Two worlds, two fights and high stakes across both.
What They Say:
As Ichigo and Ulquiorra battle, Loly and Menoly find a golden opportunity to dispose of Orihime. Unable to defend herself, Orihime is attacked without remorse while a new enemy arises. Yammy breaks through the floor of the Fifth Tower as Ulquiorra’s reinforcement. The combined attacks of Ichigo and Uryu all seem useless against Ulquiorra and Yammy.
Meanwhile, in the World of the Living, the mysterious Visoreds step onto the battlefield. Will they be friend or foe?
Contains episodes 268-279.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The two stereo mixes that are included with this release are pretty good with an encoding of 224 kbps which gives it slightly more depth than the 192 kbps standards we usually hear. With a lot of action to it as well as some exaggerated dialogue sequences, Bleach has a fairly decent stereo mix that has some nice directionality to it but nothing that really sets it out as a truly strong piece. The opening and closing sequences have some solid use but overall the mix is straightforward and competent. In listening to both language tracks, we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set contains twelve episodes spread across two discs in a standard six/six format. The transfer for Bleach is on part with previous season sets with a very clean look and solid materials. Colors are solid without any really noticeable bleeding, though some of the red items sometime seem like there’s a touch of it. Cross coloration is absent and aliasing is very minimal. Probably more out of expectation, the show does seem a bit soft in how it’s presented. Part of it comes from the way so many shows are just so clean and vibrant looking, that something of this nature doesn’t feel quite right – especially for something of this pedigree. Backgrounds do exhibit some noise and there are a few very noticeable areas of mosquito noise as well, but by and large this is a good looking release.
Bleach uses what we’ve seen for a several releases now for the packaging for this set as it uses a standard keepcase that holds the three discs inside of it. The artwork for it is pretty standard stuff as we get a shot of a well illustrated villain from the set which is done with some really great and appealing shades of green combined with black and white to give it an intense and detailed feeling. The back cover goes back to how we’ve seen previous season sets. The logo is along the left, vertical, while the right has blank space along the upper half. The bottom half gives the short summary of what the season is about as well as the production information. What’s included in the set is there as well as the strip along the bottom that would normally be a technical grid but is instead all about the logos. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release mirrors the front cover with its segmented approach from the background but done as a black and gray piece that gives it a heavier chains feeling. The foreground has various clips from the show that open up and move around before closing as other ones open up, giving a few action pieces from the set of episodes here. The navigation strip is along the bottom with quick access times to submenus and starting the show. Viz continues to avoid direct episode navigation from the top level but they’re not the only ones to still do that. While this is a simple approach, it’s done well and is a definite change from how Viz has done things in the past. On the downside, the discs did not correctly read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English only for audio and no subtitles – which is unfortunate since there isn’t a sign/song subtitle track so you initially believe the songs are not subtitled.
The extras for this release are pretty standard as we saw with the single volume discs in that we get the clean ending sequence and more production artwork along with a few pieces of cute but fluffy omake that focuses on the Arrancar.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The ebb and flow of a Bleach storyline is something that is interesting to watch, especially with the passage of time and stepping away from the simulcast aspect of it. The weekly nature of a show is something that doesn’t always work well for certain properties and I’ve always felt that shounen action series in particular tend to suffer the most because of the exaggerated nature of the fights that would take place in the space of a few minutes being spread over hours of actual viewing material. But when you can marathon it and watch it over those couple of hours as opposed to spread out over months, it can take on a very different feeling and the larger narrative, simple as it may be, does end up flowing better and providing more entertainment. It’s certainly good to see certain fights play out in clean and quicker fashion, consumption-wise.
With this set, we get another twelve episodes that essentially breaks down into two courses of action, neither of which really concludes fully. Which could be difficult to swallow in some ways if the fights themselves weren’t surprisingly engaging as they go on. Bleach has always been the harder series for me to get into because even the high moments have never been particularly high for me, but I’ve always enjoyed the cast of characters and the situations. It’s a series that’s always been just shy of reaching its potential. But we get those glimpses in powerful ways, even in this set, when it deals with Ichigo the most. As the central character, he naturally gets the bulk of the attention, but it’s his larger arc as he grows and changes and his true potential and capability is revealed over the course of it that engages me the most. Well, at least when Kon isn’t around because that little bastard just steals the show for me.
The first half of this set spends its six episodes or so focused on the events in Hueco Mondo where Ichigo has gone to rescue Orihime and has managed to find her, only to have to deal with Ulquiorra. With his dead in the eyes kind of persona, Ulquiorra isn’t the most engaging of villains but he works well to push and prod Ichigo as the two go at it with their abilities, being particularly dismissive of Ichigo until he finally reveals his Hollowfication and starts to show his true power. It’s at that moment that you see Ulquiorra starting to take him a bit more seriously, which leads to a far more engaging fight. Not that it wasn’t good before, but Ichigo in this mode is something that simply has a haunting feeling about it that makes him truly feel powerful and an opponent that needs to be given some due respect. And that’s just from the visual design alone.
Sadly, Orihime is kept mostly to the sidelines during this as she doesn’t get involved in the fight and most of it is spent with the other two going at it. But that fight does get interrupted with other scenes, giving us some time with Rukia as she faces off her own group of Hollows to deal with and an Espada member who is seemingly able to force-grow an army to go against her. That fight does draw in Chad and Renji before Ishida shows up and provides some much needed assistance. Rukia doesn’t get the attention she deserves here unfortunately but she does hold her own overall and it’s always good to see how Chad and Renji get along in their fight against the enemy. Similar to Orihime, Chad’s time is smaller as Renjo tends to take up more, but both of them feel a bit overshadowed by Ishida when he finally catches up to everyone.
The fun of Ichigo’s fight is when while the two are going at it, we have Yammy showing up, larger than we saw him in the World of the Living, just smashing everything and wanting to get involved and shake things up himself. He’s intent on simply eating Orihime, not really caring what Aizen’s plans for her are, but that allows Ishida to step up and provide assistance there so Ichigo can keep on his fight with Ulquiorra. Amusingly, the Yammy and Ishida fight just goes comically big with the way it spirals outside of the citadel tower and the two of them are sprawled out into the sand below, which is exactly where the other fight is going on. Things are fairly well resolved here, though there’s still more to be dealt with since even with Orihime rescued, they’re still in Hueco Mundo for now.
While all of this is going on, events in the World of the Living are about as expected considering several Soul Reaper captains have been taken out while dealing with the Espada members there, leaving just a few to fend off those that weren’t trapped in the fire, which included Aizen at least. The main focus of it all is on Soi Fon as she deals with her opponent there, which explains some of what being an Espada is all about. With the idea that they’re all different aspects of death that have become personified in a way, her opponent has taken the aging angle which means he works time in a dangerous way. When she goes for a physical strike, he’s able to slow her down and avoid her while being able to attack her in a faster moder. It’s a pretty neat idea just in that regard alone and makes it easy for him to deal with her. This makes for a rather one-sided fight, but it’s one that comes with a good bit of information, especially as the Head Captain floats midair a bit away, mostly just watching the space where Aizen is currently trapped.
There’s a fair number of fights across this set as it moves on with a lot of characters involved, but I particularly like the way things play out for Soi Fon since a solid hit lands on her that causes her to lose her left arm, at least for now. Though it’s easy to imagine this will get fixed as the story progresses, any kind of actual change even for the short term is welcome since it shows some danger to what’s going on beyond the usual scratches or just being knocked out. Where this arc turns in an intriguing direction is when the Visoreds appear with their own agenda. They weren’t a group I cared for upon first introduction before, but with their background easily laid out at the start here with what happened between them and Aizen a hundred years ago, their place in the scheme of things fits and the time spent going through it all – which also raises the stakes for what kinds of things Aizen will do – helps to cement his overall arc in a pretty good way. There’s a lot of fallout from his experiments and plans and this is just one more of them.
While I continue to like Bleach in the larger sense, the individual cogs of it can be pretty difficult to deal with at times. This set is one that moves along well when marathoned as there’s some good action throughout and it has solid progress through them, but outside of the time spent going through part of the Visored’s past, there isn’t all that much meat to work with. The action is good and Ichigo’s growth and use of his Hollowfication side definitely is a high point for me and I enjoy the fights on Hueco Mundo. The second half with its time in the real world would have more impact of it wasn’t all protected by the barriers since the scale of destruction and chaos would be a welcome change of pace for that area. It’s definitely a fun show that works well here but it only goes so far overall.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Sketches, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Omake
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: December 10th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Apple TV via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.