Review

by Nicholas Dupree,

Soul Eater - The Perfect Edition GN 2

Synopsis:
Soul Eater - The Perfect Edition GN 2
A new threat stalks the streets of Death City, cutting down the bodies and devouring the souls of the innocent: the deceptively timid meister, Crona, and their symbiotic demon sword, Ragnarok. Through chance or fate, Maka and Soul encounter this deadly pair and just barely escape with their lives, but the danger is far from over. The battle leaves Soul scarred in more ways than one, and rattles the pair's relationship to its core, all while their demonic counterparts grow ever stronger. Can these two, and their allies, sharpen their blades and prepare in time to face the danger slithering in the darkness?
Review:

It's not something brought up too often, but the page count of any given manga volume is a remarkably important part of a release. While not always the case, often manga storylines are paced out to work both as periodic chapters and collected versions, and any release that fiddles with that by adding or reducing chapters can cause some hiccups at the very least. While the first Perfect Edition volume 1 happened to work pretty well as a 1.5 length collection, this second volume has the awkward honor of comprising two largely separate storylines that, while both solid in their own right, don't quite gel when read together.

The second storyline is the more standalone one: a two-parter featuring Black Star and Tsubaki on a mission to hunt down Tsubaki's rogue brother Masamune, a sword-type weapon capable of taking over his wielder's soul. While the story's position in this volume means it's book-ended by largely unconnected plot beats, that's an easy nitpick to ignore considering it manages to give easily the most annoying pair of characters some much-needed development. The revelation that Black Star comes from a clan of ruthless assassins who were wiped out by the DWMA when he was a baby gives a much more sympathetic context to his loud personality. Granted, making him a loud-mouthed orphan ninja constantly causing trouble because he's desperate for attention doesn't help with the Naruto comparisons, but giving him texture goes a long way to making him more likeable than infuriating.

Tsubaki, meanwhile, gets to finally show some backbone as she reluctantly but resolutely fights her wayward sibling, and it's a great confrontation that makes her feel like a character in her own right. The overall plot is less engaging on its own – if you've seen one samurai or ninja film you know how it's going to turn out – but as a vehicle for reinforcing the duo's chemistry and making you care about them, it does its job admirably. The actual fight between the two leaves a little to be desired, especially since it's a soul battle taking place in a liminal mindscape where anything is possible, but that's a minor issue when this is clearly meant as a vehicle for character development.

Reinforcing relationships is also a central part of Maka and Soul's storyline in this volume. During their first encounter with Karna, Soul takes a near-fatal blow to save his partner, and only survives thanks to the timely intervention of Dr. Stein. The guilt from that keeps Maka and Soul at a distance for much of the volume, and while it doesn't get as much focus thanks to sharing space with Tsubaki's mission, it's an equally effective way to flesh out their connection. The pair feel like genuine companions who worry over each other's wellbeing while failing to prioritize their own, and it helps wash away the taste of the bickering and skirt-flipping from the end of the last volume to boot. There's also the added drama of Soul being infected with Ragnarok's blood that adds some room for future tension whenever it pays off.

Speaking of, Ragnarok, the demonic blood-sword and its wielder, Crona, are the standout new additions to the cast. While their initial gimmick threatens to run thin almost as quickly as the other weapon-meister teams, the twist of Crona being a nervous and reluctant fighter bullied into combat by their own weapon is a genuinely intriguing one, and their unusual fighting style makes for a standout action setpiece in the opening chapters. We don't know much about the pair yet besides their manipulation under the snakelike witch Medusa, but there's a lot of promise to them for future encounters. Their tenure as long-term enemies is a bit suspect, considering Stein and Death Scythe manage to defeat them in their first appearance, but that duo has been established as the high watermark for Soul Eater's power levels, so they should remain a threat to any of the kids.

There's also a chapter in the middle of all this that's mostly a lengthy gag about the legendary weapon Excalibur that is just kinda there. Soul Eater's humor relies heavily on slapstick and over-the-top personalities, and while it's rather fun to see Black Star and Kid play the straightmen to someone else for once, it doesn't really land for me. It's not painful or overlong, so it at least doesn't ruin the reading experience if you don't find Excalibur hilarious. It is a bit awkwardly placed as it intercuts with the fallout from Soul and Maka's fight with Crona, though, and is easily the weakest portion of volume 2.

Overall, this volume, despite some awkward structuring, does a great job of building on the strengths of the previous chapters and expanding the unique fantasy setting we only barely learned about before. Like volume 1, this Perfect Edition includes all of the original color pages and spreads from the magazine release, and combined with the high-quality paper and hardback binding, it's an easy recommendation for fans old and new looking to start collecting Soul Eater.

Grade:
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+

+ Strong storylines that flesh out the main cast in valuable ways, Engaging new villains
Two main stories are largely disconnected, A comedy chapter in the middle is take it or leave it

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Atsushi Ohkubo

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