Soul Eater Not!, Vol. 4

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

I had thought that this was the final volume of the series, but apparently not, as there’s an unscheduled Vol. 5 that is likely waiting for a sufficient distance from the Japanese release. It’s unclear whether the plot of the manga will follow the anime, which had already finished (with Ohkubo’s advice) before this ended. That said, we have here a manga that still has the same problems which the first volume possessed, but is also adding some new ones, such as whether a typical ‘yuri’ fan is supposed to enjoy the series or be really pissed off about it, and how much serious plot you can have in a moe slice-of-life type manga before it really starts to feel out of place.


Please note that by yuri fans I mean MALE yuri fans, the sort who would be quite happy to see the pairings end in a threesome, and who aren’t put off by the chapter of Meme running around naked that we see here. That said, fanservice isn’t everything, and I think most modern yuri fans are finding that the traditional tease just isn’t enough. Kim and Jackie are another good example – there’s lots of suggestion here that Jackie is in love with Kim, and some hints that Kim might one day return it… but this takes place before Soul Eater, where Kim and Ox become a couple. There’s no there there, it’s done solely to be ‘cutesy’ in a harmless way. Likewise, anyone who thinks that the ‘who will Tsugumi choose?’ plotline might actually involve genuine love and emotion has to be appalled at the aforementioned scene with the girls trying to sleep on a very hot night, which, fanservice aside, seems to show off the ‘immaturity’ of the girls for those who want a safe out.

That said, the other suggested romance in the series, that of Tsugumi and Akane, also seems to have vanished, and the manga is happily settling into focusing solely on our three heroines. There is also, among the jokes and 4-koma, a suggestion of the deeper ongoing plot. Eternal Feather is still recovering from her brainwashing two volumes ago. More importantly Meme’s memory issues, which have been used for comedy to this point, are getting to be a bigger and bigger issue, one that causes genuine concern. The final scene of the book is heartbreaking, as Tsugumi tears into Meme for what she sees as an annoying quirk (Tsugumi dealing with grief over a dead pet right now), but then stops seeing Meme expressing real sadness that she forgot something important again. It’s been vaguely implied she’s a mole for the villain, and I wonder if this is connected to that.

Soul Eater Not! is doing its best to try to appeal to a broader otaku market here, but it feels too pandering, to be honest, and could use more seriousness and heart. It still has some strengths – Anya has developed into the most sensible character of the bunch, and is a far cry from the tsundere princess she started as – but really, Soul Eater fans are better off with Soul Eater, and moe/yuri fans can find material that will give them better jokes and a better payoff than I expect this to have.

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