Soul Eater Part 4 Collection (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forced into bad deals and dealing with threats on multiple fronts, the fate of the world is at stake unless Lord Death can stop the Kishin.

What They Say

As students of the Grim Reaper at Death Weapon Meister Academy, Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon - literally. When they take on the supernatural forces of evil, Soul transforms into a razor-sharp scythe and Maka wields him in battle. He gets deadlier with every defeated soul he consumes and each victory strengthens their bond - but Maka, Soul, and their classmates might not be ready to face the darkness headed their way.

After 800 years, the witch Arachne has returned to spin a web of wickedness, leading an army of ghoulish minions in a war against Death Weapon Meister Academy. As demons from the past rise amid betrayal and madness, Maka and Soul are definitely in for the fight of their lives. But, hey - luckily for the fate of the world, they're a freakin' lethal team!

Contains episodes 40-51.

The Review!

Audio:
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.
 
Video:
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 twelve episodes spread across two discs in the standard six/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.
 
Packaging
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 fourth installment of the series has another busy cover to it that's even more so with the logo that's done sideways. With that on the left, the character artwork on the right stands out well with the reds and blues from the background and the graffiti. The character artwork looks good as it features the principle students of the DWMA with mostly smiles as they look on. 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 the core trio of characters 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 has Dr. Stein looking his usual self as he puffs out some death smoke, which is rather literal this time around, set against a light yellow background while the logo takes up a good bit of space along the right. The second volume Maka's father that has a simple but small smile to his face that's set against a very pale pink background. 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 gray 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.
 
Menu:
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.
 
Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty nice and actually feel like they have some weight to them. The first disc has a commentary track for one of the episodes with the English creative team talking about the show 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. 
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Soul Eater has been a series that's definitely had its ups and downs. The show opened well when it came to the visuals but it didn't wow me with the characters or the execution of the story. As it progressed and got into the individual story arcs, I found myself enjoying it a lot more, but it would have periods where it would hit a lull and become rather uninteresting. I often called those Excalibur episodes. But there were a few other areas as well where this happened. Once it got into the overreaching story arc about the Kishin and tied it to other events with what Medusa was up to, it got more interesting but took some time to get to an area where it really felt like it was coming together. With the last twelve episodes, it focuses on two very specific story arcs that helps it to finish out big, making the show in general a worthwhile watch.
 
The two main story arcs are pretty good overall and follow a natural progression. The initial one deals with the fallout from what Medusa has wrought after taking over Rachel's body and causing a whole mess of trouble. With her in captivity after causing Crona to betray the DWMA, she's seeking to make a deal with Lord Death to provide the information she has on the Kishin. This sets up some tension among the DWMA students as they see someone very dangerous and plainly evil getting out of Death City. Kid Death in particular really starts to distrust his father and the other adults over it, but it's stemming from the fact that he doesn't know all the facts and there's a number of key items kept out of the picture until towards the end.
 
The second arc, which makes up the bulk of the second disc which makes the layout work well here, involves the final attack against Arachne and Asura Kishin. With this being the closing arc of the series, it's no surprise that it makes up the bulk of things and is all about the action. The Kishin is intent on spreading its madness across the world and is getting closer and closer to achieving his goal. With the information gleaned from Medusa, a multipronged attack is underway with Sid leading a charge against the general forces of Arachne while the various DWMA students take on the more powerful members within her little group. And, of course, the stage shifts slowly to the Kishin himself  that invariably shrinks down who can attack him to just Kid Death, BlackStar and Maka, each of them with their respective weapons.
 
There's a lot to like about how both of these arcs plays out. With Medusa, it's got the challenge that Maka must face in realizing some of her hidden powers that come from her mother. It also has Crona having to face off against his mother (and I still want to call him a her based on his looks and personality), something that Medusa uses over and over to try and keep control of him. Maka's growth here plays directly into the final arc where she has to use her abilities in conjunction with Soul, but first she has to actually help Soul deal with his inner demon. Normally I dislike stories of this nature in a show like this as it all feels forced, but this one is kept relatively short and it deals with an issue that's been brewing slowly for quite some time.
 
I also liked how they worked it so that it was the young DWMA students who had to make the final attack and get caught up in everything. Lord Death's big moments were a lot of fun as he went up against the Kishin and I particularly liked how it made Kid Death realize exactly how difficult of a position his father was really put in for quite some time. Lord Death has some really good moments here in the final arc as they gain the Magic Brew and the tools needed to unlock it when an old friend, Eibon, comes back to help out as well. There's a significant amount of back story that could be told based on the little bit we do get here and it really left me wanting to see more of the older days before the young kids and all that's come with them. Lord Death alone is something that sells me easily on the series as worth checking out.
 
In Summary:
Soul Eater ends on a pretty good note overall and it managed to stay focused for the most part in its last twelve episodes. It covers a fair bit of ground and closes up several storylines that needed to be dealt with and it even ends with a sense of satisfaction and conclusion. The style of the show is a big plus and the characters do grow over time and aren't quite the same as when they started. The secondary cast tended to be more fun to watch, such as Lord Death, Maka's father and Stein (who gets a nice bit of closure here too), but it all comes together well. I'll even admit that I liked Excalibur's part in this final story since he brought in the bit of humor that was needed without it being anywhere near as much as his standalone episodes. Soul Eater won't be a long term memorable series for its story, though it handles it well here at the end, but it will be memorable for its design and sense of style.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Soul Eater Late Show, Commentary Track, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

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.
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 320
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Soul Eater