Friday, September 20, 2013

Soul Eater reread (Ch 23-61)

Hahaha, here I was thinking I'd churn this out pretty quickly but nope, it's been a month since the last part. Oops.

Look, it's that one character... that I completely forgot about... from the part that no one remembers in the anime! Since the Asura-in-the-basement arc was the last full arc from the manga that got adapted into the anime, it was the last really coherent bit of plot that I remember. This next storyline about Arachne and so on was only partially adapted, and then everything got muddled by anime-ending and I just didn't bother trying to keep any of it in my head. But onwards to the manga chapters:

(LOL blaming the anime ending for muddling up the story. The manga muddled it up perfectly fine on its own!! Why do you think it took me so long to get this written up....)

So where we left off, our main characters were unable to stop Medusa from unleashing the kishin Asura, who kind of just flew off somewhere to wreck insanity upon the world. Insanity = evil (as if this world isn't insane enough, considering your moon grins maniacally and bleeds all over you every night) so the mere presence of the kishin will go and make evil things pop up all the time, causing everyone trouble. I.e. generic boring bullshit

In order to deal with all of the extra crazy, Death calls in some of the other Death Scythes stationed around the world to help hunt down the kishin. They are Justin (guillotine), Marie (mallet/tonfa), and Azusa (crossbow). None of them are actually scythes, by shounen rule of can't-have-too-many-duplicate powers.

I still want his headphones though. Too lazy to do it myself, alas.
Meanwhile (in one of the few things post kishin-in-the-basement worth watching in the anime) Crona adapts to life in a non-abusive, supportive environment, with Maka and Marie being particularly helpful.

All this is heartwarming effort and cuteness is blown to complete shit when Medusa shows up again, possessing the body of a little girl and ordering Crona to spy on Shibusen and sabotage Stein's already questionable grasp on sanity. Nothing new.

Medusa is the best/worst little girl/mother. 
Later, Maka, Soul, and Crona go off to investigate some golems, but it turns out it was all a thing to resurrect Arachne, an 800 year old witch who apparently created Demon Weapons to begin with, and who has some nebulously large evil organization called Arachnophobia (how creative). Her underlings include Giriko (chainsaw dude), Mosquito (old dude with many forms), and Mifune (from Black Star's introduction chapter). Oh and she's also Medusa's older sister.

For various ill-defined and never-really-explained reasons, Arachne is dabbling in/pursuing various things from "Eibon's book". Death the Kid is particularly interested in figuring out who Eibon was, since he was apparently a sorcerer acquainted with Death, but there is no information whatsoever about him.

Following this, both Shibusen and Arachnophobia decide to try to gain possession of a MacGuffin from Eibon's book called "Brew" which somewhere on an Alaskan island trapped in a weird time-warp thing, preventing anyone from being on there for more than exactly 20 minutes or else they dissolve. Because it's a shounen manga and common sense doesn't exist, the folks sent to deal with this situation consist of not only the folks you'd expect (Stein and Marie, Sid and Nygus, Azusa, Justin, competent adults) but also a bunch of students i.e. the main characters + some of their classmates. I guess shounen has a thing where you have to keep introducing new characters with new powers or else people get angry? But most of them don't get much characterization or anything...

Also are you seriously starting to run out of ideas for distinct/interesting weapons?? I mean, Justin Law was already getting a bit bizarre, considering he's only a guillotine by the most liberal possible definition of guillotine, but pots, seriously? And their names are actually "Pot of Fire" and "Pot of Thunder"? Siiiigh.

Various battle-like things happen. Stein and Marie retreat because Stein is going crazy due to Medusa-sabotage. Main kids take over. They fight Mosquito. They do this team Soul Resonance thing which involves listening to Soul play a metaphysical piano. It becomes painfully apparent that Ohkubo is no longer pursuing gender-equity when it comes to Weapon-form nudity.

I mean, it's not like I was EXPECTING anything better, but still, ugh.
However, the hit the 20 minute time limit, so they have to retreat anyway. Arachnophobia gets Brew, except it's actually a fake Brew because in the middle of all this battle, Medusa had the Mizune sisters sneak in and grab the real one beforehand. Yay actual competence! This is why Medusa is the only interesting character in the whole series.

Thanks to the failure, Death suspects a spy and calls in a guy named Buttataki Joe, unfortunately nicknamed BJ. This is the exact point where the anime started signficantly splitting off, if I remember correctly.

BJ's job is to find the mole in Shibusen, because he has a ridiculously developed sense of Soul Perception that can detect lies and even break the Soul Protect that keeps witches hidden. He is also Marie's ex. They kind of get back together, but BJ is basically immediately killed off by parties unknown because of how dangerous his Soul Perception is. Stein is under suspicion for the murder, but Spirit and Sid help him escape with Marie to find BJ's actual killer.

Crona immediately disappears because it becomes pretty damn obviously that Crona was being used as Medusa's mole. Maka, who happened upon Medusa commanding Crona to spy on Shibusen, swears revenge against her.

I do have to admit, some of the color art isn't bad.
Then Maka and Soul go off somewhere to fight a Clown (the above image), which is the physical manifestation of contagious insanity spread by the kishin. Fortunately Maka just so happens to have an Anti-Demon wavelength which happens to have the special ability of specifically countering insanity. They level up the Witch Hunter technique in one of the most visually uninteresting shounen power ups ever:

No seriously, that's about it. 
And then they come back. And then suddenly new subplot. One of the other Shibusen students, Kim, turns out to be a witch. She and her partner Jackie run off when accused and get recruited by Arachnophobia, causing Angst for Ox who has a crush on her. He angsts in what is possibly the most hilarious instance of gratuitous fanservice ever:
Mind you, this is immediately following several page of unnecessarily naked bathing girls. See, I can forgive terrible fanservice if it's for the purpose of epic, epic trolling.
Medusa approaches to Death to make a deal. Actually, I think this part was in the anime too? Or something like it. She'll provide location and details to Arachne's headquarters, Baba Yaga's castle, as long as she can lead the attack.

Reminder that Medusa is cute and terrible
Of course Shibusen agrees. At Medusa's behest, only a small group of people are invading, since stealth is important and her subordinates are already infiltrating anyway. And by small group of people we of course mean, Maka, Kid, Ox, etc and their weapons (Black Star being off in Japan for some SHOUNEN CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT/TRAINING that no one gives a fuck about).

They get into the castle with the help of Medusa's vector magic. Meanwhile, they are stalked by a bear and a monkey.

No, I don't understand either.
Also for some reason Kid is carrying Brew. Maka confronts Medusa, but she spouts some BS about Crona being captured by Arachne and wanting to save Crona out of motherly love hahahahaha.

Then there is some bullshit about having to blow up various things in 8 legs of the castle, so the group splits up (as is typical in these kinds of shounen battle arcs, since sadly very few are willing to put in the mental effort required for actual strategic planning)

Subgroup 1: more unconvincing romantic subplot with Ox and Kim. Kim is conveniently a tanuki witch with healing powers so OF COURSE SHE'S NOT EVIL except for the getting brainwashed by Arachnophobia part, which is solved by dramatic hair ripping.

And I could totally add commentary about how the entire sequence/dialog makes me ಠ_ಠ because wow, seriously? But no, I don't actually care enough to do this properly, so have some vaguely articulated distaste. 
Subgroup 2: Black Star is back after some literal soul searching in Japan with Tsubaki, who has at this point been 100% relegated to Black Star's prop as opposed to an actual character. He is fighting Mifune, since earlier in some part I didn't care enough about to summarize, he got his ass kicked by him. This is their third and final (thank god) duel:

I do like the 'KEEP OUT' things all over; it's a nice touch. One of the more interesting soul designs we've seen in a while.
Tsubaki can now turn into a magical scarf drawn with big black brush strokes. I'm a sucker for big black brush strokes, so I guess it's a positive in my book?
After various new and exciting(?) powers, bits of Black Star backstory, and just about every single samurai story trope later, Black Star wins and Mifune dies. Yay, we're finally done with that.

Subgroup 3: Death the Kid fights another of Arachne's subordinates, Mosquito, who kicks his ass until he absorbs the Brew MacGuffin and powers up. This consists of one of the stripes on his hair (called the "Lines of Sanzu") circling around and connecting. It's apparently a Shinigami puberty thing, and for MYSTERIOUS REASONS it also causes Death back at Shibusen to stagger a bit.

Arm reattachment via tiny little skulls, how cute! Actually it's been a while since we've seen many little skulls. His gun explosions are less skully than they used to be, alas alas.
Anyway, remember how there's this dude named Eibon who apparently made all of those MacGuffins including Brew? Apparently there is a dude named Noah hanging around Arachne's place who vaguely claiming to be Eibon in the most half-hearted of ways (seriously, there were like, 3 chapters between his first appearance where he was called "Eibon" to the reveal that he was an imposter WHAT IS THE POINT OF THAT). Noah likes to collect things, and he has Eibon's book. The book proceeds to eat kid.

The asshole in the plaid hat is Noah, by the way. I do like the paneling of the screaming on this page. If it weren't for this particular scanlation, this page would be a perfect opportunity to learn the あ character in hiragana.
Liz and Patty are spared and granted two rare, rare pages of actual characterization before getting sidelined again, as expected, sigh. Anyway, back to characters who are actually regularly interesting, i.e., Medusa.

Final subgroup: Maka, Soul, and Medusa are heading towards where Arachne are. Now, previously in my shitty summaries I've usually just grouped the weapons with the technicians because they are basically props instead of actual characters, but I can't actually do this with Maka and Soul. Sidetrack rant time: Generally speaking in this manga, the technicians get far, far more characterization and relevance than the weapons though, with the sole exception being Maka and Soul, who get about equal characterization. The technicians are basically overwhelmingly male with female weapons. What this looks like is that only male characters get proper story arcs, with prop female characters, except for the one female character who has to get characterization by virtue of being the main character/face of the manga, except she doesn't even get her own because she has to split it with her weapon, which none of the other technicians have to do. So all this bullshit about Soul Eater being a shounen with a strong female lead? Haha, no, you get no brownie points for that.

Pardon me, ranting over.

Anyway, Arachne's specialty is psychically invading people's minds until they become her puppets. She manages to drag some Soul backstory out (inferiority complex about his genius violinist brother --> fuck piano I'm gonna be a scythe instead) and he almost turns into a puppet too:

Ok, these pages were pretty decent art-wise too, very creepy and stylized.
Right before Soul sinks into total puppet-idiot state, Maka saves his ass because she happens to have these nice Soul Percetion and Anti-Demon wavelength things. Which was why Medusa wanted her on this trip to begin with, since they're apparently essential for fighting Arachne.

Arachne, by the way, has at this point completely left her body behind to become one with insanity itself. So now she's nebulous insubstantial insanity and can't be attacked physically. However, she can basically invade everyone's minds and PUT SPIDERS IN THEIR HEADS.

It even gets to Medusa
Look Kathryn, your favorite page.
So in order to deal with everyone in the vicinity's awful head-spiders, Soul uses Maka's Soul Perception to use Arachne's spider webs to conduct the sound of his black blood piano transmitting Maka's Anti-Demon wavelength. Hurrah, restored sanity. It turns out doing this also damages Arachne as well. Maka and Soul do the soul resonance thing, and this time the frilly black dress Maka was wearing manifests in real life as an armor of black blood, which is pretty cool.

Congratulation, Maka, you are now a magical girl!
So they beat Arachne and get her soul. THEN MEDUSA TAKES OVER ARACHNE'S ABANDONED BODY because that was her goal this entire story arc anyway, stealing her sister's body and becoming more powerful that way. Isn't that so much better than the shit she was trying to pull in the anime ending?

Also her vector arrows have spiderwebs in them now too.
Anyway, because Maka's Soul Perception abilities are approaching BJ-levels of dangerous, she tries to kill her. However, she is stopped by that monkey from earlier, which just leaves me thinking this:

Replace "Stand user" with "Death Scythe technician" and yes, basically. Death Scythe Tezca Tlipoca is that bear from earlier and he is a demon mirror (???) The monkey's name is Enrique. When you're reaching JoJo levels of bizarre but without any of JoJo's strangely compelling charm, you need to take a step back and reevaluate where the fuck you're taking the plot, dude.

Anyway Medusa retreats. Maka punches through the floor in anger. Then weird and super awkward Crona fanservice: yeahh. 
Shibusen decides to keep Kim (since her healing magic will keep her from going insane) and Angela as well (since she's young and Kim + morality manipulation machine can fix her). Yes, that is EXACTLY how you deal with morally ambiguous small children, you brainwash them into being good.

Justin Law is evil. He was the one who killed BJ. Stein and Marie confront Justin. He's working for the kishin, so he has been trying to kill off folks with really strong Soul Perception, like Maka. So basically he's a prick:

Marie's form is a tiny tiny mallet/tonfa. It channels electricity to increase the user's physical activity. Stein and Marie fight Justin for a bit, but retreats into a sheet of paper, foreshadowing the next story arc which is all about apparently carnivorous books.

Also Death starts a special unit just for the students.

Of course you would call it that, you asshole.
Next up: Eibon-related evil books, yet more new villains, Maka becomes more of a magical girl, and everyone has boobs at some point in time. 

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