The Arrancar and the Visored continue to dominate events, as this volume takes a little detour into what I’m told is filler territory – the scourge of Bleach fans everywhere – to keep an eye on Hitsugaya and his team, which Ichigo’s busy training…
What They Say:
Kurosaki Ichigo has always had the uncanny ability to see spirits and ghosts. Despite his unusual skill, he lives the normal life of a 15-year-old boy, aside from the moments when his rambunctious father body-slams him by surprise. This volume includes all the episodes from the second half of the sixth series.
Audio is presented in English and Japanese 2.0 stereo. I’ve been trying to widen my linguistic boundaries lately, so I listed to this release in both English and Japanese. Both tracks are fairly standard stereo mixes, with some effort having been made to properly place dialogue and effects on the soundstage but nothing particularly spectacular past that. There were no obvious dropouts or other problems. As for the English track – I’ve been becoming more accepting of dubbed anime lately, and Bleach is another series where the quality of the English voice-acting has quite impressed me.
Video’s hard to quantify in one way – this is a recent show, so in general the animation is clean and colourful, while the transfer is free of any obvious encoding issues. Where it’s strange is that there are scenes dotted throughout the show where the animation has noticeably more detail (both in terms of shading representing lighting, which adds a lot of depth to the animation, and in the amount of work that’s gone into portraying the characters) than for the rest of the disc. These scenes really do look good, but they’re different enough from the show’s usual level of animation that they do jar a bit. I can’t really criticise for the extra effort having been made, though.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The menu is a static screen, with an image of one of the Visored taking centre-stage. Options are provided for Play All, direct access to each episode, language setup and extras, with Rukia and one of the Arrancar featuring on the submenus for both discs. There are no transition animations, so it’s all quick & easy to use.
Disc 2 of the set has a gallery of production sketches, and a creditless closing sequence. That’s your lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With their power limits lifted, Hitsugaya, Rangiku, and Renji easily dispatch their opponents. Meanwhile, Ichigo is overpowered by Grimmjow, who is able to fight against Ichigo barehanded. Ichigo uses his getsuga tensho, which slightly damages Grimmjow and awakens his inner hollow. Before Grimmjow can release his zanpakuto, Kaname Tosen arrives. Tosen takes Grimmjow back to Hueco Mundo, claiming that he violated Aizen’s orders by attacking the real world. Later, Ichigo approaches the Visored, hoping to use them to find a way to suppress his inner Hollow (although his encounter with them doesn’t go entirely to plan), Orihime has to deal with being told she’s just not strong enough to continue fighting with the others, and Hitsugaya and his team investigate the case of two loose souls and the Arrancar who wants to devour them…
A couple of differing tracks, then – mostly focussing on the Arrancar, as you’d expect, but there are a few other things going on here. Most of the Arrancar material this volume is pretty much disposable – we get Aizen being a bastard (but then we knew that anyway), and a completely filler story with Hitsugaya and lost souls Shota and Yui – which isn’t terrible, but there’s a problem with this sort of side story in that you know it’s not really ultimately going anywhere (filler stories can’t affect the main ‘canon’ stories, after all), and while shows like Naruto compensate for this by ramping up the humour, Bleach tends to try and keep things serious. Unless Don Kanonji’s making an appearance, which he sadly hasn’t in a while.
So the main event of these episodes, almost by default, becomes Ichigo and his encounter with the Visored. I have to say, I’m a little confused about the Visored, and whether they’re meant to be counted amongst the good guys or the bad guys – the way the were originally introduced suggested the latter, but the more I saw of them on this volume, the more I was leaning towards them being ‘good’. Or at the very least Chaotic Neutral, if I were to go back to my Dungeons and Dragons-playing days. That makes them interesting to watch, as you never really know what they’re going to do next or what they’re aiming to achieve by getting Ichigo to embrace his inner Hollow, and if we’d had two discs of that, I would’ve been a happy bunny.
The sidestory dealing with Orihime’s also decent enough. After the apparent destruction of Tsubaki, her attack spirit, Urahara has decided that she shouldn’t take part in the group’s battle anymore – not only is she just not strong enough to be useful, but having to protect her would endanger the others. So could she please quietly wander off. Now, Orihime being Orihime I was almost expecting her to just take it and go – and for a while it looked like she was going to do just that. But the girl has a little backbone, it seems, and after encountering the Visored herself finds what may be a solution to her problem. Now, I suppose I could complain about the little bit of reset-button shenanigans that’s going on here – just once it would be nice for a setback to be permanent (and that applies equally to Ishida), but the way it’s handled is good, and provides a few quieter moments to counter all the fighting that’s going on elsewhere. All fight and no plot makes me a grumpy reviewer.
A bit of a mixed bag, then – there’s some good stuff here, with Orihime and the Visored getting some decent development work and the Visored in particular becoming far more interesting thanks to their uncertain intentions; but the inclusion of a filler story in the arc makes for a sizeable chunk of unsatifying story, too. End result: decidedly average, as the good neatly cancels out the bad to leave 11 episodes of “meh….”. And please, don’t remind me of how many more episodes of the Arrancar arcs are still to come…
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English subtitles,
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: June 13th, 2011
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p 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.