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Soul Eater Volume 1 & 2

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Soul Eater Volume 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo, published by Yen Press

Soul Eater Volume 1

© Atsushi Ohkubo / SQUARE ENIX

The Bottom Line

Maybe Soul Eater himself is the problem. I’m so tired of obnoxious slacker heroes who slouch and drool their way through shonen manga, tolerated in their half-wittery because they’re just that darn powerful.

And when I think about how much Soul Eater annoys me, I realize I don’t like Black Star, or Tsubaki, or most of the characters. I like the Thomson twins, but they’re secondary characters and the manga keeps forcing me to hang out with these boring drips. And there’s no reason for the manga to do this, because two volumes in there’s no plot or goal, and once I realize that, the funky artwork ceases to amuse me.

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  • Striking Tim Burton-esque artwork
  • Original character and background designs


  • Boring plot
  • Boring characters


  • Original Title: Soul Eater (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Atsushi Ohkubo
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: Vol. 1: 978-0759530010 / Vol. 2: 978-0759530485
  • Cover Price: $10.99 US / $12.99 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for violence, nudity, suggestive situations.
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres: \
  • US Publication Date: Vol. 1: Oct. 2009 / Vol. 2: Feb. 2010
    Japan Publication Date: Vol. 1: June 2004 / Vol. 2: Nov. 2004
  • Book Description: Vol. 1: 208 pages, Vol. 2: 198 pages; black and white illustrations
  • More Manga by Atsushi Ohkubo:

Guide Review - Soul Eater Volume 1 & 2

In Death City, Nevada stands the Death Weapon Meister Academy, a school for teenage weapon meisters and their weapons. Each meister controls one or more living weapons, beings that can shape-shift between human and weapon forms. Shinigami, the headmaster of the school, guides his students in collecting souls; gather 99 human souls and one soul from a witch, and your weapon will transform into an ultra-powerful Death Scythe.

Overcomplicated? Yeah, a little. Soul Eater started as a series of one-shot stories set in the same macabre universe before creator Atsushi Ohkubo invented the Academy and sent all the characters to school there. After these opening stories, the disjointed premise settles down into the familiar patterns of tournament manga, as the meisters and weapons train together, fight each other, and periodically go hunting for souls.

The central cast includes the prim Maka and her surly scythe Soul Eater, the overzealous and egotostical Black Star and his meek ninja weapon Tsubaki, and Death the Kid, the son of Shinigami, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and carries a pair of six-shooters that transform into perky cowgirls Liz and Patty Thompson.

Soul Eater looks great. The bigfooted characters hop, slouch, and stomp their way through a hyperkinetic Halloween world that’s equal parts Shaman King, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The nominally American setting sprouts Gothic castles, Egyptian pyramids, and whatever else Ohkubo feels like drawing. The architecture is built from giant pumpkins and skulls, characters are made of angular shapes and black curlicues, and even the sun and moon have weirdly gibbering faces. Ohkubo ladles on the shonen fanservice, filling the pages with naked women with huge, gelatinous (and nipple-less) breasts.

But snazzy visuals can’t compensate for the bland characters and meandering story. Supposedly Ohkubo based the characters on aspects of his own personality—Black Star for his stupid side, Death the Kid for his sense of order—which may explain why they’re so one-dimensional. Only Death the Kid and his twin pistols feel remotely lively or original. As of Volume Two, there’s no urgency to the quest to create a Death Scythe, and the characters have little to do but fight each other and go on frequently pointless miniquests.

Soul Eater has inspired a popular anime, and it’s easy to see why: this stuff is fun to look at, bright and vibrant and visually imaginative. It’s a lot less fun to sit down and read.

Shaenon Garrity is a manga editor, writer and comics creator. She is the author of CLAMP in America, and the creator of Narbonic.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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