What They Say:
When 14-year-old Tsugumi discovers her ability to transform into a weapon, she decides to enroll at Death Weapon Meister Academy, or DWMA. There, she hones her skills, and practices with other weapons and the meisters who wield them. Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this series is a familiar one as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series is one that works similar to the previous incarnation where there’s a solid bit of dialogue throughout that deals with your standard school design, but it also ups the ante with the action that hits from time to time as well as some of the magical elements. This provides a couple of opportunities to play around with the design a bit, such as the characters in weapon form, but it’s not a huge standout moment or anything. The dialogue side of the show is well presented as the cast works through your usual settings and conversations and the action side plays things well with a decent bit of impact throughout them and some very good directionality in several of the scenes, particularly those that have a bit of flight to it. The dialog is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which is also where most of the extras are located. Animated by studio Bones, the series is one that has a very slick and polished high end look to it in many scenes, particularly with its color design, and doesn’t skimp when it comes to the fluidity of the animation and the overall background design. The transfer captures this well with some high bitrate scenes that keeps it all alive and feeling rich. The colors are very strong throughout here with what it does, resulting in some very appealing scenes where there’s some good depth to the colors. Everything is very solid throughout and the detail is presented cleanly and problem free, making for a very good looking show across the board.
The packaging for this release is pretty decent, though not surprising that there isn’t a limited edition chipboard box, as instead we get a straightforward slightly thicker than usual Blu-ray case that holds both formats. The release does come with an o-card that replicates the cover artwork itself, but it’s got a bit more pop to it due to the cardboard material in comparison to the paper in the case. The front cover has the familiar image of our core trio together in a bit of a leap where they have their various smiles that represent each of their personalities well. It’s set against the pink-hued background and it really lets the character artwork stand out, though the logo becomes a bit lost in it with its own pinks and oranges. The back of the box carries over a solid pink background and does the summary on the left on lined school paper, which is a nice touch, while also including the extras. The girls get another shot together along the right and below ti all is a solid strip of some decent images from the show. The bottom rounds out the dual format technical grid, though some of the small white on pink is a bit hard to read, but it’s otherwise accurate. The release does have artwork on the reverse side which brings together several of the characters doing beachside waitressing, with Tsugumi as the lead for it. No show related inserts are included with the release.
The menu design for this release plays to the standard layout design we get from FUNimation where the logo dominates through the middle and we get a navigation strip along the bottom. The rest of it is just various clips from the show, displaying the various locales and characters, and generally setting the right tone for it. Amusingly, because of the color design of the logo, it reminded me heavily of Dunkin Donuts when it loaded. Showing that to others just had them with the same reaction. The navigation strip is easy to use along the bottom and the separate pop-up menu provides everything in a clean and solid way that makes it easy to get around in and change episodes on the fly. Submenus load quickly and we had a solid experience with it overall.
The extras for this release favor the English language side a bit with some very fun extras. Fans of the cast make out well here with two commentary tracks that let them talk about the show, the characters and general silliness about the property in a good way. We also get an eight-minute sequence of bloopers which provides a lot of fun, and some nice tagging of which episodes they belong to. I love bloopers and having a good batch of them here is a plus. We also get a solid little commercial collection and the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the spinoff manga series from Atsushi Okubo, Soul Eater NOT! is a twelve episode anime series that arrived in the spring of 2014. Animated by Bones, it’s a slick little production that definitely shows a lot of love for the property. The series is like a yuri slice of life project set in the main Soul Eater universe, and I suspect for a number of fans they don’t need to read any further than that and are sold on it. I rather enjoyed Soul Eater when I first saw it, but this one plays just a bit differently, and largely for the better with what it wants to do. At the same time, it does essentially feel like a side story that doesn’t have a greater impact and was more of just a fun project. The manga itself ended a few months after the anime ended, so it’s not something with a lot of material to really delve into beyond what’s here. But it is the right kind of light and fun show that adds to the overall narrative.
The series revolves around new students that have come to the DWMA as first years and are excited to be a part of this whole world. There’s a lot to like in seeing the city, the school and all the little surrounding aspects explored through their eyes because there isn’t the kind of darkness to it all that we got with the original crew of Maka and Soul and the rest. Here, there’s a little more innocence and a little more silliness, as the three girls are all basically looking to get their lives into gear without a lot of baggage. Well, Anya has baggage as she’s actually a princess from another land, but that doesn’t truly play into things all that much outside of her fish out of water element. But that’s a tried and true one in general. Anya’s a fun character simply because she’s the straight man when compared to the others she’s aligned with here, though she tries to break out of that mold from time to time and mostly failing.
The main focus of the show though is Tsugumi, a young Japanese woman who has come to learn how to be a weapon and find her meister. Anya is one that could be it to be sure, but there’s also the arrival of Meme, another young woman that she ends up friends with very quickly. The trio manages to bond rather fast when you get down to it, but it’s the familiar new students in an international type school concept, so they discover all of it together. The weirdness that comes into it is that Tsugumi finds herself potentially being a weapon for both Anya and Meme, which is unheard of for a weapon to have. That plays into some of the gags and story overall as it progresses, but mostly the trio are friends and there’s no really serious competition between them. The worst that it gets from time to time is that Tsugumi tries to show up Anya over things since Anya comes across as so proper. It’s not that Tsugumi wants to take her down a peg, but she’s looking to show off herself.
A lot of the series really does play to standard slice of life material with the girls getting used to the school and the kinds of things associated with it. It does touch on the whole weapons training thing and meisters, and there is some training time within it, but that’s not where it really wants to focus. Honestly, we get a lot of that in the original Soul Eater series so it feels redundant to try and do that here as well. Instead, it’s seeing the girls adjusting to life on their own here, the bonds they form as they discover it all, and some of what they have to do to survive. Some of that comes in the form of them getting jobs since their allowances go only so far. The main place they end up working is a Deathbucks Cafe, where Anya freaks out over the shortness of the skirt while the others handle it well. This eventually leads to some of the biggest conflict in the series as Death the Kid has Liz and Patty working there for awhile, dour attitudes and all, and it’s this trio that starts to bring them to life and a sense of normalcy and belonging. So it works well to expand the overall world.
And that is an area that I certainly appreciated with the show. Its focus is on the new characters, but it knows how to blend the others in from the main series without them dominating it. We get Maka and Soul popping in from time to time, though Maka’s the only one that really engages with them. Sid has a bigger role as he’s working with Anya’s bodyguards to figure out a particular potential witch threat to the city. Some of the others pop in from time to time as well, including a very amusing sequence involving Dr. Stein as he helps one of the girls’ friends after she gets injured and plays a few colorful pranks on them in a way that totally works for him. I certainly like the characters from the original series, and would love to see more, but I like that they really are bit players here, occasionally imparting a little wisdom, but mostly just existing within the overall world.
That said, the show does play to a serious arc towards the end even though most of the show is slice of life. What helps this not feel out of place is that the serious arc has been peppered throughout it about a witch named Shaula that is looking to make her move within the city and is testing out her plan. It’s not a constant as it doesn’t appear in each episode, but the whispers are there and it unfolds in a natural way so that we get the evolution of her storyline alongside that of our three leads, which then crosses over when Meme gets taken over by the control spell that Shaula is working. So when things do get serious in the end, it’s been built up well enough in the way that you have a villain testing out her plan and then executing it. And because of the way it works with the original Soul Eater characters, they participate but are not central to solving it and moving the storyline forward. The focus is kept on the three girls and that’s a huge benefit to the overall tone of the series.
Soul Eater NOT! is cute in how it plays up a few yuri-ish themes along the way with how the girls get along, though you can easily chalk most – but not all – of it up to them looking up to and admiring each other for their various abilities and traits. What we get is a group of girls that come together at a new school to learn and find their paths that end up finding friendship with each other and the potential to be something really unique along the way because of the whole trio aspect with a single weapon and two meisters. It’s a nice change of pace and I love that they don’t get hyper competitive over it when it comes to Tsugumi, instead focusing on the slow build growth of the relationships and the dynamics as well as just the whole slice of life school angle. I wasn’t sure where Soul Eater NOT! would go with its story, but I think it works really well with what it wants to do, separates itself enough from the master series and carves out its own niche in a very good way. Combine that with a solidly put together release and a great dub and it should please fans of the franchise in a big way.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Soul Eater Whoops!, Episode Commentary (5, 9), Textless Opening and Closing, Commercial Collection, U.S. Trailer, Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.