Manga-ka: Kubo Tite
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2011
Synopsis: “While the Soul Reaper captains deal with Aizen’s forces in Karakura Town, Ichigo faces Ulquiorra in Hueco Mundo. To match the powerful Espada, Ichigo will have to rely on his hollow powers. But will the darkness overwhelm him? Pushed to the verge of death by Ulquiorra, Ichigo releases his Hollow powers. But can Ichigo control his powers long enough to claim victory against his rival, or will he lose everything he’s been fighting for…?”
While my wallet may not agree with me, I love that Bleach volumes are now coming out two at a time. With volumes consisting of on-going fight scenes, I breeze though singles of Bleach in a third of the time most other manga volumes with the same page count would take me. Two volumes felt just right, and as I finished reading them, I felt I had actually experienced a decent chunk of story as a big fight came to a close.
Uryuu Ishida re-appearing in the story after some absence was the highlight of these books, and I don’t feel I say that purely as a fan of the character. The battle between Ichigo and Ulquiorra had been going on too long as it was. While I wasn’t against seeing them duke it out a little more, something had to change. A quincy on the scene provided just that needed boost. He provided a much-need temporary rescue and time stalling in the fight. He also brought some emotion to the scenes that went past ‘Gotta win! Don’t die!’.
My heart broke a bit when Uryuu looked to Orihime shortly after he arrived. In a few short inner-monologues, and the look on his face, we really get the sense of an unrequited love he holds for her that she in turn is directing at Ichigo. Uryuu understands this and acts selflessly to cater to it. Admittedly the inner monologues, effective as they were, did feel a bit out of place. They were written from a first person flashback perspective which made it feel like Uryuu was suddenly telling this like a story: “At that moment… I might’ve known she would ask me that. I couldn’t say no. But I… would soon regret it.”
The shocker moment of the volume comes when Ulquoirra delivers a lethal blow to Ichigo. While he’s down and out, Uryuu takes over the fight and suffice to say, it does not go well (despite some Quincy badassery he shows when he first shows up). The blows he takes are nothing to scoff at – I was actually surprised at the severity of one – but he keeps on going, just long enough for ‘help’ to pop up. I kept wishing that help would’ve been Orihime though, if only to make her serve more purpose than remaining a damsel. Her powers are so strong but she rarely wields them, even when she’s watching a friend get mutilated in front of her. Unless it’s Ichigo anyway. That really irked me in these volumes, showing a frustrating double-standard.
I’m still on the fence with how I felt about Ichigo in this volume. His sense of honour towards battle was sort of infuriating. Offers to let the enemy cut up his limbs to make them equally injured before fighting crosses the lines of chivalry and right into crazy town. Visually at least, he looked great. The fighting was high speed and the climax of his fight with Ulquiorra just as tense and unnerving as I can assume was intended. This particular moment was where I was most grateful I had another volume to jump right into as well. Ichigo, you now scare me sometimes (and I’m glad for it!).
Elsewhere it’s still Shinigami Captains versus the bad guys. As always it focuses on a select few, with brief glances to some others so we know they’re still breathing. Powers are heavily stacked against the Shinigami as we watch several of the strongest members completely out gunned. Even what looks like a scene meant to switch things around is instead used to showcase the sheer futility of it. Though it’s a little sadistically enjoyable to watch especially strong characters have their butts handed to them, it’s also getting old. We’ve seen them struggle, we’ve seen lots of cool powers, now we’re ready to see where the heck things are going. Do the Shinigami have a trick up their sleeve? Will Aizen himself appear?
With the end result of these two volumes being an important character death, some new abilities and the mustering of a few characters, it seems like we’re finally on the cusp of a direction change. The bulk of volume fourty-one being the shinigami fight makes me assume we’ll see these confrontations go on a while yet, but I’m hoping it’ll resume with a catalyst introduction to shake things up as well as Uryuu did for Ichigo versus Ulquoirra. On their own though, these two volumes were still some of the most dynamic in a while for with power fluctuations and emotional impact. It’ll be great to read what happens next in another two volume chunk this July.
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Books bought from Strange Adventures