Soul Eater: Weapon Collection Anime DVD Review

Soul Eater: Weapon Collection Anime DVD Review With madness on the march will anyone be able to contain it?

What They Say:
As students of the Grim Reaper at Death Weapon Meister Academy, Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon – literally. When they take on the supernatural forces of evil, Soul transforms into a razor-sharp scythe and Maka wields him in battle. He gets deadlier with every defeated soul he consumes and each victory strengthens their bond… but Maka, Soul, and their classmates might not be ready to face the darkness headed their way. After 800 years, the witch Arachne has returned to spin a web of wickedness, leading an army of ghoulish minions in a war against Death Weapon Meister Academy. As demons from the past rise amid betrayal and madness, Maka and Soul are definitely in for the fight of their lives. Luckily for the fate of the world, they’re a freakin’ lethal team!

The Review:
Audio:
The feature contains two audio choices for the main presentation, an English 5.1 track as well as the original Japanese 2.0 track. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used and it is an acceptable, though not overly stunning track. Being only 2.0 much of the action is what one would expect with the bonus of some directionality being present and used to create some illusion of depth, though obviously not as much as a 5.1 track could create. The track was found to be free of dropouts and distortions during playback as well.

Video:
Originally airing from 2008 to 2009, the TV series is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and with an anamorphic widescreen encode. The video has some issues which include an inconsistent level of grain which can sometimes play havoc with the solidness of some colors. Also present as well is some noise, aliasing, a bit of minor motion blur, some dot crawl, and lines aren’t as solid and smooth as on the Blu Ray version of the first collection. There is also a little color banding, transition jitters, jaggies, and some ghosting present during the presentation. Largely the colors are strong and bold though and blacks are fairly solid throughout.

One additional issue, which probably goes to the creation of the series rather than any work FUNimation did, is that there is the presence of some odd animation issues. Occasionally the foreground characters aren’t colored in with enough strength and background lines appear inside foreground characters and objects as if they are a bit translucent.

Packaging:
The DVD comes packaged in a clear lite-box like case which has no spot for holding discs as part of its plastic mold. Instead it relies on two flipper inserts which have hubs on either side of them so that no discs overlapped. The front cover features a large image of Soul against a very colorful and almost graffiti like background. The show’s title, disc subtitle and episode listing are laid over top of this image in a diagonal white arrow in the lower third of the cover. The back contains an image of the character/weapon partners of the main three characters of the series who are placed against a blue-green background which contains the copy. A white horizontal arrow on the left side contains six stills from the feature and the bottom of the cover is white with the various disc credits and technical information listed. The spine of the cover contains the series title at the top, the disc subtitle in a black arrow below that while a black image of Lord Death at the bottom of the screen has the episode numbers present listed in white above his head.

The reverse side of the cover features a full sized image of Soul, Stein, Maka and Maka’s father standing in the foreground with Lord Death’s castle and the series sun present in the background. The DVDs themselves each use an image of a weapon/character (or characters in Patty and Liz’s case) for the cover label. As an added bonus FUNimation produced a slipcover for this release that mirrors the DVD cover’s layout.

Menu:
The menus are static affairs that take their images from the original FUNimation release and trade off featuring various main characters or the weapon/characters. These images are placed against a graffiti like background with a short snippet of one of the series songs playing as background music. The other menus selectable follow along with the theme by using the graffiti look. The selectable options are highlighted by a small arrow that points to the current selection and the arrow changes color when the option is selected. The menus are quick to respond to both changes in selections and to implement selections when chosen.

Extras:
The extras included on this set are the same ones from the series last two part releases which are English actor commentaries for episodes 30 and 44, the Soul Eater Late Show shorts as well as clean open and closings. In this things feel a bit split as the Late Show shorts are sub only, which stands a in contrast somewhat to the presence of the English actor commentaries.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Trouble just won’t leave the cast alone. As Maka, Soul and Crona fight an out of control Golem, they discover that this berserk status isn’t random but in fact is due to the return of an ancient witch, Arachne who hid her soul in the artifact. Believed defeated 800 years ago she made her escape from Lord Death and has been quietly keeping track of events throughout the world, waiting for her day to return. Arachne’s revival is due to the spreading of the madness wave that reaches even to Death City where it is affecting Stein, though he is willing to take a chance to go save the party from the witch. Luckily for him and the young members, Lord Death is already ahead of the curve and has dispatched some help in advance.

The return of Arachne will spell major problems for Lord Death’s side as she has spent the time she was in hiding quietly building up an organization that will allow her to take advantage of the Kishen Asura’s return. To make matters worse, Arachne isn’t the only witch believed to have been defeated to return as Medusa is using the madness wave to try to drive Stein into her arms while also picking a hiding place that makes her both hard to find and impossible to attack.

As events start to spin madly out of control each of the main characters will have to figure out what it is they need to do going forward, who to trust and what key within themselves they need to unlock to fulfill their own hidden potential. Along this line Death the Kid will continue his search to discover what the connection is to his father and the mysterious inventor Eibon as his suspicions of his father grow. Meanwhile Black Star is dealing with the realization that there is a limit to his current abilities that he has yet to figure out .

Though the ones in the most danger may be those who have more to lose than just their life, but who are risking having their very being corrupted. Crona suddenly finds himself back under the thumb of Medusa which is something he fears greatly as she manipulates him into spying for her and is used to help forward her plans for Stein. Maka and Soul however are facing the temptation of the black blood that now dwells within Soul and its promise of power, though the price for its use may be too step to be worth it.

As each member has to face the fight within them they will have to come to terms with what it is that drives them and hope that the discovery will give them additional strength going forward. The problem is that they are facing enemies that even gave Lord Death trouble at the height of his powers so reaching their maximum individual powers may not be enough-and even figuring how to maximize their teamwork may fall short as well. Will the balance be tipped when the secret plans Lord Death has been carrying out are finally revealed? But can even Lord Death’s plans and the presence of the undefeated weapon help swing the scales or will the world fall to madness?

The second set of Soul Eater continues many of the themes set in the first half and it takes things up a few levels. The characters are going to find that life isn’t any easier when they have an offer of power in front of them and that the decisions they make will have incredible consequences leaving them in some precarious places. When danger has an equal chance of from coming at you from within as without, how do you trust yourself and your teammates? That the series decides to go through some of the depths of the character’s psyche is a fantastic touch, especially the points when the character fails to live up to what the audience might hope for.

The two main issues I have with the series carry over as well unfortunately, and they are rather interconnected. For one there are simply too many characters I want to see have screen time and a good amount of the time when someone gets that screen time the episode pace just feels off. This translates into a series that just feels slightly out of sync and creates a stumbling block to really enjoying some of the bigger cast moments as the lack of story flow just seems disconcerting. It isn’t a major thing, but I wonder how much of this is due to the pacing differences between manga and anime. It doesn’t kill the series, but it is a wound that impacts its movement somewhat.

Still, the series manages to come up with some closure to the storyline that, while a bit thin due to rushing the last few episodes, at least feels like a satisfying enough end. Granted, there are a few points of it that aren’t terrific but it certainly is an above average ending when it comes to series whose cannon manga is still running without resolution at the time the anime is made. Such an ending isn’t going to satisfy everyone but it at least takes care of the biggest hanging thread which doesn’t always happen unfortunately in these types of shows.

In Summary:
The second half of Soul Eater takes everything established in the first half and cranks it up at least a notch and sometimes two. The series starts to force the characters to decide who they will trust and how far they can push themselves as the world is in danger of collapsing around them and madness threatens to engulf them. While it isn’t a perfect series, and some of the pacing issues make it feel a bit off, there are plenty of highlights in the interplay between characters and the action is well animated and fluid. Maybe the hardest part of the series was the writers attempt to come up with an ending as the source material was still ongoing but they did an above average job compared to other series in this regard. While it isn’t the best series released in the last couple of years it is still strong and can hold its head up when standing among those releases.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentaries, Soul Eater Later Show, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 9th, 2011
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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