I started watching Soul Eater a few months ago; I thought the bizarre character designs and the series' world as a whole were charming (to a degree), but it just didn't click with me and I ended up quitting it after only 5 episodes. Then I finished up a few other high profile shows from the previous Japanese television season and had to find something new to watch or I'd go into animation withdrawal again... The last time this happened I ended up in the hospital with 6 types of diabetes after consuming 32 boxes of Ding Dongs, 100 boxes of Twinkies, and 250 Hostess Fruit Pies in a 28-hour window. Lord knows my pancreas can't handle that kind of shock again, so I picked up where I left off with Studio Bones' 51-episode most recent opus, Soul Eater.
In case you didn't get your fill with either Death Note or Bleach, guess what, lucky duck! Soul Eater is yet another anime based on the overused concept of Shinigamis (aka Grim Reapers)! Yays! At least there're no "homunculi" in it... Soul Eater ia a special mix of Bleach and Harry Potter plot, with character designs reminiscent of One Piece — it's very strangely fucked up at first glance. And even at second, third, fourth, and fifth glances. The background of this show is this: Shinigama-sama (the main Grim Reaper himself) has created a city (Death City), a school (the Shibusen School), and a secret squad of black-ops reapers and living weapons (the Shibusen Organization) in which to house, train, and use the talents of powerful weapon meisters and their human/weapon hybrid partners in order to find and take down the impure, deranged souls of bad men and witches (who are mainly all bitches) running around our world today. The witches have different plans though, and one in particular has her eyes set on releasing a madness upon the planet that will be the ruin of not only Shinigami-sama, but his entire institution, and maybe even *gasp* the sanity of all of mankind!
There are three main groups of Shibusen School students that we follow in this series: the tough and no-nonsense Maka and her partner/scythe, Soul; the partially retarded ninja Black Star and his partner/transforming-ninja-weapon Tsubaki; and Death the Kid (Shinigami-sama's son) and his partners, Liz and Patty THOMPSON, who can turn into TWIN(S) guns. We follow each of their paths fairly equally, but it's still obvious that Maka and Soul are the true main heroes of the story... Which is just as well because if the mongoloid Black Star was the real lead I wouldn't have given this thing anything more than a quick glance before buying a dog just for the sake of having my new pet take a gigantico numero deuce on it. But I digress. So we follow these kids as they progress through their classes and their "extra curricular" activities, which mainly involve hunting down evil doers so that the weapon/person of the group can swallow their soul ("Swallow their SOUL!"), and hopefully someday become a Death Scythe (or basically an "uber weapon" that's pretty much unstoppable), and then things'll be super forever and ever.
That's pretty much the basic set-up of this thing. You've seen it all before (in every Shonen Fighting Show ever made): plucky group of diverse protagonists all go to a specialty school (or just gather in order to train, or whatever) for their uber-talents, they get tangled up in a terrible situation way beyond their control, but they keep growing more powerful with each battle until, in the end, only THEY can take down the big bad that for some reason or another their teachers and once-protectors cannot. SSDD... But there are some characters in this thing that made me forget all that and actually enjoy this series for the small bit of fun diversion that it provides... For a while at least. Then this thing became sooooooo by-the-numbers in its last 20 episodes (complete with an 11-part, dragged on, each-protagonist-matches-up-with-his/her-counterpart-in-the-enemy-ranks-then-the-main-hero(es)-goes-head-to-head-with-the-main-bad-guy-before-the-giant-dance-party finalé. Seriously, if I spoiled ANYTHING for you just then you really need to watch more anime. You cannot call yourself a geek if you haven't seen that exact same cookie-cutter plot at least a dozen times before).
Even more spoilers follow
And this lazy storytelling sucks, because up till about episode 30 of this thing I was kept guessing as to where it was going and how it would end. After episode 30 I would have shit myself in surprise if it ended any differently than I prophesied.
So we have a ragtag group of superpowerful baddies (being led by the worst mother in the history of the world, Medusa the witch) out to free one of Shinigami-sama's enemies who's an ancient, powerful, and once trusted subordinate of the big guy (who's now being held prisoner in the bowels of Death City in a sack made out of his own skin), and they're opposed by the good guys who seem to be outgunned and out maneuvered at every turn. Really, Medusa was such a great tactician in the way she planned everything out — even to the point of making Dr. Franken Stein (the most badass teacher since Fujisawa-sensei or Onizuka) go absolutely insane with Asura the Kishen's (the prisoner in his own skin) ability to cause madness in others. Then soon after Medusa's group frees the Kishen, and Medusa's emo daughter defects to the Shibusen side, we get a third player dropping into this whole thing, the uber-witch (and recently resurrected) Arachne. Soon it was all 3 sides against each other, and even up through this revelation and the subsequent battles I was still sort of digging it, even despite its trend to be "typically shonen"... but then came that 11-episode ending. Honestly, 11 episodes is a LOT of time to tell a LOT of story exposition, UNLESS you're emulating Naruto or Dragon Ball Z. In this final story arc Soul Eater does its best to drrrrrraaaaaaaag oooooooooooon ONE battle to the point of ridiculousness. You think the Haruhi Endless Eight anime episodes are painful? Think back to the Goku vs. Buu fight. That's pretty much what happens here. And I am terribly sad because of it.
This is a total shame because I really liked most of the characters: Maka, Soul, Patti, Liz, Death the Kid, Tsubaki, Shinigami-sama, Sid (the zombie Rambo teacher at Shibusen), Maka's gigolo father, and even Eruka (Medusa's frog-themed witch-pawn totally under her thumb). Yeah, I thought Black Star was a retarded and annoying moron, but I could ignore him. And I simply loved to loathe Medusa — biggest cunt of a villain I've seen in a long time, but played perfectly evil. I really liked everybody's interactions and seeing all their powers and skills in motion (and generally animated fan-fucking-tastically!), and the flow of things from learning about the world (and the quest of the Shibusen to take out all the bitchy witches) to seeing both good and bad guys' plans come to fruition... Then it all turns into a been-there, done-that, three-month-long (well, in original broadcast time), boring final brawl. Honestly, if you don't have enough plot to fill out a 51-episode season, folks, stop it at episode 42 or 43. Your audience will thank you for it.
Oh, and the "Big Threat" to the second half of this show was the Global Madness brought on by Asura's insanity and Arachne's amplifying devices... But the ONLY person to ever feel its effect was Dr. Stein, and that's 'cause he was fucking bonkers to begin with, and he really only succumbed to the insanity because of Medusa's fucking with him even more. It was like we were told that there was this threat, but never showed it, and never shown its impact on more than one person, let alone an entire city, country, or world. It's hard to get nervous about something like that when you never see anything happen to let you know that the bad guys' plans are really dangerous.
Also, I knew Shinigami-sama would fail in his fight with Asura, and I knew exactly how. I also knew who it would come down to in the end for the final brawl. No surprises, no twists, and a dragged out finalé. I still enjoyed it despite its lack of any interesting plot twists, but it could have been so much more instead of just a carbon copy of everything that's come before it. At least there wasn't a 5-episode power-up mini-series leading up to the last fight... But there was one Raiders of the Lost Ark-like scene in episode 50 that absolutely made it worth my while for sticking with this seen-it, done-it, boned-it end chapter. Remember when Indy's in Cairo looking for the captured Marion, and that swordsman clears the crowd and starts swinging his weapon around like a maniac but Indy just pulls his gun and shoots him? Well, a sort of reverse of that occurs and it is awesome. Urgh... But then the relevance of that attack is negated some 2 minutes later. Booooo! Hissssss!
My last gripe (well, I'll probably find more, but the last for now) of Soul Eater is as follows, but it's a big one: They make such a huge deal that Maka's mom is so powerful, and Maka misses her so much while she's out traveling the world doing God knows what, and she's the reason Maka's got such potential... but we never even see her or find out who she really is. It just felt like a huge chunk of necessary information was missing from this thing. Her postcard is even the main reason why Maka's able to rise to the occasion in the crowning episode, which brings me to the final-final-final attack. That was a nice touch. It wasn't a power-up or a cop-out, and most importantly it made a kind of sense... I think... Fuck, I don't know. I finished it up at 3:32AM on a Sunday morning. It made sense to me then... but then it pissed me off again because it just ends.. None of the multitude of sub characters gets a solid ending past the three main groups of Shibusen students. What about the tons of other students? What about Maka's dad and Dr. Stein? Crona? Marie? Hell, even Eruka, Free, and the Mizune sisters? Nothing. They ALL got the shaft. What grinds my gears is this thing was only 51 episodes; they could have easily made it an even 52 and given us a very satisfying wrap-up. But no, the big bad is beaten in the last minute of airtime, and then roll an unexciting credits sequence. Pisser.
Meh. We'll say the spoilers are over now. Pussy.
The animation budget for this thing was huge for the most part; the character designs are strange to look at at times, but they move very fluidly, and the battles are fast and powerful. The opening songs are catchy too... Nothing more to that last thought, I just remembered that I like them. All in all it was a decent show with some solid ideas, but goddammit did it drop the ball in the end! Granted, I like epic and huge endings as much as the next guy, but only when a lot of shit happens during them. I'm usually very satisfied with a well-paced, tight, 2 or 3 episode grand finalé, especially when they FINISH UP THE STORY in the time alotted. 11 drawn-out eps though with only a faint shadow of a conclusion? Jesus... And once again, after some of the fun innovations that they played with earlier they resorted to the clichéd as hell fighting anime fallback crutch of every hero has his/her equally matched baddie to face (and they even used the "two warriors run at each other and swing their swords as they pass... Then 5 seconds later one falls!" shot too!). I DETEST that kind of sloppy storytelling (and they actually pulled that one twice — once for 6 episodes at the halfway point, then for the 11 at the end). I thought Soul Eater was so far beyond that crap. And by that time in the series it just becomes so obvious that every hero is going to win his fight, and that the final big bad will be taken down by the group that's grown the most (and is the only one capable of stopping him!!!111!1one!). Christ...
Finally! A female anime character who's not a total bitch or a floozy. This Macha girl in this Soul Eater show (whose title sounds a bit too much like the name of Harry Potter's enemies) really won me over quickly. She's smart, tough, and very loyal, and I love how even though she's partnered with and is friends with that kid with the sharp teeth who turns into a reaper scythe, they're not automatically a couple. They're just buddies. I liked Macha's Sam Malone-like daddy too, and that guy with the stripes in his hair with the two blonde girls who are his guns. I liked pretty much everybody, even that blue-haired ninja guy that my brother really dislikes. Maybe I like him just because of that. Who knows.
This was a long one though, and it was kind of hard to get through because of that. Really? 50 episodes? My brother tells me it could have been worse, seeing as there are shows that are over 300 and some even 500 episodes long! But honestly I wouldn't have stuck any of those out. Really? 500? How much paint do they go through during those productions? And those poor animators. They must be bored out of their minds drawing the same characters 30 times a second, for 250 hours worth of material for these half hour shows. That's crazy. They're crazy. I want no part of it.
Oh joy... Another anime about the supernatural. Only this time, the only likeable character in this entire series, that purple-haired cat-witch with the huge rack, barely got any screen time and didn't even have an ending to herself. Skip it. Save yourself 25 hours of your life. Thank me for it later. Tell you what, because I just saved you all that time, go burn down a Scientology Center in my name. Thanks.