I have a headache and my entire body aches plus I’m running on very little sleep, so I’m probably going to try to keep my blogging to a minimum today. I still have to do my Game of Thrones post for last night’s episode as well as my “Song of the Day” post (which I’ve fortunately already picked out). However, after I finish this Bleach review (which I’m going to try and keep short) as well as those two, I’m putting the computer down and probably just falling asleep for 12 hours. I’m mildly concerned that I’m coming down with the flu or something because I have a slight tickle in the back of my throat and literally a couple minutes ago, one of my ears started to hurt a little bit. I actually did physically exertive work at the office today so I’m just praying I’ve worn myself out really bad and that I’m not really sick. Either way, I need to get this Bleach review done. Without question, it’s easy to say that this particular volume of Bleach will be a turning point for the series (for better or worse) and many of the events herein will have long-lasting consequences down the road.

After their fights with Hollows that awoke their spiritual powers, Chad and Orihime learn from Uruhara that their contact with Ichigo allowed them to tap into their natural spirit powers. They don’t have much time to chat though because Ichigo and Uryu’s duel is drawing far more Hollows than Uryu had anticipated and things only get worse when a giant Hollow rips apart the fabric of space/time and emerges. This Godzilla sized Hollow is known as a Menos Grande, a type of Hollow so powerful that only elite shinigami have a chance of defeating it. Ichigo goes in head-first without a plan cause he’s a hot-blooded shonen hero archetype (think Goku but not quite as naive) and proceeds to get flicked away. Even Uryu’s spirit bow can’t dent it. However, Uryu learns that by touching Ichigo he can magnify the size of his bow greatly. Before they can use that plan to attack Menos Grande, it readies a massive beam weapon and for reasons I don’t really understand Ichigo charges the Hollow again taking the blast full in the face. This suddenly causes his power level (Spirit power or whatever the in-universe term is. I just hear Radditz yelling IT’S OVER 9000!!!) to increase drastically and Ichigo is able to not only withstand the attack but wound the Menos Grande enough for it to return to Hueco Mundo (whatever that is). Ichigo collapses because expelling that much spiritual energy is nearly destroying his body and Uryu (his rival) nearly sacrifices himself to help Ichigo release the energy in a safe manner. Days later, things have returned to normal in Karakura town when suddenly Rukia runs away only to be confronted by two Soul Reapers, Renji Abari and her brother Byakuya Kuchiki, who have been sent to capture her for the crime of transferring her powers to a human (and to also kill Ichigo).

So here were the things I really dug about this volume. Once again, we got an idea of the darker side of the Soul Society. We saw it through the death of Uryu’s grandfather, who wanted to finally bring peace between the Quincy and shinigami but was simply left to die when he was attacked by Hollows. We also meet the almost comically evil Renji Abari who seems to take way too much pleasure in hunting down one of his former comrades (and I’m desperately trying to bite my tongue about how he behaves in the last episode of the anime which I’m assuming occurs in the next volume). While Renji and Byakuya are the only two shinigami we’ve met in the manga besides Rukia, we also met another one earlier in the anime (during Memories in the Rain) that wasn’t much more sympathetic than Renji (though he eventually decided to spare Rukia). I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. This series strong suit lies in the way that it subverts your expectations of a shonen fantasy manga. When the series eventually becomes more conventional (and therefore more predictable), it’s going to lose some of that magic that makes me capable of enjoying something that is as clearly meant for young teenagers (at most) as this franchise.

I have one last thing to say before I go watch Game of Thrones (apparently last night’s episode was really messed up. Can’t wait!). This was the volume where we finally start to see the writing become plagued with Ichigo doing something stupid but getting away with it because he’s just so naturally powerful. I don’t like those kinds of shonen heroes. Edward Elric and L are great shonen protagonists because they use their brains more than their brawn. I just really don’t buy into those whole “gets by by pure force of will alone” plot devices and I know that Ichigo lives and breathes on them. Now that Uryu is sort of one of the good guys now (and we’ve learned more about his tragic backstory), I’m already beginning to find him to be a little more interesting than Ichigo which is definitely not the way that you want your protagonist to be thought of.

Final Score: B