Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Confuse-o-Vision Week, #2: Soul Eater, Vol. 8

See yesterday's entry for something like an explanation of why I'm dropping back into series that I read a few volumes of, several years ago. This time out, I've got the eighth volume of Soul Eater, a teenagers-battling-demons story that I began with the first volume a few years back -- and liked, honestly! -- but didn't manage to make it back for #s 2 through 7. As is usual this week, we begin the story already in progress....

I'd expected that this would be along the lines of Bleach or a Japanese B.P.R.D., focusing on the "Scythemeisters" (minions of the death god, Shingami, sent out to collect evil souls, who conveniently all call themselves witches) and their magical, sentient weapons (who shapeshift into different weapons, and also, of course, into teenagers themselves), but I'd forgotten the black hole at the center of the manga universe: high school. The main characters at this point are the students at DWMA -- Death Weapons Meister Academy, which full name is mentioned only once, near the very end of the book -- and their teachers and the graduates of the school are background characters like a sensei in the early going of Naruto.

So the two main Meisters of the first volume are nowhere to be seen in this volume (I think), and the #3 that I thought would be their Draco Malfoy -- the annoying son of Shingami -- looks a lot like a series hero this time out, even though he's not in half the book. (Manga can be difficult to peg like that -- when you're telling a multi-thousand page story with a cast of dozens, any random two hundred pages might not be about the central storyline at all.) And the larger plot -- besides the usual engines of manga: go kill/capture that demon, spar with your classmates, and the upheavals of adolescent friendships -- revolves around a really powerful witch/demon/evil woman called Arachne, who is of course manipulating events  for ends we can't quite see yet. (And there's her long-lost sister, as well, who was thought dead -- possibly in this series, possibly just in backstory -- and returns in a seemingly-harmless form that every true manga reader knows means that she's the most dangerous one of all.)

It's a big stew at this point, with a lot of characters I saw for the first time in this book -- the two folks on the cover are minor adult Meisters, for example, nowhere near main character status -- doing mostly violent things and wondering about mysteries. It's still as energetic as the first volume was, and Ohkubo's art is solid shonen work -- but the writing is a bit better than that, with nice sneaky hooks and dialogue that hits all of the usual notes without sounding exactly like every other manga. I can't say I completely understood this volume, but I did enjoy it, and that's a plus.

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