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!

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Dad’s Bias Against Lesbian Bears

As a parent and a viewer of anime I will occasionally run into something that challenges my perception of myself and comfort level. This season’s Yuri Kuma Arashi did this for me.

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The story is: A planet exploded long ago resulting in a meteor shower that hit the earth. This meteor shower caused the bears of earth to rise up and start eating humans. To protect itself humanity erects a giant wall named “The Wall of Severance” to keep bears and humans separate.

The opening follows two classmates who are lovers tending to their garden on school grounds and professing their love for each other. I watched this. I thought: “Fine. They’re a couple of girls in love. So what?”

And then I watched the OP.

“That’s it! I’m done. I am not going to be the dirty old man watching this!”

Or so I thought. That is the value of connecting oneself to a larger community of viewers: perhaps your bias may be exposed to yourself. A few days after I dismissed Yuri Kuma Arashi I happened across a review of episode 3 on “RABUJOI – An Anime Blog” by Oigakkosan. It made me think that perhaps I dismissed it too soon.

I commented:

“Hmmm. The opening made pause and wonder if the show was just exploiting Yuri themes for the sake of it. I’ll have to give it a fair look based off of your review.”

Oigakkosan gave a thoughtful reply:

“no no it is, to a degree. In the same way Kill La Kill exploited flesh and violence to make it’s over the top revenge story grab our attention. Yurikuma really nails it (this week) with the visuals: Pattern making, repetition of patterns, and the use of physical objects that could actually be symbols or hold symbolism for more things. It’s visually quite stunning, bizarre, and even has an element of retroness that is envogue these days. I’m not sure the series is for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to watch up to this one and see if it fit as perfectly together as it did for me.”

So I did. I was pleasantly surprised.  The symbolism and basic off beat of the nature of the show reminded me of one of my favorites Mawaru Penguindrum and there was a reason for this, the same director Kunihiko Ikuhara.

Now the show is off beat and I would not let my 11 year old watch it due to the sexual content and adult symbolism going on.

download (6) You see? Yes? If I let my son watch this, my wife would ban anime in hour house forever.

My bias come is not being offended by lesbian content. I don’t really care about that. My son is gay, so there is no moral objection. It came in the notion of perception of oneself. I am a 44 year old dad watching sexually suggestive yuri. I dismissed a show because I was censoring myself and I thought this is how “man of my age” should behave. That is where my bias lay: in my own ego.

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I am glad I read the review and got the feedback. It challenged my original perception and I am now enjoying a new show.
Attention Parents: Nudity, adult themes, and sexual content. You have been warned.

and that is the sexy way. Shaba-da-doo

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Cute Girls Doing Cute Things: AKA Seinen anime

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From Wikipedia: Seinen manga (青年漫画?) is manga marketed to a male audience aged roughly 17 on into their 40s. In Japanese, the word seinen means “young man” or “young men.”

Hanayamata and Girls und Panzer are both of the seinien genre. They are both, as the title of the post implies, shows about cute girls doing cute things.

Hanayamata follows Naru Sekiya who feels average and doesn’t feel like she has much going for her until she meets a new transfer student from America (Hana N. Fountainstand) and they start a Yosakoi dance club at school. The show then follows them as they, practice, recruit members, and get ready for the big Yosakoi competition.

There is nothing inherently bad about the show. It’s cute. The story is what you’d expect and the characters are fairly standard, but not bad. Despite it not being all that remarkable I enjoyed the show.

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Attention Parents: There is nothing objectionable in this show.

I like the OP:

Girls und Panzer is a show that depicts tank warfare as a sport for high school girls. Referred to as “sensha-dō” aka “the way of the tank” is a popular martial art where teams of high school girls operate and fight with WWII era tanks. They live and go to school on Academy Ships which are large carriers that support an entire community.

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The story follows  Miho Nishizumi. A girl from a prominent “tankery”

family who has just transferred to a new school that doesn’t have a “tankery” program any longer. Tankery, needless to say, is revived and Miho is roped into taking tankery as an elective course. They then do the predictable things: get tanks, get members, train, and compete until the final big event.

It is a fun show. It is tanks fights with cute girls. The supporting teams are what made the show fun for me.
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The volleyball team

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The history club team

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The video gamers team

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The Student council team

The supporting team are a laugh and give the show some extra character. Is the show innovative or outstanding? No, it’s fun. Just mindless fun.

Attention Parents: There is nothing objectionable.

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And there is dancing…

So what makes this Seinen? I guess it is the market it appeals to: young men. Both of these shows follow teen girls which I guess is what the appeal is. The shows themselves are not overtly sexual, but the art that fans make after the fact are more so:

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It may not be the show that one finds objectionable, but the fan’s reaction to the show. Then again, this is the internet. If someone can think it they will. This applies to these shows as well.

Watch the shows. They’re cute and fun. Just don’t search Google images about the shows you enjoy.