Soul Eater’s vision of Death City, a fictional Nevada metropolis, is as much inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Halloween Town as the dark and whimsical depths of mangaka Atsushi Okubo’s imagination. It follows the students of the Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA), a school run by head honcho Lord Death to train up humans who can turn into weapons and their users. The founding of the school followed a climactic battle between Lord Death and Asura, the first generation Kishin, whose madness and hunger for human souls turned him into a skulking, demonic being. Sealed in his own flesh and bound by Lord Death’s power, the Kishin remained beneath the school until the serpent witch Medusa Gorgon and her motley crew unleashed him into the world. Of the most able of Medusa’s army is her own child, Crona, whom she raised with the cruel intent of becoming a Kishin.
Crona never cried so much as when they’re held by Maka, after a fight that leaves both of them exhausted and renewed. From the outside, it seems obvious that Crona only needed to come to terms with the troubles personified by the Demon Sword Ragnarok, and reach out to someone to ease the loneliness. But the thought of that most obvious of actions is the source of the groundswell of dread and hopelessness attached to the tangible mental health issues Crona suffers from.
Brought up by Medusa as a means of facilitating an extremist shift of the balance of light and dark and bringing forth a new world, Crona was pushed into conflict first with a baby dragon, a creature they couldn’t understand on a personal level, and moreover didn’t want to hurt. Refusing to fight, Crona was locked in a dark room to remain alone with their self-doubt made flesh in the black blood demon Ragnarok, who relentlessly beats, insults and denies his host any feeling of self-esteem. This childhood turbulence takes root as PTSD, breeding Crona’s social anxiety disorder.
The most obvious indicator of Crona’s anxiety is expressed in the catchphrase, “I don’t know how to interact with…”, followed by almost any challenge they encounter. But within the meagre words, causing more heartache and aggravation with each repetition, there are hidden layers of hurt that need some understanding or compassion to notice. The loss of sleep, constant self-deprecation, the hell that smoulders inside your head, real as life. Even little things like eating regularly are spoiled by Ragnarok, who threatens to steal Crona’s meals. The fear can creep up at any moment, without warning or even a clear reason, and if you can face sitting down to a meal, you certainly can’t enjoy it.