Manga-ka: Atsushi Okubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: February 2012
Synopsis: “While Black☆Star and Tsubaki keep Mifune and Mosquito distracted, Sid is able to locate Arachnophobia’s demon tool and put an abrupt end to their sinister plans. But though the evil organization won’t be manipulating anyone’s morality anytime soon, the blueprints for the dangerous tool are sealed away in Shinigami-sama’s secret vault rather than destroyed. Surely Shinigami-sama would never think of constructing a demon tool himself?!”
My experience with Soul Eater before reading this volume is, I must admit, a tad limited. I know of the series mostly by reputation and have read a chapter of it in YenPlus. But beyond that, I went into this volume with very little knowledge beyond what I could find on Wikipedia. It’s a challenge I’ve faced before as a reviewer but I find that can be interesting in its own way, since you can really look at how a single volume stands on its own, more so than if you are seeing it as just part of a whole.
One thing I did recall from my previous experience with the series was the distinctive art style which is in full force in volume eight. Of particular note are the designs for the sun and the moon, which never failed to bring a smile to my face. I especially liked the last page of The Bodyguard (Part 2), the first chapter collected here because of how visually striking it is, different than anything I have seen in manga before.
The art continued to play a factor in the action scenes, which were generally easy to follow. The art is clean and crisp and character designs are unique, especially in the case of Shinigami-sama. And when Okubo really gets going with the facial expressions, they are just so expressive and exaggerated in all the right ways. I have nothing but praise for how this volume looks … which is unfortunate, since the content being illustrated is not half as memorable or interesting.
The story starts with a fight and as the volume goes there are many more of them, be they big battles or classroom skirmishes. While obviously lots of fighting is to be expected in a shounen title, to me it was too battle heavy and lighter on the plot and character development, at least for the heroes’ side of the story.
It doesn’t help that the first half of this volume is focusing on Black☆Star, a character whose personality is as obnoxious as his name. Characters like these frustrate me, at least until they undergo character arcs and become less hot-headed. Given that this is volume eight though, I would have hoped such development might have happened already or at least show signs of starting. Alas, this was not the case that I could tell. The second half deals more with Death the Kid, who was a much easier character for me personally to read, but even what happened in this story struck me as fairly run-of-the-mill.
Story-wise, the one area that did shine quite well was the villians’ story. Without giving too much away, there were some scenes that were extremely creepy and unsettling on this side of the story, something which again allowed the art to shine. And the two main villains in the volume had some of the best dialogue between them, really showing different personalities bouncing off each other.
Actually, the everyday dialogue was one area where the writing did hold its own throughout. It really demonstrated the relationships between this fair-sized cast, enough that I was able to come away with a decent grasp on the various relationships. The only flaw in the conversations was that they sometimes have a bit too much exposition, yet even then the character voices really shone.
In the end, I get the feeling that this volume is mostly padding. There are some important plot points but clearly the big stuff is in other volumes. The story is fairly generic but the art saves it and because of it I do feel like I could recommend the series as a whole, as long as you don’t expect every moment to be edge-of-your-seat entertainment.
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes