Soul Eater Part 2 Collection (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, April 12, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Medusa has made her move with the Witches and is ready to break out the Kishin to reshape the world.
What They Say
Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon - literally. When Soul transforms into a razor-sharp scythe and Maka wields him against the supernatural forces of evil, he gets more deadly with every defeated soul he sucks down. They're a freakin' lethal team - but that bond is about to be tested.
The witch Medusa and her ghoulish minions are out to unleash the Kishin, who isn't just a demon: he's the greatest force of darkness ever known; a wicked fiend of unspeakable power. Luckily, Maka and Soul are used to saving the world from evil. But if they can't stop Medusa's freakish army in time, Maka, Soul, and their fellow Weapon/Meister classmates will be fighting to save themselves!
Contains episodes 14-26.The Review!
Soul Eater gets a solid bilingual production from FUNimation with what they do with most of their shows in offering the original Japanese track in stereo at 192kbps and the English mix done up in 5.1 encoded at 448kbps. The Japanese track is really quite solid overall as it has a fair bit of directionality across the forward soundstage and a number of really good moments of depth and placement as the characters move about and are set up at different levels. The English mix, while debatable when it comes to casting, is good when it comes to the technical elements as it takes what you have in the core and expands on it by adding more clarity as well as a bit more volume. Both tracks of their advantages and weaknesses but they're solid and come across well with no problems such as dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing from 2008 to 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection features thirteen episodes spread across two discs in the standard seven/six format, which works well since the second disc has practically another episodes worth of material. Soul Eater has a very distinct visual design to it and it looks very striking throughout, but more so when it uses the vibrant scenes within Death City and with Lord Death himself. The more basic areas of the city have a more realistic look at times and a somewhat duller color palette much as the rest of the world, but it all shows a good amount of detail and blacks are handled very well. There isn't a lot of noise here and gradients/banding is very, very minimal overall as there's been a lot of progress over the years with how the shows are animated.
Soul Eater gets the standard FUNimation package design with a thin slipcover that houses two clear thinpaks for the two discs that make up this set. The slipcover is pretty bright and busy, particularly with the logo that's done sideways. With the on the left, the character artwork on the right stands out well with the mixture of darker colors against Dark Star and Tsubaki striking a good pose. The blue-green in the background is very appealing as it adds some of the vibrancy that we do see in the show. It's a bit busy overall but it fits for the show and definitely grabs your eye. The back of the slipcover is much darker overall with a black background for the top half where there's the summary and a breakdown of what features are available for the set. The rest is given over to some good pieces of artwork of Dark Star and Tsubaki as well as a few shots from the show that add to its otherworldly nature. The strip along the bottom of the back is a bit awkward as its done in a gray which makes it hard to read the soft whitish-gray text for the production information. The technical grid itself is kept to the bottom of the slipcover where it's clean and very easy to read.
The thinpaks inside are really well designed with striking colors and character pieces. The first volume sets a stern looking Tsubaki against a yellow background while the logo is behind her along the right. The second volume has Dark Star set against a blue background with the same overall design where he's looking upward with a bit of a look that's ready to rumble. Each cover looks really nice with basic but appropriate character designs and a good sense of color and visual design to make it stand out. The back covers are done sideways where it has several of the core cast of characters together, either posing or in a bit of action scene which looks good but doesn't stand out too highly. The reverse sides of the cover have more character pieces as well as an soft blue strip along the bottom where they name the character on the front as well as the episode numbers and titles for that volume. No show related inserts are included in this release.
The menus for Soul Eater follow a familiar patter by taking part of the cover artwork, such as the character artwork for their respective volumes, and using that as its central piece. The background isn't a bland piece though but rather something that almost feels more like graffiti with colors, paint flecks and a big version of Lord Death in the background for example. It has a decent loop of upbeat instrumental music to tie it all together though it doesn't fade out well as it feels like it should get more upbeat instead of wind down. The logo takes up a decent sized spot of real estate along the lower left with the menu navigation included underneath it which is simple and to the point. Submenus load quickly and the layout is well done, especially for the extras on disc two as we detail next.
The extras for this release are pretty nice and actually feel like they have some weight to them. The first disc has no extras on it while the second disc has the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and more. There are thirteen episodes of the “Late Night Soul Eater” segments which run about 90 seconds each. FUNimation set these up well by making sure you could pick them out individually but also click a play all feature to see various kinds of random silliness and artwork related to the show. A commentary track is also included on this disc, this time for episode twenty-three which is a good pivotal episode to talk about by the English language staff. There's a good bit of extra here overall though they're just as quirky as the show itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Soul Eater hits the halfway mark this this set as we get twelve episodes that takes us through one full arc. It's an arc that instead sets up potentially what the second half of the series should be about though. The first set of Soul Eater didn't impress all that much in terms of the actual story and with some of the characters but I loved the visuals and the creative design of the world that these characters do live in. This set doesn't change that opinion too much as it rolls with a pretty standard story idea but I do like how it plays out overall because of the creativity of designs. Sometimes style can make a show and I'm finding that with Soul Eater.
Over the twelve episodes, eight of them focus squarely on a singular plot. There's a couple of episodes at the start that deal with more of the setup or side story material. Medusa is continuing to sow some dissent in small ways among the students, mostly aiming hard at Maka as she tweaks her with the idea that Soul is hiding stuff from her. There are some good bits throughout this as everyone settles into place but the series takes an awkward turn by giving us yet another Excalibur episode. I admit that there's some really intriguing things done as we see Excalibur's past across numerous periods of time and the shifts between them is hilarious, but it is an episode that seems to have nothing to do with anything in the long run. Filler at its finest.
Where the core storyline works is when events revolving around Medusa are discovered. Sid's managed to figure out what she's up to, though it's through a trap set by Eruka, It doesn't take much for people to put two and two together but the timing is where it becomes awkward. At an anniversary party of the academy, Lord Death himself has come to enjoy things which is a real rarity. Everyone is there at the tower where it's being held and it's quite the quasi-formal party. Stein's intent on getting Medusa to reveal what's going on, and she does, but it sets the stage for a bigger trap as she has those Witches working with her trap everyone in there, including Lord Death. Only a few manage to get out through Sid's quick thinking who now have to save Death City.
Medusa's plan is actually pretty nicely thought out if not for Sid's last minute idea. With everyone trapped, she sets the Mizune “family” to causing trouble throughout the city in an effort to flat out destroy it. This brings Blair back to the screen for a bit in a rather fun, if lusty, fight sequence, but that's all just eye candy compared to what's going on below. As it turns out, the reason that Lord Death doesn't leave the City or his main area of operations all that much is that he's instrumental in keeping the Kishin sealed below. Medusa is intent on using her allies to free the Kishin, and old student of Lord Death's gone awry, in order to bring massive amounts of chaos into the world which is all that she wants.
That setup doesn't take too long and we then focus on the multiple episode chase through the lower levels where the goal is to free that Kishin. Medusa has a pretty good plan with this as she intends to use her ability to hold them at bay while Crona and the others head further down the path. Not surprisingly though, Stein along with Maka's father have a plan to send everyone off after them while they deal with Medusa. The show quickly diverges to multiple pairings where everyone is going after each other and having to figure out the various weaknesses in order to move forward. The challenges that each faces is pretty good but a lot of the focus is on Maka as she has to deal with Crona, Medusa's daughter who is paired up with the Demonsword that is decidedly creepy and highly appealing.
Over the course of eight episodes, there aren't any real surprises in terms of the structure of the fights or the results to be honest. The release of the Kishin is a big setup piece, one that has Lord Death getting actively involved in the fighting as well because of the special relationship he has with him. This leads into the changes that Lord Death has to make to Death City and the academy going forward, which has a number of the other Death Scythes coming back from the world to start the search the Kishin. The introduction of more characters isn't a surprise either but unlike some shows where I'd feel like it's a reach, the group that comes in here is pretty interesting and they seem like they'll add something good to the show. It also allows Maka's father to go through some trouble before he finds what his new position will be and it's a lot of fun to watch him internalize and panic over things.
Soul Eater's strengths continue to be its visuals but it manages to become more interesting with its storyline in this set as well. Maka's inner journey with Soul that brings her into contact with Crona is very nicely done, particularly because of the visuals, and the overall arc involving Medusa's plan has a strong flow to it and it's not really overextended beyond the fact of having to deal with a couple of pairings that they've put together. I'm still not overly enthused about any character in particular but I like how the whole show is coming together. There's a lot of unique and creative things about it and right now it's still the main draw, though the story itself is now catching up to it with the introduction of the Kishin and the changes to how the DWMA is going to operate. I'm cautiously optimistic about the show at this point, which is a definite change from the first volume when I was essentially just enjoying the pretty animation.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Soul Eater Late Show, Episode 23 Commentary, Textless Songs
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 14 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 320
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Soul Eater