Friday, 4 July 2014

ソウルイーターノット! / Soul Eater Not!

Though I started to read Soul Eater Not! as soon as it began back in 2011, I didn’t really stick with it. It was probably because I was – yes, despite the title – expecting more Soul Eater, but what I got was a spin-off about three new characters who I never really got to know, plus occasional cameos from the major cast of the original series. Especially since at the time, the original manga series hadn’t even finished.

Somehow, I found myself liking the anime adaptation of Soul Eater Not! much more. I was even sad that it ended, wanting more than just twelve episodes. It may have had much to do with the fact I wasn’t expecting anything else. While it’s never been a problem in any other series I’ve watched, perhaps in anime form the girls’ colourings and their seiyuu’s assured voice performances contributed. Either way, I found myself far more engaged and eager to watch every episode.

In the original Soul Eater series, we see the adventures of the elite students of Shibusen – some incredible fighters are partnered with living weapons able to transform perfectly. But what of the other students? What of the ones who aren’t very good at it yet? Perhaps the living weapons can’t fully transform – or found out about their abilities late in life?

This is the NOT class – who are expected to Normally Overcome Target. Hey, English isn’t Oukubo’s first language! New student Tsugumi, cute and impressionable, has just started learning to use her powers. In the NOT class, she finds herself getting close to two other girls her age – the bizarrely forgetful and well-endowed Meme and the privileged, standoffish Anya, who is one of the better recent examples of a tsundere who’s actually likeable. It becomes apparent that both of these masters want to form a partnership with Tsugumi-chan, but how can she decide?

The kids learn to deal with their weird loli dorm mistress, with the totally reformable bully extortionist Kim (probably the character with the biggest role in both series), with part-time jobs in the local cafe and the brash sisters Liz and Patti they meet there, and in the end with a witch causing mayhem. The mystery of Sid’s death is made clear, there are cameos from characters as major as Maka, who is a kind of mentor figure to Tsugumi, and as minor as Ox Ford, who is treated with rather more reverence and respect in this series. We get more of the sweet chalk-and-cheese relationship between Kim and her rival/admirer, the ‘straight-laced chick’ with the incredible name of Jacqueline O. Lantern Dupré. She does not play the cello, at least as far as we were shown.

But while I never really grew to like Meme, whose entire personality seems to revolve around being forgetful, I really liked Tsugumi and Anya by the end of this. Tsugumi’s determined, innocent personality and Anya’s snootiness along with her fixation on things ‘commoners’ like were marvellous. There were other very funny parts of this season, like the guy who can transform into a dagger – except for his head, which stays there – and the poor bookish girl who Kim decides should be called ‘Eternal Feather’, a name that sticks.

The scale is small here, and the ultimate ‘Why not have both?’ moment is a bit unconvincing, but the journey was very satisfying and the characters very likeable. The occasionally clunky pacing of the manga was fixed, and the simple but effective animation was cute. A fun series – even if I’d much rather just have more Soul Eater. 

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