Soul Eater takes place in Death City, where Death himself has founded a school to train weapon meisters, the Death Weapon Meister Academy or DWMA. It is at this school that an overachiever (Maka), idiot (Black Star) and Death’s obsessive compulsive son (Kid) along with their partners, who can transform into weapons, train to defeat evil humans so that their weapon partners can consume their souls. Once the weapon partner has consumed 99 souls they must defeat a witch and consume their soul so that they can become a Death Scythe and be used by Death. However it’s not as easy as it seems, and things rapidly get out of control and more than a little crazy because if they eat a 100th soul that is not a witch’s then the number is reset. These students must kill evil humans, eat their souls and defend the city from evil creatures while also attending class and trying to get along with each other, a difficult balance for even the most skilled meisters.
Death City is wonderfully detailed and charming; with it's menacingly grinning sun and moon moving across the sky, and the ornate, towering academy. The backgrounds have a great amount of detail, more so than many anime; fleshing out the world and making it feel more tangible. The school setting is so great because it never intrudes on the show, there are scenes within the school and a few within classes, but they are few and far between and add to the story rather than taking time away from the action. Most of the anime is spent on beautifully choreographed fight scenes, magic, special attacks (and so a good deal of shouting) and huge, powerful weapons. The animation is clean, crisp and colourful, same as most of BONES anime and the opening is amazingly eye-catching, making you sit up and take notice, and setting the tone for an action packed, funny and quite gothic anime.
The best aspect of the anime is the characters. They are all unique and have their own quirks, not just in how they look but also their personalities, and it is mostly through these characters that the show's humour comes through. All the characters look very different to each other, and their outfits portray their personalities and attitude. The street-smart cowgirls, sexy cat-girl, ninjas, cool guy, sharp-dressed boy and overachieving schoolgirl, to name a few. Even the side-characters are memorable and you end up really caring about them, such as the professor with a bolt in his head, or the red-haired father. Death is also a wonderful character, humorous but also a little unnerving at the same time. The first 13 episodes do a fantastic job of establishing the characters and giving some insight into their pasts while also hinting at what may happen later in the series, which implies that the series will go beyond playing off the characters quirks and really developing them and pushing the series forward, or else it runs the risk of becoming stale.
Soul Eater suffers a few downfalls with the usual cardboard cut-out background characters. The plot to Soul Eater is quite simple, but that's for the best really as with such quirky characters it could easily get confusing if the writers tried to do too much. The English dub is great, although some of the characters voices are a little grating, but with time you get used to it, and as usual the adaptation of Japanese puns is occasionally clumsy. However in an otherwise fantastic anime these small problems are easily forgiven as they don't intrude on or spoil anything.
Overall Soul Eater is a great gateway anime for those interested in anime but a little fearful of what they might be letting themselves in for. Although it is quite obviously a shōnen anime aimed more at boys due to its fighting, shouting and overly powerful weapons, it can certainly appeal to anyone due to its interesting plot, characters and humour.