What They Say:
Everyone’s training for the coming battle with Aizen’s herd of arrancars. When they arrive, however, no one is properly prepared. Grimmjow returns to Karakura Town, escorted by Yammy, Luppi, and Wonderweiss, all of them Espada except Wonderweiss, who is…weird. The clash goes poorly for Karakura’s defenders. Until, that is, Aizen’s true objective becomes clear and the fight becomes moot.
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 (Grimmjow, looking menacing, 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 creditless versions of the closing songs. That’s yer lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Eight episodes, and a bunch of set-piece battles for us to switch between – Ichigo vs Dordonii, where Dordonii is taking a certain pleasure out of trying to force Ichigo to use his full abilities (note to the bad guys: if someone’s going easy on you, use the opportunity to finish them off. Goading them into thoroughly whipping your arse is never a good plan); Rukia vs Aaroniero, who turns out to be a former Soul Society member that she was very acquainted with – which of course makes having to fight him that little bit tricker; Ishida vs Cirucci, where Cirucci seems to have underestimated Ishida’s abilities; and Chad vs Gantenbainne, which sees Chad finally work out how to use the full power of his own abilities – although that may still not be enough to save him. While there’s a certain amount of switching between battles going on, essentially this release is devoting two episodes to each battle, which each play out in fairly typical Bleach fashion.
“Typical Bleach fashion”, of course, involves breaking up each battle with lots of exposition, taunting, and details explanations of what’s just happened and what’s going to happen next. It’s that way of doing things that’s the thing I probably like least about Bleach – which, given that it’s essentially all about the fighting, is a bit of a drawback. I like the series best when it’s dealing with actual plot or throwing a comedy filler episode at us (I’d even go so far as to say I miss Don Kanonji). Eight episodes of fighting, though, doesn’t exactly inspire me.
It’s doubly frustrating when there are things about this arc that do need some explaining – but no-one seems too interested in doing that, yet. Given that Orihime’s the focus of all this action, she’s also chronically underused, making just the one appearance (during Chad’s battle ‘arc’), and that’s only so that the bad guys can come and gloat at her about how poorly her friends are doing at that point. I couldn’t help but feel that opportunities to make the volume more entertaining, more than just about the fighting, were being passed over.
But then, I’m not a dedicated Bleach fan, and suspect people who are would get far more out of this volume than I did. They are, after all, the people the series is aimed at, and it’s been fairly successful over the years in hitting the mark with them. The formula clearly works for the people the show is aimed at, and this volume doesn’t do anything to break that flow – so if you’re a long-time fan of the series, I’d be willing to bet this volume won’t disappoint. Could definitely be better, though.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Production Art, Textless Closings
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date:19 March 2012
Running Time: 200 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37” widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-22 5.1 speaker system.