What They Say:
A New Threat to the Soul Society Arrives! In their bid to assume control of the Soul Society, Kageroza’s Reigai imposters turn out to be as powerful as their Soul Reaper originals. A weakening Ichigo and the others attempt to train Nozomi to reach Shikai, possibly their key chance to defeat Kageroza. But there is still more to the mod soul Nozomi than meets the eye… Head Captain Genryusai Yamamoto joins the battle, but when Nozomi is taken captive and Ichigo’s powers become increasingly unstable, the outcome is anybody’s guess!
Set up in English and 2.0 Japanese in stereo and mono formats, the audio for Bleach is fine, though for some reason I felt some episodes seemed to be louder than others and had to adjust my audio volume accordingly. There is no 5.1 option so for a big shounen show that is always disappointing, however found no real problems outside of a few episodes seemingly being louder for some reason. There were no problems with transition or synching with the subtitles or the video and is your standard decent quality stereo release.
Set on a standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio, visually, the mix of the colours from the dark Reapers to the colourful cities and attacks actually follows well on a widescreen format, with no picture issues with distortion when pausing and no freezing or synching with the audio – the only minor issue I had is more personal preference which is the subtitles are very dull white/grey like, and whilst you can still see them obviously, it feels that it potentially blends in with some of the colours in the show so seem a bit more off-putting compared to pretty much any other subtitle track I’ve seen recently.
In 3 discs, each of the menus is very quick and basic with characters of the show on a dark background. Disc 1 has Hitsugaya and Byakuya (or their clones), the second one has Nozomi and Kageroza, and the third one has Ichigo and Rukia. The set up is the same on each one – you have Start (basically Play All), episodes individually, set up (English or Japanese with subtitles) and on Disc 2 and 3 we have Opening and Ending, which is basically their extras. So everything is on the menu without needing to go to a sub menu for extra selections. Simple on one hand, but also showcases the minimal extras for this release. No problems with selection or returning to the main menu on any of the discs, just pretty basic.
The only extras are the clean opening and ending of the release which can be selected immediately from the main menu. This is rather grating considering even their Naruto releases have art work so surprised this wasn’t available or anything additional for Bleach. At the beginning of each disc there is a trailer for a show, but as they aren’t selectable on the menus you have to watch them through otherwise have to plop in the disc again.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It is strange when a long running show seems to suddenly hint that it might be coming to an end. It takes till the very last episode to do this with this release in Bleach, but the signs seem to be there. The arc itself concludes the Nozomi arc, which itself felt a bit odd though more that the Nozomi character didn’t feel that interesting, but this arc at least gives it a good conclusion, with a few surprises on the way.
This arc doesn’t really have much in the ways of comedy – even Kon is actually more of an important role so whilst there are a few fun moments, the arc is quite serious. With only a few fighters left in the division and more hollows on the way, Nozomi is being protected by the remains of the gang, but Nozomi herself is still searching for her powers. With the aid of Kon, she actually find her Soul Reaper powers after being attacked whilst everyone is asleep, and now wants to help fight – yet doesn’t know her full powers of her zanpakuto. So we get a training episodes, whilst in the meantime, Inaba brings the doppelgangers of the previous captains, Hitsugaya, Kenpachi, Byakuya and Komamura, but fortunately Urahara manages to separate them whilst Nozomi continues to learn. Thanks to Ichigo, she learns her powers which seem to absorb the spiritual energy of Soul Reapers attacks, which she demonstrates when she can also unleash the energy just when the fake Kenpachi is about to kill Ikkaku.
Here, we get the gang fighting the 4 reigai, which is a bit annoying as Nozomi keeps wanting to help yet everyone tells her to get away as she is the one they want. The problems is all the division are getting wiped out so it doesn’t make much sense outside of thinking her powers aren’t developed or want to make sure she isn’t caught. This becomes even worse when she actually does fight Hitsugaya and nearly takes him out in one attack – when the reigai realise her powers, they focus on her but thanks to Uryu, Chad and Ichigo, they use their own energy and attack Nozomi, which she absorbs and takes out most of the enemy, with Yamamoto of all people returns to finish off the fake Byakuya.
Whilst there is a bit of tension due to Nozomi being a modified soul, with more reigai attacking and Inaba still around, Nozomi’s abilities become key to fight them off, but it does lead to her zanpakuto breaking when trying to protect Yamamoto. Inaba then reveals that Nozomi is part of him, and they need to be complete for his plan to work. Inaba manages to trick Ichigo, Kon and Nozomi during a last ditch fight sequence and captured her, also Ichigo loses his spiritual energy, leading Urahara to come up with an idea to try and get his powers back, referring back to the Kototsu arc – it works which leads to how he survived the first time, and then he tries to make a soul candy to fully revive his powers, but more of the reigai cause problems – not which that the powers aren’t complete, but it does lead to the return of the original captains…in a deus ex machine kind of way as they were thought to have been killed with no huge explanation, which sadly does feel typical of a Bleach arc.
So for most of the remainder of the Nozomi arc, there is a lot of battling between the real and fake captains, Urahara even having to fight his own clone whilst Kon tries to rescue Nozomi – which on one hand is quite touching surprisingly, but on the other it doesn’t work as the fusion occurs – however Kon does manage to recover Ichigos’ full soul candy…which is good as Ichigo is taken over by his hollowed form during this…
The main villain then is Yushima, the fusion of Inaba and Nozomi, who is quite overpowered but does set up the one part where this might spell the end of Bleach soon – the Ichigo/Rukia finale. Up until now Rukia has just been fighting with the other captains but Ichigo takes a death blow from Yushima for her – this sets up the final episode but before that, after the attack Ichigo is able to go into Nozomi’s mind to try and bring her out, and when Kon gets the full soul candy (and a great way to trick Yushima as well when it seems all was lost), Ichigo fights Yushima which leads to his defeat, and a rather rushed end for Nozomi’s apparent death with only a moment with Kon. Whilst I wasn’t hugely fond of Nozomi, she did come into her own this arc so was surprised she pretty much faded away immediately to set up the final episode.
The last episode sees Ichigo struggling with hollows as he is slowly losing his temporary powers, and Rukia is trying to stop him fighting. It leads to a slice of life half episodes as the two have some fun as he realises he can slowly not be able to sense spirits…meaning he won’t be able to sense Rukia. Which leads to her disappearing and…one of the main characters gone from the series? Ichigo losing his ability to sense the paranormal? This is why unless they do something big to restore him, this is slowly marking the end of Bleach. Will see if correct but it does feel the end is going…which if it is, again, Rukia, one of the main characters gets a rather rushed send off which does feel disappointing.
There is a lot of action going on between the real captains, the fake ones, and the battles with Yushima at the end, and there are so many characters around it is hard to keep track. Characters like Orihime, Uryu, Renji, Yumichika, etc are all involved in the arc but hard to single out anything they majorly did. The return of the captains, whilst a nice dynamic entry from Yoruichi, all seems to just be a deus ex machina to get them back into the series for the final battle to make sure a number of the fan favourites got their small moment in the sun. Even Rukia is only important in the last couple of episodes, and the fact she is seemingly gone and after just one episode of explaining Ichigo is losing his abilities, it really feels rushed maybe to get to the final arc and wrap loose ends? I don’t know but whilst the Nozomi arc had its moments in terms of her character development, it all felt like a mostly rushed experiment to get everyone involved. Even when fused with Inaba, the new villain didn’t really have much of a plot other than taking over the world and was very powerful, and as he was only in a couple of episodes, the big bad boss was not that memorable. Ironically, of all characters, Kon actually got the most development as he was tired of being just a stuffed toy, wanted to save Nozomi and was a major part in getting Ichigo strong enough to defeat Yushima. Urahara also had some moments too I enjoyed, and the mini Soul Reaper omakes at the end did at least give me some amusement.
I guess the problem is just how much was going on for an arc which didn’t really have the most interesting character to begin with. Nozomi learning her Soul Reaper powers and what they were was rushed – not just with how she got her power, but after she learns it, uses it, a few episodes later her weapon is broke. Granted, it sets up being fused with Inaba but it really felt it could have had more time, more character development, etc. Ichigo himself at least does get some story arc with him losing his powers, his return to finding soul candy, and the end when it seems like he is going to lose all his energy and not see the spirits, and in turn, many of his friends he has met over 300 episodes. Hopefully that sets up for the next arc at least.
A cross between a story arc, battles and some minor development, whilst the results are good, the product to get there felt extremely rushed. It certainly isn’t terrible as there isn’t any filler but the fact both Nozomi and Rukia are quickly out of the show now felt that this could have been so much more. Instead, the need to get as many characters and battles out there before the finale just makes it a bit of a mess. An entertaining one, but a mess nonetheless.
The Nozomi arc concludes with a bit of story with the fusion with Inaba and discovering her powers, but everything useful from that was quickly diffused after a few episodes. Ichigo looking to lose all his powers sets up the potential final arc quite well but the lack of a good finale for Nozomi and Rukia in favour of having a lot of people return and a lot of battles might be what Bleach is about and does well, but it does feel disappointing that it was so rushed.
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: D
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: June 29th, 2015
Running Time: 299 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.