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Bleach: Hell Verse Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Bleach - Hell Verse
Bleach – Hell Verse
Nothing says devotion like going to hell to rescue someone.

What They Say:
Hell – a place where beings that have committed mortal sins during their lifetime are sent. It is a realm where even Soul Reapers are forbidden to interfere. When a group of vicious Sinners plots to escape from this eternal prison, they discover that Substitute Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki is the key to their freedom.

The Sinners launch an attack and in the process kidnap Ichigo’s younger sister Yuzu and take her to Hell. With the help of a mysterious man named Kokuto, Ichigo and his friends must now travel into the depths of Hell to stop the Sinners and save Yuzu, unaware that their actions could bring Hell to the World of the Living.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and a new English language adaptation in 5.1 using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The feature makes out well with this mix as it’s pretty immersive throughout it with the way the action unfolds as well as the music that adds some good warmth to the real channels. The film has a decent amount of action to it and that does tend to dominate when it comes to the sound design and it doesn’t hold back in the key sequences. The feature also works well when it comes to the dialogue side of things as well, with a good forward soundstage presentation with some good placement and depth to it where appropriate. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. We weren’t able to do any comparisons between tracks due to them being locked, with subtitles locked on for the Japanese language track.

Originally in theaters in late 2010, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The film is animated by Studio Pierrot once again and they have the look of it all done well here, keeping to the style of the ongoing series at the time while giving it enough of a flourish to make it feel like it stands out a bit as a theatrical work. Detail is certainly a lot more involved and character animation more fluid and, well, more active as well. The transfer works the film well since there are a number of still scenes to be had, but it doesn’t skimp on the encoding when it comes to the detail in them. Colors are muted a bit for a lot of it, going for the real world style, but it has some very good pop and stand out moments of vibrancy throughout that makes it an appealing watch. The blacks in the film hold up very well with only a few scenes that have a touch of very minor noise.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with one of the more familiar pieces of artwork used to showcase the film. It’s a dark piece overall as it brings in three of the primary characters across it along with a few others nudged in, and it takes the awkward approach of putting the logo and film name through the middle which breaks things up more than it should. The character artwork looks good and the design is generally solid with lots of detail to it, but it also has that edge of murkiness to it. The back cover goes for a black background with a few shots from the feature shown, but like the front cover there’s just enough of a color tone to it to make it creepy and a touch indistinct. The premise of the film is well laid out and it presents most of the technical information in a few different places since Warner’s packaging designs tend to not have a standardized grid like most other studios do. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for the release is fairly simple but nicely done as it starts with the opening of the book from the film and it shifts to various clips from the feature, though all of it is done without any music, which is pretty unusual and doesn’t help to set the mood at all. In fact, your first thought is to check your gear to make sure it’s working right. The navigation is kept simple as a small black and white box along the lower left with gray text for unselected items. Navigation is simple and easy with everything quick to access and language selections easy to make.

The extras are a bit standard fare here but welcome nonetheless as we get two pairs of galleries and a collection of the Japanese trailers. The production art gallery does a step by step design of various pieces of character artwork and the like while the illustration design is a bit more involved, though it works the same way. We get a small selection of character designs where the left side has them in the real world outfits and the right side has them in their Soul Society outfits, both of which are credited by artist.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The fourth movie in the franchise, Bleach: Hell Verse arrived in 2010 as part of the tenth anniversary of the franchise and brought back Noriyuki Abe to direct once more. The feature takes place after the Arrancar Downfall Arc from the manga and gives us a pretty powerful Ichigo, but one that has suffered a good bit as well and has spent plenty of time in Hueco Mundo. The film opens with a bit from Hell itself and gives us some decent little down time with just Ichigo, making sure his family and human roots are made pretty clear here. It’s a simple enough opening, but it’s the kind of piece that goes even bigger once it gets rolling.

While Ichigo is just going about his life, having done a little good in dealing with some punks, it doesn’t take long for things to go askew as he runs into Renji and Rukia, who are in this world on a mission. A mission that he gets caught up in pretty fast along with some other familiar names, such as Chad and Uryu, as something mysterious has arrived to cause trouble with its presence. The being they come across as unusual in how they’re completely covered in unusual outfits when they attack for seemingly no reason, but it’s made clear that it’s all just to distract. And that distraction is figured out quickly as the real goal was with another pair of these unusual people going to Ichigo’s house to capture his sisters, which they need for their master plan. They need Ichigo as well, but Ichigo and company are able to get Yuzu back but Karin is whisked away to Hell.

In the sort of literal sense at that. While the Soul Society deals with all the souls that comes its way, there are those that commit such heinous crimes that they go to Hell where they’re tortured until they’re broken, which can take ages to be sure. The Soul Society manages it, but doesn’t actively do much in it. Even Rukia and Renji have never been there before. Ichigo’s set to go to rescue his sister and gets the help of Rukia, Renji and Uryu, but he also gets help from an unexpected arrival in the form of Kokuto. Kokuto is an original to the film as he’s one of the Sinners who somehow broke his bonds and escaped but is intent on going back to deal with the group that came after Ichigo’s sister, which is lead by Lord Shuren. They have their own master plan but for Kokuto, he wants revenge on them and ended up in Hell for his own reasons, notign that sometimes you have to do something heinous in order to do the right thing.

The bulk of the film takes place in Hell where we get to see a variety of landscapes and creatures with its unusual designs and the method through which the whole place is run. After seeing some of what existed in Hueco Mundo, it isn’t exactly a surprsie when it comes to some of it, such as an arm that reaches out from a door into the real world to kill Sinners whose masks have been revealed, but it does do a lot of things really well here in creating a world that’s rich and vivid with its animation and creepy designs. The Sinners that they’re after reveal some decent layers underneath their cloaks and masks and there’s obviously the much larger battle that’s being fought between Kokuto and Shuren and the others that comes into play.

Because of the nature of films based on Shonen Jump properties like this, it doesn’t have any significant impact overall and works well as a companion piece to the ongoing work, be it the manga or the anime that you may like. It’s not a good standalone movie though in that you can’t just start it without any knowledge of the series, but if you do it just seems like everyone is massively overpowered. Which admittedly was one of the big problems of the series over the years. With Ichigo getting a chance to cut loose in a big way like this in a world like this, it’s quite a lot of fun and that’s the real payoff. It’s so vividly animated at times and full of great settings and unusual locations that it’s engaging to watch just on that most basic of levels. While I do like a little more real meat to my features, there’s a level of understanding you have to have going into a Shonen Jump film. If you do, you can enjoy it a lot and this one is no exception.

In Summary:
Bleach: Hell Verse introduces us to a new layer of the world that Tite Kubo created by digging into what Hell is. There’s obviously a slew of unanswered questions going on here because of the Soul Society connection that I’d like to see answered and more about the whole true formation of this particular Hell, but that’s all secondary to what the film is all about. For Ichigo, it’s all about rescuing family at all costs that are caught up in these events. For Kokuto, he’s running his own game and we see the layers of it reveal as it comes out and plenty of it you can figure out early on based on a few pieces of dialogue. Between him and Shuren, there’s a lot to like here and enough to flesh it out into something bigger, but it’d end up too drawn out. Bleach: Hell Verse is a fast moving, tight and straightforward Bleach feature that hits all the right marks and looks and sounds great here. Definitely one of the better movies of the franchise from what I’ve seen.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Production Artwork Gallery, Illustration Gallery, Japanese Trailers

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

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: December 4th, 2012
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.