Monday, 12 August 2013

Soul Eater (manga)

It seems like a slew of manga I started reading a few years back have come to an end, though really it’s just this and Deadman Wonderland. I’ve been reading Soul Eater for longer, though, and in the end have certainly enjoyed it more, so I’m quite sad to see it come to an end.

When the anime adaptation ended with a rather rushed and dissatisfying final arc – though I did enjoy Crona’s central place – my main thought was that it was fine that it got botched together, because I could continue to read the manga for the true ending, and hey, maybe one day the rest would get animated in a special, a movie or a revival. And that’s remained my attitude as the series has faded from public view (as most manga do when their anime ends) and tied up its loose ends.

The final arcs have had problems – I found Noah’s final design very lazy and unappealing, the ‘I am your brother’ reveal (or close enough) is overdone and rang hollow for me, and both in the arc where the characters enter the ‘book of Eibon’ and have their genders reversed and in the painful first half of the very last chapter, which really ought to have been spent on better things, mangaka Oukubo Atsushi’s attempts at racy humour are without fail swings that miss. It actually stung that rather than giving more attention to my favourite character Crona’s grand and tragic gesture closing out the series, he wanted to do a series of bad boob jokes.

But still, Soul Eater was well worth the time I gave it. As I said, I adored Crona, completely gender-ambiguous, kooky and so vulnerable behind all that strength. Excalibur remains one of manga’s funniest creations, but his scenes with Shinigami at the end were judged so perfectly and his presence made the scene so much more poignant, which was deeply unexpected. Kid became far more interesting in his interactions with the witches (nyamu!), BlackStar became ever less of a cliché (though never main character material) and of course Maka remains one of the only effective shouen protagonists that is not only a girl, but a girl absolutely held peer by the fighting boys around her. That she is also not at all written so that her gender is an issue or even a focal point makes her remarkable, and she is quite simply a good character at the centre of it all, which ought not to be something strange, but absolutely is – in all action series, not just shounen, with her closest parallel in my mind being the eponymous main character of Avatar: Legend of Korra. Of the newer characters, I found Gopher to be hilarious, for even if he was somewhat one-note, the daft variations on that theme were fantastic.

There wasn’t really much in the manga that would surprise those who stopped at the end of the anime, but that just shows a consistent story arc throughout a work – and there was one thing I didn’t see coming, the highly distinctive sun and moon ended up being given a bit more attention in quite a brilliant little twist. But to really see the way the story ought to have ended, the manga definitely does what the anime didn’t manage, which is to satisfy.

Though if we were to have some more, and there is certainly scope for more about what happened at the very end, I would not complain. Until then, there’s always the fun little Soul Eater Not! 

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