Soul Eater – Anime vs. Manga Comparison

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.

Soul Eater Official Website

Soul Eater in The List

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!




16 thoughts on “Soul Eater – Anime vs. Manga Comparison

  1. Hello. Really solid post the one you made. And I totally agree with you. I know it has been almost a year since the last comment, but I just finished the anime and I really need to talk about my opinion and I need a charitative soul that can hear me (that is a joke, hehe).
    I hadn?t read the manga. I want to read it as soon as possible, mainly because I like a lot the series, but something happened to me just after Arachnophobia appeared, that just didn?t touched me the same as the beginning of the series. Specially the character development. Like, a lot.
    And I want to speak right off what really pissed me off: the relationship of Maka and Soul. Right after all the deal with the Spidey group started, something just made me ask to myself “what is going on?”. Soul became a lot colder than before without any real explanation (I thought it was going to have one), at leats on my humble opinion. The clearest example I can give is the scene where Maka is worried of Crona because of the fact that she was going to fight, you know, HIS OWN MOTHER (that is tough on its own), and after Maka tells Soul what he feels, he basically tells her to shut up and relax (intended to sound “cool” I suppose) in an almost wrong way. This is just an example, but he literally changed (on my opinion), and it almost seems as someone different that at the beginning (it hurts my heart; I like a lot Soul :( )
    The Dad-Father relationship between Maka and Spirit also seemed unpriced to me. Soul Eater didn?t really needed filler, but one with them wouldn?t had caused any harm. Geez, we didn?t even saw the mom of Maka in the whole series (neither Soul?s, know that I think about it).
    And Excalibur, eh, well. That is kind of hard to explain. He is an interesting character. Actually, please forget this paragraph. He is cool. He has some heavy filler to swallow, but he is still cool.
    Finally, the end. I didn?t hate it. I just expected WAY more than that. WAY MORE. What happened to every student of DWMA that was on the battle? What about Mifune? Did he became a teacher? What happened basically to every human during the madness deal? What will happen in the future?
    This is basically all what I think. I am gonna start the manga as fast as I can. I really appreciate your time to read this, even if you dissagree with my opinion.
    Oh, and just one last thing…
    …Soul is awesome. A lot.

    Thanks again for reading this, and have a great day.

    1. Hey, Aldo! Thanks for the message and this is a review of its own. On some basic things, I can tell you that the manga, which ended somewhat recently, will solve the issues. However, some of them never really got solved anyway. I believe someone forced the lovely manbgaka to hurry up and that resulted in a lot of missing links. In the anime, as it aired way before the manga’s end, it includes a lot of fillers and character stories are missing.

  2. Okay, well, I do agree with you on some points, this was a pretty terrible review. You seem to have missed the point of adapting a manga into a different format, which is to expand and make it different. You cannot put every scene in there, obviously, in fact, you can barely cover the basics most of the time considering the comparative condensing. Considering the time limit of 50 episodes where they had to get some kind of conclusion in with Ashura, they did a really good job on giving character development and appropriate attention to as much of the characters as they could.

    Now, I’m going to rebut your opinion on certain things and complain about what you did wrong in writing this review. Yes, I am actually that arrogant and having nothing better to do for the next hour. However, you do encourage feedback, so you’re going to get it.

    Oh, first off: You also seem to bothered about the choice of abandoning the filler arcs in lieu of completing the series …

    … Seirously? The filler arcs and ridiculously boring fight scenes in Bleach and Naruto is why I stopped watching the anime versions (although I admittedly stopped reading Bleach as well after I choked on the idiocy of the Heuco Mundo arc).

    Now, the reason why they had to finish the story themselves… and I hope you get this, because it is incredibly elementary: the manga wasn’t written yet.

    No, really.

    At the point where things diverged substantially, not enough of the manga had been written, and where it was going was over such long prolonged arcs that there was no way in hell they were going to be able to wait another 7 years for it to get to a point where they could wrap it up. THis isn’t Naruto, you know? They didn’t have endless money, time and episodes to throw at the anime. Soul Eater is a comparatively small manga and the anime had to wrap up within a required time. They had to wrap it up somehow by episode 50. The mangaka gave them help, but yeah they were forced to put it together themselves. I’m not really sure why you are complaining about the reality of the situation like that. Yes, they could have done things differently and better, but to complain about the actual circumstances rather than the management of those circumstances is… stupid? Nonsensical? Take your pick

    Honestly, when you look at the episodes within the context of the anime itself and the series layout, it was only the last episode or two that went completely off the rails into a point where it broke the boundaries of series logic (I still don’t understand how courage beat Ashura, or why the Demon Hunter wouldn’t work when it is expressly geared towards Ashura’s kind of insanity and evil…. that really all just stopped making any sense whatsoever). If you want to give an objective comparison of the anime and manga, you MUST treat the anime separately and evaluate it by itself before comparing it. There is absolutely no point in bitching that it doesn’t match the manga (of course it doesn’t). Yes, I agree that Death City moving was not a great idea, but it fits within the sphere of the series type and logic, and enables a fight between Ashura and Shinigami-sama, which really was needed to give the series closure (although how they actually did it could have been a lot better). Up until the last couple of episodes, series logic and grounds for willing suspense of disbelief was still maintained. Yes, those last 5 or so episodes could have been improved, but they were still in keeping with the thematic and realistic measures the anime had already established (hell, the manga too).

    On your review over all is what I have the most issue with, not your opinion on Soul Eater (I agree with you on some points, disagree with you on others and my biggest issues with your internal logic concerning the series I’ve already laid out above). If you want to write your opinion that is fine, but a review is not just your opinion where you complain about which bits here and there you didn’t like best. I know that is what a lot of internet reviewers do, bitching about what they don’t like and labelling it a review, but that still doesn’t make it one. If you want to actually give a real comparative review where you evaluate the anime and manga individually and then compare their similarities and differences, failing and foibles, then you have failed here. If you want to give an opinion that’s fine, but you talked about making this into a series so I am giving you some advice so you don’t end up like the majority of other fuckwits on the internet who talk and bitch their mouths off without any substance, wasting their time and everyone else’s by adding to the layered bullshit of the internet. If you want to be like them, that’s fine, but if you don’t you might want to step back and think next time. I haven’t checked the date on this entry nor whether you have made any more after this, and honestly, writing coherently while in hospital has never been one of my strong suits, particularly on the meds I’m on, but I am giving you the opportunity to do better. Maybe years have passed and you have improved, maybe you haven’t, but take form my long and lengthy complaint what you need to improve, if you ever read this that is.

    To the point? Your analysis was provincial and scattered, picking and prodding at details without giving a comprehensive perspective, complaining on points that personally bothered you rather than an objective comparative analysis. No conclusive evaluation. Superficial. No structure or logical progression. Your comparison of the characters comes down to: the anime characters aren’t as deep or as developed as the ones in the manga because they left scenes out. Yeah, we know. Evaluate each representation of the characters individually and then compare and evaluate them as their thematic and archetypal relevance demands. For example, Spirit is the perverted-idiot doting-father, constantly represented as silly and stupid while still being able to back up his meister extremely competently in a fight. Did the anime manage to establish the basics of his character and more developed aspects as in the manga? You say no, okay. Explain why. And when you think about the deficit in his character when you compare the length of the manga to the length of the anime, do you think they could have done more or less?

    You don’t have to go into ridiculous depth, but you MUST establish a basic parameter standard. You must do at least a basic analysis, evaluation and conclusion for each of the areas you are reviewing. The better you get at it, the less words you will need to get your point across. But if you want people to listen to your opinions then you must give at least a going-over of the basics, and provide an objective view point in your analysis. Your conclusion can be subjective and explain your feelings, but your analysis and evaluation must be more objective.

    To be blunt, your review sounds like it is coming from a high school student who hasn’t yet passed year 12 English. Hey, I’m not saying I could do better and I don’t write reviews anyway, but I know substance and involved thinking when I see it on a page. I know what a real review looks like, and I know what an opinion by someone who wants to complain about the crap that bothered them and then throw on the title of a “review” looks like. You are more the latter than the former.

    Hey, I’m harsh, in a lot of pain and on so much buprenorphine that I can’t stand, so I’m not really in a position to judge but I will do so anyway, whether anyone listens or not, because I am also another fuckwit on the internet who complains about what they don’t like. However, this IS a comment and opinion on your work, and I assume because you allow this that you do want feedback.

    You have a lot of promise and a lot of good points in your writing. You explain your point of view lucidly and give an interesting and engaging narrative voice reaching out to the reader. You CAN do a lot better than this, if this review is any example of the standard of your work. Your grammar and syntax are fine, appropriately used most of the time, and you understand the desire of your readers to get a grip on the differences between the anime and manga, and what is good and bad about the adaptation. You didn’t actually do that very well, but you understand the rhyme and reason for these kinds of “reviews.” Your problem, as with most of the issues with the Soul Eater anime, was in the execution. Structure, analysis, evaluation, perspective, conclusion. These are things you need to work on.

    Your writing style is engaging and you have potential to write informative and interesting reviews that give the readers want, while also providing the substance that will give your work real weight and impact, rather than just being another half-assed blog review that your readers won’t even remember half an hour later, adding to the morass of similar thousands. The potential is there. I wouldn’t even bother with you at all, let alone this insanely ridiculously long post if you didn’t have it. Use it. Or don’t. It’s up to you.

    Good luck.

    By the way… Did anyone ever figure out why the fuck Maka punching Ashura with her fist of courage could do any damage whatsoever?

    1. Thank you very much! This was a really good comment with exceptional feedback. This review is from 2011 and a lot of things did happen since then. I have pondered over writing new reviews on certain topics, including Soul Eater… or make updates. It’s even more valid now since the manga’s compete and there were actually quite a lot of similarities where I presumed they won’t exist.

      Nonetheless, as a non-native speaker (you wouldn’t even want to know how the language we speak sounds like in the Shinigami world), I cannot be more than glad to have such a fine feedback about my skills.

      Thank you for taking your time (I hope it wasn’t really a whole hour!) and please, feel free to comment wherever you wish to. Also, I always accept submissions by readers and would be glad if you would like to write a review of something (even if I already have one for the specific show) and wish to publish it here!

  3. great review, the was looking this up after getting the first volume of manga after having watched the show. i really love both, with each having its own reasons why i like or dislike. the anime is not a faithful recreation, which i’m not a fan of, but i like the art more in the anime. I really dislike the art in the manga compared to the anime (as opposed to how i felt about naruto or bleach )
    and i like the manga for all of the action and plot and story :)

    1. Oh, thank you for being nice to a poor Shinigami! I am glad you liked it, Cam-chan!
      I cannot help it but wonder what did you think of the final episode when you saw it the first time?

      1. i enjoyed the anime alot even though there were scenes with maka that i didn’t like……..but that ending made it feel like everything that happened was completely pointless and a waste of time when it could have ended with a fucking punch really! but from what you said im going to read the manga now

  4. Let me start with this – congratulations to Shinigami-sama for daring to write a huge review once more. It was detailed and substantial and I believe most anime and manga fans, being of better intellect then most fanboys/fangirls, will appreciate it.

    Now with my personal expression.
    I’m one of those people who detest a story when it falls flat. Any time I feel a character is useless or the storyline is superficial, when I feel like the strong isn’t strong enough and the ingenious isn’t ingenious enough, I just let it slide and mark it as “useless”. That’s exactly what I did after watching Soul Eater.
    Being an avid D. Gray Man fan (OBVIOUSLY :P), I was constantly comparing the two series and couldn’t neglect how less substantial Soul Eater is in terms of all – from graphics to character development. Yes, it’s sometimes fun, but most of the times I laugh at the anime creators and not with them…
    I know most people would say that it’s different then D. Gray Man, but it’s not. The difference comes from the depth of character development. I can’t believe that if a great character like Marian Cross can make you fear him and laugh with him at the same time, a silly person like Spirit can do it too…

    Reading Shinigami-sama’s review made me feel like I want to give it another try (especially now, when D. Gray Man is so slow…) and read the manga. If the anime company has caused that “flatness”, they’re to be dissected.

    Thanks for reading! (If anyone did)

    1. Thank you for the comment, Lulubel. I appreciate it and I am in an absolute agreement with you. I also had a very bad experience with the last few episodes of Soul Eater and this is why I decided to make a comparison instead of just a simple review.

      1. You did great. It was fun to read and comment on and also “educational”, even for someone like me who’s an anime junkie and reads absolutely everything available… Keep them coming. :)

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