Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jan 19th 2013
Soul Eater Not!
Halberd-transforming Tsugumi is still stuck between two potential meisters, but she's not the only one with partner problems. Dorm-mate Jacqueline (a lantern) wants to partner with the abrasive, greedy Kim for reasons that she can't quite explain. Kim, naturally, wants nothing to do with it, but it turns out that there might be a reason for that. Meanwhile the war between DWMA and the witches begins to escalate as we get closer to the starting point of the main series.
Once again, this review will contain minor spoilers for the main Soul Eater manga.
Tsugumi is having a problem. As the only weapon her small group of friends, she will eventually have to decide if she wants to partner with Meme or Anya, and if that wasn't bad enough, handsome classmate Akane has also made her an offer. It isn't entirely clear if it's a serious one, but it is enough to make Tsugumi really question the direction she's headed in as a student of DWMA. She doesn't dwell on the fact that she feels lost, but it is a theme that resurfaces throughout the volume, a technique which allows Atsushi Ohkubo to keep it in the foreground without making her insecurity overwhelming. As a heroine, Tsugumi manages to maintain a balance between “kind” and “struggling,” something that may be more familiar in shoujo heroines than shounen ones. Ohkubo does a good job of keeping her likable and endearing without making her helpless, and by the end of the book it is easy to feel for her in her dilemma. Is DWMA really the place for her after all?
Soul Eater Not's second volume has two main storylines: Tsugumi's personal issues and the ongoing witch wars that Death City as a whole is facing. The stories intersect whenever Tsugumi interacts with either Akane or Sid, which makes for a fairly natural juxtaposition. The stakes in both cases really amplify by the end of the book, making for a slow build that holds the reader's interest without making things too intense on either front. This also helps to make the final scenes more intense, and with the cliff-hanger the volume ends on, that's a good thing. Readers familiar with the original Soul Eater manga will know precisely where the story is headed in terms of the witch plot, but that doesn't detract from seeing them from another perspective.
Like its predecessor, this volume of Soul Eater Not has its heroines spend a fair amount of time doing cute schoolgirl things. One chapter is devoted to cleaning the pool, complete with skimpy clothing and water fights, while another has them hanging out at the cafe they briefly worked at in volume one. This chapter introduces us to a version of the Thompson sisters before they teamed up with Death the Kid (who also gets a cameo). This is particularly fun for readers (or viewers) of the original series, and those who are not familiar with Liz and Patty previously may not understand the importance of the chapter. Tsugumi's gentle influence and quiet determination come to the fore here, suggesting that the Liz and Patty of later days may owe something to their interactions with the Not cast. This phenomenon is not limited to the Thompsons, either – small moments sprinkled throughout the book give us glimpses of the ways that Tsugumi or Anya influence later events, as well as providing new perspectives on familiar characters. This is particularly salient in the labyrinth chapter, which features the most recurring characters thus far. The real highlight of the volume is the final chapter, which has Tsugumi interacting with Maka again. This really gives Ohtsubo a chance to show the two as foil figures and how hard Tsugumi is trying to make her idol like her even as she realizes that this may not turn out to be who she wants to become. The girls' hair here is especially interesting in this context.
Ohtsubo's art is more polished than the earlier Soul Eater volumes. Cameos show familiar faces looking more refined and backgrounds run the gamut from “not there” to “insanely detailed.” Bodies can at time appear to bend oddly – mostly during action scenes or transformations – but all the pieces are, for the most part, in the right places. There is a decent amount of harmless fanservice, mostly from Kim and Meme, but if the breasts are a little billowy, they are still attached plausibly and Ohtsubo's female forms are pleasant to look at.
Soul Eater Not continues to be a fun and interesting view of the universe established in the earlier series. Mixing moe elements with magical danger, the story merges two different narratives successfully and should attract fans of both genres. It may spend too much time on one or the other at times – both the witch and the personal storylines drag at different points here – but it still manages to be a new perspective on an old story that is worth giving a read.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Blends moe elements with dark fantasy for an interesting look at the Soul Eater universe. New perspectives on familiar characters. Tsugumi is a believable, fairly sympathetic heroine.
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