Manga-ka: Kubo Tite
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: September 2008
Synopsis: “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?”
The fighting must go on in this twenty-fourth volume of Bleach. A sudden assault from the enemy leaves those protecting the town caught unawares and everyone is pulled in different directions to defend themselves and those around them. It’s kill or be killed as Renji, Matsumoto and Hitsugaya face off against some nasty opponents.
Kubo Tite does a really great job balancing the different fight scenes in this volume, a skill he’s shown throughout the series as he juggles such a large, diverse cast of characters. The main fighting arc of this volume revolves around three fights: those of Renji, Matsumoto and Hitsugaya, against three invading Arrancar. While the trio spend a good portion of these fights having their butts handed to them on bloody platters (or reminding us how badly they were beaten in the previous volume), a well-timed, and pleasantly believable for plot purposes, boost of energy gives them just what they need to turn the tables.
Another notable point for me about this volume is the underlying character drama, which I made note of loving in its increasing intensity in volume twenty-three. One page, three panels, with Orihime looking at Ichigo as he stares down at Rukia, really speaks volumes, not only about Orihime but a little about Ichigo as well. Not an expression we usually see on him so it provokes some thought. That and Ichigo’s progressive self-doubt, as he puts himself in the position of shouldering immeasurable pressures, makes him a compelling character, much more than your usual stereotypical spiky-haired, sword-wielding lead hero.
Other characters supply some surprises as well, such as an unexpected battle interference by the spacey Ururu, which caught me enjoyably off-guard, and a look at the current whereabouts of Uryuu Ishida as he strives to regain his Quincy powers (and any Uryuu scene is a good Ishida scene in my books!). Even Chad returns briefly to ask a favour of the shop keep, Urahara. And a peek of Tasuki watching the fights from the backdrop? Little character scenes like these really make the series for me!
Great thing about a series like Bleach, is even if you don’t care the slightest bit about one part of the events going on, chances are there’s a hundred others to follow instead. The immense cast of characters and the world they inhabit gives this shonen-epic lots of different and interesting angles, nearly all of which I’m still more than happy to follow. A series well worth sticking with for the long-haul, I can’t wait to keep reading to find out what happens to my favourite characters and who kicks whose butt for what reason in the next release.