‘So you hated it right?’
What They Say:
Soul Eater NOT! is a side-story to the main series, focusing on a freshman halberd named Tsugumi Harudori, who befriends two other meisters, Meme Tatane and Anya Hepburn. All three take part in the NOT (Normally Overcome Target) class at DWMA and learn to control their powers in order to overcome their difficulties to have a normal life, as opposed to the battle-oriented EAT (Especially Advanced Talent) class taken by Maka, Soul, and their companions.
For this DVD release we have a 5.1 Dolby Surround release in English and a 2.0 stereo release in Japanese – nothing wrong with either track (fine on the default settings, watched the first disc in English and the second in Japanese – no problems with the synching or with the subtitles, also has subtitles in general and subtitles for the hearing impaired as well separately), Very straightforward release quality wise, no glitches I noticed with music, foley, background noise, etc – and I do like you have the option to put subtitles on with whatever setting rather than automatically for Japanese and not for English (annoying if you are hearing impaired) – extra marks for that.
Set in NTSC style format with the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio on a full screen format, the style is a little brighter than the traditional Soul Eater animation but with all the cameos and references, whilst it does look different it isn’t too dissimilar, just bar near the end it is more of a slice-of-life so the colours are more…well colourful – the animation is fine, with no slowdown with the subtitles whether in motion or gritty when paused – it flows quite well and when it does get darker by the end of the series, it almost transforms back into Soul Eater with the animation style and the battle (and blood) so it still works out, especially in a DVD release.
There was no packing for this test release.
The menu on both discs is of the three girls Tsumugi, Meme and Anya in a friendly pose together with the Soul Eater Not logo on the right, and below it are the selections (Play All, Episodes, Set Up, Extras). Unlike Blu-Ray releases, there is a little delay in selections but nothing hugely noticeable and you can return back to the main menu easily and no delay with selections that again are noticeable so the release is static, but fine and does the job.
Traditional extras on the 2nd disc include the textless opening and closing, a US Trailer and a Commercial Collection. There is also a fun segment called Soul Eater Whoops! This is pretty much an outtakes collection which is mostly legit bloopers which are always fun to watch, and I like the fact it does it episode by episode and introduces who plays who (so who does the boo-boos then) – my favourite is the reaction to the actress who plays the sloth…I PLAY A SLOTTTHHH???!!! *squee*
On both discs there is a dub commentary – first for episode 5 we have a commentary with Ed Boulton (ADR Director), Caitlin Glass (Kim) and Jade Saxton (Jacqueline) – as this is a focus episode of these two it makes sense whilst also showcasing these two who were very minor characters in Soul Eater get a lot bigger role in the prequel in how they get together (Jade mentions she gets way more screentime), the combination of how the cameos works with the new characters and how they compare, and just a lot of tropes/clichés used but still enjoying the comedy aspect – more a fun get together than a series commentary.
The second one is similar, except for episode 9 we get the main girls Bryn April (Tsugumi), Alexis Tipton (Anya) and Lindsay Seidell (Meme) join Chris George (ADR Assistant Director) as they have a blast being very silly and just being fans of the sloth. ^^ They joke that people see it is the troll series to Soul Eater but it is still fun in its own merit, how the singing scenes went, and about their characters from being jealous of Meme’s bust to how tsundere Anya is being – it is a very giggly commentary so whilst neither are really big in behind the scenes, they are a ton of fun.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original Soul Eater got a UK release many years ago and was always one of my favourite vector shows to get friends into anime – it had a good mix of characters, some comedy, super-natural elements and a surprisingly deep story and some shocking things happening which made it a good all round show. Learning off its spin-off that is in fact a prequel, I had heard mixed things about it, but mostly negative in terms of not being like the original Soul Eater, that the dark story is gone, it is mostly cute slice-of-life and the newish style of art doesn’t give it that same feel of the original series.
And to be fair, they are right. It doesn’t feel like Soul Eater. But does that necessarily mean it’s a bad series? The main cast are mostly reduced to cameos and as a prequel a lot of the big things haven’t happened, but as a spin-off or a series on its own merit…
We are introduced to our main character, Tsugumi who can transform to a weapon – thus she leaves her normal school life to go to the DWMA to try and control her powers – she struggles but seeing a cool girl help her out (Maka from the original) makes her give it a try. She gets involved in the NOT class (basically a pre-Soul Eater class for training) and we see the other two main characters, Meme, a forgetful but friendly young lady, and Anya – a seemingly aloof rich girl who seems to not want anything to do with them at first, but turns out is quite the opposite. After Maka and Soul give them a demonstration, some delinquents try to partner with Tsugumi where Anya stands up for her and helps her defeat them. The story then basically is what Tsumugi earlier wanted – a three way love triangle fighting for her to be a weapon…though she thought it would be two guys and not two girls…^^
From here, this is where you can see for most of the series why fans of the original Soul Eater may have issues if they were expecting a similar series. It is quite episodic and it focuses on the three girls and their adventures combined with other characters watching over them (two advanced guys named Akane and Clay seemingly are tagging along with them but is in fact watching them thanks to old teacher fave Sid before his zombification) or bringing some characters back from the past (a brief team in the original series are given much more airtime and development here in Kim and Jacqueline- Kim seemingly a bully at first but you learn more about her and why Jacqui wants to be partners) – things like the dorm rules, the girls getting jobs, seems very slice-of-life.
There are however some things which suggest all isn’t what it is seems – Sid for example sends Akane and Clay out to go after a group called the Traitors who seems to be mind-controlled civilians or other members of the DWMA. The girls nearly get killed by one leading to them trying to get stronger – and Tsumugi feeling like the other two are much more athletic leads to her own weakness and encourage from the other girls. We even get some fun moments of the Thompson sisters pre Death The Kid and how the girls were the reason they became much less antagonistic (by the end of the series they are with DTK) and then the traitors begin coming more in force, with another link to the original series as a Gorgon is involved – not Medusa, but a witch named Shaula who even controls one of the dorm ladies Eternal Feather, a friend of the girls, nearly killing herself (though it does lead to a humorous return of Dr. Stein) – this leads to the girls getting antsy and force Tsugumi to make a choice between one of them before Halloween.
Whilst there are a ton of fun moments, it does actually get similar to the original Soul Eater by the end when Meme, who sleepwalks, is actually a target for hypnosis via Shaula and her forgetfulness may have always been her influence – Meme’s super strength/speed screwing them over, and even killing Sid (which can lead to confusion over a similar sequence in the original SE, again the divide between the two series) which also leads to if anything happened to him, Anya would return to her home (revealing both who she really is and also why Clay and Akane were always hanging around them)…
However it does lead to the eventual climax, Anya rebelling against her orders, helping get an antidote from Stein, and whilst many old favourites try to repel the Traitors, Tsumugi and Anya manage to get Meme back to normal, and finally she makes her choice to who she wants as her partner, an interesting albeit predictable choice but added confusion over how Soul Resonance would work in this case considering it wasn’t anything that happened in the original series but it does lead to a big kick butt moment…
So yeah, by the end when it is revealed Meme being controlled by Shaula, and the climactic battle, you can say ‘yes, this feels like Soul Eater!’ Prior to that though, I can see why fans may have their issues with it. There is a lot more comedy and cute stuff (the comedy was prevalent in the series but not really in a moe type of way) and the three girls do seem out of place in this world – Tsugumi is your typical cute lead protagonist, nobody hugely special but a nice girl, quite funny but also wanting to see her role in the world. Meme is probably the character I enjoyed the least, mainly because her shtick isn’t that funny after a few times you see what she is about, and whilst she’s a nice girl, she pales in terms of pure fan than by far my favourite character of the show, Anya. Anya is basically the reason the show doesn’t fall completely into standard slice of life because of her interest in wanting to be common, which is a trope that has happened before in many shows, she does it so beautifully and with such hilarity, whether it is disappointment the dorm isn’t as common as she hoped to showing too much skin in her PE uniform – she’s also the one who seems to have more development as whilst Tsugumi and Meme bond easily being quite similar in personality, Anya at times feels left out being the rich girl despite Tsugumi loving them both equally, so there are a few moments of that when she does get the development and brief tension as much as a show like this allows.
The cameos from Soul Eater do also tie in to the main series (bar that Sid incident) and the idea these girls were behind the Thompson sisters (with a fun DTK cameo) reforming actually does make sense, and Maka being a likeable sempai to Tsugumi is something I can see Maka being – plus other cameos like Ox regarding Kim is adorable, and almost a love triangle with Jacqui makes touches like this actually great for the original series as well as this. The characters introduced in Not perhaps aren’t quite as good – Eternal Feather has her moments but aside from her, most of the new cast aren’t that memorable – Shauna is a weak mans Medusa for example and is just used as a surplus prior to Medusa being the awesome villain we remember her in the original series.
It isn’t hugely plot worthy either, though the Traitors are slowly revealed and the mastermind brings in – I did like the fact there was a reason to Meme’s forgetfulness outside of the cute dim-witted big breasted stereotype – but on the whole, it is a slice-of-life prequel to the original and much darker Soul Eater.
But again, that doesn’t make it a bad series. On its own right, outside of the SE mythos it is a nice slice of life series, with some fun characters – can be a bit cute, has some good comedy and even some dramatic moments near the end of the series. Don’t expect it to be another Soul Eater as you’ll be disappointed – take it as a separate series with some cameos from SE and take it as a nice relaxing detour on your way to Death City – take it like that, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Soul Eater Not! Is a series that I find it hard to compare to the original show as they are two completely different dynamics, and that can through people off liking this series. However, on its own, it’s not bad at all – the three leads are variable but also fun (Anya in particular), the cameos from the cast is a nice touch (including some back-story to those who didn’t actually get involved in the series much) and a lot of fun at times (the Thompson sisters being my favourite little bit) and it even does venture into SE territory with the last part and whilst some parts will definitely annoy SE fans, on its own merit, it’s harmless. Nothing spectacular, but nothing terrible – a nice slice of life series which you can just smile through.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 17th, 2016
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.