I still find it odd exactly what Soul Eater was. It was a good Bones anime, but not a great one. It was an extremely popular shounen, but had a reasonable number of episodes and good characters. It had a read-the-manga ending, but also a satisfying ending of its own. It’s something that looks like it was bound to happen at some point, but it defies all of what we’ve come to expect from the anime industry. In fact, going by the trends it should have most likely been some kind of magical girl, slice of life, moe thing, set primarily in some kind of middle or high school. Well, it’s a little late, but it’s here, Soul Eater Not! is the new Soul Eater no one was asking for!
In all honestly, I’m not going into this one as skeptical as I probably should be. I ready a couple chapters of the manga not long after it started running, and enjoyed them for the most part. I doubt anyone would deny that it’s moe, but it’s also still Soul Eater. And more importantly, it’s obvious that this is being used to judge whether there’s still an audience for a Soul Eater Brotherhood (or whatever they call it), which is something I can really get behind. So, for now, let’s look at SEN! and see if it is worthy of the franchise.
Starting off, we learn more about the world of Soul Eater from the first scene than we ever did in the original show. It’s confirmed that weapons are born with their powers but not innately aware of them, as Tsugumi Harudori trips over her dog and is surprised when her leg turns itself into a sword to catch her. Because of this gift, she’s going to start attending Death Weapon Meister Academy, which, despite having a random German word in its name a la Evangelion, is apparently located in the United States. It feels odd, knowing this place called Death City, where magic happens and Lord Death himself presides, now being place in the “real world”; over an airplane intercom comes the line “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be arriving at Death City Airport soon.” I just can’t get over how odd this scenario is.
Here we reach the intro, and it’s actually noteworthy; granted, it would be hard for the intro for this show not to be noteworthy. The Slice of Life aspect is heavily emphasised, but to the backdrop of the DWMA. Some characters we already know appear, such as the Thompson twins, some new ones that fit the Soul Eater universe are seen and there are three main moe girls, Tsugumi, with another at each shoulder. One part that stands out is a short segment where Tsugumi ballroom dances with each of the other two girls, taking what would typically be the woman’s role in a duet. It’s like something out of Utena, and leaves me wondering whether there’s actually something substantive to this spin-off, or if the director just thought the scene looked cute.
After landing in Death City, Tsugumi and the two other girls from the intro are separately offered rides in a taxi (without ever meeting one another), and here their primary character traits get showcased. Tsugumi timidly explains that she’s taking the bus before escaping. The blond girl in the picture above at first seems impressed by the yellow cab, before going through a complete personality shift and saying the car’s not good enough for her. And the third girl, a brunette wearing a yellow sweater, blue skirt and a bowtie, wanders up to the cab drivers and asks him where she is, how she got there and where she’s going; I’m just going to call her Osaka.
On her way up the stairs to the DWMA, Tsugumi is assisted by a familiar face, Maka (MAKA! XD), who amidst their extremely brief interaction she comes to idolize. After a little reflection on her adolescence and how either it of the heat is messing with her sense of humor, she reaches the top of the staircase and looks back over the city, then takes a sip of soda and says it tastes like America. Two things; 1) how do you deep fry soda? and 2) what’s with the romanticization of America? Especially since Death City looks more like Florence Italy than any American city I know. It’s almost like Fanon, and the idea of the colonized person visiting the Metropole.
Tsugumi enters the school and begins looking around at other students so she (and the five people who never watched Soul Eater) has a better idea of what this strange and magical world is like. She’s soon distracted however, as Black Star (BLACK STAR!!!!! XD) punches a kid across the hall then swears he’ll kill the guy. It seems some time has passed since the last time we saw him and Tsubaki (TSUBAKI!!! XD), as his muscles are now Dragon Ball Z approved, and her chest and outfit are Ikki Tousen ready. Fearing for her life, Tsugumi runs off to go cry about wanting to go home.
While our main character is occupied, we check in with the other girls, who are currently at a freeman orientation. The blond one talks to herself about how by coming to the school she left a rich family to see what common life is like. And obviously the best place to learn about common life is a magical school filled with the extremely gifted. at least she seems to realize her mistake, as seeing Death the Kid (KID!!!!!!!!!! XD) fly by on his rocket-board strikes her as just a little bit uncommon. But Tsugumi, the absolute picture of ordinary (in Blondies eyes at least) shows up and hope is renewed. Also there’s some hint this might take place before the events of Soul Eater, and a non-zombie Sid seems to be leading this orientation.
Some contrived accidents happen, leading to a groping that confirms my suspicions that this is a Yuri show. I ain’t got nothing against that. Tsugumi and Osaka (who forgets her name and covers it up by making one up, Meme), quickly become friends in the standard moe fashion, while Blondie watches them. The orientation begins and Sid calls in Maka and Soul (SOUL!!! XD), who looks even more stoned than usual, to demonstrate what the partnership between a weapon and meister should be like.
Afterward, Tsugumi tries to catch up to Osaka to ask for her hand in partnership, but both are distracted as guys, who don’t realize the two girls are clearly gay for one another, approach each of them instead. Tsugumi walks away and gets all mopey about how she’s not cut out for the DWMA and should go back home again, but realizes that it’s worth taking a chance here if she can be with her beloved waifu (the show just says “friend”, but come on) Osaka. So she grows a pair (of pigtails, like Maka’s) and goes back to ask for Osaka’s hand. But things start to go wrong as the two guys do the unthinkable, call Tsugumi flat-chested! *Gasp* But never fear, Blondies here, with one of the greatest lines ever, “Commoner-sized mammaries… Commaries.”
She becomes a kind of hybrid of Death the Kid and Armin from Attack on Titan, which apparently makes her verbal badass, and really an all-around badass too. After a little soul searching, Tsugumi is able to transform into a shining sliver halberd, which Blondie uses to beat the crap out of the guys. Seriously, she’s got a freshman’s equivalent of Black Star’s strength and Kid’s skill; it’s an utterly one-sided match.
Afterwords Blondie gets a real name, Anya, and this once simple yuri set up suddenly gets complicated as both the dimwitted Osaka and the badass tsundere (she totally is) Anya want to be Tsugumi’s partner. It’s kind of like those Archie comics, only here the choice is incredibly obvious. And that’s the episode.
Soul Eater Not! was actually a lot better than I expected. Going into it, I assumed the show’s best aspect would just be the fan service of seeing all the old characters again, and though that certainly was fun it was really more like a little bonus on top of an already decent show. The animation and sound track are way below those of the original Soul Eater, but that’s okay, this is a different type of show, and it does still deliver as well as it needs to on the action scenes. The main three characters range from… well, Osaka, to actually pretty good, with Tsugumi in the centers as generic but not bland.
It’s too soon to say whether it’s really worth strapping in for the long haul, but fans of things like K-On! should
die enjoy the characters and slice of life aspects, while fans of the original Soul Eater series and manga can at least enjoy the cameos and possibility of a future remake in these early episode. This is the first show this season I’m actually excited for, and I recommend at least checking it out.
Don’t Lose Your Way.