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Monday, July 18, 2011

Manga Review: Soul Eater GN 5

Soul Eater volume 5
Author: Atsushi Ohkubo
Yen Press
208 pages

Warning: Review contains spoilers for the series so far!

On the night of DWMA’s anniversary celebration, every meister and weapon in Death City has gathered at the school for an evening of music and dancing. Little do they know that the witch Medusa is about to crash Shinigami-sama’s party. Trapping the meisters inside, the witch makes her way to the chamber where the First Kishin is imprisoned. Will the few meisters who’ve managed to escape be enough to prevent Medusa from rousing the madness that slumbers far below in the Kishin’s domain?

Reading Soul Eater, I've always found that some volumes work better on screen as animation and some volumes work better as their original manga counterparts. A series like this one needs the colorful vibrancy of its anime adaptation to make a lot of its scenes excel, but sometimes Ohkubo creates a collection of chapters that are so exciting and so emotionally enthralling that the anime has a hard time capturing the same feelings as in the source material. 

Thus is the story of the fifth volume of Soul Eater: everything from Stein and Medusa's dance to Maka's thrown down with Chrona is strangely superior to how it is portrayed on the screen. I say ‘strangely’ because these are the kinds of scenes the anime adaptation attacks with its usual colorful gusto and yet on the page, in black and white, the actual emotions of the scene stand out so much better and so much bolder – when Ohkubo slows down for a psychological mind trip of a scene between two characters such as Medusa and Stein or focuses in on a battle between two fighters like Maka and Chrona and illustrate the inner struggle in both of them is when this series truly shines.

One of the things I absolutely love about this volume of Soul Eater is Maka and Soul, both in their relationship as a Meister and her weapon and as individuals. We see Soul struggle with the black blood in his wavelength, personified in his soul by a certain dapper imp determined to pull Soul completely into the madness introduced by Medusa’s medical meddling. On the other hand, we see Maka trying to become stronger so she can use her weapon with ease and not have to rely on others – especially not Soul – when it comes to being the best Meister possible. During the fight against Chrona – a fight completely initiated by Maka so she can prove that she is in fact good enough to be top of her class as well as get rid of any doubts that she is a great Meister – we see Maka and Soul literally come together in the boy’s mind to dance and discuss the presence of the black blood. It is a beautiful scene that is both symbolic and literal in its imagery – they are waltzing in their mind as both souls and bodies, as two energies merging and as two people reaching an agreement. It’s subtle in its frankness and it only proves that the heart of this series is and will always be Maka Albarn and her relationship with Soul, a relationship that extends far beyond that of a Meister and their partner. They need each other’s friendships. They need each other’s understanding. They need the other to survive.

We also take a step further into the life and inner world of Chrona, genderqueer experiment child of Medusa (yes I subscribe to the theory that Chrona is GQ, makes more sense than anything else I’ve seen). This volume has taken a peak into the horrible, soul-breaking life Chrona has lived under Medusa’s so-called guidance – and based on what we’ve seen so far, it only gets worse for poor Chrona, the child turned into a demon by the worst kind of science.

Zie has lived so long as someone that is being literally crushed by a shadow of a weapon – but what will happen when Maka’s own dalliance with black blood peels away the layers to reveal the true Chrona? Naturally, that is all up to volume six, a volume that is shaping up to be very explosive in both fights and revelations of events past. We haven’t even gotten to the fight between Death the Kid and Eruka yet! All in all, volume five has been a real treat for fans of Maka and Chrona – and it’ll be in the upcoming chapters that the fights for the Kishin in the underground really heat up, with the winner of it all as uncertain as never before.