I feel like there’s the distinct possibility that I could find myself in a very repetitive place for my reviews of Bleach by consistently saying at the beginning of the reviews that we haven’t gotten to the place in the story where it starts to suck yet. Regardless, we’re still at the point in Bleach where I’m still enjoying it as much as I can any conventional shonen manga. Though, honestly, calling Bleach conventional at this point actual does the series a bit of a disservice as I still believe that it’s basic premise is pretty original and the world that Tite Kubo has imagined for these heroics is intriguing urban fantasy fare. This particular volume started out a little bit on the filler side with an adventure that only served one over-all myth arc purpose (I’m assuming anyways), but at the end, it managed to introduce a new character that I know is going to turn out to be very important (because I’ve watched past this part in the anime years and years ago). Even though the majority of the volume was filler, it was still fun filler that managed to subvert exactly where you thought the story was going to go which is something that I think Tite Kubo does very well.

A popular ghosthunting show (Tite Kubo accurately predicted the surprise popularity of that phenomenon about a decade early) visits Karakura Town, led by the charismatic Don Kanonji. It’s one of the most popular shows in the country and the entire town attends the show. Ichigo’s family are big fans so even though he suspects that Don Kanonji is utter BS, he attends the program. However, it turns out the hospital that the show is being filmed at is actually home to a Demi-Hollow, a “plus” that is slowly transforming into a Hollow. It also turns out that Don Kanonji can actually see ghosts, and though he thinks he is exorcising the spirit by prying open the whole in its chest, he is actually speeding up the process of turning it into a Hollow. Ichigio is forced to transform into his shinigami form and battle this Hollow with the help/burden of Don Kanonji who truly believes himself to be a hero and helps fight the Hollow despite his very limited powers. After the Hollow is vanquished, Don Kanonji is forced to face the truth of what he’s really been doing to the spirits he’s encountered. At school the next day, Rukia keeps getting calls on her beeper from the Soul Society about Hollows, but when they arrive, the Hollows have already been vanquished. It turns out that another student at Ichigo’s school named Uryu Ishida has been destroying them. He has high Spirit Energy as well and can summon an energy bow from mid-air. He claims to be something called a Quincy and openly expresses his hatred for shinigami.

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about this volume is that Tite Kubo hasn’t been afraid to embrace some of the more humour aspects of the series. Bleach is such a moody and brooding protagonist (he’s one tragic backstory away from being Sasuke from Naruto) that the series can sometimes take itself a little too seriously for what is essentially a children’s manga, and in both the anime and manga for these volumes, there were plenty of moments that made me laugh. All of the bishie sparkles coming off of Don Kanonji when he thought he was going to die were pretty hilarious because it was such an obvious tongue-in-cheek reference to the anime convention. Similarly, the scene where they post the test scores (which worked for me better in the anime) was great because it sort of subverted the Japanese stereotype of everyone doing well in school (that is regularly reinforced by me becoming more popular in Persona 4 when I get good grades). Ichigo’s friend Asano’s reaction was just so absurdly over the top that it just had me laughing out loud on my couch which doesn’t generally happen when I’m watching anime. There were no notable differences between the anime and the manga during this section other than the last episode of the anime I watched continued on into the action of the next volume of the manga so I’ll just discuss that later.

I like Buffy the Vampire-esque “go to high school, save the world” stories. I have ever since I started reading Harry Potter in elementary school and that pleasure has managed to not disappear even though I’m now 23. At this point, Bleach does that well, although admittedly the “high school” stuff definitely takes a backseat to the “saving the world” stories. Unfortunately, I know that the series eventually completely abandons that whole high school thing when Ichigo goes to Soul Society (spoiler). It’s a shame because not only do I really like these main characters (even Ichigo who I seem to remember really disliking the last time I tried to watch this show), I love the supporting cast down to the most minor people. The show has a quirky identity at the moment, and I’m not looking forward to the point where it abandons what makes it special to become a more standard shonen series.

Final Score: B

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