Manga-ka: Atsushi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2009
Synopsis: “Maka is a weapon meister, determined to turn her partner, a living scythe named Soul Eater, into a powerful death scythe — the ultimate weapon of Death himself! Charged with the task of collecting and devouring the tainted souls of ninety-nine humans and one witch, Maka and her fellow meisters strive to master their weapons as they face off against the bizarre and dangerous minions of the underworld. But the meisters’ own personal quirks may prove a bigger obstacle than any sultry enchantress!”
Sporting a scythe wielding young girl next to a witch with a grinning Jack o’Lantern as the background on an otherwise sparse-white canvas – and with just as many ghouls, guises and grins on the inside, you’d be hard pressed to find something more festive than Soul Eater during Halloween night. Granted, you’d easily be able to find something scarier than this, but if you’re looking for the energy of Halloween embodied in something other than having your pants scared off, then this may be the book you’re looking for.
Coming close on the heels of his previous series, B.Ichi, Soul Eater is a more polished but still fundamentally flawed work in many ways. While the story oozes style, it still feels a little too scattered to fully take advantage of its own charisma.
The first three chapters act as prologues to the plot of the series – each one follows a different portion of the story’s lead cast. Readers are also given this opportunity to get a general idea of how this strange world works, or at least how this cast of characters works within it.
Chapter one introduces Maka, a focused and driven young woman who utilizes a large scythe to cut down her foes. Her scythe however has a humanoid form named Soul Eater, and the two of them are working together in order to collect enough human souls to have Soul transform into an even great weapon rivaling that of Death-himself. Up against their 99th soul, all that’s left for them is to consume the soul of a powerful witch to finally achieve their goal.
Meanwhile in chapter two, we’re introduced to Black Star – an obnoxious and rather oblivious boy who battles with his two-bladed chain weapon – who’s also a busty ninja with a rather shy but dedicated disposition. Black Star is easily one of the most immediately annoying characters to learn about as he speaks his assassin mantras out loud while simultaneously going against them. His story begins with an assassination attempt until we learn that he and his weapon Tsubaki are after the same goal as Maka and Soul.
The same goes for the next character as well, Death the Kid, a serious-faced, suit-clad young man who has an uncontrollable need to have everything around him be symmetric. His eccentricity is pretty over the top at times but at the same feels pretty sympathetic for us perfectionists out there. He wields twin guns, who naturally take human forms of busty young woman, and while also out to collect enough human souls to attain a greater power, he also has the role of Death’s son to live up to.
Once the characters are introduced, they start overlapping in order to begin the actual linear plot. It’s a pretty good introduction to the series but also leaves a lot of pressure on volume two to really show what kind of direction it’s going to take. The art is also more consistent than it was in B.Ichi, continuing a positive trend, but it’s still an acquired-taste kind of art style, occasionally looking cluttered despite the sparseness of the backgrounds, and sporting some weirdly wide-faced characters.
Both comedy and fan-service play a large role in Soul Eater, which will be hit or miss attributes here depending on the reader. It still can’t be denied however that there’s a great sense of energy amidst the more chaotic moments of the story, which sometimes make it a little hard to follow exactly what’s going on. But, while it’s a bit rough around the edges, volume one proves entertaining enough to warrant honest curiousity of the second, eager to see the series find a solid foothold in its plot now that the characters have had their individual spotlights with some fairly fun results.