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Bleach Season 9 Vol. #2 UK Anime DVD Review

6 min read

We’re back in the afterlife for the conclusion of our little detour into the affairs of the Kasumioji clan, and it seems that the clean-cut Amagai knows more than he’s letting on about what the clan’s been up to. Anyone surprised by this, raise your hands…

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.

The Review:
Audio:
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:
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.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
Sticking with the new Kaze-style menus that made their debut with volume 9:1, when the main screen appears, the available options are displayed in gold on the left of the screen – Start, direct episode access, and language select. A character I haven’t seen yet (possibly grown-up Nel, but don’t quote me) poses on the right on disc one. Rukia takes the equivalent spot on disc two which also had direct access to this release’s extras. With no submenus to worry about, it couldn’t be any quicker to use.

Extras:
Creditless versions of the opening and ending sequences, and that’s your lot.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Kumoi steps up his efforts to secure control of the Kasumioji clan, eventually kidnapping Rurichiyo and sending further waves of assassins after her protectors, suspicion begins to rise amongst some of the Soul Reapers that the clan is up to no goog – but efforts to persuade head Soul Reaper Yamamoto that something is wrong seem to fall on deaf ears. The only person who’ll listen is Amagai, who eventually joins forces with Ichigo and Rukia to find out what’s really going on- except it soon turns out that he already knows, and may just have been behind the whole scheme all along…

::checks around:: Nope, no hands. Didn’t expect any, either. While there was clear space last volume between Amagai’s arrival in Squad 3 and the problems Rurichiyo has having with her clan, it didn’t take a genius to realise that at some point there’d be a coming-together of the two threads – and so when Amagai’s trusted friend Kifune is spotted in the Kasumioji compound, at least one of the Shinigami – Kira – is smart enough to put two and two together and figure out that he’s up to no good. Convincing pretty much anyone else of that, though, proves more difficult – and had me scratching my head at several points over the volume about just how subservient to their orders (or just plain dumb, if you’re feeling less charitable) the various squad captains and lieutenants can be.

To the point where, at one stage in this disc, we have Ichigo on the run from a small handful of Soul Reapers, all by now on friendly terms with him but who, having been given orders to treat him as a traitor, are quite happy to hunt him down without listening to his side of the story. There’s some handwaving at the end of the arc to show that this was all part of a greater plan to do somethingsomething, but it all seems a bit… contrived.

It’s not that the arc’s overall plot was that great, anyway. Rurichiyo’s problems turn out to almost be a sideshow, a distraction from the main event of learning what her usurper Kumoi is really up to and what Amagai has been making use of the clan for – her appearances this time around are limited to a few damsel-in-distress cameos, which is a real shame. She me have been one annoying ojousama, but at least she could think for herself most of the time. As for Amagai, he’s revealed to have been making plans to do Bad Stuff for quite some time now, with his reasoning for doing so being well explained and believable – I did at one point believe he was a great case of righteous anger at work, and fully justified in what he was doing. Without wanting to spoil too much, though, his reasoning is eventually ripped from underneath him in a plot “twist” that pretty much undoes the whole point of the arc.

It’s telling that the most entertaining part of this set was the next-ep-preview on the final episode, where Orihime, Ichigo and the gang team up to remind us that, before taking a detour for this arc, we were right in the middle of a daring attempt to rescue Orihime from Aizen. Sorry for the delay, we’ll get back to that next episode. Ah, the joys of filler.

In Summary:
It’s not so much that this arc has been bad, as such. There’s a lot about it that was good, in isolation, and if it had been played out better – without the “twists” and with a little more forethought, perhaps – the foundations were there for a good story. It just didn’t come together that way. Disappointing? You bet. Hopefully we’ll be back to better things next volume.

Features:
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Creditless Opening and Closing Sequences.

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK / Kaze UK
Release Date: 6 August 2012
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic 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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