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Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary — Shonen Slam!

It has been a good while since I indulged in some shonen manga so today I take quick looks at Soul Eater volume 2 and Slam Dunk volume 8.

Soul Eater 2

People might remember that I had a number of issues with the first volume of Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo.  The second volume corrects two major problems that makes this a much more engaging and flat-out readable comic for me.  First, the fanservice is toned down to almost nothing (really just one page of group female nudity, but that one page is minor compared to the excesses of the first volume) and second, the two main protagonists’ characterization and roles are much more fully developed.

The second volume of Soul Eater allows Maka, the “meister,” and Soul, her weapon, or “scythe,” to develop personalities instead of shrill one-note reactions in their attempts to become proficient in “reaping” the souls of bad people.  (Serial killers and nasty witches and the like are their usual targets).  This volume pits them against Dr. Franken Stein, a creepily amusing “villain,” who ends up being more a learning experience for Maka and Soul rather than a real opponent.   As Maka and Soul work together more and more I am starting to see a solid foundation develop to help move the story forward — not only through action but also through some breakthroughs in emotional maturity.   I was particularly interested in the way Soul puts his own life in danger by offering himself as not only a weapon for Maka to wield, but by becoming her shield as well.  When Soul ends up sacrificing more than Maka bargained for in order to keep her safe, their dynamic gives some much needed substance to this style-heavy comic.

Although Soul Eater is slowly building characters that we can care about or even root for, as a whole things are certainly moving in the right direction.

Slam Dunk 8

The eighth volume of Slam Dunk almost reads like the most awesome after school special ever — if after school specials offered high school basketball as the answer to juvenile delinquency.   I had originally been a little taken aback by the title’s sudden turn to gang violence in volumes 6 and 7 and missed the self-absorbed antics of slam dunker-wannabe Hanamichi.  Well, I should have had more faith in Takehiko Inoue because all roads lead back to dreams of basketball greatness in this title.

Finally, the vicious beat-down of members of the basketball team by a bunch of angry thugs comes to an abrupt end when Hanamichi unleashes his fists of fury.   Once the tide turns it is revealed that one of the instigators of the fight actually used to be on the team.  Like most nasty villains he really just wants love…not from a person but from the sport that he believes has left him behind.  Inoue launches one of those great sports-team origin flashbacks that show how Akagi evolved into the player who could become Captain, giving us a portrait of his Hanamichi-esque days as a newly minted player (i.e. big and clumsy with enough raw talent to power a big city).  You can also see the seeds for Inoue’s other great basketball series, REAL, being sown with this volume’s emphasis on physically and psychically disabling injury and the possibility for redemptive recovery.

The eighth volume of this series is a fine return to form after a bit of a departure in subject and tone.  Even two and a half volumes structured around the characters’ juvenile delinquency exploits can’t hide the characters and creator’s love of basketball.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

11 Comments

I quickly read your review for Soul Eater vol. 1 before reading this one and it seems to me that there are quite the similarities with Soul Eater and Shaman King. A wielder of a soul-based weapon which can be used as both a weapon and a shield. However, having only read the review and not the book itself, the similarities seem to end there.
I remember having read the first issue of Slam Dunk (a sample of the series in an old Shonen Jump monthly) and i concluded that mangas focussing on sport might not be as dry or even boring as I had initially thought. I think I would prefer to read a sport manga that focused on a sport I love. With that in mind, I think Prince of Tennis would be more to my liking. I’ll have to check that out some day.

While I think Maka and Death the Kid are fun characters, I think my favorite has to be Black Star. He can be grating in his Naruto-esque way of doing things, but him and Tsubaki make for an interesting pair and have more depth than the other two main characters. And more Stein is always excellent. While I don’t always find Soul Eater funny, whenever Stein’s around, at least it’s fun,

[...] Next Door) Sean Gaffney on vol. 2 of Soul Eater (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Danielle Leigh on vol. 2 of Soul Eater and vol. 8 of Slam Dunk (Comics Should Be Good) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 2 of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee (The Comic Book [...]

Danielle Leigh

March 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

hi Mario — I certainly think Prince of Tennis is a fun series, although I admit I’m finding Slam Dunk a better comic on a pure entertainment level (I’m mostly familiar with Prince of Tennis thanks to the anime which is even more crack-y than the manga, if such a thing is possible).

Okman — I think Death the Kid might be my favorite right now but I definitely thought the book need a stronger protagonist pair and volume 2 did a much better job setting up Maka and Soul as such.

I really enjoyed your Slam Dunk review and agree very much! The gang violence was tolerable to me because I like new character Ryota Miyagi so much, but was glad to see the story circle back to basketball in the end.

I also liked this observation: You can also see the seeds for Inoue’s other great basketball series, REAL, being sown with this volume’s emphasis on physically and psychically disabling injury and the possibility for redemptive recovery.

I really need to read REAL. Is this one of those series one should write in all caps? :)

Danielle Leigh

March 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

thanks, Michelle! Your review was awesome so I’m hoping I didn’t crib anything from it, but if I allow some time to pass I’m usually left with a blank slate in terms of reviewing after reading some else’s.

Yes! REAL deserves the all caps treatment! (Even though I think Slam Dunk is great, REAL is a much more mature work, not so much with the antics…although there’s one moment you really aren’t going to like. Heh. If you think Walter peeing himself in Fringe was bad…*evil laugh* That was *nothing*).

Oh dear. My real problem w/ the Walter thing was that we were supposed to go, “Oh, ha-ha, he’s so eccentric.” If it’s supposed to be horrible and dramatic and stuff, it actually wouldn’t be so bad, if that makes sense.

Danielle Leigh

March 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Now I’m half-way through the season I’ve actually think they’ve done a great job with Walter and his son Peter. Right now they are starting to imply Walter isn’t just eccentric but may actually be quite mentally ill (and usually they are just winking at Walter’s “eccentricity” when he talks about food or sex, i.e. basic human drives. Emotionally, though, he’s a wreck and quite a sad man).

Also, I have to love Peter. It’s a Pacy from Dawson’s Creek thing. I can’t even tell if he’s a good actor that is how deep this goes…

Hee. I never got into Dawson’s Creek, myself. :)

ok Michelle and Danielle….with how this season has ended up on Fringe, I wouldn’t be surprised if we all have had the wool pulled over our eyes and that Leonard Nimoy’s character (name escapes me at the moment) was right about Walter and the danger he contains. Also think about this, where are the OTHER shapeshifters???

As far as the manga….I have to say I enjoyed Prince of Tennis over either basketball manga….Something about the drama doesn’t line up for me. Wish I could say the same about the Prince anime… However you are dead on about the second volume of Soul Eater. With the first volume I was rolling my eyes akin to reading early issues of Dragonball. The second volume however grabbed my attention and didn’t let go.

Danielle Leigh

March 4, 2010 at 7:08 am

hi Daryll — I’m still mid-way on season 1 of Fringe but yeah, obviously something isn’t quite right with Walter. I haven’t yet seen Nimoy as Bell (at least that is who I think he is playing) but I look forward to getting to that part!

Yeah, the Prince of Tennis anime is really for fangirls….I don’t think guys who just want to enjoy a sports show would take it to it.

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