Time for another visit to Hueco Mundo, where the battle to free Orihime from the clutches of Aizen and his army of arrancar continues. And, despite a few setbacks, it all seems to be going to plan for Ichigo and friends…
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. Then one day, a Shinigami named Kuchiki Rukia crosses his path. She is hunting for an evil spirit but is shocked by Kurosaki’s ability to see both her and the demon. It is obvious that Kurosaki was born to be a Soul Reaper like her and, so, when she is injured by the foe, she allows her powers to transfer to him so that he can fight it before it wreaks more havoc. She is still more surprised, however, when rather than absorbing a small portion of her power as she expects, Kurosaki imbibes all of it. It would seem that Kurosaki’s destiny may be laid out before him at the early age of 15.
Audio is presented in English and Japanese 2.0 stereo. I’ve been trying to widen my linguistic boundaries lately, so I listened 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 (Renji, looking threatening, 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)
Choose your battle: we have Rukia taking on Aaroneiro, although she’s having issues accepting that, despite the person she sees before her, this isn’t Kaien she’s fighting against; Renji and Ishida versus Szayelaporro, whose cockiness at being able to prevent Renji from using his bankai eventually proves to be his undoing; Ichigo versus first Ulquiorra and then Grimmjow, proving that he’s twice the man that the rest of the gang are; and even Orihime getting in on the act, as jealousy over her sudden important to Aizen prompts a rather unpleasant reaction from some of the female arrancar. Oh, and there are a few comedy sidetrips as the arrancar that have aligned themselves with Ichigo and his group have a little fun along the way.
Which pretty much tells you all you need to know about this volume. The plot is described neatly in two words (“rescue Orihime”), and the battles leading up to that goal make up the entire eight episodes in this set. Great if you enjoy the battles, less so if you’re looking for something more. Each episode will primarily focus on one of the confrontations mentioned above, with the focus switching from episode to episode until they’re all finally resolved, and while there are the usual flirtations with humiliating defeat for the good guys, in typical shounen fashion there’s always the remarkable comeback just waiting around the corner. The fights also aren’t quite as “epic” in scale as some of the other fighting arcs that Bleach has given us over the past few years, too, with the element of “surprise” in them more often coming in the form of remarkable comebacks from almost certain death to help the bad guys stretch things out for another round than anything else – this volume may well set the record for cases where death clearly wasn’t final, and that’s a pet hate of mine.
As for anything resembling story… There are a number of flashback scenes dropped into the middle of most of the battles, dealing mainly with Rukia and Renji and with the origins of some of the arrancar. These don’t go into a hell of a lot of detail, but do break up the fight sequences into more appetising bite-sized chunks, so they were welcome on that level. What we don’t get is any of the “big picture” – Aizen himself barely features, and there’s nothing more explained about his ultimate aim of taking Orihime in the first place. It’s just left that he’s Being Bad – reason enough for the gang to come and give his minions a kicking, but not exactly satisfying for those of us that like a bit more on the plot front.
With all that said, while this volume doesn’t really do anything that’s different from the first half of this season, I did get a bit more enjoyment out of watching it – don’t know if that was down to something in the series or me just being in more of the “right sort of mood” for watching it, but whatever it was it made a difference. Bleach can be a lot better than this, when it puts its mind to it, but it can also be a lot worse, so there’s reason to be thankful. Glad the arc appears to be over, though, and hopefully now we can move on to more interesting things for a while.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Production Art, Textless Closing
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: 14 May 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-222 5.1 speaker system.