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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Manga Review: Soul Eater GN 16

Soul Eater volume 16
Author: Atsushi Ohkubo
Yen Press
192 pages
Like the other members of the newly formed Spartoi unit, Maka and Soul undergo rigorous training, probing the boundaries of Soul's hard-won new potential as a weapon. Maka's soul perception ability has made her the enemy's next target, and she and Soul will have to kick it up to a whole new level-and fast! Noah and his followers are coming, ready or not!! (Source: Yen Press)
Ladies and gentlemen, Maka Albarn will kick your butt. It's not even a question, it's a fact. And now that the Baba Yaga Castle arc has ended, everyone can see why Maka is so awesome. Once at school, someone saw my Soul Eater bag and asked me, "Maka or Soul?" My answer: "Maka, of course. Soul is nothing without her." A weapon is nothing without their meister, and Maka is one pretty cool meister.
In this volume of Soul Eater, we see why Maka's abilities as a meister are so great - and why they've made her a target for the attentions of DWMA's many enemies. We also revisit the issue of Medusa's black blood experiments and get launched head first into a battle between ex-allies that will certainly leave lasting scars on this series. Stuff's about to get real in here.

The sixteenth volume of Soul Eater opens with Spartoi training, as Maka and Soul test out their flight capabilities, Black Star spars with Doctor Stein, and the Thompson sisters practice their shooting skills in the absence of their meister, Death the Kid. As Maka embraces her pair of true 'wings' that comes with wielding Soul as a death weapon, one of Noah's followers come to try and clip them permanently. Meanwhile, DWMA sends a group of students on a mission to go deeper into Medusa's experimenting, only to run into surprise after surprise.
Now that Soul is an official death weapon, having fulfilled the requirements of devouring 99 dark souls and the soul of a witch, the training is even more intense than before. And with Noah and Medusa and the First Kishin in the distance, closing in on DWMA, Maka's training is the most important thing for them if they all wish to survive. Maka has the grigori soul and amazing soul wavelength control that marks her as meister number one. Luckily, it doesn't come off as a Mary Sue-type figure who was just born special and fell into greatness; we've seen that Maka has worked very hard to get to this point, and continues to do so.
This volume feels very character and relationship driven. The issue of Maka's flight wings end up being an issue between Maka and Soul and how they see Maka's true self, not to mention how Maka's father sees Maka - as a perfect angel who can do no wrong. We see the troubled quasi-relationship between Noah and Gopher, who lives to please Noah and takes his frustrations out on Death the Kid.
Then there is the team of Yumi Azusa, Kilik, Fire and Thunder, and the Thompson sisters who must all work together with perfect synchronicity if they want to survive Medusa's traps. I hope we see more of Kilik and his partners in action, because they fighting abilities are pretty awesome looking. Amid all the plot related events, all of these relationships shine through and elevate the book that much higher.
I especially enjoyed how we see Maka through the perception of others, and how it helps Maka to realize what her inner truth actually is. Her father, Spirit, sees Maka as a "lovely little angel", his paternal love for Maka covering her flaws and deifying her. In contrast, Soul, who lives and trains with Maka every day and has literally resonated souls with her, says that the image of angelicness doesn't fit Maka at all.
When Maka does realize her wings, it's because it is necessary for her to fight, and they become a mirror image of Maka's true self, straddling the line between angelic and demonic imagery (although leaning a bit towards angelic because y'know, it's Soul who has the black blood, not her).

Training is well and fun, and so is creeping around abandoned cities, but I'm looking forward to all the throwdowns that are inevitably coming in the next book of Soul Eater. And they are gonna be awesome. The thing is, based on Yen Press' in-volume preview, will Maka even be involved in the action?