The 2nd Dimension

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Viewing Journal: Bleach (episodes 98 - 120)

Series Overview
TV Broadcast Info
DVD Info

Overall= B-
Story = B-
Video = C+
Audio = C+


The Bounts' assault on the Soul Society reaches it's explosive and fateful climax as the extent of Kariya's plans for vengeance finally become clear. In the aftermath, Ichigo returns home only to find new challenges awaiting him. The rebel Soul Reaper Sosuke Aizen is starting to put his plans into action. Those plans involves the use of a super-powerful form of beings called Arrancars who are a melding of Soul Reaper and Hollow. And if that weren't enough, Ichigo is also met by a group of beings called Vizards who, like himself, have their own "inner hollow" and want to bring Ichigo into their fold...
In this set of episodes the Bount filler story arc concludes and the main story featuring the rebel Soul Reaper Aizen and his plot to control two worlds continues.

First of all, we have the story of the Bounts. And for as much as most of the episodes in this arc have dragged on, the concluding six or so episodes seem comparably rushed. As the battles with the Soul Reapers rage, the Bounts start dropping like flies. And that is especially surprising given that the Bounts are supposed to be immortal while in the Soul Society due to their regenerative ability. And while the final battle between Ichigo and Kariya is slightly more intense and flashy, it still comes and goes just as quickly. So in the end, it seems that this filler story really was just that: Something that can be slowed down or speed up depended on how much time the writers needed to waste before getting back go the main story.

Of course, when things do get back to the real story -- ie, the one that follows the plot of the original manga -- we finally get to see the main characters develop and things of actual consequence start to happen.

First of all we find out that Aizen -- the mastermind behind everything that happened with when Rukia was arrested and sentenced to death, and who subsequently disappeared with a host of powerful Hollows -- is gathering and developing a group of all-powerful Hollows called Arankars in order to fight the Soul Reaper squads and eventually take over the universe via the use of the Hōgyoku (which allows him to meld Soul Reapers with Hollows) which he stole back in that earlier arc. (Take a breath!)

At the same time a new student named Shinji has arrived at Ichigo's school. And apparently Shinji is interested in Ichigo's inner hollow. So as it turns out, Shinji has his own inner hollow and is part of a group of spirits called Vizards, all of which can "hollowify" -- ie, bring out their inner hollow to help them fight -- and they are trying to recruit Ichigo to join their crew.

So that's all pretty interesting and cool, but then we also get thrown some rather odd curveballs. For instance, Ichigo's dad is a Soul Reaper now. What? Where did that come from? And as weird as that fact is, after Dad-as-Soul-Reaper is introduced, it's never brought up again. (Note: I'm almost through the season of episodes following this one, and it still hasn't been brought up again.) So I'm not sure what's up with that.

Another thing that bugs me is that Rukia has her Soul Reaper powers back now! I mean, the whole premise of the story is that Ichigo took her powers, and the fact that she now has gotten them back seems to destroy the whole weight behind what Ichigo is doing, especially when when she got them back simply by spending some time in the Soul Society. Part of the drama of Ichigo being a "substitute Soul Reaper" is that he got that way via Rukia's sacrifice, so now he has to carry that burden. But now he's not really even "substituting" for anyone anymore so the everything he's doing now seems pointless. Considering what a significant plot point that is, it seems like they should have at the very least made a bigger deal out of it.

As for the art and animation, it's pretty much the same as it ever was -- average to above average. But of special note are the character designs -- they're just so cool. The Bounts had somewhat original designs I guess, but for some reason the Arrancars and Vizards just look so much cooler and have so much more personality to their visual design. Each one is basically a variation on a them (a hollow-mask and a Zanpakutou) but there is SO much variety on that theme that it makes them so much fun to watch.

For the music, I have noticed that a few new nuggets have been added to the soundtrack, but much of it is still recycled from earlier in the series. It's gotten to the point where I know exactly what music is going to play at certain times depending on if there's drama or action or whatever. I really think the soundtrack could use a major overhaul.

So in conclusion, if you've gotten this far in the series there's no point in stopping now. You (and I) have made it through the tedium of the Bount filler arc and stuff that matters is starting to happen again. Now we just have to see how long it lasts.

As a final note, I just wanted to say kudos to Adult Swim for showing two episodes per week now. I wonder how long that will last before they are caught up to the Japanese episodes. Although, for some reason they have not been showing the original ending animation for the past couple seasons, and instead just show random images from the show during the end credits. Plus they never show the previews for the next episodes! How cheap is that? (So much for kudos.)

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