You've undoubtedly heard about a little show called Soul Eater by this point. If you haven't then you really haven't been paying much attention to the world of anime. There's been so much hype backing this show since it hit the airwaves in Japan that it was only inevitable the show would find its way to America. Originally created as a manga back in 2003 by Atsushi Ohkubo, the book has been doing very well, but a 51 episode animation sealed the deal and since then several games have come out. FUNimation grabbed the license for release here in the States and today we're looking at their first collection with 13 episodes on two DVDs.
Just what's the show all about? Well, if I had to compare it to another series I'd actually say it's a little like Bleach in a way, but in fairness to Soul Eater it's really its own entity. The set up is original, the characters are fresh, and all around the show oozes personality and creativity. You're not really going to find another show like it, though there are some elements that may leave you reminiscing about other anime.
Soul Eater takes place in an alternate reality where Death runs his own school called the "Death Weapon Meister Academy". Here he and other monster types train humans to work in pairs in order to collect souls. One person is a Death Meister who wields a powerful weapon, while the other actually turns into the weapon. Together they make a formidable team, but their mission is to transform the weapon into a Death Scythe which only happens when they collect 99 regular souls and then the soul of a witch. Right out of the gate the show sets up the premise and goal for the characters which is definitely a good thing. Thankfully the personality of the cast, and outlandish brand of humor, come together to complete the package.
The show more or less focuses primarily on the duo of meister Maka Albarn and her partner, Soul Eater. They are the students who see the most action and are quite interesting to watch. Despite that focus other meisters and weapons such as Death the Kid and his twin guns Liz and Patty, and Black Star with his partner Tsubiki also get plenty of time in the spotlight. The balance is handled quite well in these early episodes and each group stands out for their own reasons.
Maka, for instance, is primarily all business while Soul seems to just have a good time in her hands. Death the Kid is obsessed with symmetry and Liz and Patty more or less play along, helping him out when he goes on one of his tirades. Black Star is an obnoxious Naruto ninja type who boasts a lot, but when the chips are down he shows he has the skill to finish the job. Tsubiki feels like she's stuck with the kid and at the beginning they have absolutely no success with harvesting souls because of Black Star's foolishness. The episodes vary greatly depending on which group they focus on simply because of the difference in the teamwork dynamic.
As far as what happens in the 13 episodes in this first half? Well, they are rather episodic in some regards though the storylines are often broken up over the course of two episodes. The first three episodes of the series focus on each of the pairings as we're introduced to them and see what they're all about. Shortly thereafter there's an episode where one of the teachers was turned into a zombie by another. Maka, Soul, Black Star, and Tsubiki are charged with taking him down due to their lack of souls. It turns out there's more at play here and the storyline continues into the very next episode.
From here on out the rest of the 13 episodes focus on one assignment or another. The scope of the playing field changes with some shakeups to the cast, but other than the introduction of characters nothing really dramatic happens. Soul Eater is kept light and upbeat with an emphasis on style. It's wholly entertaining, hilarious, and packed with some incredibly cool action. If you're looking for a solid action series with a great personality then you'll definitely want to give this one a shot. Highly Recommended!
Soul Eater is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio that has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. One of the first things you'll notice when watching this show is that it's probably one of the most vibrant and dynamic series to come along in quite some time. Everything pops here and it draws you in with the marvelous palette that was employed. The designs in the show are unique and all around the animation is very good. From a technical standpoint the transfer is solid with very little grain and only a couple moments where aliasing creeps in. Otherwise this show is awesome looking!
Equally good is the audio package which features Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 surround. Both dubbing casts do a phenomenal job here and quite frankly I didn't have a favorite out of the two. Technically speaking the English track stands out with more use of the soundstage and nice implementation of the rear channels. The Japanese 2.0 is no slouch in quality, but in terms of directionality it's relatively flat.
For bonus features there are some trailers, clean animations, and a commentary track for the seventh episode. As one might expect the commentary track is more entertaining than it is informative, but it's still worth checking out once you finish watching this set. There's also something called "Soul Eater Late Show" which is a collection of 13 mini animated clips with some random content. It's basically an additional bit of animation that aired with the episodes in Japan.
Soul Eater is a ton of fun. This first installment gets things going on the right foot with a great premise, early pieces of a larger storyline, and some absolutely outstanding visuals. It's a hit all around in my opinion and the second installment can't get here soon enough! Don't wait on this one! Move it to the front of your "to watch" anime list and consider it highly recommended!
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