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Title:
  Soul Eater Series 1 Part 1

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  15

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  24.99

Episodes:  1-13 (of 51)

Audio Options:  English 2.0; Japanese 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Release Date:  28th June 2010

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)
 

It seems that every couple of months I'm writing about an anime series considered 'the next big thing' by fans, in the past we've had Naruto, Bleach and D.Gray-Man, now we have Soul Eater.

Like Bleach and D.Gray-Man, Soul Eater is set in a supernatural world in which warriors battle fallen souls with the help of living weapons.  Soul Eater is set at the Death Weapon Meister Academy, a special school set up by the Grim Reaper to train agents to battle the threat of fallen souls known as Kishin in his stead.  The pupils at the school fall into two categories, with some having the ability to transform into weapons that the others - called Meisters - train to wield.  Weapons and Meisters act in two-person teams and their aim is to collect 99 Kishin souls and one Witch's soul, an achievement which will grant a weapon sufficient power to transform into a 'Death Scythe', a weapon strong enough to be wielded by Death himself.  The story focuses on three of these Meister-Weapon teams, starting with the earnest Maka and her weapon Soul Eater.  The duo are close to their target and all they require is a witch's soul, but things are never that easy - witches are notoriously powerful and are often far more than trainees can handle, plus the witch they target isn't quite what she seems.  Meanwhile the arrogant and self-aggrandising Meister Black Star and his weapon Tsubaki try to gather souls in their own way, but his need to make grand entrances have left them with not a single soul to their name.  Can they reverse this trend when they encounter a witch and a horde of Kishin enemies?  Finally there's Death The Kid and his weapons Liz & Patty, as the Grim Reaper's son Death The Kid has a huge amount of natural power but decides to attend the Academy even though he doesn't have to.  He is obsessed with symmetry and wields two weapons, which leaves him with twice as many souls to collect as everyone else!  Soul collecting isn't going to be easy for any of them, and there's more than just rogue souls to contend with too.  A scheming witch has infiltrated the Academy and has set her sights on Soul Eater and Maka, whilst Black Star and Tsubaki must face demons from their past.  Add to this several deadly rogue Meisters and ex-teachers and passing exams are the least of the students' worries!
 

Manga have done an excellent job in recent years of grabbing the biggest series, but does Soul Eater live up to the hype?  Well, I can wholeheartedly say that it does.  I have enjoyed many of the big name series that have been hitting the UK over the last few years, but none have really grabbed me from the start like this one does.  Soul Eater is arresting on several levels, boasting excellent animation and music, an interesting and engaging cast of characters and a decent storyline, but it's the series' style that really grabs you.  Whilst

series like Naruto and D.Gray-Man are stylish, they wear their influences on their sleeves to a certain extent.  Soul Eater doesn't really look like anything else, it's gothic and cartoony, creepy yet cute, it feels fresh and unique and this is one of its biggest strengths.

The series starts off with three standalone episodes that introduce each of the main Meister/Weapon partnerships in turn, and give you an insight into their relationship and character.  Maka and Soul are the obvious main character pairing, dedicated and noble and driven by a desire to succeed.  Their introduction as they battle to take down the 'witch' Blair is played largely for laughs, but there's an emotional edge to the encounter that reveals Maka's pain at her parents' divorce.  Her and Soul's fears and struggles are slowly revealed as the volume continues, providing pretty much the main emotional hook for the series so far.  In comparison the other leading characters seem pretty caricatured, with the annoyingly brash and self-important Black Star seemingly little more than a comedy character with the long-suffering and good-natured Tsubaki as his 'straight man'.  However, once again the series gradually reveals them to be more than they first appear with Tsubaki showing grit and determination to face a terrible foe and Black Star showing that he's more than just a braggart.  In fact Black Star is probably the most interesting character so far, he's initially quite annoying but as details of his background are revealed and he starts to demonstrate both his skills and determination he swiftly becomes one of the best things in the series.  At the moment it's Death The Kid who's the least developed and his obsession with symmetry is initially a bit overdone as a running gag.  Again though he becomes a more interesting character as the series progresses and tantalising glimpses into how he became Liz and Patty's Meister hint at plenty more to come from him.
 

If Soul Eater has a real flaw it's that it is occasionally a bit predictable, relies heavily on running gags and focuses on the main characters so strongly that the other Academy pupils aren't even drawn in properly!  Although fitting with the series' style it must be said that it seems a bit lazy to leave background characters as outlines when the other characters are so well realised.  There are a few plot holes in the story (how can everyone fail to notice an undercover witch in the Academy when she looks exactly the same as a

powerful witch and has the same name?), but as a whole everything holds together well and even the pratfalls and daft slapstick comedy doesn't feel out-of-place.   The action is superb too, with the simple Kishin hunts from the first few episodes soon being replaced by more challenging opponents against which a weapon and Meister's full abilities are required.  Many of the series side characters, such as the Grim Reaper, nutcase scientist Doctor Stein and Maka's estranged father Death Scythe are well realised, but it's the blend of comedy, action and drama that this series has down to a fine art.

Soul Eater Series 1 Part 1 is the best start to a major anime series I have seen for a fair while.  The characters are great, the story decent and the animation and visuals are absolutely superb.  The series combines comedy, drama and action to much better effect than pretty much any other major teen anime I can think of, and for once the stench of abysmal comedy episodes and the dreaded filler is absent - at least at this point!  The characters are interesting and the series has a great sense of fun, it's never afraid to make fun at itself and this helps Soul Eater become one of the most entertaining and enjoyable series of the year so far.  It may look daft and you may find Black Star and Death The Kid to be pretty annoying to start with, but there's a lot more to this series than it at first seems.  Entertaining, good looking and impressive Soul Eater is a perfect example of how style can be married to content and is a must buy when it hits our shelves in June !

Extras:

The usual trailers and clean opening and closing segments are joined by a number of 'late show' TV spots which were added to the late night screenings of the series in Japan.  There's also an audio commentary for episode 7, not bad at all.

Ratings

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