Bleach is back, but noticeably without Ichigo and co for a sizeable chunk of the set. They’re off doing training, and we’ve seen quite enough of that already since the Vizored arrived. Instead, there’s filler – and a rather badly thought out coup attempt amongst the Arrancar…
What They Say:
Captain Hitsugaya¹s advance troops get involved in some unexpected sidelines during their stay in the World of the Living. When Karin Kurosaki agrees to go up against a tough group of middle school students in a game of soccer, Hitsugaya himself steps in to lend a hand. 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.
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.
Menus for Bleach remain much the same with every volume – static screen featuring one of the characters (Ulquiorra on both discs in this set), with options for Play All, Episodes, Setup and (on disc 2 only) Extras. There are no transitions, so it’s quick & painless to use.
Again as predictable as ever: a production art gallery, and a creditless version of the closing song. That’s yer lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There are eleven episodes in this set – numbers 132-142 – and the first four of those are unashamed filler. Now I know that filler has most fans of Bleach and other Shounen Jump shows ready to pull their hair out, buy as stated before I don’t really mind filler eps – especially when, as here, the preceding arc has been all fighting and not much else. So with Ichigo’s sister Karin; Asano & his kookie sister; Kon; and two new arrivals from the Soul Society all getting the screentime to have a little fun, you’ll get no complaints from me. The stories on offer range from the heartwarming to the comic, and with each one also featuring a Hollow to defeat there’s still some action to keep the adrenaline junkies going, too. Not too bad of a start, then.
Episode 136, though, sees us get back to the Arrancar, when Patros and his two subordinates steal the Orb of Distortion, the first step in their plan to overthrow Aizen, who they’re unwilling to continue taking orders from Aizen – working for a Soul Reaper really doesn’t appeal to them. It’s Patros’ plan to use the Orb of Distortion to take control of the world of the living, but since he doesn’t actually know how to make use of the Orb, he pays a visit to someone who does – Urahara. Meanwhile, Ulquiorra seems to have spotted some potential in Orihime that no-one else has and, seeing her as a danger to the Arrancar plans, takes steps to get her out of the picture…
The Arrancar arc for me has so far been one long passage of Meh. I don’t particularly like Aizen as a villain, and the general attitude of the other Arrancar annoys me no end. Patros’ efforts to overthrow Aizen play to both those issues – he’s a arrogant S.O.B., with little in the way of redeeming features, so why should I care who wins the ‘war’ between him and Aizen? And when Aizen of course pulls a plan out of nowhere, once again, to thwart Patros’ plans, it’s some completely unsurprising that I didn’t really see the point of the whole sideshow. Which curiously, the Soul Society characters in-show also comment on. Nice to know I’m not alone on that front.
Also disappointing is the almost complete absence of the Vizored from this set. They’ve been built up over recent episodes into this huge grey area, neither friend nor foe to Ichigo, and some of them are genuinely curious characters that I’d like to see more of, but across the set we get maybe five minutes total of them. That feels like a wasted opportunity to me, and a damned shame at that.
But there is good stuff here, too, mainly in the form of Orihime’s ‘abduction’ by Ulquiorra. She goes with him by her own choice, a decision made to protect her friends, but the scenes where she’s saying goodbye to the world around her, on the assumption that she’s not going to see it again (“goodbye, halcyon days…”) is surprisingly emotional and powerful stuff by Bleach standards, particularly when she gets around to Ichigo. If it wasn’t clear before exactly how she felt about him, it is now. It’s not the sort of scene I would usually expect from this series, but now that it’s shown itself capable of doing emotion (other than RAAAAGE I Must Get Stronger!!), damnit, I want it to do more. Chances of that happening? Probably zero.
But a change is as good as a rest, they say, and that little change in how Orihime is presented goes a long way to making this volume of Bleach a more appealing prospect than it would otherwise have been. Add in a decent amount of fighting (not my favourite aspect of the series, but ultimately what most people are watching it for) and some half-decent filler episodes, and the overall packing is above average, by the show’s usual standards. Of course, anyone who’s stuck with a series for over 130 episodes isn’t likely to still be making up their mind about it, so recommending buy / don’t buy seems a bit pointless. For what it’s worth, though, worth seeing.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitle, Production Art, Creditless Closing
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: September 26th, 2011
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.