A few days ago, I finished with my first rewatch of the BONES series Soul Eater, and I must say that, as with many good pieces of art, a review of something already experienced is almost always a good thing. As we age and grow, our perceptions of the world and the art we experience change. Now, I won’t say that I emerged from my rewatch of Soul Eater with a totally new understanding of the show. However, I was able to draw forth some new pieces and new nuances to the show that I had missed before. I also took time in the middle of the rewatch to read the manga, which was an interesting experience in comparisons. But I want to review the 51-episode anime series, which is one of my top 10 anime, and tell you why you should take the time to watch Soul Eater.
Soul Eater is focused on three sets of main characters, headed up by our main protagonist, Maka Albarn and her partner, the titular character Soul Eater Evans. They are joined by Death the Kid, with his partners Liz and Patty Thompson, as well as the outrageous Blackstar and the ever flexible Tsubaki. Maka, Kid and Blackstar as classified as meisters, which makes them weapon-wielders, while Soul, Liz, Patty and Tsubaki are humans with the genetic ability to transform into weapons (a scythe, twin pistols and a ninja sword, respectively). The anime sets itself up in the first three episodes to be a quest type plot, where the three sets of characters must collect 99 evil souls and the soul of a witch to transform their weapons into Death Scythes, the personal weapons of Lord Death, or Shinigami, as he is known in the Japanese. However, their quest quickly expands to become a much more global conflict.
After my first watch of Soul Eater, my basic impression of the show was that it was a ton of fun and filled with an almost hyperactive energy. However, upon the rewatch, I came away with a much different opinion of the show. Although the action, animation and pacing are excellent, and although the show truly does brim with energy, it’s not as out-of-control as it may seem. There are some truly stunning moments of emotion, when the impact of what’s happening suddenly dawns on you and there’s nothing left to do but gasp.
Soul Eater‘s best quality is, perhaps, the focus on souls and their interactions with each other. It may be occurring in a fantasy setting, but the real life implications are, well, real. As a first time watcher, I struggled to understand the timeline of real time event mixed in with internal conversations, but that’s a tribute to the writing. The transitions between speaking souls and actual speaking are done so smoothly that they border on indistinguishable, which is, of course, exactly how that should be done.
This focus on souls naturally lends itself to tackling some deeper questions about the human spirit, allowing the audience access to multiple internal dialogues and struggles within the characters. Crona, Stein and Soul’s individual struggles are the ones that have remained with me, but there are other good ones as well. Beyond intrapersonal struggles, the concept of resonance, or harmonizing the souls’ wavelengths, is a beautiful metaphor for an acceptance and understanding of other people.
Finally, the characters that inhabit this show are notable because of their immense diversity. Each has their own unique strengths and weakness, which are explored pretty thoroughly throughout the 51-episode series. I also appreciate some side characters getting significant development (Professor Stein being the foremost of these). Even more artistically, Lord Death is left as a relative mystery all the way through the show, which is very appropriate. As the incarnation of death, he is symbol; thus, leaving his character fairly undeveloped allows him to stay a symbol until the very end.
In part 2 of the review, which will be found here, I will review some of the more objective aspects of the show (artwork, action, etc.), as well as coughing up the reasons to watch.
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