Bleach Series 14 Part 2 (Episodes 304-316) (Cert 12)
3 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 313 minutes approx.
After what feels like an eternity we finally come to the end of the Arrancar Arc. After almost SIX volumes and numerous pit stops for filler arcs the climax is nigh. Although you’ll have to sit through two more filler episodes before we get there!
Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but this is another frustrating release from this juggernaut franchise which is 80% filler material with the finale of the battle between the Arrancar vs. Soul Reapers sandwiched in the middle. Be thankful you are not watching this one a weekly basis on TV like the fans in Japan did as this all unfolded over FOUR years, whereas we are lucky enough to skip the effluvia on DVD and move on to the next episode.
From a reviewer’s point of view this makes it a little difficult to discuss the actual content especially as recapping the conclusion of the Arrancar story effectively means spoiling it. All I can say is that we rejoin the action as our nominal hero Ichigo Kurosaki is still training under the spirit of his zanpaktou Tensa Zangetsu, who teams up with his inner hollow side to reveal to Ichigo the final form of Zangetsu which they hope will be enough to defeat Aizen once and for all Meanwhile expect some shock twists and extreme battles as the end draws near.
It is quite the bombastic finale and typical of the emotional impact Bleach has on the audience when it is firing on all cylinders. Whether it is worth the prolonged wait will be a matter of opinion but I am sure that when watched in conjunction with the entire arc without interruption it probably satisfies more. At this point one can’t help but feel a slight sense of relief that it is finally over, not that it was a bad story, just the way it was eked out beyond belief even without the constant interruptions.
With the main story finally over the filler material might be a little easier to swallow now there is nothing to interrupt (for the moment at least). Typically they are largely comedic affairs with a smattering of action, often focusing on lesser members of the supporting cast. The opening episode in this set is a tenth anniversary special with a horror theme, positing our heroes in the guises of familiar monstrous icons, Ichigo being a pieced together corpse Franken Ichigo!
Elsewhere Rangiku Matsumoto, the blonde Soul Reaper with the outsized chest is the subject of some adoration from her male colleagues on a mission away from the Seireitei while Marechiyo Ōmaeda, the 2nd Division lieutenant to Suì-Fēng, finds himself in a rare position of being in charge when the ramifications of a little white lie get out of control. Everyone’s favourite mod soul Kon gets an episode to wreak havoc when he takes a shine to suicidal young woman while Ichigo is out dealing with a Hollow.
Amazingly these last two episodes mentioned are arguably the more entertaining of the filler tales thanks to the comic antics of Kon and the utter ridiculousness of the story line and the situation poor Ōmaeda ends up in. On the other end of the spectrum we have the unwelcome return of the spoof hero group Konso Cop Karakuraizer! I imagine some fans may get a kick out of this episode but it is so far removed from the Bleach diegesis as one can get, this writer finds it difficult to digest.
Rounding off these standalone stories, we are introduced to a new face hitherto unseen in Seizo Harugasaki. A former Soul Reaper whose spiritual energy was lost was during a battle with Hollow, he has spent the rest of his days a lowly servant with no respect from his peers. The pink haired helium voiced brat that is Yachiru Kusajishi (lieutenant to Kenpachi) gets a rather solemn individual outing and the set closes with a similarly dour story featuring the touchy Toshiro Hitsugaya.
Bleach is known for its comical aspects but there appears to be a distinct distance between the humour of creator Tite Kubo and the staff writers on the TV show, the latter more in tuned with conventional anime comedy. This would certainly explain why the independently created episodes are always hit and miss while Kubo’s stuff is strengthened by a singular focus.
That said, while most of the standalone episodes presented here won’t be mistaken for classics anytime soon, some at least are entertaining enough to keep one’s finger away from the skip button on your remote control. Some of us however, are duty bound to sit through them all. I hope you are aware of that sacrifice we reviewers make on your behalf!
The good news is that we return to a sustained story arc in the next volume; it is however an interim anime original story to keep the fans entertained until the next Tite Kubo penned storyline begins again. We have seen in the past that some non-canon arcs can be quite good – the Zanpaktou Rebellion adventure comes to mind – so maybe we will be in for another treat.
Not the strongest Bleach release it has to be said but we do get the devastating conclusion to the near interminable Arrancar Arc which is surely worth something.
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black