Soul Eater, Vol. 25

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

And so here we are at the end of another long-running shonen series. And it’s a good, solid ending, wrapping most plotlines up neatly, giving readers a big battle scene with lots of awesome moves and attacks, and resolving Crona as much as Crona was ever going to get resolved. The cover, as you can see, has Crona looming over our protagonists, and that seems appropriate, as in the end the fight is not so much to defeat Asura as it is to get a chance to try to talk Crona down one last time. And, of course, it would not be long-running shonen without the death of one of the main characters, which is done in such a way that even Excalibur is briefly not annoying. (It’s only briefly though.)


It’s also interesting to see the attention paid to Soul and his growth. Soul’s struggles as a weapon have always been closely tied to Soul’s struggles as a musician, and he clearly has a life-or-death performance here. That fact that his music works most effectively when he accepts the madness that roils within himself, and the black blood within, is actually quite well done, even if it makes me wonder if Ohkubo was trying to say something about jazz artists and recreational drugs. But that’s probably just me. More to the point, he and Maka now trust each other completely, which after everything they’ve been through, is a relief. I liked his support when Maka is trying to convince Crona – he says “we believed in what Maka believed in”.

There’s a lot left open after this ending. Kid’s now the new Shinigami, and has already shown that his OCD is not going to magically go away anytime soon. Crona may be rescued someday, but today is not that day, and given all the crimes committed by Crona, it seems appropriate to end with moon sealage. (I have been endeavoring not to gender Crona through these reviews – unlike, say, Hange in Attack on Titan, where an author’s casual joking has spiraled completely out of control, I do believe Crona is quite deliberately not shown to be male or female, and that it works with their character.) As for romance, it was always on the back burner, and remains so – the only couples at the end are Kim and Ox, who get a dance, and Stein and Marie, who are creating new life. You could argue other things might happen in the future (I was rather startled by Maka’s response to Blair’s comment), but for now, things are up in the air.

This wasn’t a perfect ending – the boob jokes at the end fell totally flat with me, even if they do try to justify it in plot as Crona’s subconscious desires, and the “Noah-samas” were just as bad. But it made me happy overall. Eruka Frog was a character I always felt sorry for, so it was nice to see her pardoned and at peace. Rachel had been dropped from the manga the moment she was unpossessed, so it was fantastic to see her with her parents and showing she wasn’t completely broken by what happened to her. And it ends with a party, with everyone singing and dancing in the best One Piece tradition. Well, that and a shot of the city, with its bizarre sun and moon still hovering in the sky. Soul Eater’s world is still strange as hell, and it’s the world that is the main reason I recommend reading every volume of this series.

Soul Eater, Vol. 21

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

After the horror of the final chapter in Volume 20, I think readers needed a break, so it was nice to see the Spartoi out on a normal silly mission to help some Moby Dick-esque villagers harpoon a giant sky whale (ethics of this aside). It’s sort of a last hurrah for simple missions, and for that matter a last hurrah for Black*Star doing something dumb and silly. Because things are coming to a climax, and this volume’s cover is even darker than the grey of last volume, so we know things are going to get even worse, starting from when the group returns to find that an order has been given to have Crona executed.


I like that the ethics of this are debated somewhat, and it’s clear that Maka wants a chance to talk Crona down from the insanity (this despite, as has been pointed out, by this point Crona has killed an ENTIRE CITY). And it’s a sign of Kid’s maturity that he allows them to do this rather than sticking to the strict letter of the law. (Speaking of Kid, it’s becoming more apparent that Shinigami-sama has been waiting for Kid to reach this stage of maturity, and I suspect that of all the characters who might die before the end, he’s near the top, if only so that Kid can inherit. He even implies as much to Maka’s father.

Speaking of Maka, she really gets to show off, albeit accidentally, when she finds the Kishin’s bolthole while searching for Crona using her soul sense. And naturally, given the prominence of it in art since the start, Kishin and his evil minions are on the Moon. And so, leaving Maka and company to deal with Crona, most of the older main characters (plus Kid, Liz and Patti) head off to the moon to go and stop Justin and his fellow insane believers. The latter half of the volume is very much an action-oriented scene, with lots of back and forth and signs of the unstoppability of the enemy being combined with hope for our heroes. The storyline has reached truly epic proportions.

Which is why I find it interesting that all my favorite moments in this volume were small things. Maka’s conversation with her father, where he gives her his wedding ring. The incredible sadness that is Liz and Patti, being forced to write their wills before they go off to a battle of almost certain death, discovering they have no one to leave anything to. The incredibly stupid “H-ey” pun that Yen sadly tries to translate and doesn’t quite pull off, though they at least point out the original in the footnotes. And Eruka Frog, hanging out in her cell at DWMA, realizing that Medusa’s snakes are no longer in her body and simply saying “She’s dead!”

Crona only had a brief role in this volume after the tour de force that was the previous cliffhanger, and I expect we’ll see a lot more of that plot in the future. But for the most part, enjoy the cast of Soul Eater, fighting on the Mountains of Madness on the Dark Side of the Moon.

Soul Eater, Vol. 20

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.