There's a 51-episode show called Soul Eater. This is not that show. It's a cuter, fluffier spin-off about three 14-year-old schoolgirls in the Soul Eater universe. Mind you, the school they're going to is Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA) in Death City, USA, so it's not completely unrelieved cute fluffiness.
The main character is Tsugumi, who's learning how to control her body's tendency to turn into a magical halberd. It's probably genetic. Some people inherit red hair. Tsugumi wasn't so lucky. Half the students at DWMA can turn into weapons and the other half are meisters, learning how to use them. Tsugumi's main headache is that she has two best friends and has to choose one of them as her personal meister. Her chief distinguishing characteristic is that she's otherwise completely normal and doesn't have any weird mental issues or hang-ups. Oh, and she likes saying the meaningless word "gagantous", which I wish she wouldn't.
Her two friends are Anya and Meme, whose name might I suspect be a reference to Christopher Nolan's film Memento. Meme has such a bad memory that she has trouble even remembering her own name and in ep.9 she has a Memento-like incident in which she has to work out what she did the day before. (The story's harmless and undercooked, though. I like the idea, but I don't think it really works. They needed to go further with it.) At first, Meme just seems like a bit of a joke character, but eventually we realise that her memory issues can be hurtful, for herself and others. This isn't the kind of show to dig into this properly, but at least it gives the character a modest amount of depth.
Meanwhile Anya is a princess who talks as if everyone else is scum and has great trouble admitting that she's enthusiastic about commoners' things. She's a nice girl really, but you've got to make allowances.
What makes the show a bit interesting, I think, is its clash of tone and content. Our three heroines are blob-faced moe schoolgirls doing anime schoolgirl things and starring in stories about love and the power of friendship. However the Soul Eater universe is spikier than that. It's as if the universe has dressed up for Halloween. There are witches, zombies, bats and so on. There are references to Misery and The Thing. There's horror imagery and some episodes begin with one of the girls having a nightmare dream sequence. What's more, experienced weapon-meister partnerships are seriously badass and they have enemies to match. The last three episodes go axe-crazy with an enemy who can threaten the entire school, poisoning and possessing people to turn them into killers. A named character will get killed with no magical resurrection at the end. One of our heroines will go after her friends with a chainsaw.
Our heroines go up against this enemy, of course. What's cool about this is that they're not badasses. They're first-years, still in training, and the Soul Eater universe is full of people who could wipe the floor with them.
Just as important to the series, though, are Power of Friendship stories. There are some difficult people at DWMA and Tsugumi's going to have her work cut out trying to thaw them. There's a pink-haired bitch who'll charge you money to pass the time of day and a pair of New York street toughs who get employed as the world's worst waitresses.
The oft-seen lesbian subtext of this kind of girl-heavy show is present, by the way. It's basically a chaste love triangle. Tsugumi's partnership-sealing involves nude sequences, ep.12 has a Saved With A Kiss scene and Meme's flirtiness and habit of climbing unclad into Tsugumi's bed gets even Anya making assumptions. There's also a non-subtextual lesbian romance, which is quite well done.
I also like the universe. It's a place where the sun is a medieval morning star and the campus doctor (Dr Franken Stein) is the kind of person who builds a copy of your friend's head as a practical joke, only for the head to go wandering off on its own and never return. The show also likes calling things Death. Our heroines take a part-time job in a Deathbucks Caffe (sic). Apparently the art style is funkier and more extreme in the parent show, though.
Am I about to rush off and watch Soul Eater? Probably not right now. I'm sure it's good, but I have too much in my queue right now to add another 51 episodes. Would I recommend Soul Eater Not!? Um... to be honest, not really. It's okay, but it's a bit too blobby and generic to go seeking out when there's genuinely good anime out there. I quite enjoyed it. It's always easy to put on another episode. It has some nice bits and there's more to the characterisation than you'd guess at first glance. However it's a bit soft-edged and bland, I'm afraid. Borderline slice-of-life at times, although of course there's nothing wrong with that. Likeable, but nothing special.