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Soul Eater: The Weapon Collection Anime Blu-ray Review

12 min read

The Kishin is out in the world and Medusa is angling to be a huge problem in everyone’s side as life in Death City continues on. Well, at least until the fate of the world fully hangs in the balance and nobody is in a good position.

What They Say:
As students of the Grim Reaper at Death Weapon Meister Academy, Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon – literally. When they take on the supernatural forces of evil, Soul transforms into a razor-sharp scythe and Maka wields him in battle. He gets deadlier with every defeated soul he consumes and each victory strengthens their bond… but Maka, Soul, and their classmates might not be ready to face the darkness headed their way.

After 800 years, the witch Arachne has returned to spin a web of wickedness, leading an army of ghoulish minions in a war against Death Weapon Meister Academy. As demons from the past rise amid betrayal and madness, Maka and Soul are definitely in for the fight of their lives. Luckily for the fate of the world, they’re a freakin’ lethal team!

Contains episodes 27-51.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the two language tracks in lossless form using he Dolby TrueHD codec. The original Japanese is as we saw it during the original release in stereo form with an average between 640kbps to 1.1mpbs depending on how involved the scene is. The English mix gets the bump up to 5.1 in lossless form and that ranges fairly wildly, to the sub 1mbps range to just over 2mbps and it handles the added oomph given to the track pretty well. The English mix has a bit more of a dynamic feeling to it but it’s not a show that creates an intense amount of surround material out of what didn’t exist, but it’s an improvement overall compared to the original Japanese mix. That mix has a very solid feel to it across the forward soundstage where the characters dialogue is very well placed and the fight scenes have very good impact to them. It’s a solid action mix that works well in its original form and is expanded upon incrementally with the English mix. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008 and 2009, the transfer for this twenty-six episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is working with high definition source materials so it’s not an upscale/SD remaster. The episodes are spread across three discs with nine each on the first two and eight on the third. Soul Eater has a very distinct look to it and a particular style with how its executed with the animation so we have a lot of scenes with bold and static backgrounds so it can work with a low bitrate, especially as it turns to dialogue and only the mouths move, but when it hits the action sequences it races up high into the thirties to make sure it’s all smooth and problem free. When you’re about six inches from the screen, you can see some very light fuzziness around some edges, but largely the show looks fantastic here with its deep, rich colors and highly detailed backgrounds that are brought in throughout. The action scenes have a great look to them, with very fluid animation that keeps you engaged with it, and the transfer here works very well with all varieties that are thrown at it. This was a show that demanded a high definition transfer and the payoff is here with the richness of colors alone.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is definitely a space saver overall as it’s in a single sized Blu-ray case with a simple cardboard slipcover over it. The slipcover replicates what’s on the case artwork itself but has a bright and more colorful look without the plastic in the way. The front cover gives us a shot of Soul looking what he believes is to be cool, doing the whole pointing thing while showing a little teeth, while the background has a heavy graffiti feeling to it. The logo is the same as we saw on the DVD releases with the arrow design going right at an angle, which ties into other parts of the background. It’s a busy cover overall, and the logo is covered with the Japanese text, but it fits in with how the show itself feels and definitely sets the tone for it. The back cover uses a nice side arrow along the left going upwards which has the logo again as well as a few shots from the show. The background is kept rather simple with shades of blue while placing some character artwork of Soul and some of the other weapons with serious expressions to their faces which is rather nicely done. The premise for the series is done through the middle, kept simple considering much content is here, while the extras are laid out simply along the right so you know the basics of what’s there. Add in a clean and easy to read high definition technical grid that covers everything in a very easy to read fashion and it’s a solid looking cover design. The cover does have artwork on the reverse side that spans two panels where the main characters are all laid out with bright colors that has an infectious amount of fun to it.

Menu:
The menu for this release has a nice bit of style applied to it, something I wish they’d do a bit more of in being creative. The menu is given over to using just clips from the show for the most part as it dominates the screen and they use a lot of action and fast paced pieces with some solid music to really set the tone for it. It’s a perfect primer for it. What I liked about the menu though is the navigation strip itself along the bottom, which uses larger text than they usually do, and it’s nicely styled with the font itself as well as the way it’s colored. Unselected pieces are in grayscale while the piece the cursor is on is filled with multiple colors, making it very easy to tell what you’ve selected. Of course, when you get into the submenus, there’s some good style there as well for the header text, but the rest of it all is very small, largely by necessity when it comes to the episode breakdown since you have the full episode title alongside the numbers and it takes up a lot of space. The navigation strip also doubles as the pop-up menu so it’s quick and easy to use and a breeze to navigate. As with all other FUNimation releases, it ignored our players presets and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this release mirror the DVD releases and are all in 1080p as well. They’re solid extras that have some oomph to them though the overall runtime, commentary excluded, is just forty minutes. The set has a commentary track for episode thirty and forty-four while the third disc has the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. In addition to that, there are twenty-five episodes of the “Late Night Soul Eater” segments which run about 90 seconds each. FUNimation set these up well by making sure you could pick them out individually but also click a play all feature to see various kinds of random silliness and artwork related to the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second half of Soul Eater brings us the final twenty-five episodes of the series as events follow the release of the Kishin and the changes to how Death is approaching how to deal with it. The arc that finished out just a bit before in the previous set had a lot going on with the Kishin getting out into the world and Medusa managing to slip away at the last second as she’s now taken over the body of a young human girl. That alone is worth the price of admission to see her slowly turning into her old self in this pint sized form and freaking her “mother” out by doing so. With the Kishin out, Lord Death is working through the changes he wants to make in order to deal with it and that has a lot of people returning to Death City to carry out his plans.

The set covers two real main tracks of thought here when it comes to the story, though there are some subplot moments that kick in and a little standalone material. Having yet another entire episode given over to Excalibur isn’t a surprise and it’s one that works well as Hero manages to take on the sword because he finds himself capable of dealing with the thousand rules that Excalibur has for anyone who wants to wield him. Hero’s rather fun during all of this as he takes the abuse and seems to love it in fact as he will do anything he’s asked. You almost think that Excalibur is surprised by this at times as he can’t believe that Hero really will do these things, but it makes for another amusing episode involving the strangest of characters in the series.

When it comes to the main storyline, the two arcs are pretty good and they obviously get tied together as the main goal. The first is that while plenty of Death’s subordinates are dealing with tracking down the Kishin and figuring out how to deal with it, Stein is tasked with working with the DWMA students so they can handle things should they come in contact with it. The idea that works well that Stein has is to work with the core students and their weapons to try and teach them about soul resonance. Not the resonance they each have with their weapons already to varying degrees, but resonance as a group that will give them even more ability to deal with the bigger foe that’s now waiting out there. With the difficulties we’ve seen in getting the two person teams working together, it’s obvious that a good deal of the set will deal with the issues of a team going through it. Maka in particular is singled out as she has real trouble coping with the way some of the others are, notably Black Star, and almost gets the boot herself for not understanding the real circumstances of the exercise. While it is a fairly obvious progression from the start of the training to the results, the results do make it very worthwhile since it ties into Soul’s inner dialogue involving the piano in his mind.

The other main thrust is the lengthy arc that deals with Arachne as she starts her plans now that she’s been freed after 800 years. With her past history with Lord Death, she’s intent on making up for all that lost time and opts to acquire the Magic Brew along with whatever Magic Tools she can find, since several are in the hands of Lord Death. What’s intriguing about Arachne outside of her design is that we have an episode where the story shifts back in time eight hundred years and we get to see what happened with a very different Lord Death and the destruction of the pyramid where the Magic items were at. With the DWMA kids able to see this past through a portal that puts them there but unable to change anything, it’s really interesting to see these little changes for some of them and how some of the key moments from the past occurred. It’s a more creative flashback sequence since it places the modern characters firmly in it even if they can’t interact with it. Arachne in particular continues to be an interesting character since she has a lusty design and a poisonous personality but she has legitimate reasons for her desire to make good on the promises she’s made for revenge.

As it progresses, the two main story arcs are pretty good in how it unfolds and brings everything together .The fallout from what Medusa has wrought after taking over Rachel’s body and causing a whole mess of trouble. With her in captivity after causing Crona to betray the DWMA, she’s seeking to make a deal with Lord Death to provide the information she has on the Kishin. This sets up some tension among the DWMA students as they see someone very dangerous and plainly evil getting out of Death City. Kid Death in particular really starts to distrust his father and the other adults over it, but it’s stemming from the fact that he doesn’t know all the facts and there’s a number of key items kept out of the picture until towards the end.

The second arc, which makes up the bulk of the final half, involves the final attack against Arachne and Asura Kishin. The Kishin is intent on spreading its madness across the world and is getting closer and closer to achieving his goal. With the information gleaned from Medusa, a multipronged attack is underway with Sid leading a charge against the general forces of Arachne while the various DWMA students take on the more powerful members within her little group. And, of course, the stage shifts slowly to the Kishin himself that invariably shrinks down who can attack him to just Kid Death, BlackStar and Maka, each of them with their respective weapons.

There’s a lot to like about how both of these arcs plays out. With Medusa, it’s got the challenge that Maka must face in realizing some of her hidden powers that come from her mother. It also has Crona having to face off against his mother (and I still want to call him a her based on his looks and personality), something that Medusa uses over and over to try and keep control of him. Maka’s growth here plays directly into the final arc where she has to use her abilities in conjunction with Soul, but first she has to actually help Soul deal with his inner demon. Normally I dislike stories of this nature in a show like this as it all feels forced, but this one is kept relatively short and it deals with an issue that’s been brewing slowly for quite some time.

I also liked how they worked it so that it was the young DWMA students who had to make the final attack and get caught up in everything. Lord Death’s big moments were a lot of fun as he went up against the Kishin and I particularly liked how it made Kid Death realize exactly how difficult of a position his father was really put in for quite some time. Lord Death has some really good moments here in the final arc as they gain the Magic Brew and the tools needed to unlock it when an old friend, Eibon, comes back to help out as well. There’s a significant amount of back story that could be told based on the little bit we do get here and it really left me wanting to see more of the older days before the young kids and all that’s come with them. Lord Death alone is something that sells me easily on the series as worth checking out.

In Summary:
Overall, Soul Eater ends on a pretty good note. It managed to stay focused for the most part in the last twelve episodes of this set whereas the first half was a bit looser in what it wanted to do. It covers a fair bit of ground and closes up several storylines that needed to be dealt with and it even ends with a sense of satisfaction and conclusion. The style of the show is a big plus and the characters do grow over time and aren’t quite the same as when they started. The secondary cast tended to be more fun to watch, such as Lord Death, Maka’s father and Stein (who gets a nice bit of closure here too), but it all comes together well. I’ll even admit that I liked Excalibur’s part in this final story since he brought in the bit of humor that was needed without it being anywhere near as much as his standalone episodes. Soul Eater won’t be a long term memorable series for its story, though it handles it well here at the end, but it will be memorable for its design and sense of style.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TruHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episodes 30 & 44 Commentary, Soul Eater Late Show, Textless Songs

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 9th, 2011
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 635 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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