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Literature / Saga of Soul

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My name is Watanabe Eriko. I'm an upcoming Nobel Prize laureate, and reality is my bitch.
Watanabe Eriko, internal monologue at her discovery of magic

Saga of Soul, by troper Sun Tzu, is a take on the Magical Girl genre.

The story begins when Eriko, an introverted bookworm, suffers a near-death experience after standing up for her friend Junko. Instead of walking toward the Light, she takes it upon herself to perform scientific experiments, which leads to her acquiring magical powers. Soon enough, she finds herself involved in a complex conflict as several factions of mortal and supernatural entities alike make their play.


For a similar take on magic that also implies it is best off Sufficiently Analyzed and put to good use instead of simply Doing In the Wizard, see Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. note 

This story provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurd Cutting Power: Murder's Golden Knife has an enchantment on it to part matter that comes within a millimeter or so: the blade never actually touches what it cuts. It's also able to open a portal from one universe to another.
  • Abusive Parents: Junko's dad.
  • All-Loving Hero: Pak Dae-Hyun. Mother Aurora specifically states that, just as Eriko's strength is Truth and Junko's strength is Loyalty, Dae-Hyun's strength is love.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Demons in general.
  • Antimagical Faction: Aurora, and thus the fae as a whole, oppose humans having magic, probably because it's destroying the multiverse.
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  • Bad Ass Bookworm: A large part of what makes Eriko effective in battle is her ability to figure out the most efficient applications of what powers she has.
  • Bad Liar: Eriko. Luckily Junko is quite capable of lying, and does it frequently to cover up for Eriko's absences.
  • Bishōnen: Eriko describes Katsutoshi as "what you get when you isolate the bishonen gene".
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Circle of Wisdom's apparent attempts at communication and crude, ridiculously broad concepts of "carrot and stick" lead to speculation that they're so alien that they don't really comprehend earthly life. It turns out that this was Chancell beating them to Earth and making it look like they were scary-alien remote beings before they could properly introduce themselves.
  • Break Them by Talking: Downfall does it to Eriko. To put it mildly, it backfired. A lot.
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  • The Chessmaster: Steel-Sama and Chancell, to the very least.
  • Combat Compliment: Murder compliments Soul a few times during their fights.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Steel-Sama.
  • Cosmic Entity: Aurora is so powerful her magic is often considered a cosmic force. He Who Laughs is even stronger.
  • Counterfeit Cash: Mages can easily produce fake banknotes. Downfall still orders Living Curse to rob a bank to get attention. Chancell uses this to get an in with the criminal underworld.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A few of these, but not quite so clear as Soul versus the Queen of Pain or Living Curse.
  • Death-Activated Superpower: Magic is gained by having a Near-Death Experience and deciding not to Go into the Light but rather to draw upon it to change the universe.
  • Deconstruction: It's no secret that Sailor Nothing was a big inspiration for this story.
  • Deflector Shields: Kinetic shields apply kinetic energy opposing the motion of projectiles.
  • Determinator: Samsod.
  • Ear Ache: Kazu likes to target Kunio's ears, including dragging him to Eriko by one as a 'conversation starter'.
  • The Adjective One: The Supreme One, ruler of the Elysium.
  • The Empire: The Elysium.
  • Fairy Companion: Monsoon, although she's stuck in Castle Nexus.
  • False Flag Operation: Intuited by Helen Barker and revealed by the narration in chapter 19.
  • Finishing Move: After Eriko develops a particularly devastating move, Aurora warns her to only use them when absolutely necessary, for fear her enemies will reverse-engineer her techniques.
  • Forged by the Gods: Aurora crafted the Golden Knife, and it took her over a year to enchant it, at least part of which was ensuring it would work on worlds faerie magic was denied.
  • For Science!: The reason Eriko considers looking for the island of stability physicists are trying to discover with particle accelerators is as simple as that. Not just for herself, she supplies some research labs with magically created Unbihexium.
  • Functional Magic: A fundamental aspect of the story.
  • Gambit Pileup: The Elysium, Mother Aurora, Downfall, Murder, Steel, and the CIA, just to name a few, are all pursuing separate agendas.
  • Genki Girl: Monsoon.
    • Also Junko, though that is something of a facade.
  • Genre Savvy: Eriko most certainly is. But instead of following anime tropes, she acts based on what's known to work in reality. Sometimes overt pragmatism does come to bite her back, reminding her to think outside the box - and this is when genre tropes come in handy.
  • God Is Evil: This seems to be hinted at, at times...
  • Guardian of the Multiverse: Aurora views herself and her faeries as this. Overlaps with Multiversal Conqueror.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Downfall to Soul. It doesn't work.
  • Hidden Depths: To everyone's surprise, jerkass bully Kazu actually has the brains to catch on to the idea of the Circle of Wisdom being so far-removed from humans that they don't really "get" us. He's wrong, but only because there's a whole other level of deception at work.
  • Hidden Villain: The story is being told by magically-caused flashbacks as Soul is interrogated by an unknown (to us) enemy, which leads to...
  • How We Got Here
  • Incoming Ham: When presence of the Circle of Wisdom is officially made known, it seems to be with No Indoor Voice.
  • Inner Monologue: Lots and lots.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: We've seen or heard of three actual items:
    • Monsoon's ring, which allows her to return to Faeland;
    • The Infinity Gate, which allows the Elysium to move people between realities;
    • Murder's Golden Knife, which allows him to do so on his own;
    • Aurora is powerful enough to open gates between realities on her own, which allowed her to enchant Monsoon's ring and Murder's knife.
  • Just Toying with Them: Murder's first fight with Soul.
  • Kaiju
  • Kid-anova: Katsutoshi, who's still in high school, and seems to be accumulating dates. Kazu is a lesser version of this trope.
  • Legions of Hell: Endless Ravage is one of the organizations of demons sending troops to Earth.
  • Loners Are Freaks: For several chapters, Soul feels growing doubts about her own humanity. She gets better.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: A central trope of the series.
  • Magical Girl / Magical Girl Warrior: Eriko herself.
  • Magic Idol Singer: The Muramatsu media conglomerate make a big production of their attempt to invoke this trope, if only to generate publicity. Eriko quickly concludes that they haven't thought this through.
  • Meaningful Rename: Done by Downfall to his minion mages.
  • Meat Puppet: Done by Downfall to Living Curse mrk II
  • Mooks: How Downfall sees the Black Skull Gang. Generally, how every Chessmaster sees their muscle.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Murder allows himself to be taken in by the Yakuza on behalf of Steel-sama. Steel-sama is well aware that he can get out at any time and so has him kept in the same building as some of her corporate rivals.
  • Missing Mom: Junko.
  • Monster of the Week: Both reoccurring and summoned by outsiders.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Junko.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: Spirits have no bodies: when they want one, they whip up a human body with whatever cosmetic alterations they want. These bodies are capable of reproducing ... resulting in non-magical humans, which the faeries call faeborn.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: the four main multiverse factions (faeries, demons, elysians and the Circle) fall into this. Universes that gain magic become accessible and a new battleground.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Murder lives up to this. Downfall, not quite. Crimson Rain, Living Curse and the Queen of Pain are named by Downfall after the leaders of various demon factions.
  • Numbered Homeworld: The fae use numbers to distinguish between alternate Earths. The Elysium use poetic titles intended to evoke beauty, such as Earth Blossom or Earth Night-Sky.
  • Older Alter Ego: Eriko is thirteen, but the Soul form is in her late teens.
  • Omake
  • Our Spirits Are Different: Faeries, demons and elysians are all spirits, capable of conjuring up a physical body with noble magic.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Every mage is theoretically capable of this, in a variety of ways. Monsoon uses the example of a mage on an alternate Earth who conjured up some antimatter - "Only a little. Just enough to fill a crate."
  • Playing Both Sides: Victoria Steel provides anti-mage weapons to Japan in exchange for money and information to Downfall in exchange for magic.
  • Protective Charm: Holistic shields act something like this.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Junior! Goddess! Of Kick your Ass!"
    • More mundanely, "I. Am not. Interested. In Wedding Peach."
  • Rage Against the Mentor
  • Rational Fic: A must read for any troper considering the Magical Girl career.
  • Ray Gun: The PRISMs (Paranormal Risk Incineration SysteM) fall into this: industrial laser technology applied to breaking through a mage's kinetic shields. They're about the size of a car, but effective.
  • Red Shirt: See Mooks.
  • Regular Caller: Soul gives Inspector Aoyama the 'Soul-Signal', which calls her mobile.
  • Secret-Keeper: Junko is the first person Eriko tells about her powers. At the time, though, she hadn't yet realized she was going to need a Secret Identity...
  • Secret Identity: Eriko for Soul
  • Sentai: The Kamirentai
  • Serial Killer: Murder. According to Monsoon, he has a seven digit kill count. Started off as a Professional Killer.
  • Share Phrase: Multiple characters enter inner monologues by introducing themselves to the audience with "My name is..."
  • Shipper on Deck: Junko and Tomo trying to get Eriko and Kazu together
  • Shout-Out
    • Amidst all the other Shout-Outs in the series, Murder's golden knife seems to be drawn directly from His Dark Materials, in that it's an instrument of destruction which opens holes between worlds.
  • Spit Take
  • Square-Cube Law: It takes extra magic to get around the effects of scaling up mutant lizards, as noted by a mage when he makes himself ten metres tall.
  • Starter Villain: Downfall. He starts out slightly stronger than Soul but doesn't level up any between their first and final encounters (while she advances considerably) and is well below-par at planning and scheming. The other villains play him like a fiddle.
  • Super Powered Mooks: Downfall manages to turn three of his gang into mages.
  • The Smart Guy: Eriko herself is a rather intellectual protagonist.
  • The Spymaster: Kurt Winston, aka the Ghost, a vice-director in the CIA and Helen Barker's boss.
  • Smug Snake: Downfall.
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: At least in the early parts of the story.
    • Lampshaded, to the point of having the in-universe version of TV Tropes add an example to its Real Life section.
  • The Watson: Junko. Secano. Hiromasa. And arguably others.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Exalted Grand Adviser Chancell, master of House Lor. Hero to the Elysium thrice. Imperial Mastermind. Recipient of the Supreme One's Trust. Recipient of the Supreme One's Greater Trust. Recipient of the Supreme One's Perfect Trust. Resident of the Domain of Wonders. Key Holder of the Domain of Wonders.
    • He keeps trying to convince them to only announce the highest level of Trust and not bother with "Resident" when it's made superfluous by "Key Holder," but it's a slow process. Maybe in another couple centuries.
  • Thinking Up Portals: Eriko uses them several impressive ways, such as weaponizing seawater through pressure and the Earth's rotation.
  • This Is Reality: Mentioned multiple times. It is a deconstruction, after all.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Invoked by Eriko, in-universe, by intentionally distorting her artificial flashbacks until her captor is forced to let her actually get a full night's sleep.
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: Eriko often has to respond to the Soul-Signal while in class. In at least one case, her enemies time an attack to shortly after class starts to ensure she's late to the scene.
  • Wicked Cultured: Murder is a mix of this and Faux Affably Evil.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Arguably Junko.
  • Yakuza

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