Anime Milwaukee 2016 was a fun time for me this year. This convention has grown over the last several years and this year topped over 9000 (yes I know) attendees.
Highlights for us (my younger son and I) this year was the Sgt Frog panel with Brina Palencia and Todd Haberkorn (and later Cherami Leigh). Winning some Blue-rays in a Sentai Filmworks industry panel. A Funimation panel. The dub release and showing of 4 episodes of Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun. And my son finally getting Kerero (Todd Haberkorn) to sign his Kululu cosplay head piece.
The time taken to get Todd’s autograph: 2 1/2 hours. We also did get to meet Lauren Landa (voice of Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica) which was cool for me, being the Madoka fan that I am.
We also tried, and failed, to get Christopher Sabat’s autograph for my son (Chris voices Giroro on Sgt. Frog). We waited for 2 hours in line on Sunday and the line was cut and we were turned away.
I know this is a risk at conventions while trying to get autographs, and it is why I am personally kind of against it, but my son really wants to get as many Sgt. Frog characters as he can so I indulge that for him.
The Sgt Frog panel was probably the best experience of the convention for us both. The guests were very funny. They really all seem to be fans of Sgt. Frog as a show and I have always heard good impressions for those who worked on it. The bonus was my son raising his hand at the “wrong” time and as a result was being picked on (in a silly way) by Todd. It was hilarious, my son was in heaven and couldn’t stop laughing.
I didn’t get a ton of pictures, but I will share with you some of the many talented cosplayers we came across.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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)!
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.
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….
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?