In my first ever “Who did it better?” post I’m going to take a look at two shows that make prominent use of a weapon as a character. Read on to see which one I thought used the theme better, then pick your own winner!
When it comes to action anime, a character’s weapon of choice can often be a vital part of the story itself. Given the reliance on fight scenes and cool effects and powers to showcase within them, these weapons often have fantastic abilities. In some cases, the weapon’s impact upon the story is so great that they are even personified into characters themselves to develop a deeper connection with the viewer.
Today I’ll be looking how how two series, Soul Eater and Noragami use this theme and decide which one did it better.
In discussing this, I will inevitably step into spoiler territory. This post thus assumes you have either watched the shows or don’t otherwise mind spoilers and are eager to see which one comes out on top. If this sounds like you, great! Keep reading.
Also, if you need quick refresher on these shows, see the below recap.
Soul Eater revolves around the students of the Death Weapon Meister Academy and their mission to hunt down evil spirits. Their purpose behind doing so, besides protecting humanity, is to use their power to create weapons for their master Death. With a heavy dose of comedy and some unique characters, it still delves into more serious matters as the forces of evil threaten to spread their madness all over the world.
Noragami focuses on the lesser god Yato and his quest to become the most well known and beloved deity in Japan. Along the way he becomes involved with a girl named Hiyori whose soul wavers between the physical and spiritual worlds after she tries to save him. After Yato finds his newest weapon, Yukine, the three form a close bond.
The theme for this match up is “My Weapon is a Character.” Using this phrase I’ll take a look at how each of these anime fared in the individual components, based on how well executed they were, before deciding as a whole which one did it better.
“My” – This aspect looks at the relationship between the weapon and the character wielding it. As I mentioned in the intro, there must be a special relationship between these two. The more that this relationship plays into the story the better.
“Weapon” – Since we’re talking about weapon characters, this aspect plays a big part in how enjoyable the show is as an action series. Too obscure a weapon and people may have a hard time seeing how it fits in. On the other hand if the weapon is too generic it will fail to create a distinctive feel. Maybe it just comes down to which one was cooler.
“is a Character” – The major point of this comparison. How does the weapon measure up as character in their own right? Do they have a compelling arc or affect the story in a meaningful way? How good are they at keeping the viewer engaged and interested in their trials and tribulations?
These popular series share more than the common theme of humanized weapons. To begin with, both are shounen action/adventure shows with a predominant Supernatural theme. Both have red eyed youths as the main weapon characters. Both feature a female main character with a bit of a temper, and also have a female character that sometimes has a tail. On a surface glance, you might think to call one a ripoff of the other.
That could be the case if it weren’t for the fact that both were also created by Bones animation studio. If anything they’re trying to either retain the fan base of one or cannibalize its success. The two shows are, however, different enough to say that one did the theme better than the other.
Round 1: “My”
The characters’ goal in Soul Eater, on the surface, is to reap 99 evil souls along with one witch’s soul to transform the weapon into a Death Scythe. This task requires a strong sense of partnership between the meister and weapon, as killing a witch proves to be a difficult task. On top of this, weapons are most effective when the meister can achieve soul resonance with them; matching their wavelengths to increase the power of both.
The focal pairing, Maka and Soul “Eater” Evans have a hard time connecting at first. With Soul being too cool for everything and Maka being so fiercely independent, they have a difficulty achieving resonance. But once they develop a deeper understanding for one another, on top of their friendship, they are able to become one of the most powerful weapon/meister pairings in the series.
In addition, when push comes to shove, Maka and Soul have each others’s backs to an exceptional degree. Soul frequently relies on using the Black Blood curse, that he becomes inflicted with, to save Maka from harm, despite the risk of it overtaking his soul. Similarly Maka takes on the curse herself to prevent this very thing from happening, and fights to regain her partner’s soul when things go too far.
- Maka and Soul have a close friendship.
- They are willing to risk themselves for each other.
- Their souls are spiritually bound to one another.
In Noragami the purpose of a god’s weapon is different. To augment and channel their power, gods are able to transform a departed soul into a Regalia (divine instrument) by giving it a posthumous name. Working together as master and weapon, the are tasked with answering prayers and dispensing phantoms that threaten the human world. Along with the master taking ownership of the Regalia, they must also incur the consequences of their actions. Because the misdeeds of a regalia can blight their god, choosing one haphazardly or failing to punish them after the fact is detrimental to a god’s existence.
Yukine’s youthful ignorance and rebellious streak make things very difficult for Yato, but when so many counsel him to dismiss Yukine, or at least punish him with an ablution, Yato squarely refuses. His choice to take Yukine on in the first place, and then to keep him, is based on his understanding of the trauma that Yukine faced in life. To ensure that he never faces that kind of pain again, Yato risks his own life to keep him.
Similarly Yukine realizes his own responsibility after Yato’s overtures and consistent support help him adjust to his posthumous life. Inspired by other powerful regalia, like Bishamon’s “Kazuma,” Yukine develops a deep enough love for his master that he’s willing to sacrifice his own life to protect him.
- Yato looks after Yukine like a parent.
- Yato endures curses so they can remain together.
- Yukine learns to love Yato enough to sacrifice himself.
Advantage – Noragami
In the end Yato and Yukine’s bond is a central theme to the story, which is about trust and faith in one another. Soul Eater loses this focus along the way, with Maka even taking on the final boss with just her fists (that and “bravery”).
Round 2: “Weapon“
Even in his basic scythe form, Soul makes for a pretty cool weapon. With a jagged red toothy design along the bladed edge and a moving red eye at the tang, matching Maka’s color scheme with her red and black plaid skirt. The weapon is stylish if not a little unwieldy, as Maka’s fighting style uses him more like a staff. Soul himself can seem to shift in and out of this form at will, and even partially transform his arms and legs.
Upon achieving resonance with Soul, Maka is able to perform three successively powerful Scythe-Meister Techniques: Witch Hunter, Demon Hunter, and Kishin Hunter. The ability of these powers make Soul and Maka a deadly pair against evil, while their destructive effect and flair also makes Soul one of the more visually interesting weapons the show has to offer.
- Soul is a non-traditional weapon (scythe).
- He can fully or partially alter his form.
- He has three powerful combat techniques.
Yukine’s weapon form is a much more traditional katana, though it does have its distinctive features. For one, the blade has no guard, and the handle is wrapped in bandages that hang loosely at the end. His abilities in this form include “Rend” with which Yato can use him to destroy a phantom, and the more subtle “Sever” ability which cuts bonds between people and things.
After becoming a Blessed Regalia, Yukine’s weapon form shifts into to a pair of smaller katanas that Yato wields in each hand. While he is technically stronger in this form, the style of the blades and the abilities he can perform are much the same. Bones does some good work, but they reuse the same basic sequence with just another sword in Yato’s other hand. Repeatedly.
- Yukine is a traditional katana.
- Has a single ability to finish off phantoms.
- Has a permanent dual katana form as a Blessed Regalia.
Advantage – Soul Eater
I don’t think this is a surprise. With his versatility and range of powerful abilities, Soul is simply too cool compared with Yukine’s one-note portrayal as a sword.
Round 3: “is a Character”
Soul’s main arc is centered around his struggle against the Black Blood curse that infects him after their fight against Crona and Ragnarok. Though I pointed out Maka’s independence, Soul’s obsession with acting cool sees him dealing with this condition alone for a long time, causing it to become progressively worse each time he uses its power. His struggle with the curse is often represented by his sitting down to play jazz piano while the demonic corruption within him watches and urges him on.
Music is shown to be a big part of Soul’s character, and it’s one that Maka doesn’t readily understand. While it’s a part of his stylish appeal, Soul finds he can connect to others through music, and it’s shown to be a key part of achieving soul resonance with Maka and the others. Only when Maka is forced to enter his consciousness in order to save him does she come to understand and appreciate it.
His eventual openness with Maka in his weakest moments allows her to see past the “cool” facade that stands in such stark contrast to her own nature. Having done everything he could to protect Maka from his curse, he finally accepts her help in fighting it. This became one of the defining moments of the pair’s relationship, as well as Soul’s growth as a character.
- Soul tries to hide his weaknesses.
- He and Maka struggle to become an effective team.
- Soul opens up to Maka, allowing them both to grow.
Yukine’s character is a similar story about finding the better part of himself through his connection with the other characters. Disappointed about spending his afterlife stuck at Yato’s side, his disrespect for his master starts from the very moment his human form is revealed. This despondency and disdain culminates into bitterness, as Yukine’s regret over dying leads him to increasingly dark places.
Yukine thus starts off in a very low place, with only the support of Yato and their mutual friend Hiyori to keep him afloat. Though he is exceptionally gifted as a Regalia, given how quickly he takes to learning techniques, his portrayal as a young teen comes complete with moral struggles, teen angst, and rebellious outbursts. Thus Yukine’s story, despite the fantasy setting, is a surprisingly simple one about growing up.
Though he is robbed of his formative years by a premature death, he finds a replacement family among Yato and Hiyori. With Bishamon’s Regalia, Kazuma, acting as a role model, Yukine understands the value of loyalty toward one’s master. Eventually, Yukine is able to repay the pain he caused Yato by sacrificing himself to save his life. The selfless act turns him into a blessed Regalia which, although more or less ending his character arc, highlights the message of fearless faith at the heart of Noragami.
- Yukine starts as a right brat.
- His bad behavior causes pain to his “family.”
- He repents his wrongdoings and gives his (after)life for Yato.
Advantage – Noragami
Yukine’s story is more relatable and better crafted than Soul’s drawn out struggle with his curse. Whereas the power of friendship helps him and Maka overcome his challenges, Yukine matures through a deeper understanding of his own flaws and learns to value the bonds he has formed.
Noragami (2 to 1)
Though Soul Eater brought a decent challenge with its appealing character design in Soul Eater Evans, Yukine’s more compelling arc, and a more tight-knit story about the relationship between gods and Regalia in Noragami, give it the victory in this bout.
You’ve seen my thoughts, now which one do you think excels at the theme: “My Weapon is a Character”? Vote in the below poll and let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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