This is a post I was thinking of doing since the very start. Actually, I am planning on making it a traditional review style, but I am not certain I would be able to do it as often as anime adaptations differ from the original manga plot (also called canon). So, Soul Eater, being one of the anime that are still missing in The List , it is the first show to get this kind of special attention from me. Let me also mention that I am a very good friend with Death and his son Death the Kid. I know Death since he was Death the Kid actually… It got pretty complicated, eh? Anyway, I am also very familiar with Shibusen and all the good and not so good, fellows there. Naturally, there is no way for a show to be completely canon to the manga, but is it necessary to derail that much? Let me introduce to you my Manga vs. Anime comparison-type review of Soul Eater.
A lot of spoilers on the way, though I am trying to keep them hinted and not entirely explained, after all, to make a good comparison I need to compare two parts of the manga.
Soul Eater is not the typical akuma shounen anime, although it is very close to it (D. Gray Man e.g.). It is a fantasy story about an academy of Meisters and Weapons, both humans as a whole, who fight against evil and insanity. The academy’s founder and most respected owner is none other than Death himself. Even his young child, Death the Kid is in the building, enjoying the perfect symmetry of the school. Together with fighting and aiming to get 99 darkened souls and one of a witch in order to make their weapons a true Death Scythe, the Meisters have to also manage to achieve a connection with their weapon like none other. In order for everything to work with the team, both of the members need to match their souls lengths and as this is very easy for Tsubaki since she easily accustom to Black Star’s flashy personality, Maka and Soul are having multiple problems from both sides. Will the wicked mind of Doctor Stein manage to make great teams of these young students or will the help of a zombie-teacher and the Shinigami be needed too? What happens when we add a couple of witches to the recipe and stir counterclockwise?
First of all, let me compare the basics: graphics and character design.
One of the crucial elements of a book or other original work of art that gets messed up in their television/movie adaptation is the looks of some character. Just as Hermione Granger from Harry Potter had to have a brown bushy hair, so did Maka Albarn had to have a silver hair. Yes, like Soul’s for example. She is sometimes talked to as “You silver haired…” in the manga and I found it very strange that the animators, although obviously alright with people with strange hair colours (silver, blue and pinkish white), had made Maka a simplistic blonde. Another basic design thing that stands out to me was the ecchi parts. I am talking about the feminine parts of Tsubaki, e.g., who instead of odd (but typical for the genre) leg-scenes gets a breast enlargement intervention, making her rather flat as a character (yes, legs>breasts when it comes to intellectual impression if you ask me). These are just a few examples.
Next up are Characters.
Now, here I do have a bigger issue with the entire adaptation of the manga. Having in mind that I comment only up to the chapters included in the anime, I should point out a few characters that were definitely underestimated in the TV version.
Blair. Yes, the cat-witch-seducer. I cannot believe how much of the action involved with her has been cut off. She is on missions with the others, she is like a part of the team in the manga while in the anime, she is just the eye-candy for Maka’s crazy father and the store owners who enjoy watching girls fight! Even though they have kept the character’s cheesiness and general behavior, the fact that we don’t actually know if she can do anything beside looking ecchi becomes annoying in later episodes. At least for me it did.
Kim the Witch and her weapon Jaqueline. Yeah, they are actually a couple that has a lot of pages devoted to them. After a huge scandal around the two witches being in Shibusen, they team up briefly with Arachnophobia and then back with Shibusen. There is also a love story between Kim and another student at the Academy, whose name I am not telling you! While all these things are happening in the manga, we have Kim appearing for an episode when the heroes are going into the magnetic field to retrieve one of Eibon’s artifacts. That’s it. They appear out of nowhere and they disappear.
Ox-kun and the gang. I cannot deny that I am not very fond of Ox-kun and all his strange characteristics. After all, for me a genius doesn’t need to look like taken from an old-school comic to be a genius. However, even if the staff of the adaptation of Soul Eater has thought the same, there was no need for them to skip long-lasting character explanations and participations of them. After all, they did need to fluff the anime with something and it would’ve been a lot better than if instead of silly filler finishing of arcs that are still unfinished in the manga, they showed us more about the secondary characters.
Mifune O-Samurai-Sama. I need to express how glad I am that there is such character in Soul Eater – strong, powerful, a teacher and a wise man. Yet, he is protective and has an aim in life. Based on the extremely great and very popular actor by Toshirou Mifune (notable for his role as Miyamoto Musashi in the still to be surpassed portrait in the Samurai trilogy from the early 50’ of the past century and participation in main roles in Kurosawa projects such as Seven Samurai and Yojimbo), this man is one of the main fails of the anime. First of all, having a powerful soul length is by no means equal to 99 souls. This is a huge disrespect to the initial idea of the mangaka, if you ask me. Let me remind you that in the manga, what makes Tsubaki a Death Scythe is exactly the blood of the powerful samurai who has given his life to the one who will surpass the gods in the name of the sword.
Up next on my list are the relationships and the deepening of the story. What I mean is the lack of important substantial scenes where the readers of the manga come to know a specific character better by witnessing their relationship with other characters or the changes these same relations suffer from both sides.
Maka-chan and Spirit-san. What can I say? With the alternative story that the anime adaptation has created there is hardly any way to take Spirit seriously in either personal or professional point of view. While in the manga there are some very serious and deep scenes between the father and daughter (a passing of a ring e.g. – whoever has read knows what I am talking about) which shouldn’t be skipped in case someone wants to understand the characters. Also, there was this ending of the series which… sort of turned the entire story of Maka and her mother into a silliness. Won’t even comment on Maka’s ‘courage speech’. So flat.
There is another scene from the manga I adored and am missing a lot in the anime. That is the Tsubaki and Family scene. Sneaking into the personal life of a historically looking family with their yukata and traditional house, seeing how Tsubaki’s father talks to her about the fight between her and her brother, about her win and his loss… That is something that really deepens the knowledge about a character and makes Tsubaki something more than just a sexy-looking, almost-always-naked, quiet weapon of Black Star.
Okay, since I am done with the dissection…
Let me continue with the story flaws according to me.
The main problem with the show came when the team decided that there is no need for them to make filler arc or episodes like they do in Naruto or Bleach, but try to finish the story by themselves. I have no Idea why the creators have allowed this and what did they have in mind with it, but this brought hell on Sibusen. Death city turning into a giant mecha and who understood why Death’s mask cracked? I sure didn’t!
If I have to be honest, I loved the anime. It was great as a whole up to the last 5-6 episodes where even the me who still hadn’t read that manga couldn’t take. So flat, so childish. Like we’re back at early children’s TV shows for goodnight. Too vague and too unlike the original episodes. The change and the things they did to the story as a whole makes the fans of Soul Eater wonder if there will be a chance to fix it all, even if the producers pull off a Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood on us. Yet, even without trying to make anything new, even an OVA, the owners of the rights are surely selling a lot of merchandise and items to the otaku fans who are still dreaming to see Tsubaki and Soul as Death Scythes and all the other interesting things that are currently happening in the manga.
Final thought: watch anime first and then read the manga. It is valid for all anime that are a manga adaptation. I can say it’s the same with books and movies – just read after you’ve watched and you’ll feel better. Otherwise you won’t be able to see that good show and you’ll stay immersed into the awful adaptation.
All rights over anime series belong to the respectful producers and creators. I do not wish to take them off you! I am just promoting the show.
All right of the manga belong to the respectful owners, publishers and naturally – Atsushi Ookubo!