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Bleach Movie #3: Fade to Black Blu-ray Anime Review

6 min read

Bleach returns for its third movie outing, with Rukia being the centre of attention this time around – two waifs that she was kind to in the past have returned to repay old kindnesses, but it has to be said that their methods leave something to be desired…

What They Say:
A mysterious figure has broken into Mayuri Kurotsuchi’s laboratory in the Seireitei. Rukia witnesses this catastrophe, and the intruders abduct Rukia as she feels something inside of her fade away. Meanwhile, in the World of the Living, Ichigo and Kon experience a strange disturbance and head to Kisuke Urahara’s shop for some answers. When Kisuke informs them about the destruction of the Seireitei, the two set out for the Soul Society. What awaits Ichigo in the devastated Seireitei, however, are Soul Reapers who seem to have lost all memory related to both him and Rukia. Ichigo must find out what happened to Rukia and try to save her before the two are forced to part ways forever!

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Our review copy for this release was a copy of the French release of the movie by KAZE, which isn’t representative of the UK release – so for this review we’re covering the movie content only.

An intrusion into Mayuri Kurotsuchi’s lab in Seireitei marks the beginning of a rather strange series of events, that ends with Rukia being whisked away from Soul Society, and all memories of her erased from those around her. Back in the world of the living, Ichigo and Kon can sense that something has happened – but while Kon’s memories remain intact, Ichigo’s have been affected by the events back in Seireitei as well. With a little help from Urahara, the pair head to Soul Society to see what’s going on – to find the place devastated, and himself on the receiving end of Soul Society’s anger. As Ichigo’s memories of Rukia return, he finds himself having to convince the others that she ever existed before he can figure out how to get her back…

Bleach is a bit of a strange beast for me – I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of the anime, but it’s begun to become almost my nemesis since then in terms of going in directions that I’d rather it didn’t. The movies, fortunately, meet with more favour for me – restricted running times force more focus onto moving the story along, and don’t allow for anything to be drawn out for longer than absolutely necessary. This is a good thing, and while the first two Bleach movies weren’t anything to set the world alight, they were decently enjoyable outings. Fade to Black carries on with that theme – there’s nothing here out-and-out outstanding, and if you’re inclined to nitpick you could probably have a field day (messing with character memories just begs for that), but if you go into it with a simple “Entertain me…” attitude, it’ll deliver.

The main ‘villains’ of the piece are two un-named characters, who once knew Rukia in the days when she was still alive. A pair of young waifs, Rukia had begun to care for them, becoming a friend – and maybe something more, when she promised to give them the names they didn’t have. Fate intervened at that point, as Rukia was killed saving them from an attacker (moving on to her new life in Seireitei) – but obsession, backed up by a few other heavy spoilers, is a powerful thing, and after many years of looking for a way to get Rukia back into their lives, the two waifs have now found one – and are determined that Rukia should be theirs, and theirs alone. Hence their use of memory manipulation to remove Rukia from the memories of the Soul Society squads. How does this leave Ichigo in a spot? Well, if Rukia never existed, there’d be no reason for him to have come into contact with Soul Society either – so when he arrives in Seireitei to see what’s going on, he’s immediately tagged as an unknown, an enemy, and battle begins.

All of which makes for some impressive set-piece battles, as you’d expect; and the story of the two waifs is both interesting and emotionally-engaging, with the way that the movie plays out doing a good job of explaining the level of their obsession and how they came to decide on their methods. Where I would complain, though, is that the way that people either lose or regain their memories is a little too convenience, a little too inconsistent, to really pass muster (that’s where that nitpicking I mentioned earlier came in). The whole story hinges on Kon not being affected by the initial memory wipe that kicks the whole story off – a useful omission, to be sure – while Ichigo’s own memories are conveniently easy to restore. These are things that had to be done – you need someone to remember Rukia to kick off the process of putting things right – but I can’t help but wonder if there might have been a less contrived way of doing it.

The amazing ability of the Soul Society captains to make a wrong decision and stick to it also continued to (un)impress. No matter how convincingly Ichigo presents his case that, hey, he’s not the bad guy and they should really be focusing their attentions on someone other than him, it takes far too long for reality to sink in and make the point with them. If I’d have a piece of two-by-four on hand, I’d’ve been using it to gratuitously beat some sense into them all. Again, it’s probably all meant to add to the drama of the situation, and sets up an admittedly impressive confrontation between Soul Society and Ichigo – but not for the first time I was wondering how, if the Soul Reapers are so slow to see the truth of what’s going on around them, they’ve managed to survive for long. Go figure.

In Summary:
With all that said, though, putting aside story gripes I did get a decent amount of fun out of watching this. Soul Society get their chance to show what they’re capable of, Ichigo and Renji get to team up and kick ass, Rukia’s waifs prove to be a decent challenge to deal with, and it’s all tied up to give a bittersweet ending that works well and, once all the explanations are out of the way, makes sense. It’s not perfect, by any stretch, and I’d still rate Memories of Nobody above it in my Bleach movie rankings – but I had more fun watching this than I’ve had watching the recent TV series arcs, which counts for something. A fun little excursion for Ichigo and the others.

Content Grade: B

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 28 May 2012
Running Time: 94 minutes
Video Encoding: AVC at 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37” widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-22 5.1 speaker system.

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