Archive for August 31st, 2008

Soul Eater: One Is The Loneliest Number (NUMBAAAH!)

Yes, I know that the next two lines of the song are “TWOOOOOOOOOOOOO can be as bad as one / It’s the loneliest number since the number one” which will completely go against what I liked about this episode but I didn’t want to drag a hokey old Toy Story reference out again and I couldn’t think of anything better that didn’t also involve Mortal Kombat and I really didn’t want to title it after Mortal Kombat so there.

Anyway, I watched Soul Eater 21 earlier today, and then almost immediately thereafter (I was still basking in the warm afterglow) had to rush to work early for crazed insanity (dear potential library patrons: if the library is closed for any reason, please do not put your books in the book drop, as you will most likely not be assessed a fine for a book due on a day a library is closed, expectedly or unexpectedly. Your librarians will thank you immensely. Also bring them homemade chocolate cake) for the next four hours, and, well, here I am, later on in the day, writing this post. Good thing I wanted to let 21 sink in me a bit before I wrote something about it, though!

I wasn’t actually going to write anything on Soul Eater until this under-Shibusen arc had concluded, but it’s gone on longer than I expected it to, so I decided to wait for the next major moment to come around before spilling my thoughts on it again. 21 was, uh, that moment.

I don’t think I’m being overly hyperbolic (for once! How dare I?) in stating that, thus far, 21 (and, for solidarity’s sake, 20 as an essential compaion piece) has probably been Soul Eater’s best episode to date. I was, of cousre, highly skeptical/cautious about the series at its onset. That initial skepticism has fallen away over the course of the series, which I’ve doggedly stuck to for reasons which shifted and morphed over time. I am glad I did, because, for one thing, I’ve discovered that the biggest hurdle for me to clear with these kinds of series (there isn’t a word I can use to describe them, really) seems to be the “set-up” phase, especially a series where everyone praises the series right out of the gate. Whatever the hook is that catches other people instantly takes a good deal more time to grab me in the same way, and sometimes it never really does. This, I think, leaves me with an alienated feeling for the early phases, where I feel less enthuastic about a series than other people around me (a feeling it seems I rarely feel), making me somewhat unwilling to go with the series until it catches me, which is when I see its appeal. It has happened a good number of times (Fullmetal Alchemist and Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann did it), so it’s not an insurmountable hurdle, but it can be a daunting and yet richly rewarding hurdle if cleared successfully.


20/21 seem to have been a sort of mid-series “culmination” of the resonance problems plaguing Maka and Soul. In 20, for instance, we see them resonating their soul’s wavelengths and actually using the Witchhunter effectively, even if it doesn’t actually accomplish anything. The end result is, of course, Maka discovering Soul’s special relationship with the devious jazz-loving imp in his head, and, essentially, asking him to give in to the temptation so that Maka can resonate with Krona’s soul and figure out what’s going on there. This, of course, results in Crazy As Hell Maka, which amused me greatly (I loved how even Krona looked terrified of her new-found insanity, especially when she tries to devour his head). Of course, even though Maka was quite insane on the inside, she was perfectly sane in the internal, soul-based world while questing for, and finding, Krona’s soul, and entering it.

Krona’s world is a giant desert where he stays alone and refuses to answer his own questions. Maka, of course, on a mission to free Krona of his own internal despair, comes in, breaks the circle he imprisons himself in to avoid the horrors of a world where no one cares about him, and then pops back out into the real world (courtesy of Soul, dragging her out of the abyss of insanity) where she completely ignores his rampaging berserker madness to simply hug him and point out that she cares. Cue tearful scene, cue altered ED sequence that drives me even closer to tears than it did before. I mean, seriously–that ED sequence was brilliant, and I almost cried, which I haven’t properly done to anime in a while. Even if the rest of this post is total bullshit, this isn’t.

I don’t know that the Krona thing needs much more highlighting–that part of 21 is effectively self-explanatory, or at least that summary above is self-explanatory, I think, and if it’s not, surely someone else has pointed it out better than I did! What does merit pointing out, though, is the odd nature of Soul and Maka’s relationship. Maka and Soul may, on the exterior, not really get along well, but 20/21 proved that, when the time is right, the two of them can cooperate (however grudgingly) and resonate just as clearly as everyone else can. Maka clearly trusts Soul with her own sanity, if she’s willing to command him to give in to temptation and send the two of them on the fast track to insanity. Soul doesn’t seem to believe her faith in him, but concedes and does an amazing job of not only holding back the waves of insanity , but also in breaking free of its bonds and pulling Maka back out of insanity. The two may have trouble getting along in daily life, to the point of yelling and book chopping, but there is a bond, and it’s there when the situation is dire enough. Amusingly, Soul, after a perfect moment of synchonization and mutual trust, starts to question Maka barely seconds later when she sets him aside to befriend Krona (and not in the Nanoha sense, which would have required Soul Eater anyway), but quickly realizes what she wanted to accomplish and relaxes. Whether or not they return to business as usual from here on out is a mystery, but I doubt their more casual relationship problems are solved, but, for the moment at least, they (and we) know that, in the thick of a terrible situation, they can count on each other, and that might make their everyday relationship a bit better.

And, if not, well, Maka can just elope with Krona and suck on his head some more. Soul can get with Blair and everyone will be happily ever after

Xam’d: Lost Memories: More Like Lost Lovers

I actually watched Xam’d 7 last night, and then got lazy, and then stayed lazy all day.

Actually, I’m pretty sure what I noticed in 7 has probably already been noticed by those more observant than me, but I’m somewhat intrigued by what’s going on in this regard (because I am, after all, a sappy sentimentalist living vicariously through the romantic relationships of fictional characters, but that’s my prerogative and not yours), and also because it adds in a different layer to what I talked about earlier (the chaotic nature of Xam’d). This is, of course, the long distance relationship of Akiyuki and Haru.

It’s obvious back to the first episode that, under normal circumstances, both had a thing for the other. It was a fairly key moment in Haru’s early development (chasing after Akiyuki while he was berserk under the influence of Xam’d) and in Akiyuki’s (insisting that Akushiba run like the wind to deliver his personal letter to Haru explaining that he was, in fact, alive), but I only just now seemed to latch onto its significance. In a world essentialy gone chaotic (which the world in Xam’d has done, even if the series itself wasn’t mirroring that chaos), the two of them hold on to each other as a kind of grounding point in the chaotic nature of war. With whoever they’re warring with. I’m not sure anyone knows that, even the military leaders.

More importantly, as Akiyuki longs to talk to and be with Haru again, Haru, herself, is trying her hardest to get back in contact with him–by joining the military, allowing her to leave the island and search for him. It’s possible she could have just played the waiting game and waited patiently for Akiyuki to return, but instead she actively pursues him. We already know she’s quite handy in a fight, but she became determined to join the military after she learned he was safe. While Haru serves as a base for Akiyuki to ground himself in while traveling with Benika’s mailmen/warriors, Haru instead uses Akiyuki as an excuse to move forward. Akiyuki, forced into an unfamillar situation, wants things to return to normal as soon as possible; by contrast, Haru is actively pursuing the unfamiliar in order to get back the familiar. They both remain grounded in each other, but take drastically different approaches to the same grounding.

On top of grounding the characters themselves, it also offers an anchor point for the viewer: we may not exactly know what is going on, but those among us who are sympathetic to the characters themselves will find plenty to comprehend and enough to ground them in the series while the rest of the situation fits itself around the characters. With each episode, we discover a bit more about the world and its mythology, but we also discover a bit more about the characters: Haru crying when she notices the escaped Xam’d is “pregnant” and insisting that it’s not an enemy to Furuichi, Akiyuki killing a Humanform Weapon against Nakiami’s orders not to, since she wants to preserve the human life within. Both serve to illuminate both the world and the characters themselves, without forcing the hand too much.

I’d almost say that, more than the crazy action and the fighting against Humanform Weapons and whatever else is going on with conspiracies a-flying and general, uh, chaos (is someone keeping a running tally of the number of times I say “chaos” in relation to Xam’d? You might want to, I’m far too lazy to do so), what Xam’d will actually be about for the characters isn’t so much the resolution of the war so much as staying grounded in reality, in something solid and affirmable amidst the increasing entropy. The best way to do that (and what most soldiers sent away to war tend to do) is simply to ground oneself in love and affection–for a significant other, family in genral, or that pet dog you really love. As the world goes to hell, what matters to people is what they formerly took for granted: human relationships.

I’m entirely unsure how far this line of thought will be pursued, but it is delicious nonetheless. Knowing BONES, this group of individuals in particular within BONES, and the general pattern of modern anime (or even anime in general), relationships will probably play a fairly major part over the course of Xam’d.

Or, uh, they’ll all just shut up and explode, for the BAD END. If so, pre-emptive Haru ;___________;


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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August 2008