Manga-ka: Kubo Tite
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: November 2012
Synopsis: “Ichigo’s return to an ordinary life is disrupted by a mysterious man named Kugo Ginjo. But what are Ginjo’s true motives? And when a friend is attacked, Ichigo discovers he may have a chance to regain his lost Soul Reaper powers. Knowing Tsukishima is after Ichigo, Ginjo continues the Fullbring training at a secret base. Ichigo is mastering Fullbring at an incredible speed and regaining his lost powers, but is he ready to face Tsukishima just yet…?”
Ichigo’s newest training regime has begun – bring on the funny looking stuffed pig! Apparently. The training methods here are less conventional than in the past but at least the basics persist – survive and get stronger. These two volumes are still mostly just set-up for whatever’s coming and these kinds of volumes aren’t usually as exciting as the climaxes they lead to. Even so, these two books are bogged down more than usual because of all-too-convenient plot points and odd choices for mystery reveals.
This story arc doesn’t feel as planned out or detailed as those previous, and suddenly introducing a whole new group of super-powered humans feels a little tacked on for the sake of keeping the series going. At least the reveal that Chad, and very likely Orihime, are both included amidst these new “Fullbringers” means that the idea doesn’t feel entirely out of nowhere. The abilities range from expected and standard – such as a sword from a necklace – to now a little weirder, like boots that make their owner stronger the dirtier they get. The young Yukio’s video game related powers are pretty neat, but do show just what huge discrepancies can exist between types of abilities. Still, nothing is as silly as Ichigo’s ease of gaining his Fullbring power simply by being told to do so, especially when the explanation essentially boiled down to ‘just feel proud of yourself!’. Ichigo being able to regain abilities after all his work getting them initially is believable to a point, but not when the way to do it like this was so easy. He just happened to never, ever come close to doing this after the past year? Never felt proud before now, Ichigo?
Kubo Tite seems to be having fun teasing readers with some information he’s not giving up just yet, but the pacing and placement of these scenes seems a little weird. While the mystery of the new villian Tsukishima is interesting, and has me curious (does he have new abilities? Are there two of him?), there also remains the question of what Urahara and Ichigo’s Father are up to. At one point, right in the middle of other stuff happening, we get a couple extra-mysterious pages of Urahara preparing to do something with Ichigo’s Father that has to do with Ichigo’s powers. Sure I’m really curious, but these scenes felt really out of place where they were and for being so short on top of it.
Honestly while I love Bleach for its action, which we’re definitely building up to with some already pretty energetic training sequences, I feel like we’ve still got some wasted story elements being left on the sidelines. What about all of Ichigo’s human friends? The final volumes of Aizen’s run felt like they were being focused on with some growing relevance and powers of their own. In recent volumes we’ve seen more pressure put on Ichigo’s sisters to keep spirits at bay, and I’d love to see more of these other characters especially now that we’ve had Ichigo ‘normal’ for an entire year. Orihime and Chad both being made more relevant in the absence of the Shinigami is nice to see, but as a fan of Uryuu Ishida, I’ve been sad to see him confined to a hospital bed so quickly. Poor Quincy.
I did like these new volumes with their on-going mysteries and some entertaining character interactions (such as anything with Tsukishima’s lackey, ‘Sushigawara’), but they’re definitely not as thrilling or interesting as recent volumes past have been. A few ‘meh’ volumes isn’t enough to make me falter on my faith it’ll get more fun eventually, but I do hope it’s sooner than later.
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