Soul Eater, Vol. 19

By Atsushi Ohkubo. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press.

The high point of this volume for me was the flashback to Liz and Patti’s past, and how they met Kid. This was spoiled a bit by Soul Eater Not – which came out in Japan after this volume, but well before it here – but seeing Liz as an angry, cynical girl willing to take on the world as long as she and her sister find happiness – is striking given her current personality. The sequence of wordless panels showing the two of them working with Kid, realizing what an eccentric dork he is, and laughing at his obsessions is beautifully done, and leads to Liz realizing that Patti has gone from being merely crazed to genuinely being happy and cheerful. This causes her to have an emotional breakdown, as she realizes she may never get to thank Kid for everything he did for them. Luckily, Patti and Tsubaki are there to give out hugs.

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This also ties in with what’s going on with Kid, as Liz in her Brooklyn days wished for everyone else to stop existing as long as there was just her and Patti, and Kid opened up their worldview. (This is not helping my obsession with this OT3 at all, let me tell you.) Now it’s Kid who wishes for that, longing for the symmetry of nothingness. His fight with Black*Star, though it has a few cool moves, really ends up being more Black*Star talking him down, reminding him that total annihilation is the easy way out, and that trying to create balance from what’s already there, twisted though it may be, is the duty of a true shinigami. Black*Star is uncomplicated – he wants power so he can protect and help everyone, not for any ‘take over the world’ style goal.

As for Maka and Soul, the end of their arc shows what happens to those who can’t let go of their anger, as we see Giriko literally tear himself – or herself – apart with all the rage that’s been building up inside.Maka and Soul are better than that, and can accept things and move on – which is why they’re able to get out of the Sloth chapter, where moving on is the last thing it wants anyone to do. And so all our heroes unite so that Kid, stepping up and taking the leadership role he has inherited, can finally battle Noah, who has been busy punishing all the teachers who are trying to battle him in our heroes’ place. (Poor bear guy! I’ll miss you!)

Last time we had Maka unable to really get Soul because she didn’t really like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew (she should try some of the first Quintet, such as Relaxin’). This time we have Justin’s madness work its way out by way of Radiohead songs. Ohkubo loves to bring Western music references into Soul Eater, and this one is particularly jarring – it likely just sounds like mad gibberish if you don’t know the song, but for a Radiohead fans, “Fitter, Happier” is one of the creepier songs off OK Computer, done with a ‘computer-style’ vocoder vocal. It’s a song meant to seem deeply wrong and also a bit sad, something that applies well to Justin here, who has gone into full minion mode here, determined to resurrect the evil god (even called a Great Old One here, in case the Lovecraft refs weren’t obvious enough).

Summing up: Soul Eater. Still one of the best shonen manga out there. Go get it. And it’s out digitally in 2 weeks too!

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