What They Say:
The Head Captain orders Mayuri Kurotsuchi to simplify the procedures to perform Gentei Kaijo, a restriction release for the Spiritual Pressure of the Advance Troops while in the World of the Living. Kon, lonely and bored due to Rukia’s and Orihime’s absence, decides to pay a visit to Rangiku. Trouble is brewing in Las Noches, Aizen’s palace in the Hollow realm, Hueco Mundo. One of the Arrancars, Patras, rebels against Aizen and tries to steal the Hogyoku.
Contains episodes 134-145.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The two stereo mixes that are included with this release are pretty good with an encoding of 224 kbps which gives it slightly more depth than the 192 kbps standards we usually hear. With a lot of action to it as well as some exaggerated dialogue sequences, Bleach has a fairly decent stereo mix that has some nice directionality to it but nothing that really sets it out as a truly strong piece. The opening and closing sequences have some solid use but overall the mix is straightforward and competent. In listening to both language tracks, we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This set contains twelve episodes spread across three discs with four episodes per disc. The transfer for Bleach is on part with previous season sets with a very clean look and solid materials. Colors are solid without any really noticeable bleeding, though some of the red items sometime seem like there’s a touch of it. Cross coloration is absent and aliasing is very minimal. Probably more out of expectation, the show does seem a bit soft in how it’s presented. Part of it comes from the way so many shows are just so clean and vibrant looking, that something of this nature doesn’t feel quite right – especially for something of this pedigree. Backgrounds do exhibit some noise and there are a few very noticeable areas of mosquito noise as well, but by and large this is a good looking release.
Bleach shifts things for the packaging for this set as it uses a standard keepcase that holds the three discs inside of it. The keepcase comes with a slipcover that works like a picture frame as it’s all white with the die cut center that shows the keepcase artwork underneath. That artwork which shows through is that of Ulquiorra with him reaching for his sword while having a very serious look to his face, which is pretty much the norm. I really like the die cut design with the slipcover and it definitely works better here than it did the last volume. The back cover to the slipcover is the same as the keepcase itself which goes back to how we’ve seen previous season sets. The logo is along the left, vertical, while the right has blank space along the upper half. The bottom half gives the short summary of what the season is about as well as the production information. What’s included in the set is there as well as the strip along the bottom that would normally be a technical grid but is instead all about the logos. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release mirrors the front cover with its die cut slipcover design except that it’s sideways instead with the framing, and that there are a few other softer gray ones in the background. The foreground one in black allows for clips from the show to play throughout it that are tied to that respective volume and with the music associated, it all has a nice mood setting feeling to it for this season. The navigation strip is along the bottom with quick access times to submenus and starting the show. Viz continues to avoid direction episode navigation from the top level but they’re not the only ones to still do that. While this is a simple approach, it’s done well and is a definite change from how Viz has done things in the past. On the downside, the discs did not correctly read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English only for audio and no subtitles – which is unfortunate since there isn’t a sign/song subtitle track so you initially believe the songs are not subtitled.
The extras for this release are pretty standard as we saw with the single volume discs in that we get the clean ending sequence and more production artwork. In addition to that, each of the volumes has a brief bit of omake that adds some cute fluff to the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the eighth set in the series, Bleach brings another twelve episodes into play as it runs through the Arrancar arc, though it takes a few episodes to actually get back to it. One of the frustrating things about Bleach at times is that it goes into these little standalone episodes when you least expect it. With the Soul Reapers that are in the World of the Living preparing for what Aizen has in store for them in the next few months, it’s largely all about the training right now. And that can be interesting, but Bleach doesn’t always want to focus on that. Instead it wants to go for some of the little stories with the souls that are close to becoming Hollows themselves. It’s something that made sense a hundred episodes ago, but feels less authentic now.
The standalone stories are a mixed bag. The opening episode of the set involves a patisserie who had died some time previously but wasn’t aware of it. There’s a minor scuffle with it as a couple of the Soul Reapers that are wandering around try to help out, not entirely voluntarily, and it ends up involving his mother as she harbors issues about cakes ever since her son died. It’s the kind of story that’s just kind of there, an easy and non threatening piece. What makes up for it is the episode that follows it with Kon taking the lead as he gets thrown into a stuffed animal by Rangiku when she saves a kid who fell off of an overpass into the water. She has some issues due to the loss of a dog some time ago, and Kon gets trapped with her in her stuffed animal and reveals himself to her, turning it into a good bit of fun. Kon episodes tend to do that since he does have such a good heart about him but also a lot of slapstick comedy. The core story is average, but it’s the characters that makes it fun.
When Bleach focuses on the Arrancar material, it works pretty well but it’s still largely in that setup phase itself. Aizen’s running a large plan here with plans within plans, and his sending of his Arrancar to the World of the Living is really just a series of feints and diversions to his bigger plan. When he sends one group down to cause a little trouble, it’s without their knowledge that he’s letting them do that. With a few of them going out in the town for a bit of vengeance, they’re also looking for Urahara since they’ve managed to steal the Hogyoku and are intent on unlocking its secrets. It’s comical from the start to imagine that they’d actually be able to acquire this no matter the way they did it, so you know that there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Unfortunately, it involves Ulquiorra, a character that’s very hard to pin down as he’s essentially the quiet and obedient robot type. While he may be mildly talkative at times, it’s all very controlled and measured so it’s hard to get a feel for what he’s really after. Where it gets interesting is that what he’s really after for Aizen is Inoue herself. She’s spent her time in the Soul Society getting herself back on track and understanding her powers, but when she heads back to the World of the Living with an escort, they get redshirted pretty easily and she’s made an offer she can’t refuse by giving herself up to Aizen in place of his Arrancar killing off Ichigo and the others, something that they seem fully capable of at this point as Ichigo and the others aren’t at the level that they need to be.
Inoue’s choice certainly isn’t an easy one and they do spend some time with it, exploring how she works through it a bit and the way she says her goodbyes without anyone even realizing she’s there. What I continue to find with Bleach is that as diverse and powerful as all the Soul Reapers are, it’s the human characters that fascinate me the most, such as Ishida and Chad. But Inoue has something more to her and it’s explored well here with what Aizen wants her for, as we really see the extent of her powers and get a clue as to why he wants her with him as his plans continue to go through the motions. When she does reveal some of the extent of her abilities, which likely aren’t the sum total of them, it’s definitely an impressive moment when you have an Arrancar so obviously shocked by it.
Naturally, Bleach is going to take a bit of a diversion at this point, one that you know is planned by Aizen, as Ichigo is raring to go and get her back because of his sense of what’s right. Unfortunately, the head of the Thirteen Squads won’t allow it as he needs Ichigo to prepare for the much bigger event that’s coming. And none of the Soul Reapers will go against him, enough so that they leave the World of the Living to make sure that Ichigo doesn’t push them in a direction they can’t go. What’s welcome is that it brings back the human players once again on their own as Ichigo gets unwanted help from Ishida and Chad for getting to Hueco Mundo, which brings that realm into light and starts what looks to be a really fun arc as the gang goes on the offensive.
Bleach has a bit of a mixed bag with this set as it has some lows with the standalone material that’s mediocre at best, and is only saved by Kon being a fun character. With the scale of the Arrancar arc that’s at play, it’s moving slowly to get to the points and it feels like the Arrancars that come into the World of the Living are doing so just for the fun of it. While Aizen may have his plans and is manipulating all of them for his end goals, it has a haphazard feel that comes across with how the Arrancars themselves act when they go off on their missions. There’s fun to be had with it as some come for revenge against those who insulted them before, and the action is pretty decent when it gets going, but it’s a lot of setup mostly here with the payoff mostly coming from Inoue’s subplot that picks up towards the end and shifts into Ichigo’s new plan. The twelve episodes here have their fun, but it’s not a set that keeps you enraptured from start to finish.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Art, Clean Ending, Omake
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: March 22nd, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.