I started watching Soul Eater only a few weeks ago–like any good fangirl, it soon took over my life. I finished the anime series and had no idea what to do afterwards, so I figured I’d write about it. I took a challenge from a friend (not a fan of anime) and did my first-ever analysis of a television show. I must apologize for the sorry state of the second body paragraph–I was interrupted while writing and had lost my train of thought by the time I got back.
No, I have not read the manga, in case you’re wondering. But I plan to. And to put the controversy to rest–Crona is male. They refer to him as a “he” and dress him in accordance to that. Just putting that out there, before I get hate mail or something due to the fact I refer to Crona as a boy…
Please enjoy all the stuff I learned from a tv series.
Any question that is inevitably posed to each individual on the planet can have a multitude of different answers. One of these questions, arguably one of the most important, is this: what is strength? It is easy to see how a question such as this would yield a vast array of answers, each specifically tailored to the individual on a personal basis. Atsushi Ōkubo’s manga and television series Soul Eater explores and justifies many answers one may have to this question. Through intense characterization and evolution seen in his characters, Ōkubo both explicitly and implicitly states messages that his audience can recognize not only as directions in which they can take their answers to this question, but may also identify as life lessons. The Soul Eater series incorporates such lessons that all feed into one overarching idea Ōkubo delves into using rhetorical strategies and expertly administered literary skill specifically utilized to draw his audience in and connect them with his fantastical realm of Death City: that “a sound soul dwells within a sound mind, and a sound body.”
Characterization in Soul Eater is given a special focus and is not an aspect of the series that is easily missed. The overarching idea Atsushi Ōkubo presents is that every character (and therefore, every real human) has both sanity and insanity within them, and finding a balance between them is vital to finding one’s true strength. There are forces in life on each side of the spectrum that work to pull the individual to each extreme—and neither is better than the other. Soul Eater focuses a lot on good against evil, presenting the idea that giving into madness is “evil.” However, there is also the idea presented that, when utilized correctly, madness is not always such a bad thing—it can, in fact, help to make one stronger. The characters of Maka Albarn and Soul Eater Evans are prime examples of this; both being infected with black blood, they were each expected to succumb to its evil side effects and spiral out of control and reason. Seemingly against all odds, though, together meister and weapon found a way to tap into the insanity the black blood offered them and utilized it to make themselves stronger as individuals and as a team—the physical and mental strength the black blood gave them served them well in later battles and allowed them to further develop their skills, all while giving them common ground on which they could connect and soul-search on their own. For Maka and Soul, finding the balance between sanity and insanity allowed them to develop on intrapersonal and interpersonal basis’s, which played a large part in Maka’s ability to save Soul and defeat the kishan Asura alone in the final battle of the series. Asura was unable to comprehend how Maka could continue to stand up to him when he perceived her as “weak”—his definition of strength did not match with hers, as these two characters are juxtaposed in their responses to insanity. Asura gave himself over completely to insanity, which resulted in his becoming a kishan—he fully believed that the lack of fear and pain equated to strength. Maka, however, recognized how vital the balance was between madness and stability and also realized how important both fear and pain are to life; this rationale revealed to her what true strength was, and she was able to utilize it to play the hero and save the day. Similarly, Maka and Soul’s strength can be compared to that of Crona and his weapon Ragnarok. While Crona had the invincibility and physical strength he needed to pose as a serious threat to Death City from the black blood naturally running through his veins, he can be described as a boy weak of character—Ragnarok and Medusa ran his life to the point where he suffered from personality disorders and lacked the strength to look after himself. He was forced to give into madness against his will and therefore couldn’t find the balance Soul and Maka had found, making him a powerful adversary for even Death the Kid, but really nothing more than a challenging fight. For Crona, strength was an aspect of life he had to learn to find through experiencing sanity for an extended period of time—opposite to what any other character had to experience to find their strength. Life at the academy introduced Crona to friendship, and it is through this that he found his strength—he remained a soft spoken and gentle character, but was not afraid to defend those whom he considered his friends, which came as a huge shock to Medusa as it was the first strength of character her son had ever exhibited. The characters in Soul Eater are each defined by their interpretation of strength and the manner in which they pursue or find it—the exploration each character must go through to find their strength offers the idea to the audience that finding it is never an easy task, and that there are many different ways in which to go about it that will speak specifically to one as an individual.
Evolution of character in a series like Soul Eater can be used to illustrate to the audience incredibly important points the creator wishes to make—and while we may be longing for this evolution to take place in such a way that teaches Black Star to be less obnoxious or Kid to get over his obsession with symmetry, the prime character evolutions Ōkubo wants to bring into the light in his series take place in Stein and Crona. Stein’s evolution is by far the more obvious of the two, and works in tangent with Maka and Soul’s pursuit of balance to convey to the audience that those whom we perceive as strong are not always as untouchable as they seem. To begin with, Stein’s character is established as questionable but it is clear to see that he is good at heart. He is in many ways a role model to his students—as the most powerful meister the DWMA has ever seen and the wielder of a Death Scythe, a man held in high esteem in the academy and the holder of extensive knowledge in many subjects, Stein seems to his students (and to the audience) as an invincible force working only for good. However, his quick descent into madness, facilitated by Medusa, brings to the light that he was never as strong as he seemed. He was also incapable of saving himself from insanity—he required help from those who cared for him to pull him from Medusa’s grasp and bring him back to his old self. On the other hand, Crona exhibits the opposite sort of evolution and takes his life from the insane to sane. Notably, he also required help to do so—it is important to realize that both Stein and Crona were unable to defend themselves in certain aspects and had to rely on the strength of others at times. With this in mind, Ōkubo’s purpose behind these main evolutions of characters becomes clear: sometimes strength is not something that can be obtained on one’s own. Both Stein and Crona discover strength and lose strength in their own ways, but finding the balance between the two was something neither could manage on his own.
Ōkubo’s main rhetorical device in Soul Eater is the use of pathos. His characters are all specifically designed and developed so members of his audience can in some way connect to one, some, or all of them. One may find themselves sympathizing with Crona’s lack of confidence, identifying their inner hard worker with Maka, their inner perfectionist and egotist with Black Star, or sharing in Spirit’s desire to be the perfect parent—whatever the case, the characters of Soul Eater are endearing each in their own way that leaves the audience longing for a happy ending for each. Ōkubo’s characters are written and developed in such a way that, although they reside in an entirely fantastical universe, they seem real enough to the audience, which is largely where the series’ charm is found; the audience is left almost wishing they could be a part of Death City and reside in that charm themselves. Ōkubo uses a notable rhetorical device to drive home his appeal to pathos and make his audience feel this way—symbolism. Half of his characters have the ability to transform themselves into usable weapons, an idea that can represent inner strength if viewed in the right way. Outwardly, characters like Liz and Patty may not appear as the epitome of “strong,” but figuratively speaking their ability to transform into twin pistols speaks to the idea that in every person there resides a force capable of self defense, incredible offense, and of providing one with confidence and peace of mind. Furthermore, each character’s weapon type may speak to their strengths as well. As twin pistols, the Thompson sisters obviously work better as a team, while weapons like Soul and Tsubaki are capable of working alone if necessary. A little research will tell you that the weapon Soul turns into, a scythe, historically was used as a farm tool and was depicted as a weapon normally in the hands of Death himself (which would explain why the elite weapons in the DWMA are dubbed as “Death Scythes”). Besides the obvious interpretation of Soul’s transformation being “the harvester of souls,” he can represent those of a poorer class in a way. Considering scythes were used primarily by peasants, Soul is a representation in himself as the strength of the lower class—while the character himself may not have been a lower class citizen, or outwardly project as such, his transformation into a scythe that is utilized as a dangerous weapon would appeal to the less wealthy as a symbol of hard work and of power that can be found within. Similarly, Tsubaki’s default transformation is representative of the same thing, as she turns into a chain scythe. However it is important to note that Black Star primarily uses her defensively while she is in this form—speaking to the fact that strength can be found not only in the offensive, but the defensive as well. While this speaks largely to Tsubaki’s character, of course it is vital it be noted that she has the ability to be used offensively as well, and dangerously so. Her ability to take on multiple different forms, all of which involve a blade of some description, sends an important message to the audience—that although one may be soft and gentle, there is always an aspect lying within that has the capability of causing damage. Both Soul and Tsubaki have aspects to their transformations that can speak to this idea (Witch and Genie Hunter and the Enchanted Sword mode, respectively). Yet again, Ōkubo offers up the idea of balance within to his audience—this time, that finding balance between the strengths of offense and defence in all people is key to discovering true, overall strength.
As the creator of Soul Eater in general, Ōkubo was able to take the liberty of utilizing literary devices to help establish the life lessons he offers through his series. The strongest literary device he utilizes becomes clear in the anime’s finale—he relates madness to bravery, all the while associating both with strength. Maka’s persistence in fighting the kishan Asura is explicitly stated as her method of finding strength through bravery; as she later tells Asura, “bravery is in all of us.” His retort, “so it’s like madness then,” not only reinforces the idea that occasionally insanity can provide for us strength, but offers up another lesson that can be taken from the series—that all people have both sanity and insanity within. Ōkubo also came up with a vast array of quotes pertaining to fear and pain in the final battle scene that tie into these ideas—a notable one from Asura is as follows: “Sitting there in the dark, I had a chance to think about a lot of things, including the nature of the world itself. And after lengthy consideration, I realized something; when all is said and done, the world is a very unknowable place. On the surface, all appears rational, orderly. But what truly lies beyond that thin veneer of reason? Stability and superiority, or chaos and madness? What are we truly made of in the end? Is there truly any meaning to the lives we lead? Or are we nothing but hollow vessels? These are questions we can never answer, for we cannot see through the world’s fragile layer of skin. So we live our lives filled with uncertainty, never knowing what we truly are or what the future may bring, all we can do is imagine. Life becomes an unsolvable mystery with any number of twists and turns at the end. And that’s enough to fill any soul with terror.” Asura’s commentary is not only directly connected to the idea of finding balance on the spectrum between reason and madness, but also bring into the light the fact that no world, even one of fantasy, is as perfect as one is sometimes lead to believe. Which, in some ways, makes Asura a more relatable character—it is well established that fear and the illusion of inadequacy ran his life when he was human, and somehow still dictates his actions and thoughts as an evil supernatural being; there was no escape for Asura because he couldn’t find the balance between anything in his life. This along with many other literary liberties in the form of strong lines are devices the creator of Soul Eater used to pull in his audience and teach them that finding balance within is vital to finding strength within, which sometimes requires pain and fear to be felt rather than repressed.
Atsushi Ōkubo’s anime series Soul Eater has a lot more to it that just an action-packed joyride through the mystical realm of Death City. Delving deeper into it than just skin deep viewing, it is revealed that finding strength and balance in life come hand in hand—one cannot really have one without the other. Through the journeys each character undertakes throughout the series, Atsushi Ōkubo teaches his audience that every person has both sanity and insanity within, that regardless of this there is always a place for each, and that elements in the world such as fear and pain are not meant to be suppressed—only through acceptance of all this and finding balance and a place for each can one discover their true strength. As Maka so eloquently puts it at the beginning of each episode, spiritually and philosophically speaking: “A sound soul dwells within a sound mind, and a sound body.”
sources and references:-Soul Eater Wiki
-wikipedia (scythe history)