Soul Eater: Part Two
Series: Soul Eater: Part Two
Release date: 26th July 2010
Running time: 325 mins
Director: Takuya Igarashi
Starring: Chiaki Omigawa, Kouki Uchiyama, Akeno Watanabe, Emiri Katou, Houko Kuwashima
Directed and designed by the same creative team that brought us the cult-hit Fullmetal Alchemist, the second instalment of Soul Eater arrives on these shores to an army of expectant anime fans.
Soul Eater takes place in the Death Weapon Meister Academy. Here we follow the exploits of one class of students as they strive to understand the full extent of their powers. But this is a complex matter in Death City, where people can morph into weaponry, and the resonance of one’s soul can become a matter of life and death. For the students to progress to the level of Death Scythe, they must collect the souls of ninety-nine humans and one witch, the witches being the death meister’s mortal enemy.
Matters complicate further when the head of the academy, Lord Death, reveals that there is a terrible Kishan (demon) sleeping underneath the grounds of the institute. The city is attacked by a tribe of witches who seek to unleash the Kishan, and soon student and master are having to band together to save the world from a selection of terrifying and surreal enemies.
With each episode, more is revealed about our characters and just how unstable they actually are. Head lecturer Dr. Frankenstein begins to reveal his psychotic nature, the Demon Sword becomes trapped in his own self-loathing, and Lord Death’s son is increasingly incapacitated by his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder…
The first episode on this release sets this series up like it’s going to be a goth-lite version of Naruto. Just another in a long line of disappointing and lacklustre anime shows. Its mix of ‘school-life’ melodrama and ultra-violent swordplay seem like a desperate attempt to hook in that all important teenage audience. But patience is rewarded, and as soon as the introductions are over, Soul Eater comes thrillingly to life.
Critics of anime will always refer to the use of impenetrable storylines and hokum technicalities, and Soul Eater will do little to change their minds. However, the fantasy logic of Death City is slowly drip-fed to the audience, which saves rambling, boring exposition getting in the way of explosive action. What begins as mystifying and woefully complex starts to become strangely logical and easy-to-follow. Before you are aware of having had any explanation, you suddenly begin to understand the combat jargon and labyrinthine back-story.
Once the story and characters have all been set up, all that is left to do is enjoy the battle sequences, which thanks to Takuya Igarshi’s eyes for direction and team of talented animators are slick, fast-paced and hugely entertaining. People morph into dragons and rip through the sky; huge golems wield chainsaws; people transform into weapons, laying waste to entire towns, with apocalyptic fireballs and waves of flashing lights… They may not be subtle, or even logical, but the level of imagination and spectacle is, at times, truly astounding.
What makes Soul Eater even more impressive is that while you are being dazzled by the kinetic and frenzied fight sequences, you are slowly introduced to a collection of characters, who due to, or perhaps because of their faults and dark compulsions are very likeable. Each struggles with their own psychological concerns and dilemmas, something which becomes more apparent as the series progresses. It is here that the gothic-dressing of earlier episodes makes way for a more adult and sometimes frightening darkness. The Demon Sword’s back-story is one of horrifying child-abuse, and when the academy’s dormant Kishan rises, he begins a campaign of infectious madness with truly sinister results.
But with all this darkness, there comes a knowing humour sadly lacking from a lot of gothic anime, making this all the more enjoyable. During one of Lord Death’s speeches, he seems to openly admit that what is going on makes little sense, and the unexplained appearance of the infuriating Excalibur, a Moomen-esque creature with a superiority complex, hilariously brings the storyline to a grinding halt. Moments such as these stop the admittedly po-faced pretension of some of the proceedings, and keep this show more on the side of pure visual entertainment.
Soul Eater will do little to convert the anime-phobic, but this is a title which rewards patience. An exciting show populated with likeable characters, spectacular action and a welcome strain of the macabre.
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