Soul Eater

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Soul Eater

Postby bakamatt » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:50 am

I certainly never expected to be this enthusiastic about a shounen series: I got nowhere with either Naruto or One Piece (though, I suppose, gave neither a fair try), and haven’t even bothered to look at Bleach.

I can’t even remember why I tried Soul Eater, though I think it was the visual style I saw in the trailer. One is immediately struck by the look of the series. It uses a bright pallet and has a funky, surreal sensibility that suggests Yellow Submarine or the wilder of the original Betty Boop cartoons. I’m very taken with the character designs (like them much better than in the manga). And the fights are wild and flamboyant. It’s a little unusual for me to care very much about how a show looks, but this is an exception.

I found the first thirteen episodes for cheap at Hastings, and took a chance. I was very quickly sold, and replaced that used set with the two full season sets.

Like a lot of my favorite shows (most recently Madoka Magica), what Soul Eater does is work within the conventions of a standard genre, but stretch and bend them in entertaining ways. For example, like any shounen series, there’s a character who’s determined to be “the best.” However, he’s not the main character, but rather an ally to her, and an idiot to boot. (He does eventually muster a certain wisdom as the show progresses.) We also have the obligatory moody, tormented character, but as opposed to emo-ing all over the place, he instead obsesses, Adrian Monk-style, about having thing be symmetric – much more entertaining. The mentor/sponsor character, Death, is downright goofy, though when we flashbacks of him in his earlier history, he’s quite menacing.

The back story is a bit more interesting than the usual. Yeah, of course there’s a school. After a demonic entity almost destroys the world, Death opens it to train fighters. What’s interesting is that there are two categories of students: “Meisters,” who fight, wield shape-shifting “Weapons.” And this is where a lot of entertaining characterization comes in. The Meister/Weapon relationship has to be a close one, but isn’t necessarily (indeed almost never is) romantic. It’s a premise I’d like to try to use in a role-playing game campaign some day.

There’s a fair amount of wit to the writing. One of the most powerful Weapons in the world is so damned annoying that no one can stand to wield him for any length of time, and it becomes a running joke that anytime he’s mentioned to any character, they pull the exact same disgusted facial expression.

There are also some quite spooky portrayals of insane magic entities and characters wrestling with incipient madness.

And I like the cast. It’s a big one, and their foibles are almost all entertaining one way or another. One of the Weapons, Tsubaki, now occupies a high position on my “anime babes” list.

Finally, I was personally entertained by the presence of the ancient magician Eibon. People who’ve read any Cthulhu Mythos stories may recognize the author of the imaginary grimoire the Book of Eibon; the character was created in the late 1920’s by one of my favorite authors, Clark Ashton Smith, and I never expected to encounter him in an anime.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby ZeroRyoko1974 » Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:07 pm

I have been about 10 eps from the end for a long time. It was starting to drag for me, but I will finish it one day
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby M-theory » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:33 pm

Hey that's a great review.

I think you hit on everything I would've said too. And more.

I'm guessing Tsubasa = Tsubaki.

I have a WoW bank guild I named Soul Eater. Haha.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby bakamatt » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:50 pm

M-theory wrote:I'm guessing Tsubasa = Tsubaki.


Oh, bloody hell. Oops, and corrected.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby bakamatt » Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:23 am

I just finished volume 16 of the manga, and there's a sequence I really hope to see animated someday: I totally geeked out over it. And I think Kilik has just become a much more interesting character: he can
Spoiler: show
resonate with almost any weapon
, so, while
Spoiler: show
Kid
is
Spoiler: show
being help captive by Eibon
, Kilik goes on a mission with
Spoiler: show
Fire and Thunder and Liz and Patty,
plus Kim and Jackie.

While they're fighting the chapter's Big Bad, they
Spoiler: show
all seven of them resonate. Fire and Thunder morph into adult versions of themselves (one's a guy, one's a girl, who knew?) and each of them fire one of Liz and Patty
and it's about the biggest blast you've ever seen short of a Dragon Slave. I haven't been that stoked by a fight scene since I don't know when, because all makes internal, Soul Eater-y sense.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby Tsunami3k » Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:04 pm

I'm intrigued. I nearly picked up the manga the last time there was a TRSI studio sale. Now I really want to pick it up to see what's got you so stoked! Thank you for not spoiling stuff!
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby bakamatt » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:16 pm

I can't see picking the entire run of the manga just because something really cool happen in volume 17. But there is some interesting characterization stuff going on in here.

And the
Spoiler: show
sex change stuff
at the start of volume 18 is hilarious.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby Tsunami3k » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:20 pm

bakamatt wrote:I can't see picking the entire run of the manga just because something really cool happen in volume 17.


Nor can I. I was on the fence about the manga already. Knowing it's relevant enough to follow and even have a gem by volume 17 is heartening.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby Kitschensyngk » Thu Feb 06, 2014 1:14 am

Soul Eater is indeed not like any other shounen series I've seen (Is it really shounen if the lead character is a girl?) from its settings to its character designs to its art in general.

It also has one of the goofiest Grim Reapers I've ever seen.

My only major gripe with it is that Black Star gets kind of annoying after a while, as does the so-called "most powerful weapon".
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby Tsunami3k » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:40 pm

Agreed 150% that Black Star is largely an idiot. Fine if he's flawed (and he certainly is) but I expect at least some degree of character growth or comeuppances. In the anime I suppose there's a light sprinkling of both but to a slightly unsatisfactory degree. I tolerated him but just barely. His sidekick Tsubaki is, hands-down, his better half. I love the art style of the anime series which I hope the manga heavily portrays.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby bakamatt » Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:23 am

I'm okay with Black*Star. He's initially hilarious in being the obligatory shounen got-to-be-the-best character, but not the main character, and an idiot besides. Then over the course of the 18 volumes of the manga so far, he does some growing - mostly as a result of getting his ass kicked by various foes, but also from learning the responsibility that comes with his power, seeing the evil that their enemies do, and gaining some empathy on his own and from Tsubaki and the others.

About the most static main character is Kid, and he does some growing, mostly in terms of getting out from under his father's shadow and beginning to question some of his acts.

The popular character that annoys me is Blair; in her one-dimensionality she's a waste of space by contrast with almost everyone else.

I kind of think it's best to think of the teams as individual characters: Maka/Soul is one character, Black*Star/Tsubaki, Kid and the Thompson sisters, Kim/Jackie, etc.

The art style of the manga is quite at odds with the anime; I still prefer the anime, but I've gotten used to the print version.

Excalibur is, of course, supposed to be annoying. *makes that grimace*
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby bakamatt » Fri Feb 07, 2014 11:01 am

I was thinking a little more about this idea that Meister/Weapon pairs represent single characters. In a sense, it's kind of a cheat, since it suggests that team members only have to be half-realized. But even if that's true, and I don't think it is, plenty of shows don't have as many well-developed characters as there are teams in the Soul Eater universe, so we're still coming out ahead.

Meister/Weapon feels like such an intimate relationship to me that, on those rare occasions when you see a Meister wielding someone besides their default Weapon, it's kind of sexy.

A while ago I drafted an outline for a pretty much verbatim Soul Eater pnp RPG campaign, except that I'd want players to use their own characters. I think it could really work well with players that could cope with the relationship aspects of Meister/Weapon teams. But I don't think my current field of local RPG players could, so I tabled it. (My original group back in San Diego could cope without breaking a sweat, but they're extremely sophisticated gamers.)
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby Tsunami3k » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:31 pm

I couldn't sleep last night so I barrelled through to the last volumes this manga and finished around 4:30AM. I was glad that it continued with its clever premise beyond where it gets awkwardly wrapped up by the series about midway through. I've granted Medusa a rare, and likely permanent, spot on my "Best Villains" list.

I don't think you should abandon your idea to develop a RPG around the meister/weapon concept. The way I see it, each pairing could be granted a "Dysfunction" rating that would be directly proportional to their potential combined power. The "Drama Ramp" mechanism would be such that each team would have to do a saving roll vs. their dysfunction on each attack which would drop by a level upon each successful roll as they better achieve "Resonance". Successful battles in which pairs contributed would lead to a permanent decrease of their "Dysfunction" rating (save for the feisty DM triggering a random crippling bout of self doubt or whatnot). This way teams of lesser potential power would carry the team while the heavy hitters would tend to be late bloomers that peak at the latter, bigger baddies.

It's just a thought but it seems too rich a mechanism to not exploit in some way.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby bakamatt » Fri Oct 07, 2016 9:55 am

T3k wrote:I couldn't sleep last night


Sorry to hear; I hope it's nothing serious keeping you up.

I was glad that it continued with its clever premise beyond where it gets awkwardly wrapped up by the series about midway through.


Fair enough. The writing has its ups an downs; it's mostly the enjoyment of the characters that keeps me going. (And their occasional moments of awesomeness - like that thing Ox [was it Ox?] pulled of with Kim, and his weapons, and the Thompson sisters.) I'm glad it wasn't a disappointment.

I've granted Medusa a rare, and likely permanent, spot on my "Best Villains" list.


Agreed. She's never anything less than purely monstrous, but she does it with style. In hindsight, though, she's about the only really entertaining villain in the series; neither Eibon nor the Kishin can hold a candle to her.

There's a really nice (i.e., nasty) picture of her in that second volume of manga art, the one that wasn't imported, that I've been meaning to photograph and post for ages. Though maybe you should do it.

I should be curious to hear some of your other best villains.

I don't think you should abandon your idea to develop a RPG around the meister/weapon concept.


It's still something I very much want to do. But "teen romance" is not something I think my prior group would have been able to deal with, and that group imploded anyway. I hope to try to get into a new one soon.

each pairing could be granted a "Dysfunction" rating that would be directly proportional to their potential combined power...This way teams of lesser potential power would carry the team while the heavy hitters would tend to be late bloomers that peak at the latter, bigger baddies.


I really like that, for several reasons:

1) It fits the milieu.

2) Normally I'm very skeptical of "disadvantages" as they're usually implemented in games these days. (That was my big problem with the anime-themed RPG "OVA" that I mentioned a while back.) But in this case the feedback loop between disad and benefit granted by it is very tight, and the player is practially (or maybe even explicitly) obliged to gradually buy the disad off.

3) It would be fertile ground for character development and entertaning scenes.

So should I ever run the campaign, that'll definately be a feature to try.

There is one small, and one big problem with it, though.

The small problem is that you might not actually have a group of players who'd be willing the implement the entire spectrum from "very compatible with lowest eventual power" to "very dysfunctional with greatest eventual power." It would be a shame if that didn't happen.

The big problem is that I've mostly given up on that traditional RPG assumption of characters starting feeble, and eventually growing to formidable. To achieve that pay-off you have to have frequent sessions for a long time, and I'm far from certain I'll ever be able to do that again. That's the kind of thing that's fairly easy to do when you're a college kid with a flexible schedule, lots of energy and passion, and no family encumberances. It seems to be almost impossible to do as an adult: I tried for one session every six to eight weeks with lots of prior notice, which seemed like it ought to be doable, but wasn't - it was more like every ten weeks. And not the marathon sessions we used to stage, either - it was a challenge to get more than four or five hours out of them when they did show up.

So, chances are, we'd never actually see that evolution from dysfunctional to sympatico. In the homegrown I'm trying to use these days, characters start out middlin' capable and grow slowly because if they don't start tough they may never have the chance to do anything really cool. I'm not sure it wouldn't be viable to just start as the equivalent of a "high level" character and throw out experience entirely, except that players expect it.

Nevertheless, it's a really elegant idea and I'll do something with it someday if I can.
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Re: Soul Eater

Postby Tsunami3k » Sun Oct 09, 2016 1:37 pm

bakamatt wrote:
T3k wrote:I couldn't sleep last night


Sorry to hear; I hope it's nothing serious keeping you up.

Nah, just sometimes I just can't switch off.

bakamatt wrote:Agreed. She's never anything less than purely monstrous, but she does it with style. In hindsight, though, she's about the only really entertaining villain in the series; neither Eibon nor the Kishin can hold a candle to her.

Yeah, Noah was kinda plain too.

bakamatt wrote:There's a really nice (i.e., nasty) picture of her in that second volume of manga art, the one that wasn't imported, that I've been meaning to photograph and post for ages. Though maybe you should do it.

I'm not sure which one you're talking about. I can't recall if I ever picked up a Soul Eater art book or not though I'm tempted every time I see one. Maybe, as usual, I opt not to buy it until I verify whether I've already got it or not...then I forget about it until the opportunity comes along again and the vicious cycle continues.

bakamatt wrote:I should be curious to hear some of your other best villains.

This all sounds vaguely familiar. Wasn't there a thread dedicated to that at some point?

bakamatt wrote:So, chances are, we'd never actually see that evolution from dysfunctional to sympatico. In the homegrown I'm trying to use these days, characters start out middlin' capable and grow slowly because if they don't start tough they may never have the chance to do anything really cool. I'm not sure it wouldn't be viable to just start as the equivalent of a "high level" character and throw out experience entirely, except that players expect it.

Nevertheless, it's a really elegant idea and I'll do something with it someday if I can.

Well, even if you're able to adapt the mechanism to something else, I'd be curious to hear how it works out.
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