What Does ‘Kishin’ Mean in ‘Soul Eater’?

Kishin, Soul Eater

As Soul Eater commemorates its 15th anniversary, fans are left wondering if they will ever witness the return of their beloved characters to the small screen. This iconic anime series stood out with its extraordinary art style, pushing the boundaries of what is considered typical in the anime realm. Among the captivating and somewhat menacing characters featured in Soul Eater is Asura, a formidable being known as a Kishin. But what exactly defines a Kishin, and how does it shape the narrative of this captivating series?

Soul Eater revolves around the lives of students enrolled at the renowned Death Weapon Meister Academy, also known as DWMA. Picture a setting akin to Hogwarts, where the enigmatic and all-powerful Death himself—known as the shinigami—plays the role of Dumbledore. However, instead of focusing on magic, DWMA’s curriculum centers around the mastery of weaponry and the pursuit of individuals whose names appear on Death’s ominous list. The student population at DWMA is divided almost evenly between “meisters” and “demon weapons.”

Despite possessing astonishing abilities, demon weapons are fundamentally human. They were created through the infusion of an evil witch’s soul, enabling them to transform into various forms of weaponry such as scythes, guns, or swords. Furthermore, these demon weapons possess the ability to consume the souls assigned to them by Death, allowing them to grow stronger with each soul they devour.

Kishin, Soul Eater

However, once transformed into their weapon form, they lose control over their own actions and thus require the guidance of a meister to effectively wield them. To attain the status of a weapon powerful enough to be wielded by Death himself, a demon weapon must consume 99 souls of evil humans along with one Kishin soul. In the anime adaptation, this prerequisite is depicted as requiring the consumption of 99 Kishin eggs (souls with the potential to become Kishin) and the soul of a witch.

Strict regulations dictate the targets that meisters and their demon weapon partners can pursue. They are solely permitted to hunt down individuals whose names are listed by Death, targeting souls deemed impure and corrupted. However, if they were to consume the soul of someone inherently pure, they would tread dangerously close to the path of becoming a Kishin themselves.

The first Kishin emerged long before the main events of the Soul Eater storyline unfolded. Before Death established DWMA and assumed the role of the whimsical and endearing principal, the Legions of Death embarked on a mission to restore peace to the world, with Death himself portrayed as the embodiment of righteousness. To maintain peace, they frequently engaged in battles against the forces that threatened stability.

Kishin, Soul Eater

During one of these monumental conflicts, a meister found themselves confronted by an adversary they believed was insurmountable. In a desperate bid to acquire more power, they resorted to taking the life of an innocent individual and covertly fed their soul to their weapon. Continuously repeating this malevolent act, they progressively accumulated greater power until eventually transforming into what is now known as a Kishin.

Asura, the main antagonist of the series, was the very first Kishin to emerge. He holds the distinction of being Death’s eldest son and serves as a vessel for his father’s primal fear, thereby allowing Death to rule as the “God of Perfect Order” free from the constraints of fear itself. This infusion of fear led Asura to descend into madness, exhibiting alternating moments of eerie calmness and frenzied insanity. As he grew up, Asura shielded himself from the world, both figuratively and literally, by enveloping his body in multiple layers of clothing. Ultimately, it was his deep-rooted fear that compelled him to betray Death’s code and take a life outside the confines of Death’s list.

Consuming numerous pure souls alongside his weapon partner Varja, Asura achieved a significant transformation. By absorbing Varja and assimilating the power of those pure souls, he gained the ability to consume souls independently, without relying on a weapon. Transformed into an immensely powerful Kishin, Asura’s actions and existence became a threat that demanded Death’s intervention.

In a daring move, Death sealed Asura to prevent further chaos. Stripping Asura of his skin, draining him of blood, and confining his soul and remains within his own flesh, Death ensured the containment of the fearsome Kishin. To maintain this seal, Death became anchored to the very spot, giving rise to Death City and the establishment of DWMA as a force against the resurgence of darkness.

Kishin Asura (Soul Eater) Runs the S-Class Gauntlet (One Punch Man) -  Battles - Comic Vine

However, as with any captivating story, Asura’s escape from his long imprisonment sets the stage for a gripping plot. The responsibility to find and eliminate Asura for good falls upon the students of DWMA. It is within this context that the anime diverges from its manga counterpart, as the manga was still being written while the anime was being produced. This divergence becomes most notable in Chapter 36 of the anime, where the storyline veers away from the manga’s trajectory.

For those eager to delve into the world of Soul Eater, the anime can be enjoyed on popular platforms such as Crunchyroll, Funimation, and in certain regions, Amazon Prime Video. So, whether you’re a long-time fan or a newcomer to the series, Soul Eater offers a captivating narrative, distinct art style, and a host of memorable characters that continue to resonate with viewers even after 15 years since its inception.

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