Manga-ka: Kubo Tite
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: December 2009
Synopsis: “Ichigo and his friends knew invading Hueco Mundo wouldn’t be easy, but even the lesser Arrancars are pushing to their limits. Can Ichigo, Uryu and Chad find the inner strength to overcome the first line of attack, or will Orihime be stuck in Hueco Mundo forever?!”
Our team of heroes have embarked into the proverbial lion’s den. Out to save Orihime, who remains notably absent throughout the volume, the group splits up to cover more ground. It’s no surprise then though that each character suddenly finds themselves face to face with an adversary all to themselves.
Leading the pack is Ichigo who continues a battle that began in the previous book against the kicking-whirlwind, Dordoni. Adding a new level of urgency to his fighting is the presence of Nel, a child Hollow who’s become attached to Ichigo since they met. While aiding Ichigo the adorable little oddity becomes a target for Dordoni’s attacks as seeks to make Ichigo unleash his true fighting prowess. Seeing Ichigo fight while clutching Nel to his chest protectively proves an amiable scene that really draws on his admirable traits as a big brother. It’s something that’s been missing in the series since the earlier volumes.
In true shonen-fashion it comes fully expected that multiple characters continue to display newfound powers as they battle the enemies in episodic fashion. In this particular book the notable two are Uryuu Ishida and Chad. What is a tad more interesting however is that each one is forced to pull out said-abilities during these first round of battles. So it leaves one to wonder – will everyone be pulling out exceedingly more powerful new abilities with each fight for conveniences’ sake? Or by pulling out the stops now are they just proving how far over their heads they may’ve actually gotten?
Uryuu’s fight scene is the most entertaining of the book and for a number of reasons. First off he utilizes a new accessory – the one and apparently only bladed Quincy weapon. Its purpose isn’t as immediately clear as one would think but that doesn’t stop it from being a snazzy addition to his Quincy-arsenal. In this volume he battles a cocky whip-wielding female Arrancar but the two aren’t alone in the pillar-crested room where their fight takes place. Uryuu finds himself joined by Pesche, part of Nel’s bizarre troop of Hollow misfits. Cue entertainment value of the best kind as Pesche proceeds to help in his own strange way, systematically annoying Uryuu with repetitive name-mistakes along with less than pleasant assault methods. A combination of well-timed panels and silliness offer up plenty of laugh-potential here. They remain a reminder of what keeps Bleach still feeling pretty fresh as the volumes stack up.
On the flipside you have a distinctly dark tone threaded throughout the book. While the lead characters fight their way through the early ranks, the big baddies up top are carefully watching and dishing out their own brand of punishment for the failures of their peers. Though you don’t see much of him in this particular volume, the backstabbing head-honcho Aizen remains creepily calm about everything that occurs while still ruling those beneath him with an iron fist (or eerily more so a sly smile).
Other noteworthy parts of the book include Chad’s exposition on the possible source of his powers and Renji suffering an unwanted tag-along of his own. In more general terms high-paced fight scenes, rounded characters and a dash of humour remain Bleach’s strong points and volume twenty-nine delivers it all, hopefully with the promise of more where this came from.