Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Aug 19th 2012
Soul Eater Not!
Fourteen year old Tsugumi Harudori has come from Japan to Nevada to enroll in DWMA, or Death Meister and Weapon Academy. Tsugumi is a weapon, although she fears that she's not very good at transforming yet, and feels that it is her duty as such to attend DWMA. Despite her fears that she'll never make it at the strange school, she's soon friends with space cadet Meme and aristocratic Anya, both meisters in the making. All three girls are members of the NOT class, the non-combative section of DWMA, but may have the opportunity to join luminaries Maka and Soul in the EAT section. Is this a move towards violence that Tsugumi wants to make?
WARNING: This review will contain minor spoilers for the regular Soul Eater series. Read with caution.
How many people read the title of this book and instantly flashed back to the halcyon days of childhood when it was cool to scream “not!” after making a statement? Congratulations, you've just dated yourselves, but you've also go a head start on people who don't remember that particular fad, as it explains half of the meaning of Atsushi Ohkubo's chosen title. This would be, of course, that this series is not actually Soul Eater. It looks like it, and in some cases it acts a bit like it, but if you're looking for a series just like it, go read Seven Seas' release of Witch Hunter. This series is set in the same school as Ohkubo's hit manga, but instead it focuses on five students in the “NOT” class at DWMA – the group of noncombatants there to learn the skills either to not accidentally harm people or to perhaps move up to the class that the main title follows, “EAT.” While the background visuals and the villains have the same Tim Burton-esque flavor as its progenitor, Soul Eater Not! is in general lighter fare, with an odd sensibility somewhere between “shoujo” and “moe.”
The story follows Japanese schoolgirl Tsugumi Harudori, a human with the ability to turn into a weapon. Because of this, she has moved to Death City, Nevada and enrolled in DWMA. Cheery yet nervous, Tsugumi is concerned that she won't fit in and won't find a partner. These fears are partially assuaged when she meets up with two girls in her class – Meme, who is so forgetful she can't even remember her name half the time, and Anya, an aristocrat who wants to learn about commoners. Both girls are meisters and Tsugumi quickly becomes the rope in their tug of war. This is largely where the “moe” mentioned earlier comes in – a lot of the book focuses on the interactions between the three girls as they do things like choose beds and put on uniforms to work in a cafe. During these (admittedly charming) moments, there is a lot of emphasis on Tsugumi's insecurities, Anya's pouty stubbornness, and the fact that a ferret has a better memory than Meme. For readers who prefer Black Star's delusions of grandeur or Maka's determination, or just fight scenes, this will be a bit of a let down, as is the fact that at least 4 of the six chapters run like this, with the preview promising bathing suited antics next volume.
It would, however, be too simple to simple rename this Soul Eater Moe. Rounding out our cast of characters are weapon Clay and meister Akane, with the latter almost certainly containing hidden depths. He seems by the end to have designs on Tsugumi, and there is an ominous air about him that bears watching. Also intriguing is the rash of “traitors,” which the liner notes tell us is written with the characters for “dojo destroyer” in the original. These challengers have been popping up with alarming frequency and none of the DWMA staff is sure why. We as readers do learn who is behind this, and those who known their Greek mythology should be concerned.
If nothing else, Soul Eater Not! has given Ohkubo the chance to explore and explain facets of his world that didn't fit in with the regular series. Details about names, places, and the general function of the school and world are revealed that should be interesting to fans of the original series. We also get to see Death City in a less sinister light, as not only are the characters not engaged in the same mission as Maka and Soul, but the story also takes place before the main action of Soul Eater begins, something easily determined by the fact that Sid is not a zombie and that Medusa is the school nurse. They and some other cast members from the first series make cameo appearances, with Maka and Sid having the most interactions with the new cast.
Sweet and silly, at times to a fault, Soul Eater Not! might be called the K-ON of action series. There is action, and the emotional turmoil that goes along with it and some sinister things lurking, but mostly this is about three familiarly typed girls going about their daily lives. It's just that those lives happen to be at a fantasy school and one of the girls can turn into a weapon. With slightly refined art from the main series (at least those books that have thus far been published in English) and a story that's a mix of shounen and shoujo types and tropes, Soul Eater Not! doesn't quite fit any one classification. It is, however, an enjoyable and entertaining bit of fiction for readers both new to and familiar with Soul Eater itself and it should be interesting to see where it goes from here.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B-
+ Entertaining and an interesting mix of silly and ominous. New world-building details added and art is cleaner than Ohkubo's earlier work. White cover looks nice...
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