ANIME & MANGA - Review
09:00 - 29th June 2013, by David West

Soul Eater - Complete Series Box Set

Want to fight evil and save the world? Then enrol now at the Death Weapon Meister Academy, where you'll learn how to battle monsters with your chosen partner, who just happens to transform into a magical weapon, all under the watch of Death himself, the Grim Reaper. Collect enough evil souls and you too can graduate into a rewarding career in the demon-vanquishing business.

The heroes of this tale of warriors-in-training are Maka and her partner Soul Eater, the gregarious and brash Black Star and his more demure counterpart Tsubaki, and last but not least, Death The Kid and his two partners Liz and Patty, who morph into a pair of shiny handguns. Perhaps predictably for a shonen anime, the boys get more screen time than the girls. Black Star is one of those slightly wearying staples of shonen anime who prefers to shout rather than speak and who has an unfortunate habit of constantly going on about his own greatness and whose butt he is going to kick next. Imagine Naruto on too many Redbulls. In comparison, Maka and Tsubaki are quiet and demure. While it would be exhausting if all the characters possessed the same manic intensity as Black Star, the girls can seem flat and stronger personalities would help redress the balance away from the boys.

Death The Kid has an unusual obsession with symmetry and tends to gush whenever he sees anything that fits his personal ideal of balanced lines and perfectly matching parts. His father is perhaps the campest incarnation of the Grim Reaper yet brought to the screen and for the incarnation of death itself, he's not likely to strike terror into the hearts of his opponents.

The script is packed with historical and literary references - one of the teachers at the Academy is Professor Franken Stein, King Arthur's famous sword Excalibur turns out to be an intolerable bore, and some of the bad guys that the students dispatch include Al Capone and Jack The Ripper, although the latter two seem to bear no relation to their famous namesakes besides being evil and stinky.

Adapted from the manga by Atsuhi Okubo and brought to the screen by BONES, Soul Eater has style and visual flair aplenty. The Sun and Moon are twisted faces in the sky, hanging over a world of freaky architecture, stylish outfits and sharp haircuts. Sadly the script and direction are not up to the same high level.

The first three episodes of the series are entirely devoted to introducing the principal cast and while the action scenes are fun, if not outstanding, the dialogue is weighty and cumbersome. Filler episodes abound - episode 40 consists entirely of people standing around talking, punctuated only by panty jokes. The comedy draws heavily on the anime staples of boob grabs, nosebleeds and characters over-reacting and generally yelling more than is strictly necessary. At the risk of sounding prurient, for a show that seems aimed at adolescents, is all that fanservice really necessary? Or appropriate?

Too much chattering and not enough battering. Soul Eater is a solid shonen action show, but lacks the knockout power to go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of the genre like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Naruto Shippuden. The series deserves bonus points for good design though. If you have been looking for a wackier version of Bleach, this is it.
SCORE: 3/5
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