By Atsushi Ohkubo. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press.
I somehow missed reviewing Volume 5 of this series, but no worries. This new volume sees the series doing a lot of things right, and the result is that I feel I can finally wholeheartedly recommend it in ways that go beyond the art style.
The plot here continues from the last volume: our heroes are trying to stop Medusa and her cronies from resurrecting the Kishin, a Very Big Bad who has been sealed up in a subbasement in a bag made of his own skin. Maka has found herself confronted by the series’ most disturbing character (and that’s saying a lot!), Crona, who definitely seems to have the upper hand. Maka can get it back, but only to abandoning herself to madness, and trusting that Soul will be able to bring her back.
This series runs in a magazine called ‘Shonen Gangan’, but the age bracket it seems to market itself to is noticeably higher than the big 3’s shonen titles – more of a 10-15-year-old market. I’d say that’s definitely a good thing, as some of the events in this volume can be downright unnerving and almost terrifying. In fact, at times the unnatural and abstract art style helps – at one point, Maka grabs Crona’s face and runs it along the blade of her scythe, something that would make you scream in horror if it weren’t so cartoonlike. The distancing works very well.
As for Crona (who Yen seem to have dubbed ‘male’ simply because avoiding pronouns is very awkward in English – Crona generally is sexless), in trying to open up, Maka discovers that Crona lacks a very good sense of self, and in many ways almost seems to have a split personality. Maka breaks through using the power of friendship, of course, but it’s very uneasy – Crona’s weapon rebels against this, and there’s a sense that everything is still hanging on a knife-edge.
The rest of the volume sees Black*Star and Death the Kid try to get to the basement to stop the Kishin’s resurrection. This is more shonen battle oriented, with lots of killer hidden moves and self-doubt – hallucinatory images play a big role here, and at one point even the villains almost commit suicide because they’re being tricked by the sheer insanity of the Kishin’s thoughts. However, they finally make it down there, and…
…well, they fail. The Kishin ends up being resurrected after all, though at least Medusa is killed (or is she?). This is the first really big plot line that our three groups have worked together on, and though they all get to strut their stuff and do cool things, it’s rather noticeable that it ends in failure. It has to be said that Soul Eater is, at heart, a world that seems to live off of fear and madness. As a result, things like this happening are far more the norm. Hopefully as they get stronger Maka and company will be able to help prevent this, but for the moment the bad guys have won.
This is not your typical shonen series. It has a high body count and a lot of blood, as well as facial expressions which can cause you to whimper in horror. And as always there is the art, giving you a comforting disconnect from reality to help with the worst gory bits, but also being nowhere near reality in terms of its everyday setting. I’m enjoying it more with every volume, and now that it’s settled down into a plot-oriented groove, it’s become one of Yen Press’s better acquisitions. Recommended, especially for those who want something a little different.
Oh yes, and Patty’s ‘Voice of Authority’ was hilarious. :D