The finale of Soul Eater showcases some excellent battles and a conclusion which whilst settles things, in the end does come off a little disappointing in an otherwise very good show.
What They Say
Set in the Shinigami technical school for weapon meisters, the series revolves around 3 groups of each a weapon meister and a human weapon. Trying to make the latter a Death Scythe and thus fit for use by the Shinigami, they must collect the souls of 99 evil humans and 1 witch. Soul Eater is an anime that centers around meisters and their weapons and their mission to collect 99 evil souls and 1 witch soul. Upon doing that the meister's weapons will become a Deathscythe, which is the highest title for a weapon. Maka, Soul Eater, Black Star, Tsubaki, Death the Kid, and Patty and Liz Thompson are the characters Soul Eater revolves around. Besides taking the time to gather souls these students of Shibusen defend Death City from some of the most powerful of creatures while still attending school and trying to become stronger.
As what is becoming standard in my set reviews now, I decided to actually review both audio tracks by watching part of both discs in Japanese and in English. The English track has a 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio track whilst the Japanese is the standard 2.0 Stereo Track. It's definitely the case of the English audio having a real power towards it compared to the Japanese track, albeit the Japanese track certainly isn't bad. There are no problems I found with the transition between audio and visual, and no glitches through the linking between subtitling and audio but at the same time considering some of the battle sequences (Stein's battle in particular) the audio didn't seem to give as much punch as I really hoped it would which stops it from getting an A grade.
Sadly, for the final volume (admittingly a test disc) the video had a couple of problems. First of all, there was more than one instance I found of the subtitles rushing ahead before the audio could finish, meaning that unless you were quick, you may not remember what was actually being said if watching it in Japanese. And secondly, in episodes 41 and 47, I noticed some clear watermarking which showcases as a faint line across the screen - this is made worse for the fact it's obvious to spot in this show as the animation is very different, the art style is unusual and the animation is very colourful. Whilst there are no transition problems and there are some great moments as it is shown in both wide screen and full screen format, the fact that these problems were very noticeable knocks it down a bit and hopefully they would have seen this and rectified this for the official release.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
The menu is very basic, with the opening song playing over a shot of the best friends for life in Black Star and Soul on a graffiti background whilst Disc 2 has the same background only with Maka with her hands on Tsubaski's shoulders. With the menu itself, instead with the basic play all/episodes/set up/extras choices on white lettering. In what seems to be a common trend, the episode selection is only for the episodes itself, and there is no scene select option.
To round off, we get another couple of extras which have been constant within the show's release. We get a commentary on episode 44 of the English dub, with Colleen Clinkerbeard (Marie), Monica Rial (Tsubaki) and Maxey Whitehead (Crona). Unlike a number of recent dub commentaries - these girls as the song says, just wanna have fun. Heck, Colleen has to drag everyone back into commentating about Soul Eater! It doesn't help with Monica Rial thinking Black Star is obnoxious and is more interested in trying to tell Maxie (one of my favourite new dub voice actresses) what to look for when she attends her first convention. It's one of the more fun commentaries I've heard in a while, but when they have to be reminded to talk about the show, just don't expect an in depth discussion about their characters'more like joking to poor Maxie about that she plays male characters a lot - and they wondering like everyone else about Crona's gender'
On the second disc, we continue with the Soul Eater Show which as basically as the previous disc, trailers for all thirteen episodes on this set, again with some great comedy moments with the Late Show admitting they are now being reckless, with you know who (Excalibur) of course getting the most manic moments. Considering how serious the show gets, these little shorts do add a real good comic element to break up the darkness.
Soul Eater has been a very pleasant ride up to the final disc. Altogether it was 51 episodes of mostly good fun, battles, comedy, and some great characters. However, like a number of series, it suffers from the fact the manga is still ongoing and had to wrap it up in a way that worked. It definitely worked, but felt very anticlimactic - but fortunately certainly not the worst example that this is happened to and is still a very good series in the end.
It starts off by continuing with Soul Eater's latest cliffhanger - Medusa's surrender and subsequent deal with Death as she reveals to them the info only she knew - that she has the true magic weapon and knows where to find it. Her conditions seem strange - her release and that's it, which makes them suspicious about why she surrenders in the first place. However, it's suddenly revealed that Stein is missing'as Medusa's plan begins to unfold to screw with the DWMA...
One thing this does well is link in everything - Crona is ordered by the strict rules of the DWMA that he cannot be released for the part played by him/her (sorry, 51 eps and it's still not specifically said if Crona is a guy or a girl) - however thanks to Marie and a loophole, Marie and Crona set up looking for Stein who has given into the madness, whilst Maaka is confused about the fact they released Medusa, a person that Maaka despises due to her treatment of Crona. However, they have bigger problems - i.e. the destruction of Arachnophobia and it's madness amplifiers to spread the kishin all over the world. It leads to everyone you know being sent out to war as it will, however Maka and Soul desert them in honour to try and help Crona.
All of the characters get a brief look in (Justin fights Giriko, whilst the side characters like Ox and Kim all investigate areas Arachnophia have penetrated) - however this is both good and bad, on the good side, the focus on our leads is more inclined but at the bad side, their pleasing character development in the previous volume is literally limited to a few speaking line. Instead, we get an episode about Kid investigating and finding the magic tool Brew. Whilst it was a good episode in focusing on his care about the Thompson sisters, they had to go back to the symmetry joke from the very beginning as his weakness. Whilst it was funny at the start, it was not really the time in such a serious arc to make it a weakness that could cause his death. It's Kid's thing, I realize that - but I felt it definitely was longer than it should be.
The best part of the final arc though for me was having Crona and Marie find Medusa's hideout which leads to the crazed Stein and Medusa fighting the two of them, only to be saved by Maaka and Soul. The battle is fantastic, beautiful animated, wonderfully concluded (in trying to remove Stein's madness) and I can't believe how much I liked Crona's character by the end of this. The friendship between Maaka and Crona has been one of the highlights of Soul Eater, and the fact Crona risked his/her life, but Maaka taking in the madness to protect Crona as well was fantastic, and gave us a satisfying end for the Medusa saga.
With Medusa vanquished, the majority of the episodes now revolve around defeating Arachnophobia. This leads to some nice throwbacks (Milfune for the final match between him and Black Star) to the rather ridiculous (Death's rather'unique way to defeat Mosquito was a bit'out of place in the context of this volume). Due to Death's methods, it leads to Asura now facing off against Death. The battle is a good one with Death actually having to 'sacrifice' himself to protect Death The Kid. With Death defeated, Asura begins to shield himself to make sure the madness spreads, but not before Maaka, Black Star and DTK get themselves inside for a final battle. Unfortunately, this is where it falls a little weak. DTK is seemingly defeated, but for no apparently reason becomes incredibly strong (the viewer assumes it's because he's gained the power from his defeated father, but it's never explained very well) but in the end is ultimately defeated along with Black Star. It ends with Maaka with a call back to the black blood plot, as she recognizes that the demons inside Soul are also trying to corrupt her. She doesn't give in and fights Asura once and for all. It seems hopeless but Maaka in a last episode revelation, is able to use a new ability'
As you can see, the main weakness of this volume is basically the fact that it seems really rushed. To make the kids like they have a chance at beating someone Death himself couldn't beat, are literally given new upgrades and powers at the last minute. The finale is very anti-climatic which is a real shame - it's still good, and the fight is impressive to watch, but it does very VERY rushed. The other problem I had with how anti-climatic it was is because after the weaker villain Medusa got a realistic and very good fight involving Stein, Marie, Crona, Maaka and Soul, Arakune gets her first mention in the review here because Arachnophobia were pretty much hardly mentioned. In fact, Asura basically kills her in a scene which lasts a minute - considering in the last volume she was built to be the other major villain, her role after Asura was hidden way for most of last volume was a major disappointment considering it was building up to be a three way power struggle.
However, in Soul Eater's defense, with the manga still ongoing they had to conclude it in a way that works, and it nearly succeeds. And overall, the show is still one of the better long runners along with Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood this year. It has engaging characters (even the ones that can be annoying like BlackStar and Excalibur have their moments - yes'Excalibur actually has a moment this volume when he ISN'T a jerk') - Maaka herself is a good lead, her love/hate relationship with her father (sadly, another casualty of lack of screen time this volume) provides the early comedy but it's her relationship with her partner which is the strongest element of the series at the end. DTK is similar, quirky fun but deadly serious as well and probably my favourite of the main cast, but Soul Eater's development with a number of side characters (Stein, Marie and Crona getting the best examples) shows that if you have enough time, you can incorporate so much into a series - whether it be action, comedy - it can all mingle in quite well, and Soul Eater overall did that and made a very enjoyable series.
Whilst I found the end of Soul Eater rushed and anti-climatic, overall it's still a very worthwhile series. The battles between Death/Asura and Stein/Medusa vs. Marie/Crona/Soul/Maaka were excellent and whilst some elements were confusing and a bit disappointing, it still brought forth some engaging moments and a conclusive if a bit unsatisfying finale. And to be fair, that was the weakest part of the series so overall it was something I definitely recommended - the visual style, a good track in English and Japanese, the characters, the comedy, the battle sequences, the whole soul motif - it's a unique and fun series which is worth a shot or four to say the least.
English 2.0 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, Episode 44 Dub Commentary (with Colleen Clinkerbeard(Marie), Monica Rial(Tsubaki) and Maxie Whitehead(Crona))Textless Opening/Endings, Soul Eater Late Show
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV '" Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers '" Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.