What They Say:
A year has passed since Ichigo lost his Soul Reaper powers and resumed the life of a normal teenager. But those ordinary days come to an end when Ichigo meets a mysterious man named Kugo Ginjo, who offers to help him get his Soul Reaper powers back – and gives him only a day to decide! Ichigo is dead set against it, until Uryu is injured by an unknown attacker. Ichigo, powerless to help, turns to Ginjo and is introduced to the group Xcution, whose Fullbring powers Ichigo must face in battle if he ever hopes to get strong again! Contains episodes 343-354.
Set up in English and 2.0 Japanese in stereo and mono formats, the audio for Bleach is fine, though again like previously I felt some episodes seemed to be louder than others and had to adjust my audio volume accordingly. There is no 5.1 option so for a big shounen show that is always disappointing, however found no real problems outside of a few episodes seemingly being louder for some reason. There were no problems with transition or synching with the subtitles or the video and is your standard decent quality stereo release.
Set on a standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio, visually, the mix of the colours continue to do well on a widescreen format, with no picture issues with distortion when pausing and no freezing or synching with the audio – however on episode 353 on Disc 3, the episode actually froze a couple of times – I actually received two test discs for this and on the second one, it didn’t freeze so unsure if just a faulty disc but was only for that episode and the disc was clean so was a bit strange. Again, the subtitles are very dull white/grey like, and whilst you can still see them obviously, it feels that it potentially blends in with some of the colours in the show so the subtitles are a minor issue more on personal preference than anything.
In 3 discs, each of the menus is very quick and basic with characters of the show on a dark background, with Ginjo being the main focus on the first disc, staring with a creepy face right through your screen. The set up is incredibly basic again – you have Start (basically Play All), episodes individually, set up (English or Japanese with subtitles) and on Disc 2 and 3 we have Opening and Ending, which is basically their extras. So everything is on the menu without needing to go to a sub menu for extra selections. Simple on one hand, but also showcases the minimal extras for this release. No problems with selection or returning to the main menu on any of the discs, just pretty basic.
The only extras are the clean opening and ending of the release and trailers for Wolf Children (on disc 2 and disc 3 for some reason) and Berserk: The Egg of the King.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the last Bleach set, it seemed like it was heading towards a finale with Ichigo losing his powers. After viewing this set, I’m not so sure because it almost immediately sets things up so Ichigo can regain his powers in what feels like a retread of a typical Shounen Jump scenario done in many other shows, and Bleach itself. So the question is, does this variation do it any more clever or is it predictable? Out of the big SJ shows, Bleach is the one I’ve liked the least – it hasn’t been terrible, but the characters are many and not that interesting par the course compared to the back stories of One Piece and the different characters and powers of Naruto. So with the introduction of a new group, does this differ?
It starts with fast forwarding 17 months and Ichigo is a normal student, albeit still with his training – which is proven when he stops a thief stealing a bag. However, the owner of the bag seems to take an interest in Ichigo…so with other Reapers still around, Ichigo is just working his part time job – whilst the owner of the bag is researching Ichigo, his family and friends. What is interesting is that Karin seems to be studying under Urahara so this may play out as she is the new lead but it doesn’t last as the guy is introduced as Kujo, who is part of a group called Xcution who can return his powers. Ichigo seems uninterested but he is warned his family and friends could be in danger, which is showcased quickly with Uryu being injured.
The return of Ishida as Ichigo’s boss had the initial link with Kujo, but I did like that Orihime is now involved more, not sure if due to the fact she and Rukia were seen as the lead females but she seemed to be in the background a lot and I always did enjoy her character and here, she is learning more about this situation too. Ichigo realises through various confrontations that he isn’t privy to information around him as he is no longer a Soul Reaper, which forces him to contact Kujo and head to Xcution. This brings us to our deus ex machina for the series, Fullbring – an ability which allows them to manipulate the souls of objects and they want to bring back Ichigo’s Soul Reaper powers from this…because they want to get rid of their Fullbring abilities due to their energy came from hollows who attacked the members mothers. What is interesting is that Chad also appears in Xcution, suggesting a deeper link to connect with our protagonists head. He initially refuses, but when he sees his family in danger and can’t protect them, he accepts and he begins to learn his Fullbring abilities.
The one other interesting character of Xcution is Riruka, who is clearly someone who likes Ichigo but pretends to hate him (the tsundere dynamic) and she is a good source of both comic relief but also a good trainer, despite her strange ways of training. This ties in with Ichigo wanting to get his powers to protect, as someone seems to be chasing after his friends, as Orihime is next on the hit list by a man named Tsukishima (whose minion Shishigawara is hilarious in trying to be a badass, but is clearly attracted to Orihime and his over the top reactions add some comedy to the arc outside of the small omakes and Ririka) – the interesting thing is Tsukishima clearly stabs Orihime but there is no wound…it seems the attack is designed to change memories of people…interesting…
Ichigo decides to do what he usually does, learn from experience quickly and wants to fight a member of Xcution and be stronger. This leads him to fighting Jackie, a muscular woman whose ability makes her kicks stronger when they become dirtier…(the abilities are a bit silly but they are still nothing to be sneezed at) – it does lead to Ichigo learning some Fullbring power called Bringer Light but he does go out of control but is too stubborn to not stop. However, when Tsukishima attacks Xcution he manages to get into his Fullbring who is master of Fullbring, but Kujo fights him to an even match, which leads to another character, Yukio who is also a master of Fullbring and force Tsukishima to retreat. With Orihime and Chad now knowing of Ichigo, they come to Xcution with Ichigo now training with Kujo and right at the end, there is a cliffhanger with Urahara and Isshin planning to collect soul energy with a help of a Soul Reaper…who turns out to be Rukia.
This is obviously a beginning of a new arc, and the returning and new characters are rushed in to bring back Ichigo’s powers back. The problem is that whilst Ichigo has been without them for a year and a half, for the viewer, it is just a few episodes. Now granted, this happens with timeskips all the time in SJ series (One Piece, DBZ and Naruto all guilty of this) but it does feel like it is rushed. The reasons are valid (Ichigo wanting to protect his family and friends) but the introduction of a whole new group and a new ability out of nowhere really feels rushed even though, technically it isn’t. It is a plot formula used in these series which is familiar, but also predictable.
It is a shame, because there are elements which seem to be potentially interesting but don’t go anywhere. There is a part where we see Ichigo’s sister Karin now visiting Urahara and the potential she could be the next Soul Reaper or someone that can help out more instead of Ichigo, but that is barely touched upon and by the end of the set it appears Rukia is coming back. The Wellbeing ability, whilst a clear rehash, has some interesting set up – Ririka’s training and Jackies’ were different but both worked, and Kujo is a very interesting character who seems to have many alterior motives for helping Ichigo outside of Xcutions’ main reason – also the character of Tsukishima is still a mystery in his role and hopefully there will be explanations. But that is also the main problem – the influx of new characters and returning ones is hard to catch up for the viewer (there are members of Xcution we barely meet and only the three mentioned have any real interaction with Ichigo) in a rush to get Ichigo his powers back. Heck, it is even stated in the show Ichigo needs to rush ahead so they fast forward to a fight with Jackie to bring them out quicker – sacrificing any potential character development or relationships between Ichigo and Xcution.
I did like the fact that Orihime was returning to being a main character after being on the sides for a bit, I also liked the mystery of the villain and the cliffhanger of Rukia returning (there was not enough Urahara this arc) and Ichigos’ needs were actually well defined as his family was being researched and friends being hurt, his desire to protect them shows his development over the years and the reasons why he wants his powers back after initially not wanting them. The problem is whilst it is part of a main story arc; it does feel like filler at times because of the very rushed nature how the Fullbring powers are brought up and Ichigo learning them. Literally, new ability to compensate for Soul Reaper whilst they try and get his Soul Reaper powers? Explained briefly and then tested, then he learns. And probably learn further if the last episode is any indication setting up for the second half of the set.
It certainly isn’t unwatchable, and I wasn’t really looking at the timer to hurry along the show but with a lot of characters gone after the last arc, they’ve rushed in this new crew with little time and development and a new power with just enough information, yet the viewer will feel rushed throughout this arc. Minor good bits here and there, hopefully the mystery elements will tie in together in the second half, because at the moment, it feels like a rushed mess with the odd moment of awesome.
Bleach isn’t sure if it is ready to end, or start from the beginning which is how this arc plays out. Whilst you knew Ichigo would be looking for something alternative and it is actually told well, after that the introduction of the new cast, the powers and the apparent villain is done so rushed that you aren’t sure what is going on. A decent cliffhanger and going back to basics with the main characters is a good step, and the element of mystery means there is lots to work with (and some decent comedy as well) but the actual action parts felt incredibly rushed with not enough time, development and explanation to make it all tie in.
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 20th, 2015
Running Time: 300 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.