All right, it’s the weekend again, so I’ll be taking a look at another couple of volumes of manga. This time, I’ll be focusing on Atsushi Ohkubo’s Soul Eater. Soul Eater began as three separate one-shots serialised in two Gangan Powered special editions and one Gangan Wing in 2003. Due to a high level of interest in the three one-shots, the editor of Gangan Comics asked Atsushi Ohkubo to create a series from them.
Soul Eater started regular serialisation in Square Enix’s Monthly Shonen Gangan magazine after the success of the one-shot chapters. It ran from May 12th 2004 to August 12th 2013. There are a total of 25 volumes of Soul Eater.
Soul Eater was adapted into a 51-episode anime, remaining fairly faithful to the manga up until the first major battle against Arachnophobia – the anime ends shortly after that event, whilst the manga continued on.
Atsushi Ohkubo also created prequel spin-off manga Soul Eater Not!, which I will be taking a look at sometime in the future. For now, though, I’ll be focusing on the main series.
As usual, I’ll be starting with the blurb:
Maka is a weapon meister, determined to turn her partner, a living scythe named Soul Eater, into a powerful death scythe – the ultimate weapon of Death himself! Charged with the task of reaping tainted souls, Maka and her fellow meisters strive to master their weapons as they face off against the bizarre and dangerous minions of the underworld. But the meisters’ own personal quirks may prove a bigger obstacle than any sultry enchantress!
This first volume of Soul Eater contains only four chapters, three of which are prologue chapters. The prologue chapters serve to introduce the meisters and their weapons, and the story begins proper after that with chapter 1.
Meisters wield weapons, whilst their partners are humans who are able to transform into weapons – for example, Soul is able to transform into a scythe. They attend the Death Weapon Meister Academy, where they train and seek to gather the souls of 99 evil humans and 1 witch. By doing that, the weapons can become death scythes.
Prologue 1 is simply called ‘Soul Eater’, which begins with Maka and Soul fighting ‘Bloodthirsty Killer’ Jack the Ripper and obtaining their 99th human soul. Soul Eater lives up to his name and devours the soul. Death, or ‘Shinigami-sama’ as he is referred to in this chapter, also makes an appearance, together with his current death scythe – who’s name is given as Death Scythe, though he is also known as Spirit Albarn. Turns out Maka really doesn’t get along with him.
Also introduced in this chapter is the witch Blair – the first time we see her, she is taking a bath. Maka and Soul also first encounter her in the same way, though their attempt at trying to take her soul results in failure.
We also see that Spirit hanging out in a cabaret club, and that his habit of chasing women has earned him a divorce from his wife (who is Maka’s mother) and hte ire of his daughter.
Maka and Soul’s repeated attempts at claiming Blair’s soul prove fruitless. However, Soul comes up with a plan and they are able to successfully claim Blair’s soul – only to discover that Blair is actually a cat with strong magical powers and not a witch at all.
Prologue 2 is called ‘Black☆Star’, focusing on the character of the same name and his weapon. Black☆Star is an assassin, though he always wants to be the centre of attention – not exactly something that goes hand-in-hand with assassination. In the early part of this series, Black☆Star comes off as more annoying then anything else – it doesn’t help that he’s slightly too reminiscent of a certain orange-clad ninja. However, Black☆Star does grow over the course of the series, so it’s not too bad.
More tolerable is Black☆Star’s partner, Tsubaki. She is a ‘demon shadow weapoon’, and is incredibly patient when it comes to Black☆Star’s behaviour.
Since he hasn’t been able to collect even a single soul, Shinigami-sama tells him that certain humans possess a strong souls that are worth 99 human souls – one such human is close to where they are.
This human is the samurai Mifune, who acts as bodyguard for a witch named Angela. Of course, Black☆Star decides to go after Mifune and Angela, but not before he’s peeked on Tsubaki whilst she’s bathing.
Black☆Star and Tsubaki confront Mifune, and are able to put up a decent fight. However, when they discover that Angela is only a kid, Black☆Star gives up on the idea of taking their souls.
Prologue 3 is called ‘Death the Kid’. Death the Kid is Shinigami’s son, and is obsessed with symmetry. He has two weapon partners: the Demon Twin Guns, the Thompson sisters, Liz and Patty.
Since he wields two weapons, Kid has to collect twice as many souls – Shinigami does tell him that he doesn’t need to bother, but Kid wants to make his own weapon with his own two hands. At Shinigami’s suggestion, he travels to Egypt to find a necromancer witch who is using a large number of wandering souls to create mummies.
They enter a pyramid, where Kid is unable to focus as he’s worrying about whether a picture in his house is slightly to left. We also see that Patty is something a cloudcuckoolander and Liz doesn’t do well with creepy places.
Some mummies appear, Kid does a disappearing act and Liz and Patty have to fend for themselves. Oh, and the necromancer witch falls victim to an evil spirit, Wrath of the Pharaoh. Turns out Kid had returned home to check the picture.
When Kid returns to the pyramid, he discovers that Liz and Patty are in the grips of the evil spirit, which is using bandages to strip them. Whilst he is able to save Liz and Patty, Kid can’t bring himself to shoot he perfectly symmetrical spirit – he suffers heavy injuries due to this.
However, when the spirit’s true form emerges, it isn’t symmetrical. Kid gets back into the battle and destroys it… which also results in the pyramid crumbling when they leave it.
Now, with the prologue chapters done, the plot starts proper with chapter 1, ‘Remedial Lesson (Part 1)’.
In this chapter, we see that Blair now lives with Maka and Soul. Maka and Soul attend the Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA). During class, Spirit asks them to go and see Shinigami.
When the pair arrive, they discover that Black☆Star and Tsubaki are also there. Shinigami reveals that the four of them will be taking remedial lessons, as their prior actions mean that they now have zero souls. They are tasked with claiming the soul of Sid – a man who was a teacher at the DWMA, until he was turned into a zombie. Shinigami also reveals that if the four of them don’t complete the remedial lesson, they will be expelled.
Maka, Soul, Black☆Star and Tsubaki travel to Hook Cemetery, where they encounter and fight Sid. Whilst the battle plays out, we also get a random page of Blair bathing…
Maka and Black☆Star fight valiantly against Sid, eventually managing to capture him after a couple of failed attacks. Death the Kid had been watching the battle with Shinigami, as well.
Soul asks who turned Sid into a zombie, but he remains tight-lipped… at least until he gets a glimpse of Tsubaki’s underwear courtesy of Black☆Star. Sid reveals that ‘Doctor Stein’ was the one responsible for making him into a zombie.
Soul tries a similar tactic with Maka in order to get more information from him, but it only results in all the male characters at the cemetery suffering head trauma.
Sid is a more forthcoming with information after that, telling where to find Doctor Stein.
Doctor Franken Stein happens to be the first partner of Spirit, and the strongest meister to ever graduate from the DWMA – Shinigami reveals this to Kid, but Maka and her companions go to Stein’s location unaware of that.
There’s a preview of volume 2 at the end of this volume, showing that Stein will be an incredibly formidable foe.
After that there’s a strange couple of pages focusing on a bar called ‘Atsushi-ya’ and the oddballs that gather there – not really much connection with Soul Eater, but I don’t mind a little strangeness.
There’s also some translation notes, which are nice to see. It can be interesting seeing the reasoning for the use of certain terms.
So, that’s the first volume of Soul Eater. The manga has more fanservice than the anime adaptation – make of that what you will. Overall, this first volume serves as a neat introduction to the incredibly badass world of Soul Eater.