Soul Eater (manga)

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Soul Eater
Soul Eater manga volume 1.jpg
Cover of the first Japanese manga volume featuring Maka (right), Soul (bottom-left) and Blair (top-left).
ソウルイーター
(Sōru Ītā)
GenreAction,[1][2] dark comedy,[3] dark fantasy[4][5]
Manga
Written byAtsushi Ōkubo
Published bySquare Enix
English publisher
ImprintGangan Comics
MagazineMonthly Shōnen Gangan
English magazine
DemographicShōnen
Original runMay 12, 2004August 12, 2013
Volumes25 (List of volumes)
Anime television series
Directed byTakuya Igarashi
Produced by
  • Aya Yoshino
  • Taihei Yamanishi
  • Yoshihiro Oyabu
Written byAkatsuki Yamatoya
Music byTaku Iwasaki
StudioBones
Licensed by
Original networkTXN (TV Tokyo)
English network
Original run April 7, 2008 March 30, 2009
Episodes51 (List of episodes)
Game
Soul Eater: Monotone Princess
DeveloperSquare Enix
PublisherSquare Enix
GenreAction-adventure
PlatformWii
ReleasedSeptember 25, 2008
Game
Soul Eater: Plot of Medusa
DeveloperNamco Bandai Games
PublisherNamco Bandai Games
GenreAction
PlatformNintendo DS
ReleasedOctober 23, 2008
Game
Soul Eater: Battle Resonance
DeveloperNamco Bandai Games
PublisherNamco Bandai Games
GenreFighting
Platform
ReleasedJanuary 29, 2009
Related
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and manga portal

Soul Eater (Japanese: ソウルイーター, Hepburn: Sōru Ītā) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Atsushi Ōkubo. Set at the "Death Weapon Meister Academy", the series revolves around three teams, each consisting of a weapon meister and (at least one) weapon that can transform into a humanoid. Trying to make the latter a "death scythe" and thus fit for use by the academy's headmaster Shinigami, the personification of death, they must collect the souls of 99 evil humans and one witch, in that order; otherwise, they will have to start all over again.

The manga was published by Square Enix, and was first released in 2003 as three separate one-shots; the first two published in two Gangan Powered special editions and the last one in Gangan Wing. The manga was then regular serialized in Square Enix's Monthly Shōnen Gangan magazine from May 2004 to August 2013. A 51-episode anime television series adaptation produced by Bones aired in Japan on TV Tokyo from April 2008 to March 2009. The series has also spawned a drama CD, an art book, and three video games. A manga series spin-off, titled Soul Eater Not!, was serialized in Monthly Shōnen Gangan from January 2011 to November 2014.

The manga has been licensed for distribution in North America by Yen Press. The English translation of Soul Eater was serialized in Yen Press' Yen Plus manga anthology magazine starting in July 2008, and the first manga volume was released in October 2009. The anime has been licensed by Funimation.

The Soul Eater manga had 19.6 million copies in circulation as of July 2019. Both the manga and anime series have been overall well received, specially for its art style and Gothic setting, often compared by critics to Tim Burton's works like The Nightmare Before Christmas. The series, however, has been criticized for its use of fanservice and similarity to other shōnen series.

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

Death Weapon Meister Academy

Soul Eater is set at Death Weapon Meister Academy (死神武器職人専門学校, Shinigami Buki Shokunin Senmon Gakkō) — "DWMA" (死武専, Shibusen) for short — located in the fictional Death City[6] in Nevada, United States.[7] The school is run by Shinigami, also known as Death, as a training facility for humans with the ability to transform into weapons, as well as the wielders of those weapons, called meisters (職人, shokunin).[6] Attending this school are Maka Albarn and her scythe partner, Soul Eater; assassin Black Star and his partner, Tsubaki Nakatsukasa, who can turn into various ninja weapons; and Shinigami's son, Death the Kid, and his pistol partners, Liz and Patty Thompson. The goal of the school's meister students is to have their weapons absorb the souls of 99 evil humans and one witch, which dramatically increases the weapon's power and turns them into "death scythes" used by Shinigami.[6]

Plot[edit]

Maka and Soul battle the witch Medusa, who forces Crona, her child and meister of the demon sword Ragnarok, to collect non-evil human souls and eventually transform into a kishin (鬼神), an evil god. Medusa and her cohorts attack DWMA to revive Asura, the first kishin who nearly plunged the entire world into madness before being sealed beneath DWMA by Shinigami. Despite the combined efforts of Maka, Black Star, and Death the Kid, Medusa's group successfully revives Asura, who leaves to spread chaos around the world after a brief battle with Shinigami. Medusa is seemingly killed by meister and DWMA teacher Franken Stein, while Crona surrenders to DWMA and enrolls there.

As a result of Asura's spreading madness, Medusa's sister Arachne comes out of hiding and reforms her organization, Arachnophobia, which poses a serious threat to DWMA. Shinigami calls in death scythes from around the world to aid in the fight against Arachnophobia. During this time, Medusa reappears with her soul possessing the body of a young girl, and forms a truce with DWMA so they can annihilate Arachnophobia together. The DWMA students and Medusa's entourage infiltrate Arachnophobia's headquarters, where Maka kills Arachne, only for Medusa to betray DWMA, possess Arachne's body, and brainwash Crona into rejoining her. Meanwhile, Death the Kid is captured by Noah, an artificial construct created from the Book of Eibon. Following this, Maka uses Arachne's soul to turn Soul into a death scythe. The duo become part of the newly formed meister unit Spartoi along with their friends, who rescue Death the Kid and defeat Noah.

Crona resurfaces in a city in Russia, destroying it and the death scythe stationed there, before being provoked by Medusa into killing her and getting taken by insanity. Maka is ordered by Shinigami to hunt down Crona; while searching for Crona with her powers, she unwittingly detects Asura's location on the cartoonish moon within the atmosphere. DWMA launches an attack on the moon to defeat Asura, aided by the witches after Death the Kid convinces them to establish a temporary alliance. During the battle, Crona absorbs Asura's body before being overtaken by him. Maka, Black Star, and Death the Kid eventually restore Crona's sanity and defeat Asura by sealing him on the moon with his own blood; Crona willingly remains with Asura to keep him imprisoned, and Maka promises to one day rescue Crona. The DWMA forces return to Earth, where Death the Kid becomes the new Shinigami following his father's death, and establishes a peace treaty with the witches.

Production[edit]

After the end of his first manga series, B.Ichi, Atsushi Ōkubo created a one-shot story called "Soul Eater" published in Gangan Powered.[8] Japanese readers were so fascinated by it that Ōkubo created two other one-shots called "Black Star" and "Death the Kid". Since the results were high, the editor of Gangan Comics asked Ōkubo to create a series from his one-shots which became the introductory chapters to Soul Eater.

In an interview, Ōkubo stated that the series was greatly inspired by ideas from Tim Burton's animations, and by concepts from Harry Potter. Ōkubo also stated he made the hero (or heroine) of the series, Maka, a female to differ from the traditional male hero found in most shōnen manga. He also said the series' title, Soul Eater, was intended to refer to Asura and his desire to eat innocent souls, and not to the character, Soul.[9] Ōkubo has explained that, when he began Soul Eater, he already had the plot and details like the DWMA fully formed and shared with his editors. He thought too many manga had characters who were developed through flashbacks, which he considered too clever. Therefore, he decided to develop his characters in the present rather than referring to their pasts, and to focus on "action and momentum," so he could "write freely".[10]

Media[edit]

Manga[edit]

Soul Eater is written and illustrated by Atsushi Ōkubo. The manga initially began as three separate one-shots published between June 24, 2003 and November 26, 2003 across two manga magazines published by Square Enix: The first one-shot, "Soul Eater" was published in the summer 2003 special edition of Gangan Powered.[8] The second one-shot, "Black Star", was published in the autumn 2003 special edition of the same magazine.[11] The third and final one-shot, "Death the Kid" was published in the 2004 1st issue of Gangan Wing.[12] Soul Eater was serialized in Square Enix's Monthly Shōnen Gangan manga magazine between the June 2004 issue published on May 12, 2004 and the September 2013 issue published on August 12, 2013.[13][14][15] Square Enix compiled the series into 25 tankōbon volumes released under their Gangan Comics imprint in Japan between June 22, 2004 and December 12, 2013.[16][17] Square Enix republished the series in a 17-volume kanzenban edition, titled as Soul Eater: The Perfect Edition, released from July 12, 2019 to March 12, 2020.[18][19]

The manga has been licensed by Yen Press for distribution in English in North America. The manga was initially serialized in Yen Press' Yen Plus anthology magazine; the first issue went on sale on July 29, 2008.[20] The first English volume of the manga was published on October 27, 2009.[21] The last volume was published on March 24, 2015.[22] In July 2019, Square Enix announced the English release of Soul Eater: The Perfect Edition.[23] The first volume was released on July 28, 2020.[24]

Another manga series which ran alongside the main series, titled Soul Eater Not! (ソウルイーターノット!, Sōru Ītā Notto!), began serialization in the February 2011 issue of Monthly Shōnen Gangan published on January 12, 2011.[25] The series finished on November 10, 2014.[26] Five tankōbon volumes were released between September 22, 2011 and December 22, 2014.[27][28] Soul Eater Not! has been licensed by Yen Press in North America.[29] The five volumes were published between July 24, 2012 and August 4, 2015.[30][31]

Drama CD[edit]

A drama CD was released on August 31, 2005 by Square Enix titled Soul Eater (Vol. 1): Special Social Studies Field Trip (ソウルイーター(Vol.1)特別社会科見学, Sōru Ītā (Vol. 1) Tokubetsu Shakaika Kengaku).[32] The CD came bundled with an art book and a script of the CD dialogue. Of the cast used for the drama CD, only Black Star's voice actress Yumiko Kobayashi was retained for the anime voice cast.

Anime series[edit]

A 51-episode anime adaptation was directed by Takuya Igarashi and produced by Bones, Aniplex, Dentsu, Media Factory, and TV Tokyo; Bones and Aniplex were responsible for the animation and music production respectively.[33] The scenario writer was Akatsuki Yamatoya who based the anime's story on Atsushi Ōkubo original concept. Character design was headed by Yoshiyuki Ito, with overall art direction by Norifumi Nakamura. The anime's conceptual design was done by Shinji Aramaki.

The episodes aired on TV Tokyo between April 7, 2008 and March 30, 2009, and two animated specials aired on May 29 and June 1, 2008.[34] The episodes aired at later dates on TV Aichi, TV Hokkaido, TV Osaka, TV Setouchi, and TVQ Kyushu Broadcasting Co. The anime was regularly broadcast Mondays at 6:00 pm on TV Tokyo. The official Japanese website of the Soul Eater anime series announced that each episode would air in two versions: the regular Monday 6:00 pm version and a late-night Soul Eater Late Show version. Special footage was added at the start and end of the commercial break; the next episode preview was different from the regular version. The dual broadcast of the series was billed as the "world's first evening and late-night resonance broadcast". The "resonance" term refers to a story concept in which the characters, such as the heroine Maka and her living weapon partner Soul Eater, achieve maximum power by synchronizing their souls.[35] The first DVD compilation volume was released on August 22, 2008 with the first three episodes. The second DVD compilation volume was released on September 25, 2008 with episodes four through seven. Each DVD volume was released in monthly intervals.[36] The series was rebroadcast by TV Tokyo under the title Soul Eater: Repeat Show (ソウルイーター リピートショー, Sōru Ītā Ripīto Shō) on September 30, 2010, featuring new opening and closing themes.[37] Media Factory and Kadokawa brought the two previous Blu-ray box sets together into one box set released on February 26, 2014.[38]

In North America, the anime has been licensed by Funimation, who released the series in four half-season DVD box sets starting with the first volume in February 2010.[2] The anime made its North American television debut when it aired on the Funimation Channel on September 6, 2010.[39] It also aired on Adult Swim's Toonami block from February 17, 2013.[4]

MTV Portugal premiered Soul Eater on February 1, 2010.[40] In the Philippines, Soul Eater aired in a Tagalog version over the cable channel Hero TV from April to June 2010. It was broadcast in Italy on Rai 4 between September 2, 2010 and September 8, 2011.

Video games[edit]

Three Soul Eater video games were produced. The first, Soul Eater: Monotone Princess (ソウルイーター モノトーン プリンセス, Sōru Ītā Monotōn Purinsesu), is an action-adventure video game exclusively for the Wii and developed by Square Enix with Bones. It was released on September 25, 2008 in Japan.[41] Two characters that appear in the game, Grimoire (グリモア, Gurimoa) and Ponera (ポネラ), are original characters designed by author Atsushi Ōkubo; Ponera is the titular Monotone Princess and Grimoire is known as Noah in the manga. A soundtrack called Shibusen's Treasure "Campus Broadcast Music Complete Works" (死武専秘蔵「校内放送楽曲大全」)[42] was released as a pre-order bonus CD. This game is only compatible with Japanese Wii systems.[43]

The second game, Soul Eater: Plot of Medusa (ソウルイーター メデューサの陰謀, Sōru Ītā Medyūsa no Inbō), is an action game produced by Namco Bandai Games for the Nintendo DS and was released on October 23, 2008.[44] Despite being created by two different companies, there are similarities between the Nintendo Wii game and the Nintendo DS game. It is a third-person hack-and-slash game.[45]

The third game, Soul Eater: Battle Resonance (ソウルイーター バトルレゾナンス, Sōru Ītā Batoru Rezonansu), is a fighting game developed by BEC and produced by Namco Bandai Games for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, and was released on January 29, 2009. This game follows the story line of the first 24 episodes of the anime series and allows the player to engage in the training and battles the characters experienced first hand. Along with new costumes and items, the player gets to experience the minds and wardrobes of each playable character.[46]

Music[edit]

Six pieces of theme music are used for the episodes: two opening themes and four closing themes. The first opening theme is "Resonance" by T.M.Revolution for the first 30 episodes, and the single was released on June 11, 2008. The second opening theme is "Papermoon" by Tommy heavenly6 from episode 31 onward; the single was released on December 10, 2008 by DefStar Records. The first closing theme is "I Wanna Be" by Stance Punks for the first 13 episodes and the 51 episode; the single was released on June 4, 2008. The second closing theme is "Style" by Kana Nishino from episode 14 to 26; the single was released on August 13, 2008 by Sony Music Entertainment Japan. The third closing theme is "Bakusō Yume Uta" (爆走夢歌) by Soul'd Out's Diggy-Mo from episode 27 to 39; the single was released on November 26, 2008 by Sony Music Entertainment Japan. The final closing theme is "Strength" by Abingdon Boys School from episode 40 through episode 50; the single was released on February 25, 2009.[47][48] The anime rebroadcasting features two additional opening and closing themes. The first opening is "Counter Identity" by Unison Square Garden, released in autumn 2010, and the first ending is "Ao no Kaori" (碧の香り) by Yui Makino, released on November 10, 2010. The second opening is "Ai ga Hoshii yo" (愛がほしいよ) by Shion Tsuji, released on March 9, 2011, and "Northern Lights" by How Merry Marry.[37]

The first character song maxi single sung by Chiaki Omigawa (Maka) and Kōki Uchiyama (Soul) was released on August 6, 2008 by Aniplex. The second single by Yumiko Kobayashi (Black Star) and Kaori Nazuka (Tsubaki) was released on September 3, 2008, and the third single by Mamoru Miyano (Kid), Akeno Watanabe (Liz), and Narumi Takahira (Patty) was released on October 1, 2008. Composed and produced by Taku Iwasaki, two CD soundtracks have been released for the Soul Eater anime series. Soul Eater Original Soundtrack 1 was released on August 27, 2008 with 20 tracks, and Soul Eater Original Soundtrack 2 was released on March 18, 2009 with 22 tracks by Aniplex. The theme song for Soul Eater: Monotone Princess is "Soul's Crossing" sung by T.M.Revolution, and is included on the "Resonance" single.[49]

Reception[edit]

Manga[edit]

Soul Eater was the 7th best-selling manga in 2008, with 3,076,351 copies sold.[50] As of October 2012, the manga had over 13 million copies in circulation.[51] As of April 2018, the manga had sold 18.2 million copies worldwide.[52] As of July 2019, the manga had 19.6 million copies in circulation.[18]

In her review of the first volume, Danielle Leigh of Comic Book Resources wrote that it is "stylish and fun", favorably comparing Ōkubo's art to Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride, which considered paired quite well with references to Anglo-American spooks and horror legends as Jack the Ripper and Frankenstein. Leigh, however, criticized the series for its excessive use of fanservice, and considered that it clashes terribly with the series "pattern oriented, with very little depth" art style.[53] Penny Kenny of Manga Life, gave the first volume a "B+". Kenny praised the series for its action scenes and variety of art styles, commenting that its panels "could have come out of Blade of the Immortal, while others are very Yu-Gi-Oh like", and that others "share the same sensibilities as Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas", adding that Ōkubo uses a "nice mix of standard action, comic, horror, and deformed design styles that blend together surprisingly well".[54] Julian Gnam of Otaku USA praised the weapon meister/demon weapon partnerships presented in the story, but criticized the series' fanservice and overall found its plot "conventional", adding that it could come off cliché to the "more jaded manga veteran", stating although that this makes the series accessible to casual readers.[55] Reviewing the second volume, Chris Zimmerman of Comic Book Bin gave it a 7.5 out of 10. Zimmerman commended the series for its action sequences and wrote that the character designs are "thoughtful and creative", but criticized it for its lack of character development, prioritizing single chapter fights, and making it similar to other shōnen series.[56] Reviewing the first two volumes, Shaenon Garrity of About.com gave the series 2 out of 5 stars. She praised the manga's setting, describing it as a "hyperkinetic Halloween world that’s equal parts Shaman King, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and The Nightmare Before Christmas", but stated that "snazzy visuals can’t compensate for the bland characters and meandering story". Garrity concluded that the series' popularity comes from its anime adaptation, adding that it is "fun to look at, bright and vibrant and visually imaginative", and in contrast, the original manga is "a lot less fun to sit down and read".[57]

Reviewing the first volume of Soul Eater: The Perfect Edition, Nicholas Dupree of Anime News Network gave it a B+. Dupree wrote that the series holds an inherent charm to its world and characters that is hard to find anywhere else, adding that the key is its "spooky, Spirit Halloween-esque design sensibilities". He pointed out, however, that the comedy did not age well, stating that the main characters' gimmicks become repetitive and unfunny, and he felt that its use of sexual humor and fanservice is "questionable at best", and would not blame uninitiated readers if they drop the series for it "being too much". Dupree concluded: "for whatever warts it bears 15 years later, there's still nothing quite like Soul Eater out there".[58]

Anime[edit]

In her 2008 Anime Preview Guide, Casey Brienza of Anime News Network wrote; "Though Soul Eater should not be surprising anyone with its standard tournament plot structure, it has some serious style to burn. Like D.Gray-man it is deeply indebted to Tim Burton's idiosyncratic gothic-fantasy imagery (think Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas), but this series does, if possible, execute it better".[59] Jacob Hope Chapman of the same website describes the series as "dark but lively, visually imaginative, explosive great fun".[60] James Brusuelas of Animation World Network wrote positively about the series, stating; "this anime knows exactly what it is: fun! The result: a series that takes the guilt out of your guilty pleasure".[61] Holly Ellingwood of activeAnime praised the anime series, and wrote that "It is different, exciting and unexpected at various turns. A large part of its uniqueness and thrills have to do with the original animation style. It is zany while at times being creepy at whim. It is stylin’ from start to finish!".[62] Sandra Scholes of the same website, wrote that its story is "full of comedy, fun and dark humour in a Gothic vein", also comparing the series to D.Gray-man and Bleach, and its art style to Gorillaz's videos. Scholes concluded; "If these type of dark fantasy anime grips you then you've seen nothing yet – it's the one that holds the audience right till the end!".[5] Chris Zimmerman of ComicBookBin gave the series "A-" rating. Zimmerman wrote that Soul Eater follows the shōnen conventions of many other series, but it stands out due to its "unrelenting humor and otherworldly feel", in addition to studio Bones "knack for cinematic design and eye pleasing animation".[63] In his A+ review of Soul Eater: the Meister Collection Blu-ray, Zimmerman wrote that the series "embraces its shonen origins with flashy fights and themes of friendship while relying on lush animation and a colorful cast of characters that range from ultra serious to nonsensical".[64]

Jason Green of Anime News Network, wrote that the series "explores the imposing concept of death gods in a tone that's less Death Note and more Gurren Lagann". Green pointed out the Western references presented in the series, with characters named after Jack the Ripper, The Blair Witch Project, Al Capone, Syd Barrett and Frankenstein.[65] Paul Champan of Otaku USA noted as well the series' Western influence, as it is seen in the presentation of the witches and monsters, its nods to American horror films and its different architectures and locations. Regarding the anime series finale, Chapman wrote; "The conclusion and the denouement of the Soul Eater anime are adequate. The ending may not be mind-blowingly original, but it gives me everything that I require to be satisfied and it leaves me with the warm feeling of seeing the characters that I care about accomplish a worthy goal". Champan concluded that "Soul Eater is a solid addition to the collection of any anime fan who likes heroic action with a taste of the sinister and the macabre mixed in".[1] Serdar Yegulalp of About.com, said that the series last episodes "unleash some gloriously absurd wide-scale action that tap into giant-robot stories like Gurren Lagann or Evangelion".[66]

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Charles Solomon ranked the series the sixth best anime on his "Top 10".[3] Serdar Yegulalp of ThoughtCo., listed Soul Eater on his "Course of Anime For Newcomers".[67] Writing for Crunchyroll, Kara Dennison included Soul Eater on a list of "Five Creepy Anime for Your Halloween Party Playlist".[68] Stephanie Donaldson and Jacki Jing of Anime News Network, listed the series on their list of "5 Anime That Need a Reboot, Now!".[69]

Soul Eater was one of the Jury Recommended Works at the 12th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2008.[70]

References[edit]

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