Bleach Series 13 Part 2 (Episodes 279-291) (Cert 12)
3 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 313 minutes approx.
The battle against renegade soul reaper Aizen and his squad of fellow turncoats along with his army of Arrancar continues with the Soul Reapers barely holding up against these vicious and unpredictable opponents. As we left the story at the end of the previous volume the cavalry arrived in the form of the Visoreds, the former soul reapers with a serious grudge against Aizen.
This group of misfits, whom we first met a few volumes back living under Kisuke Urahara’s shop, training Ichigo in how to control his Hollow powers, are not interested in helping the Soul Reapers – their motive is revenge, pure and simple. Per the flashback episode that opens this set, we learn of their fate at the hands of Aizen set 101 years in the past, when Shinji Hirako was Aizen’s distrusting lieutenant, something his captain was aware of. With the aid of Gin Ichimaru, Aizen used Hirako and his subordinates as test subjects for forced Hollowfication, leaving his subjects for dead. If it wasn’t for Urahara’s interference they would have perished – instead they were all expelled from the Soul Society and banished to the Living World.
Clearly the adage of “time heals all wounds” didn’t reach the Visoreds as they are still bitter towards Aizen, quite understandably so, after 101 years and are looking for vengeance! Woe betides anyone who foolishly gets in their way. Despite their whacky appearances, internal bickering and indifference (nay antagonism) towards the Soul Reapers the Visoreds prove to be worthy and effective allies in battle, dispatching of some very formidable and seemingly indestructible foes.
But our heroes have another unlikely ally in their fight I won’t spoil who it is but it changes the entire dynamic of the battle. Obviously the actions of this person don’t exactly exude signs of being the wisest of strategies but we are dealing with someone for whom rational thinking isn’t a likely positive trait. It does, however, present this person as an extremely dangerous individual for the Soul Reapers if he continues to follow the path he is currently taking, which is something that should not be taken likely, nor is it.
If you are wondering about Bleach’s central hero Ichigo Kurosaki, well he doesn’t appear until halfway through the second disc. He is still stuck in Hueco Mondo with Rukia, Renji, Orihime, Ishida and some of the other captains doing battle with the Espada. However his comrades are confident they can handle the remaining Espada and tell Ichigo to return to the battlefield that is the fake Karakura Town to aid in the conflict there.
There is a touch of the Dragonball Z’s and Naruto’s in some of the battles her, where the combatants cease fighting unnecessarily for some prolix exposition or in depth advance warnings of what they are about to do rather than, you know, actually do it, but thankfully this time filling tactic (on the show producers’ side not the actual characters) is kept to a minimum with so many exciting concurrent battle to follow.
Other pauses in the narrative are spent with filling us in with the backgrounds of certain developments such as how the all powerful king of Hueco Mondo Barragan become subservient to Aizen or how Arrancar Harribel also came to be among his number, her tale being rather more poignant than Barragan’s. Similarly we are afforded a look back to the relationships between the Soul Reapers and their estranged foes, the most prominent and tragic of these histories involves Tosen, the blind follower of Aizen and Komamura, the canine squad captain.
The most egregious – if you will – diversion from the main story, is a special standalone episode to mark the tenth anniversary of the original manga. Based loosely (very loosely) on the tale of Aladdin and the magic lamp, it sees Ichigo and friends all adopting a specific role from this legendary fable, with Ichigo being the only one to play himself. It’s as batty as it sounds and is clearly not to be taken seriously but it comes just as the story is getting good, and after numerous interferences having already hampered the telling of this arc, we don’t really need anymore. However the sentiment is valid and it is just one episode although it could have easily been an OVA.
It should also be noted that each episode now opens with a very brief preview of what is to come then after the opening credits, we get a protracted recap from the previous episode meaning the actual run time of fresh content per episode, after subtracting titles, recaps, previews and omake, is less than ever! It’s just as well that the show is still delivering strong, visually engaging and high octane fantasy action of a high standard to compensate for this excessive padding.
As ever this collection ends on a cliffhanger so we are all but duty bound to come back for more when the next release arrives to witness the continuation of what has been an epic arc so far. Much like Naruto a long running show like Bleach becomes more difficult to appraise the longer it goes, having pretty much said everything ad infinitum in prior reviews.
Suffice to say if you are a devoted fan of Bleach then you will find this latest volume delivers its usual slice of action packed, humorous, fantasy shonen shenanigans to provide the utmost satisfaction you’ve come to expect.
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black