Manga-ka: Kubo Tite
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: December 2010
Synopsis: “Ichigo’s mission to rescue his friend Orihime from the Hollow world has turned into a struggle for survival against a succession of enemies, each one more powerful than the next. Now another vicious challenger has entered the fray, one that happens to know the startling truth about Ichigo’s new friend Nel!”
Just when you thought the multi-volume long fight between Ichigo and Grimmjow was over… you’d discover you were right this time. But that’s only to make room for the next opponent, the toothy Nnoitora, who wastes no time jumping in to tear apart what’s left of our main character. Though it still feels painfully drawn at out at times, an assortment of just-abouts or why-don’t-theys, this thirty-third volume still manages to impress more than those recently before it by delivering a few surprises and some blows too brutal to be ignored. Warning: Review contains spoilers for the volume.
To no surprise Ichigo’s fight against his new opponent takes the forefront for much of the book’s first half. Unfortunately for him it’s not so much a fight this time around as a taunt-full beat down. He puts up what fight he can yet it’s little surprise that several consequent volumes of hack-and-slash warfare has left him a little worse for the wear. Should you ever have wanted to just see Ichigo take hit after hit, here’s your big chance. I did like, to Ichigo’s misfortune, the little things that really emphasis this kind of stylized violence. For example, a scene where Nnoitora holds Ichigo down and begins to pull break his arm to the breaking point was far more painful to watch than just seeing the Shinigami-standin take another generic smash into a wall.
Then there’s Orihime, who is still playing the role of damsel well in that she’s doing little of anything else past screaming Ichigo’s name. To her credit, there isn’t a whole lot she can really do, yet I couldn’t help but want to shake the book every time she hesitated between battle blows. Just heal Ichigo already! Just a little at the very least, use every available breath to accomplish what you can when you can and maybe we’ll see the end of these fights sooner than later.
The big event of this volume was when little Nel suddenly wasn’t so little anymore. I already miss her big eyes and wibbly expressions though admit to being thankful she’s able to return the blows she’s taken ten-fold. Watching a little kid getting punted was never fun, even if she is a Hollow with a drooling problem and a giant broken skull mask on her head. She was so cute! While honestly it didn’t come as too much surprise seeing Nel turn out to actually be a busty battalion of strength, I was actually surprised to see Pesche and Dondo-Chakka arise to be potential powerhouses in their own right. For all their idiocy up until now, it was actually successfully sweet getting a glimpse at their back-story and how their friendship with Nel transcended into their new lives as her protectors. I’m really eager to see how the next volume kicks off after where this one finishes.
But I’m still an Uryuu Ishida fangirl through and through and seeing the story swerve back to what he and Renji were going through made me happy. Granted in tandem that must also make me a little sadistic because it wasn’t pretty. Continuing their face-off against Szayel-Aporro, what begins as a small triumph as they finally escape (so to speak) his personal playpen, they find themselves in a much worse situation. With yet another trick up his self-indulgent sleeves, Szayel creates distractingly-adorable plush voodoo dolls of the Quincy and Shinigami which he uses to lay chaos on their bodies. Poking, prodding and stabbing at a voodoo doll is one thing, but Kubo Tite takes the idea a step further by having the dolls open to reveal little stand-ins for each of their vital organs and tendons. How these two aren’t dead is truly a testament to their need to be alive for plot-purposes as things get messy – really, really messy.
Overall I found this volume quite a bit more enjoyable than the previous few if only because of all the different elements it brought together – Ichigo and Orihime, Uryuu and Renji, Nel and her sidekicks and the ever-growing assortment of Espada who keep getting weirder and weirder and with names more difficult to remember than the last. The plot is still moving on in what feels like a snail’s pace volume to volume but at least it never stops filling in all the little back-stories and areas-unexplored along the way. Fight on, guys and gals! And please don’t forget Uryuu who is currently bleeding internally from an injury that should’ve already killed him.