For this week’s Manga Mondays, let’s talk Soul Eater, ladies and gentlepersons. Soul Eater by Okubo Atsushi follows Maka Albarn, a young student at the Death Weapon Meister Academy, who is training with her companion Soul ‘Soul Eater’ Evans in order to fight the evil forces in the world. The school is run by Death himself, and welcomes two types of students: humans with the ability to transform into some deadly weapon, and humans who resonate with the weapon-students and can wield them in battle.
These evil forces are called kishin eggs, and they’re seeds of evil or hatred that corrupt humans and have their basis in the series main villainous force, Asura the Kishin (basically it means bad spirit). Sort of like the devil, he feeds on the weakness in human hearts and drives people crazy; the students at the DWMA are out to stop him. On the way they fight many other bad guys including witches, traitor teachers, and their own weaknesses to become stronger. Any student duo or trio that can collect one hundred kishin eggs and the soul of a witch becomes a Death Scythe, meaning that they are deemed strong enough to be wielded by Lord Death himself.
Soul Eater is awesome for a lot of reasons:
The good characters, both female and male, are awesome and kick-ass. The main character is a strong, independent, driven young woman who is not sexualized or objectified (she usually wears a short skirt, but never is subjected to upskirts or panty shots , and she’s shown in more than one outfit). Maka has plenty of friends but no romantic interests, allowing it to be an awesome story about kicking demon butt rather than just another mediocre offering. Maka (and in fact all the characters) are well developed with flaws and goals (Death the Kid is obsessive-compulsive to the point that it interferes in his fights; Blackstar is desperate to become the strongest in the school and to overcome his family’s bad reputation as brutal assassins.) The supporting cast of students and teachers is excellent as well, bringing both hilarious and heartwarming moments throughout. One great thing about all their interactions is that there’s never any concern about gender differences in the group. One of their favorite pastimes is playing basketball together, for example, rather than a split where the girls go shopping and the guys do sports or anything like that. There’s a pretty equal distribution between the weapons and wielders as far as gender is concerned as well so there’s no intimation that either role is dominant or submissive in the group.
The bad guys are also awesome. The main baddie, the Kishin, is scary as crap. The two witches who are also basically main baddies, Medusa and Arachne (bit of a Greek theme here) are pretty badass too, wielding (respectively) snake and spider powers (shocking with those names, right?) and a significant creep factor.
There are also a few traitors from the DWMA (who I obviously won’t list here) as well as some characters who consistently operate in a grey area, with whom you’re never quite sure where their loyalty lies. Even Maka on a few occasions chooses the moral low ground or opens herself up to the Kishin’s madness in order to win a fight. (A refreshing change from series like Naruto where the ‘good guy’ ninjas prefer to fight honorably face to face rather than, you know, being a frickin’ ninja.)
On a more meta level, the art style is another refreshing change, this time from the standard shounen manga style, and the color pages often have an awesome graffiti-inspired chaos to them.
Also, it has canon genderbending, I kid you not.
Soul Eater’s main weakness lies more in its plot than its characterization – sometimes it seems like the gang is going on missions that just don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things, or that the battles are focusing too much on the supporting cast. The Soul Eater anime is over sadly but the manga (the important part in this segment!) is still ongoing. The current arc is sort of jumping on the anime/video game bandwagon of THE MOON being a key part in a villain’s plan (see Naruto, Gurren Lagann, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Fairy Tail, etc.) so I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it also seems like it’s gearing up to be the final battle, which I’m looking forward to. I recommend you check it out as well!