Bleach Series 10 Part 2 (Episodes 202-212) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 266 minutes approx.
A bit of a mixed bag is the best way to describe this latest volume of Bleach and I fear viewer reaction will reflect that.
The first two episodes in this set continue the Arrancar Arc then abruptly stops for ANOTHER break (the third for those counting) to make way for more filler episodes while the next batch of manga chapters surge ahead. For those of you who feel a sense of dread at hearing the word “fillers” your anxiety is somewhat justified in this instance, at least in the case of the first story, which sees the return of an old favourite. Well, I say old favourite…
Rurichiyo Kasumiōji, the irritating loli we first met back in volume 9, who is of Soul reaper nobility, decides to return to the living world after falling out with her retainer Kenryu over her playing a game of Kemari (a traditional Japanese ball sport in which the ball has to be kept in the air) instead of studying. So, to settle the dispute a game of Kemari is played between two teams which features the usual suspects and, even less of a surprise, gets rather violent rather quickly.
If your excitement levels aren’t through the roof by now then the next filler arc will have you climbing the walls. It’s time for a Soul Society history lesson as we travel back in time 110 years to when the thirteen guards sporting some familiar faces in their younger days (yet haven’t aged a bit since) and some unfamiliar faces who will become familiar later on if that makes any sense. At the centre of this story is the fifth division captain Shinji Hirako who is distrusting of his lieutenant, one Sousuke Aizen. Meanwhile the twelfth division needs a new captain and Yoruichi nominates Kisuke Urahara for the position which is approved. Unfortunately the division’ lieutenant, the incredibly loud, obnoxious, bratty (read: VERY annoying) Hiyori Sarugaki refuses to welcome her new superior, out of unstinting loyalty to Urahara’s predecessor. Cue lots of comic violence as Hiyori expresses her displeasure at the new placement and plenty of ear splitting whining and griping from the vexatious little brat.
After a slow and painful start to this arc there is actually a plot which begins to develop as a series of gruesome murders take place in Sereitei which baffle the Soul Society, as the victims’ bodies have completely eroded away by an obscure white substance yet their clothes remain in tact. A squad is sent to investigate only to suffer the same fate as the civilians which Hiyori, sent by Urahara, is witness to. Meanwhile Urahara and his new second, a young Mayuri Kurotsuchi, have been developing a cure for people who have been subject to hollowfictaion – something which ends up being Urahara’s undoing as for as the Soul Society is concerned.
The obvious appeal of this second arc is seeing the genesis of some fan favourite characters as well as few faces on the periphery that required some much needed background exploration following a hasty introduction. Since it has admittedly been a while, not all of the featured characters will be instantly recognisable unless you possess a faultless memory – and with the way the Arrancar arc has been subject to many diversions during its run, you’d deserve a medal if you can names to faces. Along with meeting the younger Uruahara and a pre-captain Kurotsuchi, we see some current Soul Reapers in their junior states, including one who goes on to play a major part in the Bleach legacy.
While this arc serves as a major distraction from an already interrupted storyline, it deserves kudos for filling in the blanks in the history of some of the character, most notably Kisuke Urahara and our main antagonist Aizen, while finding a way to bring us full circle back to the story at hand in the most entertaining fashion. The initial episodes are a bit of a slog due in great part to the focus on the insufferable Hiyori, but business picks up once the killing starts. Hopefully the absence of Ichigo and friends on the second disc won’t mean an instant dismissal for some viewers of these episodes – the material is just as valid without them.
With any luck we should return to the Arrancar Arc in the next release – the ending of the flashback arc certainly suggests as much – and based on the way we left it, big things are about to happen. As for this disc, while the Back In Time arc is an entertaining and well crafted prequel it probably can be skipped unless the history of the Soul Society is of interest, while the two episodes featuring rambunctious loli Rurichiyo most definitely can – and should – be avoided.
Sadly, and debatably, one of the weaker and less vital entries of the Bleach output.
Disc 2 Only:
Textless Opening and Closing
Ratings – ** ½
Man In Black