There was a battle in this volume and it was glorious.
The introductory chapter focused on all the characters at a party. It was pleasant in the moment, and offered some cute banter between Maka and Soul, but it wasn’t as memorable as what came after.
The rest of the volume comprised a battle that involved seemingly every character we’ve met in the series. Even Blair got in on the action.
This was mostly great for Ohkubo’s layouts. The battles looked fantastic as presented here. And it was also great because it was one of the first times our main characters got to fight together in one battle. Ostensibly, anyway – Death the Kid is part of the strategy but not up close the way Maka and Black Star were. Part of the strategy is for Maka to evade Medusa’s attack and run towards the kishin. There’s a few pages where Maka is thinking out the best way to evade her. It shifts angles and even switches from external to interal views. It made great use of angle shots and the limited color palette. Ohkubo was able to effectively visualize everything thanks to these techniques. For reasons like that, I thoroughly enjoyed these chapters.
And plot. We finally have a plot! It was hinted at briefly in the last book but expanded upon here. Medusa has infiltrated DWMA to release Asura, a Kishin bound to the DWMA campus. It’s up to Stein and our motley crew of meisters to stop Medusa and her gang, or else the world could be in danger. I wasn’t exactly getting restless over the slow buildup, but the way it just explodes here is electrifying.
I also felt Ohkubo’s character art has improved vastly over the early chapters. Maka and Crona have especially expressive faces during their standoff. They’re not quite on the level of Black Star and Kid’s Excalibur face, but they come close. All this to say, I was struck by how much better he is at drawing faces now. They’re much rounder and cuter now, and the droopy eyes are nowhere to be found. It’s still not perfect – Ohkubo’s body proportions are sometimes pretty off, though thankfully not to a CLAMP extreme, if you know what I mean. Some of the best art comes in the last chapter, when Maka gives in to the Black Blood in an attempt to overcome Crona. Who I really sympathize with after what we see Medusa put them through.
In reference to the Black Blood part, I’m kind of on the edge right now after Maka’s decision to go there. She says very few words at this point, but her facial expressions are truly twisted. Her body language – jumping to and fro and bouncing around Crona’s attacks – also conveyed true looseness, too. Maka’s generally had a level head, and even decided to take this leap with careful consideration, but I worry she won’t rebound from this too easily.
So yeah. I don’t know that I’ve made it abundantly clear here, but… this volume tipped me over the edge from really liking Soul Eater to loving Soul Eater.
Soul Eater is written and drawn by Ohkubo Atsushi and was serialized in Square Enix’s Monthly Shonen Gangan from 2004-2013. It was later collected in 25 volumes. It has been licensed in North America by Yen Press, who released all 25 volumes between 2009 and 2015. Check out Yen Press’ page on the manga here.