Manga-ka: Kubo Tite
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: December 2011
Synopsis: “Soul Reaper captain Shinji Hirako has uncovered Aizen’s betrayal, but it may be too late. As some of the Soul Society’s greatest Soul Reapers transform into Hollows, it will be up to Kisuke Urahara to save them. And back in the present time, the grand battle between the Thirteen Court Guard Companies and the remaining Espada finally begins!”
Fight, fight and fight some more! The newest big battle is finally underway with Shinigami versus Hollow. It’s a bout to protect the world from soul-sucking disaster at the hands of the conniving Aizen who has mastered evil smirks and betrayal alike. Ichigo and co are still duking it out in the Hollow world to save Orihime while angst and desperation abounds in the finale to Urahara’s flashback about the events that initially set everything into motion.
I really love how Kubo Tite continues to infuse his long battle sequences with humour. It’s really one of the big saving graces of Bleach. They’re not enough to ruin the tone amidst the greater scheme of things but make for refreshing pauses in the tension. In this volume, Yumichika (as seen on the cover) gets the most entertaining chapter that offers just such a break in the serious-business vibe permeating the rest of the book. In the last few chapters, he faces off against an equally egotistical individual who sports a hilarious character design. The two banter back and forth on who is the ugly one in one screamer fit after another, stress veins and insults abound. On the one serious side of the fight, this battle is the first time in a while we get to see Yumichika fight closer to his full potential utilizing the powers he keeps hidden from his teammates.
Scenes like this make me miss having more time to spend with the Shinigami characters we were introduced to earlier on, not to mention the main cast. Where’s Uryuu? Where’s Hanatorou? Bring back my favourites out of your cast of dozens upon dozens, Kubo! I’m glad this is likely the first of many such character-focused chapters we’ll see in upcoming volumes. Sure it means the battle will likely go on and on and on, but I don’t mind the way it’s broken up by giving individual characters the chance to strut their stuff.
This volume also finishes up the flashback arc to Urahara’s past and the ‘creation’ of the hollowfied Shinigaimi who were training Ichigo prior to his journey to Hueco Mundo. Major sympathies to Urahara for the events that transpired. His whole world collapses around him, and it’s all the more potent because of how well Kubo Tite built up the camaraderie between the Captains and their squads in volumes prior. It’s also impressive to see just how far back Aizen’s betrayal went – that guy’s been pulling the strings for a long, long time. I felt like this information could’ve been shared by Urahara sooner though – wouldn’t it have been nice for everyone to know the inevitable (second!) betrayal was coming? It shows either a lack of aid on Urahara’s part or simply no foresight to what was going to happen this far in as the story was written.
Back in the Hollow’s world, all the remaining players are conveniently healed up, hyped and ready to go. The path has been cleared for Ichigo to go round two with Ulquiorra who still holds Orihime hostage. While I’m interested in seeing how each of the current big events plays out, having them both separate is really splitting up the series. The lead characters of the story are being left behind to clean up the unresolved mess of Hueco Mundo while the now much more important stuff takes place elsewhere. You gotta catch up, guys! I really want to see everything and everyone mesh back together.
While reading Bleach, I’m consistently impressed by the work done by Viz Media’s staff to replace the sound effects with English equivalents. They do an amazing job of taking out the old ones and replacing them with visual and verbal equivalents – it looks great! You’d never know they weren’t originally there unless you already knew.
And so another volume of Bleach and another bout of testosterone and supernatural abilities comes to an end. There isn’t a whole lot new you can say for each volume but fans of the series will appreciate another solid addition to the story mixing plot, powers and unique individuals. Here’s hoping we see more of these elements collide in the next volume so the ball can really get rolling on super fight number… something.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures