By Atsushi Ohkubo. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press.
So much of what has gotten me addicted to Soul Eater comes to a climax in this volume. The discussion of madness and knowledge, and how the two sometimes interact. The artstyle, which lends an air of disturbing surrealism to any actual depiction of madness on the page, from Crona’s twisted grins of despair to a ball of black poisonous concentrated insanity. And of course we have the culmination of Medusa and Crona’s relationship, which has always been shown to be awful, abusive and toxic, but in the final chapter is given even more nightmarish proportions, to a point where there seems to be only one solution to the whole thing. Killing.
Speaking of madness, though, I liked the battle between Justin and Tezca, particularly with Justin pounding on about faith in the Kishin, and Tezca wondering how strong a faith can be when it simply switches over to the next big powerful thing to fear/worship. There are a lot of terrifying things going on in the Soul Eater universe, so it’s understandable that one would want to ally oneself with the strongest even if it means sacrificing ideals. I’m not really sure Justin had any ideals to begin with, though – the confrontation loses something as it’s sort of obvious that Justin is never going to go back to the side of the heroes.
There is a scene with Sbhinigami and Kid where they argue about whether they should have gone into Baghdad to find the Kishin just because they knew there were anti-DWMA groups there, with Kid noting that they didn’t find anything, and Shinigami saying he was sure they’d find the Kishin there. I’ll just leave that here. Sometimes something is so blatant that even analyzing it would be overdone.
Maka and Soul get some nice stuff as well, with Soul managing to control the madness with in himself, but I want to talk more about Crona. Crona spends the first half of the book using black blood to destroy and drive insane anything that barrels into Crona’s path. Now in Russia, we see an entire city in the Ukraine where the populace are driven into madness and turn into a huge ball of madness. It’s especially chilling as it’s implied that those people can’t be brought back – that they are, essentially, dead. Like Justin, Crona’s last attempts at redemption seem to have come and gone. Unlike Justin, we still have some sympathy for Crona.
Let’s talk about the final chapter, ‘Just A Simple Story About Killing A Person’. It’s a two-hander between Crona and Medusa, who is at her most monstrous here. Crona’s backstory and childhood is every bit as bad as we feared, if not worse – from the stick-figure styled book about different ways to kill, to being starved to death unless Crona kills adorable baby bunnies, it’s all been designed to drive Crona to the very brink of madness, with Maka’s friendship being the only thing that ever held Crona back. And now Medusa needs to complete the descent, and does it in such a clever way, I almost have to admire her loathsome craftiness. She’s died in the series before, but I’m fairly certain that this time she’s died for good. But she got what she wanted – Crona is primed, ready to go, and completely insane.
As I said earlier, the art plays a major role in making this chapter as effective as it is – stick figures have never been so terrifying. And what’s more, it makes for a truly chilling cliffhanger. And next time, we start the final arc. An absolutely essential volume of Soul Eater. Even those who don’t read it should get it for the final chapter of the book.