HOLY FUCK, THIS SERIES HAS EATEN MY BRAIN. It hits pretty much all of my buttons: Awesome kickass ladies? Check. Surreal yet consistent setting? Check. Shonen retardedness? Check. Slick animation? Check. A cast of characters pulling each other upwards? Check. Fuckawesome opening? Check. People transforming into weapons? THIS IS A BUTTON I DID NOT EVEN KNOW I HAD BUT CHECK.
OK so the basic premise is as follows: In Death Vally, Nevada, sits the Shibusen Academy, a training facility run by Shinigami, the wacky-looking god of death. The students there are divided into two groups: Weapons, who can transform their bodies into magical weapons (ranging from swords to guns to spears to chainsaws), an the Meisters, who match the wavelength of their soul to the Weapons' to wield them in combat. All Meisters are paired up with one (or, in some cases two) weapons, with whom they are compatible and work with on a relatively permanent basis. Not just anyone can use a Weapon; if the Weapon and the Meister's souls are not properly in tune, the Weapon will be too heavy to pick up, or too hot to hold, or otherwise unusable.
Shibusen exists for the purpose of preventing the emergence of another Kishin, or Demon God. Y'see, if you eat someone else's soul, you gain a boost in power, but in exchange those who eat normal human souls will have their own souls corrupted, and it becomes what is known as a 'Kishin Egg'. These people wil continue lusting after more and more souls, eating more and more, and eventually, if they eat enough, they can turn into a full-fledged Kishin, which...means that the world is pretty much fucked. It's only happened once before but it was baaaaad news.
So! In addition to their studies, the Shibusen students travel across the world, hunting down the souls of those who have gone bad and started chowing down on other people's. After killing them, the Weapon eats the Kishin Egg soul (which unlike normal human souls, are safe to eat). The goal for all students is for the weapons to eat ninety-nine Kishin Egg souls, and the soul of one witch (who are people with natural magical ability dedicated to causing chaos). Once that requirement has been met, Shinigami will forge the Weapon into a Death Scythe, a weapon worthy of being used by Shinigami himself. (It's a little unclear exactly what the Meister gets out of this, but there must be SOMETHING because they all seem incredibly eager to Death Scythe it up).
So. That's enough setup. Let's meet our cast!
The first pair we'll start out with are Soul and Maka: Soul is the white-haired kid crouching at the bottom left and glaring at us. His Meister, Maka, is the pigtailed girl in the middle who clearly thinks that something is srs business. Soul's the titular character as his full name is bizarrely enough Soul eater, and he transforms into a scythe, which Maka is very good at using. Maka's father is the current Death Scythe, and her mother was the Meister who got him there...but they're now divorced because Maka's father cheated on her. Repeatedly. There's a lot of bitterness over this on Maka's side, and she basically hates her dad. Her dad doesn't help this by being a complete moron.
OK, guys, I'll be honest. I shipped Maka/Soul before the opening credits even finished running. And thankfully, canon did not disappoint me. If they aren't canon by the end of the series, the mangaka built up a whole lot of subtext for no reason. This isn't just the ship-o-vision speaking, here: they once spent like half a chapter in the middle of a fight scene dancing together to soft jazz music in Soul's subconscious mind. I mean, there was a point to that scene besides dancing but jeeze.
Standing behind Soul and to Maka's left are Black Star and Tsubaki. Black Star is the blue-haired boy sneering at us. He's the Meister between the two of them, and he is a complete moron. No, seriously, he's an idiot. He's loud, reckless, arrogant, and is obsessed with stealing center stage and being the main character of whatever situation is unraveling.
(Although...considering the fact that he's obsessed with being the protagonist...and he's in a Shonen manga...I'm not sure that he's not just extremely Genre Savvy)
Anyways, Tsubaki is his Weapon, and she's an excellent one: her family is unique among Weapons in that they have six forms: A kusari-gama, a large shuriken, a smoke bomb, a dagger, a katana, and one special form which lets her imitate the appearance of her Meister to fool the enemy. Unlike Black Star, Tsubaki is very helpful and unassuming, and her pleasant personality lets her work with just about any Meister...which is why she's one of the only weapons who can work with someone as difficult as Black Star.
On the right side of our image is Shinigami's son Kid and his two weapons, Patty and Liz. They take the form of identical pistols (which he for some reason holds upside down, pulling the triggers with his pinkies). The reason he uses two weapons is that he has a crippling OCD obsession with being symmetrical. With two guns, he can fight while remaining symmetrical himself.
of course, there's an obvious problem with this: his hair. There's three white stripes in it on one side, but not the other. He hates this, and goes into horrible depression if he's reminded of it.
So yeah, THERE'S OUR WACKY CAST. I could go on at length about professor Stein, or Sid, or Ox Ford or Chrona or Medusa, who might well be the best villain I've read about in years, but I think my time would be better served by telling you what this manga/anime is really about: it's about fear. Fear leads people to seek out power, so that they can STOP being afraid. To seek that power they begin consuming human souls, and that leads to their destruction. Shibusen students are taught not to avoid fear, but to face it down and master it with courage. it can be a bit obvious about thise theme at times, but on the whole it does a good job of it and keeps itself very consistent.
Also, I do want to put in a special mention for Mifune, who is possibly my favorite character. He's a powerful fighter with a very powerful soul who fights using a very unique fighting style called Mugen Ittoryu (Infinite One-Sword Style). He basically litters the whole area with his katana, which he employs in very unique ways both on attack and defense. It's really hard to describe, you sort of have to see it in action, but it's awesome. But what's really awesome about Mifune is that for all his badassery, the whole reason he fights in the first place is for a tiny Witch who looks about five years old. He raises her and protects her and is basically a surrogate father to her. It's just the most amazing thing EVER. I love him to bits. I can't get enough of him.
The only two flaws with this manga are...well, the fanservice meter is cranked up a little too high (yeah, I know that sounds weird coming from me, but I'm serious. It's not a big deal but there's a little TOO much of it), and...well occasionally there'll be a 'WTF just happened' moment. But even those are pretty awesome, SO. READ/WATCH THIS IMMEDIATELY, IT IS AMAZING.
The Hour Of The Mice
OK so this one falls into the category of 'manga I read because I saw it on One Manga and the title intrigued me'. It's about a bunch of students at a private academy for highly gifted children. Like all the students there, they have never seen the outside world since they were brought to the academy at the age of three. However, when a new student 'transfers' in, they discover that the 'school' is actually a experimental facility run by a pharmaceutical company, using the students as guinea pigs for sophisticated neurological experiments. At that point they havbe to start considering how and if they're going to escape.
The plot's interesting, although I will admit that the reveal on the whole Truman Show thing could have been handled with a bit more subtlety. But the real reason I recommend this manga is this: The art is GORGEOUS.
Seriously, look at this!. I could look at these kids all day, and that's even with noise from the scanning. If this ever gets licensed I will buy every volume just to stare at the artwork.
Also, Mei is too adorable. I want to give her a hug.
This one I'm not really recommending on its own merits, because quite frankly I will admit that it has flaws. However, seeing as how it's only sixteen chapters in and seems to be improving, I'd suggest keeping an eye on this one because I feel it has potential.
This page sums up the basic premise. THe story is about John, a professional thief who happens to be really bad at it, and Lu, a professional thief who is considerably more competant, chasing down the thirteen pieces of the Demon Stone. If they can get it together it'll grant them a wish, sort of like the Dragonballs except that the Dragonballs didn't attract invulnerable demonic entities (called Crows) to it.
John has a a magic right arm which enables him to fight the crows, but he really shouldn't use it as much as he does because the blackness in it spreads a little further up his arm every time he does, and if it goes too far it'll cover his whole body, and then he'll become a Crow himself. He's trying to find the demon stone to restore this arm to normal so he doesn't have to worry about that.
Again, it's not without flaws (if John says THE DEMON STONE IS MINE one more time I'm going to kick him in the face) and it's nothing exceptional, but it's just getting started and it looks like it could become soemthing excellent, further down the line.
Also, it has a villain called Fukurou, which always goes over well with me.
Flame of Recca
This one's set in modern-day japan (or...well, modern-day for when the manga was published, it's a little old), and is about a moron called Recca, who is ninja-obsessed and fancies himself a modern-day ninja. He's said that he will be the personal shinobi of anyone who can kick his ass, which leads to constant fights with classmates Fuko (an acrobatic girl who is his closest compeitition) and Domon (a huge mohawked musclebound idiot). However, since Recca actually does do training and shit as part of his ninja-hood, they've never managed to get the drop on him.
Recca has a secret: he has the power to generate and control flames with his right arm. Hence the title. When he accidentally meets a girl with supernatural healing abilities, he decides that she's the one he's wants to pledge himself to, and becomes her shinobi, and will protect her etc etc.
Where the problem comes in is that Mori Koran, a very successful corrupt businessman and head of a massive crime syndicate, wants her healing abilities so that he can live forever. He has his head goon, a homicidal maniac called Kurei, who shares Recca's flame powers but much, much more powerful, kidnap her, and things go from there.
What really impressed me with this manga was how Kurei was developed. I don't think I've ever seen such an excellent example of a character who is a sympathetic and a monster, without diminishing either. By the end of the series, every time he shows up you go FUCK YES KUREI because it means that someone's shit is about to get ruined in awesome fashion.
The only bad thing about this manga is, again, that the fanservice is dialed up a little too high for my tastes. Other than that, though, it's a pretty wicked ride all-around.
Do you like Vikings? Of course you do, Vikings are awesome. Then you will love Vinland Saga, the historical manga botu Vikings fucking people's shit up.
A long time ago, there was a boy named Thorfinn. His father, Thors, was killed by the leader of a mercenary VIking band, named Askeladd. He has lived his life since seeking revenge against Askeladd, but because he only wants to do it in an honorable duel, the two of them developed a sort of bizarre working relationship. It goes like this:
1. Askeladd tells Thorfinn what he wants done. Generally it's something insane or suicidal, like killing the enemy general in a battle, or something equally dangerous that Askeladd doesn't want to risk one of his own men on.
2. Thorfinn tells Askelaad that he'll do it, but only in exchange for for a duel.
3. Askeladd says 'sure, fine, whatever'.
4. Thorfinn accomplishes his task.
5. Askeladd and Thorfinn fight a duel. Askelaad beats Thorfinn handily.
6. Thorfinn mopes until Askelaad has something else he wants Thorfinn to do. Return to start.
it's really epic and insane, and just about every character is so. Manly. I mean that's sort of to be assumed since they're, you know, VIKINGS, but damn.