Manga-ka: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2012
Synopsis: “With Captain General Yamamoto giving him an opening, Ichigo goes in for the finishing strike against Aizen! But Ichigo will need the help of some new reinforcements if he hopes to defeat both Aizen and Ichimaru Gin! Aizen’s new powers are too much for even the combined efforts of Ichigo, Isshin, Urahara, and Yoruichi. But as Aizen and Gin head for the real Karakura Town, Ichigo decides to undergo intense training under his father’s tutelage.”
It’s another exciting two volumes! And I mean that sarcasm free too. I was getting a little bored of Bleach for a while but since the big-bad fights of the Hollow’s world have ended, it’s becoming a series I’ve really started looking forward to again. The fight against Aizen has gone on too long, and frankly I’m getting tired of just seeing his name all the time, but this newest double-dose of Bleach offers up some especially memorable scenes that go as far as almost justifying the length of this confrontation.
Warning: Review contains some minor spoilers
The last six or so volumes of Bleach have been a constant back and forth barrage of fight scenes between just about every character you could easily name from the series. Here in volume fourty-six, things have finally focused in on those who really matter, namely Aizen and Ichigo. That said, our main character, Ichigo, doesn’t remain a driving force for long. While Gin keeps him busy – revealing his own bankai in the process, finally – Aizen is kept busy with the appearance of Urahara and Yorichi. Long time no see! Like any true shonen villain, Aizen won’t go down without a fight and certainly not without a multitude of different forms. Having fused himself with the Hogyoku, he’s now transforming into something new. All we know now is that however they eventually defeat him – because they must eventually, right? – they’re going to have to get mighty creative with it. It was neat seeing Urahara throw so many tactics and spells at Aizen, harking back to the earlier Shinigami Arc, but they were woefully useless.
These books had quite a bit of plot reveal that I was giddy to read. I know there isn’t really anything groundbreaking about the villain revealing he’s been pulling the strings this whole time, and this isn’t even the first time we’ve heard this from Aizen in particular. But, to hear he’s been in control of pretty much everything since the day Ichigo was born? Now that was neat. I loved how he pointed out all these pinnacle moments in the story and took credit for them. Almost like breaking the fourth wall, Aizen acknowledges the story’s weaker for-plot-purpose moment and turns them on their head by suddenly stamping them with ‘relevance!’. It would seem like a cop-out if these were recent scenes without explanation but, by nailing them onto events back from as early as volume one, it really pulls together this series now spanning almost fifty books.
That revelation scene – which also finally broke the silence on another huge plot point hidden from Ichigo – lead up brilliantly to the events of volume fourty-seven. The protagonists have been fighting for Karakura Town this whole time but only now do we get to see what’s going on there since it was teleported away. We now learn that almost everyone in the town has fallen unconscious, with exception of those who bare some form of spiritual power. Because of this, we see that Ichigo’s school friends, including Tatsuki and Keigo, are awake and traversing the town trying to figure out what’s happening and helping their friends they find unconscious along the way.
It’s some of my favourite parts of Bleach when it focuses on these human characters. While everyone else is fighting their huge epic battles elsewhere, back at home, all those connected with Ichigo are continuing to undergo changes because of the exposure to his spiritual energy. We’ve known they were vaguely aware that something weird was going on with Ichigo, Tatsuki in particular, but now we get a peek of just how far their knowledge, or at least acceptance, goes. The little bits of actual not-fighting, not-Ichigo related development between them as Tatsuki and Keigo spoke was also a really pleasant surprise. I hope we see more of them in the volumes to come.
Meanwhile, Ichigo finally has a reprieve from all the fighting, fighting and more fighting he’s been doing non-stop for about twenty volumes. With a new (well, sort of new) ally at his side, he finds himself in a very convenient position of having 3 months of training time before going up against the new Aizen. Handy! It’s time for him to see what his old sword pal, Zangetsu, has been up to but what, or who, he finds when he does a little soul searching is not what he expects. This time-bubble-for-training-mid-giant-battle feels really contrived but it creates a very welcome break in the fighting and I’m legitimately curious to see what comes of it.
With the story having weeded out all those extraneous characters for now, I’m more invested than ever in finding out what’s going to happen next. All the Shinigami have their interesting quirks but we really don’t need them all at once. While Ichigo is training to discover a new power, Aizen is now capable of destroying Karakura Town whenever he wishes, with only Tatsuki and co in his way (if they count as anything other than fodder for his entertainment). Their involvement really makes the actual scariness of the situation sink in, much more than the concerns of other super-powerful individuals in volumes’ past. It’s been a while since I’ve had such reaction to a volume’s cliffhanger as I did with fourty-seven and I’m happy for it, enjoying a new spark for my enjoyment of Bleach. I’m eagerly awaiting volume fourty-eight in October.
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Books bought from Strange Adventures