FUNimation continues to nail the majority of major licenses coming out of Japan. Their latest release, Soul Eater, is certainly one of those intelligent acquisitions. The show started out as a manga by Atsushi Ohkubo back in 2003 and became a 51 episode animation in 2008. The series became very popular in Japan and thus created a lot of buzz for its release here in the States. We've already seen the first 13 episodes of the show, but today we're looking at the second batch of episodes.
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 first chunk of episodes balanced the focus of the cast pretty well, so the larger than average collection of characters doesn't hurt in the least.
The first 13 episodes introduced us to the world and characters, and also set the episodic pattern of two-part storylines. The first three gave us a chance to get to learn who everyone was and afterwards the show focused on a mission of the week (or two, if you will). Nothing major really happened from this point and really the show just follows the characters as they go on different assignments. It was entertaining though and provided plenty of laughs and action. The same can be said for the second collection, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
This volume begins with the students being given a big important test. Black Star gets caught cheating and is made an example of, and Soul doesn't do much better in that regard. Maka comes out on top and receives an awkward gift from her father as congratulations. The next two episodes focus on Death the Kid as he tackles a Black Dragon, and from there the show brings back Medusa, Crona, and Ragnarok in the subsequent episodes. There's quite a lot of action in each and everyone gets a chance to get in on the fight. Personally I enjoyed some of the development between Maka and Soul here, but the Black Star content was as entertaining as one would expect given his goofy ninja attitude.
Probably the best thing in this installment is the introduction of Asura, a demon god, who used to work for Death. He's basically the embodiment of madness and has been imprisoned beneath Death City for a quite some time. He emerges here and is given a proper introduction, leaving his uses as an antagonist wide open in the future of the program. It's unclear how his character will be used at this point, but considering the build up you just know he's going to play an important role.
Soul Eater continues to be incredible fun. The characters are wild, the premise is inventive, and all around the show just screams "cool". With that being said there's not a lot here that happens with much continuity, but if you're okay with some episodic adventures then you'll have a blast watching this show. This is a solid action series with a great personality and comes 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 23rd 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 another installment of "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.
Sure it's mostly shut-your-brain-off-at-the-door entertainment, but I'll be damned if Soul Eater isn't a lot of fun to watch. The show has explosive energy and great sense of self with lively characters and tons of action. The animation is ridiculously fluid with many scenes here that truly pop from a visual standpoint. The episodic pattern is par for the course, and quite honestly since the storylines are generally broken up over two episodes it doesn't feel dry at all. If you missed the first volume definitely check it out. This show is a must see!