August 23, 2008
by: Adam Beck
Sheath your sword, there are already so many fights here.
Manga Description: Immanent God Blues
Ichigo “Strawberry” Kurosaki never asked for the ability to see ghosts – he was born with the gift. When his family is attacked by a hollow – a malevolent lost soul – Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper, dedicating his life to protecting the innocent and helping the tortured spirits themselves find peace. Find out why Tite Kubo’s Bleach has become an international manga smash-hit!
Ichigo and the Soul Reapers wage a furious battle against the Arrancars who are attacking Karakura Town. But this enemy is unlike anything they have ever fought before, and these aren't even the strongest of the Arrancars! If Ichigo and his friends can barely face them, how can they hope to fight off the elite Arrancar warriors, the dreaded Espada?
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
The biggest problem with Bleach is, you get a manga volume every three months, but it takes less than twenty minutes to read it. This is by far, one of the fastest reads I’ve had, ever; I couldn’t find the wherewithal to put the novel down, or even look away from the pages. With Ikkaku finishing up his fight, the glory of battle seems to work very well in this volume considering there are four other different battles going on.
First things first. As much as Grimmjow may be the central character on the cover, his battle with Ichigo is the shortest of the four. That said, I actually enjoyed Ichigo’s battle a lot more than any of the others only because it’s rare to see our lead hero get his ass handed to him. Grimmjow is by far one of the most badass Espada thus far. You can forget Aizen, you can forget Tōsen, you can forget Gin… well maybe not Gin, but you get my point; Grimmjow is one badass mofo. It’s mainly his strength and desire to fight, but unlike most of the other Espadas, Grimmjow also has a weird sense of fun. He seems to not really desire justice for Aizen, but to find someone who is as strong as him or stronger to fight. He seems like the bored opponent who will encourage the hero of a story to go all out for his own sick pleasure. Ultimately, he seems more of an opponent directly aimed towards Ichigo, whereas Aizen, Gin and Tōsen are to be dealt with by the Soul Society. It’s an interesting mix and finds its own way to create some very entertaining action moments.
For most of the novel, we follow Renji, Hitsugaya, and Rangiku’s battle. Rangiku is by far the least interesting of the battles because most of the time, all you see is her lying on her gigantic breasts, waiting for a call from HQ. Hitsugaya’s battle is a little more entertaining only because I’m a bit of a fan of the little twerp. As much as I usually don’t enjoy children as a main or secondary character, Hitsugaya is a lot deeper and so much more interesting than the run of the mill. His bankai was introduced last volume, and he uses some strategic methods with it, but mainly, he barely attacks at all and only delivers one finishing blow. For the most of the novel, he is getting beat himself, with a nasty slash down his body and face, which you can see slowly opening up. It’s an eerie sight.
Now, Renji’s fight is actually a lot better than I anticipated. This is only because Ururu makes a strong, but utterly confusing appearance. We know very little of the cute Ururu, other than she lives at Urahara’s shop and constantly is bullied by Jinta. She actually begins to scare me as she enters some sort of “massacre mode” where she absolutely unloads on one of the enemy elite Arrancar. I really enjoy Ururu’s appearances as they usually offer some sort of cute or comedic bits, but this is actually quite a brutal moment as she shows her true colors. So what is she? She reminds me of someone like Nemu—not in terms of personality, but in the sense that I believe she was created to eliminate threats to the world. Her actions certainly hint at it. These three fights are a great addition to the series, but don’t offer as much raw excitement as I’ve seen before. I am a bit disappointed with Hitsugaya’s performance, but what brought up a neat twist here is the restriction removal. At first, it looks like these three soul reapers may be significantly weaker than the Arrancar, but they certainly have some sly tricks up their sleeves for you.
I do have something of a beef with Rukia this time around. She gets badly hurt last volume, but any mention of her is very limited. Even at the end of the fight, her appearance feels almost rushed as her wounds get better, thanks to Orihime, and she is back in school the next day. I kind of wished they took a little longer – but not too long – approach, maybe similar to Byakuya’s touching moment with Rukia at the end of the Soul Society saga. In fact, the last little bit of the novel concludes a bit too quickly as it jumps from the battle to the following day almost instantly. While the series does drag on from time to time, I do wish this would have been better established as Ichigo’s emotions are barely touched on. He only puts on a depressed face as he thinks for a bit, then goes to get some help.
As always, Bleach is a great series that offers a lot of action and emotional events. There is still a fair bit of mystery behind the Soul Society as this has been the first time we witnessed restriction removal and the full gamut of the power that lieutenant and captains hold. It really is a significant difference from what we’ve seen before. This is a fully action-packed installment into the series and it offers to delight.
Artwork: Tite Kubo’s style he puts forth is very interesting. Generally speaking, it’s just wonderful and contains a lot of detail, mainly because of the terrific lighting and darker areas he bolds so heavily. What may turn some people off is that it is fairly crowded with special effects. Whether it’s the gushing blood from Hitsugaya’s chest, or the frantic movements of Ichigo and Grimmjow, there is always something going on, and there are times when it becomes overly detailed in a single panel. That isn’t to say it unappealing, but the amount of detail that is put towards characters and special effects is pretty overwhelming at times, although it is generally well balanced. Character models are fairly rough, but they look great, with a substantial amount of detail going into clothing and little effects such as singes on the skin, or rips and cuts. The only setback is the lack of variety with environments. When there are areas in the background, they look great, but they are mainly some houses in the back, some white rooms, and the dark sky above. Other than that, there really isn’t a lot to be enjoyed behind the characters. Overall though, despite the lack of variety in the backgrounds and the occasional cluttered panels, the visuals shine greatly and are well proportioned to offer some exciting and sometimes emotional events.
Translation: The English-translation, like all the previous installments, is very good. There aren’t any translation issues, whether it is errors in the grammar or spelling, or sound effects. But the sound effects are a bit of a different story considering they are all in English with the original Japanese characters taken out completely, so it’s difficult to determine if anything was missing. Still, the dialogue is strong, and with no errors, this makes it a perfect translation.
For a couple bucks less, you are going to receive not many extras. To be truthful, you usually get nothing but a page preview for the next volume, but this time we get a couple nice pieces of artwork that come with a character popularity poll. Who won? Well, you’ll just have to buy it to find out. Other than that, we get the traditional one page preview – as I mentioned before.
The Bottom Line: Bleach is a magnificent series that has a lot to offer. While I am a bit disappointed that Grimmjow only gets a couple scenes with Ichigo, the amount of fighting sequences is solid and only seems to help you enjoy the volume even more. While the visuals are a bit of a mixed bag (looking very good but a bit dirty from time to time), the battles are strong enough to hold their own. I’m just disappointed that waiting three months for a volume only lasts twenty minutes. It will take a matter of seconds to suck you in, and there is no way of getting away from it.