Soul Eater Part 1 Collection - Mania.com



DVD Review

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Info:

  • 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: 315
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Soul Eater

Soul Eater Part 1 Collection

Soul Eater Part 1 Collection DVD Review

By Chris Beveridge     February 09, 2010
Release Date: February 09, 2010


Soul Eater Part 1
© FUNimation

Visually arresting and standing out from the crowd, Soul Eater is a show that needs to be seen.

What They Say

Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon. As students at the Grim Reaper's Death Weapon Meister Academy, their study habits couldn't be more different. But in battle against the supernatural forces of evil, they're a freakin' lethal team.
 
That's when Soul transforms - literally - into a razor-sharp scythe, and every defeated wicked soul he sucks down makes him more deadly. That's when Maka unleashes the merciless slayer within, wielding her partner and dropping monsters. Seriously. Monsters. Like the witches, werewolves, and zombies that lurk in the shadows and feed on the souls of the innocent.
 
Every freakish ghoul Maka and Soul take out strengthens their bond, and fighting alongside their fellow Meister/Weapon classmates, Maka and Soul are the world's last line of defense against evil.
 
Contains episodes 1-13.
 
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 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.
 
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 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 Soul and Maka in an action pose. The blue 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 the two leads 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 Maka against a yellow background while the logo is behind her along the right. The second volume has Soul set against a blue background with the same ovearll design where he's looking upward with a bit of a mischievous grin. 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 orange 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 an commentary track for episode seven while the second disc has the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. In addition to that, 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)
Based on the manga by Atsushu Okubo, which is at fifteen volumes in Japan and still running as of this release, Soul Eater is a fifty one episode series which ran from early 2008 to early 2009. The first thirteen episodes of this release are some of the most visually distinct that I've seen in a long time where it really stands out on its own and not exactly ripping off or copying other shows or manga. It's the kind of show where you can easily see it being broadcast in the US on a late night channel and garnering quite the following simply because of its style and it's approach to storytelling.
 
Soul Eater revolves around a place called the DWMA, the Death Weapon Meister Academy, which resides in a place called Death City. It's in this place that Lord Death operates as something of a headmaster of the academy where meisters are taught to connect, control and utilize their weapons. The weapons are really intriguing as they take on human form but revert to different kinds of weapon form depending on how their  training goes with their meister and the skills they acquire. Those who train within the DWMA are often sent out into the world at large to deal with the issue of Kishin, creatures who eat human souls and grow more powerful and twisted. What can stop these creatures are the Death Weapons themselves as they devour the souls of these creatures.
 
The relationship between the weapons and the meisters is a huge focus of the show, which is both good and bad. The series focuses initially on two sets of these, with the larger portion focusing on the lead of Soul Eater himself and his meister, a young woman named Maka. These two open the series by being a step away from Soul Eater becoming a Death Scythe but they run into problems with that. The relationship between a meister and her weapon is a critical one as their souls must synchronize in general, and the two of them do that generally well but they sometimes fall out of flux and there's always room for improvement. As this set progresses, the two find themselves struggling with synchronizing as Maka tries to figure out what she's missing to be a proper meister to Soul, but a lot of it revolves around her not wanting him to be hurt, which conflicts with his being a weapon.
 
I really don't find Maka and Soul to be terribly engaging characters however, which is why when I hit the second disc here that the show finally started to interest me with the focus on Black Star and Tsubaki. The genders are reversed here as Black Star is the meister and Tsubaki is the weapon who partners with him. Black Star has a good history as there's an exploration of his clan's past which is filled with tragedy as they were a clan of assassins that went too far. They were all put to death when he was young, but because of his age he was brought into the DWMA and given a new life there. There are still residual issues from those outside of the DWMA though that causes him to be looked down upon. Tsubaki herself has a really good back story episode that's done as well where we see her family and a connection to her brother that's surprisingly intense when it plays out. When the second disc kicks off with these stories, Soul Eater became a series that I felt could have some interesting material for me
 
There are some good secondary characters that help to flesh out the show. The one that gets me very intrigued is Lord Death himself as his design is very cool and he has an interesting mix of seriousness and humor that allows him to be very unpredictable. Another fun one is Maka's father, Death Scythe, who has a real adoration for his daughter that is spurned regular basis. He's got some stature but with the way he handles himself he's often mocked or abused by Lord Death because he's so wishy washy when it comes to his daughter. Some of the lesser characters are really neat as well, such as the incarnation of Excalibur that appears or the cat that's introduced in the first episode named Blair who is often mistaken as a witch. She brings some stunning fanservice into the mix that manages to sell a good part of the show at that time.
 
While the show itself was only about half enjoyable, mostly because it is a lengthy show so it's taking its time getting to any serious storytelling, the biggest component that made it fun to watch is the visual design. With a lot of the visual concepts worked over by Shinji Aramaki, Soul Eater is the kind of series that really stands out in a sea of mediocrity and sameness that infects so many series. The locales help a lot as Death City is pretty unique in its design but it's also the character designs and the choreography of the fight scenes. There's a good otherworldly feel to this series as it uses very vibrant colors for a lot of it, especially with backgrounds, but it all fits with the flow of the show and adds to its surreal nature at times. Combining the design with some very fluid animation by BONES, there's a lot to love here when it comes to the actual animation.
 
In Summary:
Soul Eater is a very conflicting show for me as the first half of this set was only interesting because of the visuals. The second half stepped up with the characters, but not the primary ones. It was more for watching Black Star and Tsubaki getting delved into and an exploration of the witches and what some of them are up to that's secret and hidden. But that first half is what made it difficult to get through for awhile and weighed down this set overall. There's a lot to like here and I'm hoping that the second set will bring more stories that I like and that Maka and Soul become more interesting. The best material is on the second disc here as it delves into the witches, beefs up its supporting cast and has a good bit of fun with characters like Exaclibur. Soul Eater is a show that would easily do well on Adult Swim for a lot of reasons and may even play out better when taken an episode at a time rather than in a large marathon like this.
 
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.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Soul Eater Late Show, Episode 7 Commentary, Soul Eater Manga Preview, Textless Songs

Review Equipment

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