So, my manga consumption has slowed down a little bit this week. I’ve had a couple concerts, and I’ve just generally been sort of busy (I’ve been playing a ton of Xenoblade Chronicles which also begun to eat up a ton of my free time). Anyways, it took me a little longer to read this particular volume of Bleach than it has the others. It’s a shame though because I feel like this is the volume where the various story threads are starting to come together, and we’re going to get a look at the bigger picture of where this series is going to go (in terms of it being a team-oriented shonen fighting series). This has become my mantra of the franchise, but I still really enjoyed this genre and while it’s not my favorite so far (that award goes to Memories in the Rain), this is definitely the moment when you realize that the series won’t entirely be about Ichigo. He’s got companions (oh no. Is Ichigo the Japanese version of the Doctor sans time travel… that metaphor quickly went nowhere) or he will have them anyways. He doesn’t actually know that the spiritual powers of his friends have awakened yet which is too bad for him because they were pretty bad ass moments even if Orihime’s powers are super lame.

Last volume ended with the introduction of Uryu Ishida, a mysterious kid in Ichigo’s class who has the power to defeat Hollows and hates shinigami. We quickly learn this volume that he is the last member of a group long thought to be extinct called the Quincy (humans who battle Hollows but rather than cleansing them and sending them to Soul Society, they simply kill them). He challenges Ichigo to a duel to see who can defeat the most Hollows using their particular style. Releasing a Hollow bait, Uryu summons dozens of Hollows in to the world for he and Ichigo to fight (Uryu isn’t worried that they’ll harm anyone because he’s so confident in his Hollow slaying abilities). As Ichigo and Uryu battle Hollows, other residents of Karakura town soon realize that they have powers of their own. Ever since they were saved by Ichigo (in different incidents), Tatsuki, Orihime, and Chad can all see ghosts and Hollows with varying degrees of accuracy. When a Hollow attacks Chad and Ichigo’s sister Karin, Chad finally accepts his inner strength (he has inborn pacifist issues from his father) and a giant armored arm replaces one of his normal arms and he defeats a Hollow (and then passes out). Orihime and Tatsuki are also attacked by a Hollow, and the manga teases you by making you think Tatsuki is going to get powers next when she fights back against the Hollow, but she is quickly overpowered and Orihime’s powers manifest which are six fairy things which give her a magical shield, healing abilities, and the ability to tear a Hollow in half. She too defeats the Hollow attacking her and passes out just as Uruhara shows up with Chad who he has rescued.

One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed the most about this series is the art design (which while Elfen Lied is certainly the superior manga, Bleach runs circles around it in terms of aesthetics), and this was maybe the best drawn volume yet. There were a ton of Hollows this time around, and they all had interesting designs. Ichigo and Uryu mowed through plenty of them (and even more in the anime which was in rare animation form [and by that I mean it looked better than normal]) and we also had the Hollows that Chad and Orihime battled. I also thought it was nice that we got some more back story with Chad (which I’m sure will be revealed in more depth later on) as well as something deeper with the relationship between Orihime and Tatsuki. I just wish that stalker lesbian Chizuru wasn’t around because she seems like a really offensive stereotype. As for Uryu, he’s kind of a lame villain at the moment, but the philosophical debate between the methods of the Quincy versus the methods of the Soul Reapers could make for interesting drama down the line if I didn’t already know that Uryu becomes friends with Ichigo later. There was some stuff in the anime at the end that wasn’t in the books but I’m assuming that will just happen in the next volume like it did last time.

I’m going to keep this review short (because I have to review Tuesday’s Glee cause concerts made me fall way behind this week), but I do have one last comment before I draw things to a close. I really hate how every comic book/manga feels the need to make the main female heroine/sidekick have an enormous chest, and Orihime has most certainly fell prey to the most common superpower. It’s such a sexist and annoying tradition of comics and I wish it would go away. It also doesn’t help that I’m just not crazy about Orihime (especially compared to the more interesting Rukia and Tatsuki), and maybe this is just giving me another reason to dislike her. I’m pretty sure that the incident (besides Rukia’s initial transferal of power to Ichigo) that sets the majority of the rest of the series’ plot in motion is going to be happening soon so for better or worse, Bleach is about to change forever. I hope I can still enjoy the manga after it happens.

Final Score: B