Soul Eater NOT! is a 2014 anime from Studio Bones, known for series such as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Space Dandy, and, obviously, the original Soul Eater anime. The director, Masakazu Hashimoto, has also directed Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, HaruChika, and two Crayon Chin-chan movies, though he has worked on other works in different capacities. Manga’s release of Soul Eater NOT! is available as an NTSC DVD, using Funimation’s masters. Despite there being a region B Blu-ray in both the US and Australia, the UK is DVD-only. I was tempted to watch this as a simulcast back when it aired but passed over it as I hadn’t watched Soul Eater. I have since bought Soul Eater and not watched it, but I decided to jump into NOT! anyway.
“Soul Eater NOT! is a side-story to the main series, focusing on a freshman halberd named Tsugumi Harudori, who befriends two other meisters, Meme Tatane and Anya Hepburn. All three take part in the NOT (Normally Overcome Target) class at DWMA and learn to control their powers in order to overcome their difficulties to have a normal life, as opposed to the battle-oriented EAT (Especially Advanced Talent) class taken by Maka, Soul, and their companions.” – Manga Entertainment
Soul Eater NOT! is a spin-off and prequel, being set one year beforehand, to Soul Eater. In this anime, Tsugumi Harudori accidentally partially transforms into a weapon, specifically a halberd, one day and thus heads to DMWA(Death Weapon Meister Academy) in order to control her abilities. The focus is on Tsugumi, alongside the forgetful Meme Tatane and the regal Anya Hepburn. Although the three of them are enrolled in the NOT class at DWMA, in order to control their abilities in order to lead somewhat normal lives, most of the time is spent looking at the slice-of-life shenanigans that happen between classes. I haven’t watched Soul Eater, but what I’ve seen of the universe, and some of the characters, within NOT! has left me really wanting to make a start on the original series.
While easygoing comedy is prevalent throughout this anime, it does manage to execute some perfectly contrasting dark moments in order to advance the plot. What I found most interesting about Soul Eater NOT! is that it is simply about the three girls coming to terms with their relationship – the two meisters both wish to use Tsugumi as their weapon, and while that seems to be it on the surface, their status as a throuple seems to transcend the Meister/Weapon relationship. They don’t end up the only throuple in the anime, but theirs makes little sense – while two pistols for one Meister is perfectly logical, one halberd for two meisters isn’t even feasible without taking it in turns anyway.
Soul Eater NOT! looks great, with a range of adorable character designs for its overly female cast (except Kim, her short hair is awful), but the DVD does have a very soft image. I’d have preferred a bu-ray to really make the character outlines stand out against the background, but the DVD is an acceptable effort for a spin-off series that is apparently vastly different to its parent and will possibly alienate fans of the series. Soul Eater NOT! isn’t amazing, but it’s certainly enjoyable for what it is, and, in my opinion, a decent entry point to the series; I look forward to starting Soul Eater when I get chance.
Both the OP, “monochrome” and the ED, “Yugure Happy Go”, are incredibly catchy and feel-good, you’ll find yourself perking up as soon as they both start. I gave both the dub and the Japanese audio a try, but stuck with the Japanese audio. The English dub was impressive though, with the core cast sounding as passionate as the Japanese track; some lesser characters felt less impactful, but Bryn Apprill’s Tsugumi clearly stole the show. I did, unfortunately, notice one or two instances of poor grammar in the subtitles, but not enough to make it unintelligible.
When it comes to extras, we’re treated to a little more than the basics; we get the textless OP and ED, both of which are an enjoyable listen, the US trailer, a commercial collection, dub commentaries for episodes 5 and 9, and “Soul Eater Whoops!”, a collection of genuine and scripted bloopers for your (lack of) amusement.
Soul Eater NOT! may seem, on the surface, to just be a generic moe anime, but it is more than that. Soul Eater NOT! is the story of Tsugumi, Meme, and Anya coming to terms with their newfound relationship, and the anime does an excellent job at showing that progression, culminating in their officially becoming a cute throuple in the final episode. I have yet to watch Soul Eater, so I can't speak as to how well this fits into the established universe, but if you're looking for an enjoyable evening's viewing, Soul Eater NOT! has you covered.