REVIEW: DVD Release: Soul Eater: Part Three

Series: Soul Eater: Part Three
Release date: 20th September 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 306 mins
Director: Takuya Igarashi
Starring: Chiaki Omigawa, Kouki Uchiyama, Akeno Watanabe, Emiri Katou, Houko Kuwashima
Genre: Anime
Studio: Manga
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

Time to grab your scythe and don your skull broaches: hot on the heels of part two comes the third instalment of the adaptation of Atsushi Okhubo's manga Soul Eater.

Following on from where the second collection left off, part three continues to develop the stories of the young students at the Death Weapon Meister Academy as they search for the 99 kishin eggs (evil souls) and one witches soul required to elevate themselves to the rank of Death Scythe.

They are overseen as always by tall, dark and boney himself, Lord Death, as well as a growing list of increasingly complex teachers, many of whom are in various states of decomposition.

The twelve episodes in this instalment focus on the return of the insidious Arachne – The Mother of Magic Weapons – after 800 years, and the coinciding return of her sister: Medusa. Neither of these occurrences are good news for the team of Maka, Black Star and Death The Kid whose training begins to take a back seat to defence of the academy as their enemies close in around them.

The team's need to collect souls is shelved as they hunt for magic tools and weapons that might aid them against the insurgent Arachnophobia Group, and to that end they are aided by their stalwart partners (friends who can merge with their souls to become physical weapons) in the hunt for these artefacts.

Ultimately the team will have to put aside their differences and learn to trust their friends, partners and each other in order to combat a new foe who threatens to engulf not just the Academy, but the entire world…

Soul Eater is nothing if not ambitious. The world it creates, the rules it codifies and the characters it forges are far-reaching indeed, and, at first, it can feel a little ominous to a first-time viewer. The series has defined its exposition as something to be done through demonstration, and this trend is continued into the third collection of episodes where verbal explanations are few and far between. This can make for an initially frustrating experience as you struggle to figure out just what the hell a 'Meister' is for the first few episodes, but, ultimately, everything slots into place through frequently set examples. Moreover, the thick jargon gives Soul Eater at least a veneer of high fantasy, which is lacking in certain other similarly-themed animes, and this makes it feel like more than a 'watch-and-forget' series.

In fact, what is perhaps the most instantly recognisable aspect of Soul Eater is the design which, while derivative in places, does a passable job for the most part in establishing an original aesthetic. Characters such as Death The Kid (the son of Death) are fantastically thought-out, and with little touches to each of them filling out the edges there really is great scope for dialogue and – surprisingly enough – comedy, which the series manages to do incredibly well. However, from time to time, it feels as though they were not willing to attempt this for every character, and the end result is an unbalanced group of people who sometimes feel as if they've been flung together by designers who were not working in tandem. Moreover, the design occasionally feels too borrowed from other sources, and while the wide-angle shots of urban vistas (complete with an animated sun and moon) really are brilliant, there are moments that feel so derivative as to qualify as filler.

Speaking of filler: while the over-arching narrative is an interesting and involving one, there are occasional episodes where it's hard to escape the feeling that they were written to pad out the numbers, as they contribute little. And while these episodes are in the great minority of what is ultimately an entertaining series, they still cause the total five hour run time to sag in the middle.

The negatives do not detract so greatly from this third instalment of Soul Eater as to make it anything other than hugely fun to watch. Although the mythos is impenetrable, and the design is sometimes unoriginal, the action, dialogue and characterisation would make this a worthy addition to any fan’s collection. JD

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