Soul Eater: A Therapist’s Animated Dreams

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Most who read this don’t know that my past life was that of a therapist. I earned my Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy around year 2000. I worked primarily with couples and teens and their families. I quit after a couple of years due to a combination of things, but mostly due to being able to earn a living to support my young family. Psychology (and philosophy) still are of an interest to me and are a strong part of who I am and that is in part what made Soul Eater so interesting to me.

What I mostly intend to explore in here is relationships. Most relationships, healthy or otherwise, are interdependent and complimentary. So, usually, in relationships you need someone to compliment your personality (ie: you need an yin to your yang). This was illustrated in the episode how it doesn’t work if you don’t match up when  Soul and Black Star tried to pair up and failed spectacularly. We need someone to balance our strengths and weaknesses and they need the same.

This post is mostly a series of observations I had about the show given the filter I have from my therapy background.

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Soul and Maka

To me, Soul and Maka seem to be the most balanced pair. Soul’s bravado and teen ego seems to balance Maka’s self doubt and confidence issues that she faces. Maka has a strong desire to achieve and be as good as her absentee mother (a Death Scythe). Maka in turn helps ground Soul’s more reckless nature with her desire to do the right thing and to achieve in an ethical manner.

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Spirit and Maka

Father and daughter relationships can be rocky, especially if dad is a philanderer. Here we have a portrait of a divorcing family. Maka is in the middle of her parent’s divorce, and she has sided with her mom. Spirit (Maka’s dad) is a serial cheater. He can’t keep it in his pants and had repeatedly cheated on Maka’s mother while they were married. Thus, Maka has sided with her mother in the divorce and harbors a lot of anger at her dad for breaking up the family. While I do understand Maka’s position I couldn’t help but notice Maka’s mothers absence. Spirit, while he acted like a jerk (and is still quite immature as an adult) is the person who is there for Maka. Maka’s mom is elsewhere in the world, Spirit is in Maka’s life.

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Black Star and Tsubaki

The narcissist and the passive personality. It is in episode 5 that Stein makes explicit that the pairing of Black Star’s and Tsubaki’s personalities as complimenting one another. Although he is kinder in his assessment describing Black Star as self centered and a little bit wild while referring to Tsubaki as willing to compromise with an accepting nature. I call it an ego-manic and someone willing to put up with that. It is not as bad as I describe, however. A narcissist personality disorder is a person who is preoccupied with their own personal adequacy, power and prestige which Black Star does have issues with, but he does have a capacity to see other’s needs which a true narcissist doesn’t. Black Star does have many moments where he puts himself second to let someone else shine and Tsubaki has a great amount of her own personal strength as well. But from an exaggerated point of view: they need each other due to the extremes of their active vs passive natures.

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Death The Kid and The Thompson Sisters

Oh Death The Kid….you little walking obsessive compulsive disorder you. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It’s also possible to have only obsessions or only compulsions and still have OCD (mayoclinic.org). This would include Kid’s obsessive need for symmetry. Now Kid can rise above it, but he does have  neurotic tendencies for sure.  And that’s where The Thompson sisters come in. Stein points out (in episode 6) that the Thompson sisters, from having a different background and thus different attitude (more laid back), balance some of Kid’s more neurotic behaviors. I also see another, perhaps unintended, thing. Liz and Patty also have two very distinct personalities. Liz is a little more mature and sensible (but cautious bordering on fearful in some situations) whereas Patty is often fearless, childlike, and a bit out of her mind in her own way at times (though when push comes to shove she is very competent). What struck me was that Liz often got stuck into the parent (or caretaker) role having to wrangle the two crazier personalities (Patty and Kid). This isn’t absolute, but watch the show now and see if you see it…

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Crona and Medusa

The abuser and the  abused. Crona is the child of the witch Medusa. Crona was abused: psychologically, physically, and emotionally. Medusa treated Crona, her child, as an experiment. Locked and isolated Crona in a room until Crona killed a baby dragon. Crona had to go into a dissociative  state in order to finally kill the dragon (on his mother’s orders), get let out of the room, and win his mother’s approval. Medusa also injected Crona with the Black Blood (using him as a disposable test subject) and thus carried the demon sword, Ragnarok, in him. Ragnarok is another personified side of Crona’s abuse. Crona gets emotionally and physically abused by Ragnarok. But one could also see Ragnarok as a side of Crona’s personality, split. Ragnarok representing Crona in a physically strong way, but also as a constant dialog of self loathing that is with Crona wherever he goes (I know this is reaching, but I am fine with that). As with most children, even the abused, Crona still wants and seeks the approval of his mother, and Medusa exploits this at a couple of points in the show.

This was just a small set of things that got me thinking. I usually don’t think to deeply into analyzing shows, but this was hard to resist. Soul Eater has got some richness in it’s pairing of characters and the levels of function and dysfunction that they share. I didn’t even get to Stein or to the Kishin. Maybe another day…

Thanks for reading.

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A Tale of Two Soul Eaters

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So recently I just finished Soul Eater (late in the game I know) and then followed up with the more recent Soul Eater Not. Two vastly different shows set in the same general universe, produced by the same studio (Bones), but (the anime) written and directed by different people.

I know it is unfair to compare the two and I will try not to, but I am sure my bias will seep through.

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Soul Eater

Students a the DWMA (Death Weapon Meister Academy) train to become proficient at defeating witches and  humans who have strayed the path to become evil and thus their souls have become corrupted. Students generally work in pairs as weapons (students who can physically transform into weapons) and the meisters that wield the weapon. After a meister and weapon have accumulated 99 evil human souls and 1 witch soul (which the weapons absorb) they can become an official “Death Scythe” that can be wielded by Death himself (who founded the academy and the fictional “Death City” where it is located).

The show follows primarily pairs/trio: Maka Albarn and Soul Eater (a Scythe), Black Star and Tsubaki Nakatsukasa (who is able to transform into several weapons associated with ninjitsu), and Death’s son: Death the Kid and his partners Liz and Patty Thompson (both pistols).

The show has a lot going for it.

The story is enjoyable. However, for me, the first six episodes (or so) are a bit annoying and mostly exposition: necessary, just not my favorite part of the series. I know a lot of people prefer the manga story-line, but since I haven’t read it this doesn’t bias me.

The artwork is my favorite thing about this show. It has got it’s own cartoon-ish, nior, Halloween feeling to it that appeals to my aesthetic sensibilities. I love the sun and moon (my favorite background creepers)!

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I watched the English dub and it is absolutely fantastic. I often watch subs since I watch a lot of new material on Crunchyroll, but the dub of this is really good and I highly recommend it if you haven’t watched it.

The soundtrack is really good and I am an absolute sucker for the 2nd OP: “Black Paper Moon” by Tommy Heavenly6.

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Attention Parents: Overall this show, while not harmless, is probably good for the 12 and up set. There is some ecchi stuff early on, mostly with Blair, but this is minimal in the overall picture of the show. There is blood. Black blood and otherwise. There are also themes of abuse, mental illness, infidelity, and madness. All of these themes could be a really interesting talking point with your kids if you watch the show with them.

I loved this show and highly recommend it (as I know many other do as well). And this now brings me to the other Soul Eater….

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Soul Eater Not!

Last year’s Soul Eater Not! jumps into the same universe as the original Soul Eater (Anime ending in 2009). It is classified in the ecchi, comedy, and shounen categories which I don’t think is exactly accurate. It seems to be more of a slice of life, seinen style of show with some yuri suggestion thrown in for good measure. Whatever it is trying to do, it never seems to firmly achieve it.

The story revolves mostly around 3 freshmen students at the DWMA:  Tsugumi Harudori, a weapon (halberd) and two meisters, Meme Tatane and Anya Hepburn. They are all weapons of the NOT class (Normally Overcome Target) who are there to learn to control their weapons and abilities, as opposed to the EAT class (Extraordinarily Advantaged Talent) which takes their abilities into the field to fight evil humans and witches (ie: the original Soul Eater). Much of the show revolves around Tsugumi’s indecision around which person to pair up with for her meister.

Soul Eater Not! was meant to take place slightly before the main story-line of Soul Eater. Because of this you do get cameos from most of the Soul Eater series characters. Pre-zombie-fied Sid is most heavily used and is treated fairly well as a character. Stein also makes a couple of appearances playing “the wacky doctor” to an annoying effect, I found. Maka serves a small role as some inspiration for Tsugumi as well. The cameos from the original series (with the exception of Sid) felt kind of contrived and forced, but maybe that was me.

The yuri undertones (or maybe overtones?)… I know this is a standard in the “cute girls doing cute things” shows (and this was essentially “cute girls doing cute things” at the DWMA), but my god did they beat you over the head with it. If Meme wasn’t sleep-molesting Tsugumi in some part, then it was Anya getting all tsundere-style jealous that Meme was touching or rubbing up against Tsugumi (maybe I exaggerate, but not much). And then there was the whole side story of Kim Diehl and Jacqueline O’Lantern Dupré (who were both in Soul Eater as side characters) and their whole romance/ friendship/ partnering which seemed largely unnecessary.

And can we talk about boobs for a minute? I know if there is a school anime with a bunch of girls there will be a scene where they talk about their boob size. It’s a given. It is an immutable law of anime. But for gods sake! In Souls Eater Not! they wouldn’t shut up about it!! Fine, mention it one time *eye rolls*, we’re done.  But repeatedly???!!! Can you tell that this annoyed me?

The animation was clean and well done. Is it what I liked from the original? No, but it was meant to be different, so if you accept that, it was animated fine.

The story is weak. It never quite gets a foothold of what it is trying to be. I liked some of the end where it got a little action oriented and thus the characters got some development, but otherwise the show felt largely directionless.

The OP was actually pretty good. Monochrome by Dancing Dolls.

Attention Parents: The show is a bit more ecchi than Soul Eater and has yuri undertones. Otherwise there is no blood and little fighting or challenging themes to deal with.

I do realize I may be being unfair to Soul Eater Not!, but I do feel like it didn’t make clear what ever it was it was trying to do. As a slice of life, or even as a “cute girls doing cute things” show it didn’t live up to it’s potential. If you haven’t watched these shows, maybe Soul Eater Not might be one to watch first and perhaps then enjoyed more?

Happy viewing everyone!

Sometimes It’s Just An Immediate: Nope!

As I’ve stated in postings past I often screen various animes to see whether my younger (now 12 year old) son can watch them. Some I’m watching because I wanted to watch the show and others are just a brief screening for to red or green light a show for him to see. I often don’t get around to every request he has since I don’t have all the time in the world to screen eveerything he comes across.

Sometimes it’s just a: “Nope.”

First episode. First 5 minutes. First impression. All screaming: “This is not appropriate for him” or “If I let him watch this his mother will kill me”.

This season had a few “nopes”.

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Gangsta

A gritty, bloody, crime ridden show. It’s got killing, blood, abuse, prostitution, and all other manners of organized crime. I like the show (even though the plot seems a bit convoluted at times). The animation is good. The main characters are interesting and likable in their own ways. There is an interesting story going on (although it does seem a bit muddled in it’s presentation). But given all that I stated in the first two sentences it is not appropriate for my 12 year old. Hell, I could tell it was a “no go” from the OP sequence.

A good song though….

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Monster Masume

AKA: Everyday Life With Monster Girls. I was pretty suspicious about this one when I clicked on it to watch it. Aaand within the first 5 minutes: “Nope!!!”

It is basically about a guy who has various “Monster Girls” foisted upon him to live in his home as part of a Inter-species Cultural Exchange Program of which he never volunteered for. It is a harem show, except they are monster girls instead of just girls.

It is ridiculously ecchi and, admittedly, it made me crack up a few times at is juvenile sense of humor. That being said: it’s all body part and sex related jokes (and some of the resulting embarrassment along with it). It’s not a bad show I guess. I haven’t felt compelled to keep up with it though. So, it a “Nooo…you can’t watch that…just no.”

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My Wife Is The Student Council President

Okay. I only found out about this show the other day. I didn’t know about Crunchyroll’s Mature settings. I was talking to a coworker and he told me about this show (he likes more ecchi comedies than I do). I told him I hadn’t seen it available and he mentioned the Mature content filter. It comes defaulted to being “on”, so I switched it off and there this show was.

So, I know ahead of time that my son cannot watch this. But curiosity gets the better of me and I watch the first episode. It’s about two high school students who have just found out that their parents arranged for them to be married when they were younger. The girl (the student council president), is taking this arrangement to heart and has shown up at her betrothed’s door step ready to live with him. He tries to scare her off the idea by acting like a “pervert”, but she doesn’t back down from her commitment. And by the end of the episode there is exposed nipples being licked.

Nope. Can’t give the go ahead with that one either.

It’s funny. There is nothing inherently wrong with these shows. Ecchi humor is just that: humor. As a parent, however, I have to decide not what is necessarily “wrong”, but what I will advocate for him to watch. I think my hesitance comes in not with the jokes themselves, but with his maturity to understand the jokes and to take that information into his brain (and out into the world) in a mature fashion. So that is why I will censor these things out. Not because they are bad, but more because I want him to be able to process mature subject matter in a better way than he is able to now. This is not the same for all kids, some can handle it earlier, some later. Just food for thought…