the series, where Maka and Soul take on a monstrous looking Jack the Ripper. The fight is intense, the choreography is fast paced and fluid, and the fight is actually animated instead of relying on camera tricks and quick cuts. These elements are present in every fight, and they make for great entertainment. This isn’t to say the fights aren’t without their problems though. The problem present with most of them is that they’re too short. The aforementioned fight against Jack the Ripper only lasts about a minute. The fights are amazing and entertaining, but they certainly don’t make up most of the content of the show.
When the show’s heroes aren’t beating the crap out of bad guys in gloriously animated fights, they’re usually engaging in wacky hijinks. It’s times like this where the show delves into the usual shonen tropes and character types that can turn some people away. The main duo consists of Maka, a determined student who takes her studies seriously, and Soul, who slacks off and cares about nothing but looking cool. The most common interaction between the two is Soul saying something rude or stupid and Maka hitting him with a book.
There’s also the ninja Black Star, who one can only hope is meant to be some kind of jab at Naruto. He’s loud, he’s annoying, he stands out despite being a ninja, and he’s always talking about how amazing he is and how he’s destined for greatness. If he’s not a jab at Naruto then he’s just a poorly written, bland character type. His biggest contribution to the comedy is shouting a lot while his weapon, Tsubaki, apologizes for him.
Then there’s Death the Kid, whose quirk is actually kind of funny and not an over-used cliche. He suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, wanting everything to be symmetrical. He can’t focus if he’s in a messy area, and gets angry because the pair of pistols he uses for weapons, Liz and Patty, are different heights, have different hair, and have different breast sizes. Essentially this show is about a group of idiotic males and the women who keep them from getting themselves killed.
Not that the show can’t actually be funny at times. Episodes dealing with the legendary sword Excalibur are good for a laugh or two. The character looks normal enough in his weapon form, but his other form is some strange creature with a top-hat and cane. He has a habit of calling people fools, constantly telling people that his tale dates back to the 12th century, using analogies that are unrelated to the point he’s trying to make, and he has a list of 1000 provisions that must be met in order to use him as a weapon. Aside from that there is the occasional gag that gets a laugh, such as the inappropriate gift Maka gets from her father for doing well on a test, or the Wolfman who keeps messing up his techniques. Sometimes the show manages to be funny, but it doesn’t happen nearly often enough.
Any time not being filled with fights or attempts at humour is used to move the plot forward. Not that there’s much plot for most of this set. In the beginning it’s mostly a series of unrelated stories where one of the pairs goes to fight a random kishin. It’s not until quite a bit later when an actual ongoing plot shows up involving a witch seeking to revive a powerful enemy. It’s nothing really groundbreaking though. There’s really only enough plot as is necessary to get to the characters from one fight to the next. But no one goes into a shonen fighting series expecting to be blown away by the story. It’s like a popcorn movie. You can guess every plot point that’s going to come up, but the series is still good as a piece of entertainment.
Funimation’s dub for the series, like a good number of their dubs, varies quite a bit from the subtitle script. It’s never done to a significant degree, with most of the difference revolving around changing some of the gags in the series. The cast features long-time voice actor Laura Bailey as Maka, and relative newcomer Micah Solusod as Soul. Micah Solusod does a pretty good job overall, but there are a few times where his delivery is a little off. He handles fight scenes well, but his performance for the comedic parts isn’t so great. It’s pretty clear that he’s doing something he doesn’t have much experience with, and it tends to kill some of the comedic flow in certain scenes. The dub also features Todd Haberkorn as Death the Kid, a role which doesn’t have him using his wacky teenager voice like he does in most things he’s in. He actually gets to use some range play a character who gets angry and violent, and does a great job with it. One complaint about casting is that Brittney Karbowski, who voices Black Star, sounds too much like a girl. She does use a deeper and more gruff voice than normal, obviously, but it’s still obvious that he’s played by a woman, and is a clear flaw with the dub. It’s still enjoyable overall, but it does have its problems.
The extras on the set are the usual textless opening and closing, plus trailers. There are also commentaries featuring some of the English dub cast for two episodes. There’s also the “Soul Eater Late Show” which I personally didn’t bother watching, but from what I gather it’s a thing that was aired along with the late night broadcast of the series. So, nothing substantial in the extras.
All in all, Soul Eater is a pretty good show if you’re looking for some quick entertainment to kill a few hours. It has solid fights, the occasional funny gag, and the plot is simple enough that you don’t have to give it too much attention to follow. It does falter with the presence of overused gags, but it’s still a good enough show to waste an hour or two on if your bored some afternoon.
Pros: Great fights, some funny gags, pretty good dub
Cons: Some overused gags, an annoying character or two