I have something sort of embarrassing to admit. While I’ve been watching/reading Bleach and Elfen Lied (as well as reviewing them on here), I’ve been reading Naruto off and on (I can’t sit through the anime. I just can’t do it). Even when the adventures/villains in Naruto are cool in that “appeals to my inner child” kind of way, the series suffers from one absolutely major problem that I had to stop reading the books because it bothered me so much. Generally speaking, most anime do a good job of introducing new powers for the heroes. The series quickly establishes a set number of superpowers that our protagonists may have and through training or duress (but in those situations, the powers have been alluded to in the past like becoming a Super Saiyan) they gain others. Villains can suddenly gain new powers but that’s for plot twist value. In Naruto, it seemed like four or five new abilities were introduced in every single fight like the author was just pulling the universe’s rules out of his ass. It really bothered me and thankfully,Bleach has managed to not fall prey to that anime shortcoming (though Ichigo’s status as a “determinator” is still pretty ridiculous).

The last volume ended with Uruhara’s assistant Tessai severing Ichigo’s soul chain saying that the only way he can become ashinigami (and now not become a Hollow) is to forcibly regain his soul power in the short time he has left before his transformation. Put under a binding spell, Ichigo is dropped into a massive pit with three days to get his powers back. We see some quick scenes where Chad and Orihime are being trained (in far less “life-and-death” stakes) by the talking cat Yoruichi (I’m just going to assume there’s a story there) to awaken their own spiritual powers at will rather than under moments of great duress. Similarly, back in the Soul Society, we learn that (as Rukia predicted) she is to be executed in 25 days, most likely at the request of her brother Byakuya (though that isn’t made clear). We meet to other members of the Soul Society hierarchy. One’s name is Gin Ichimaru (I think) and Kenpachi Ziraki. I just looked it up. They are captains of different divisions (like Byakuya). Ziraki taunts Byakuya about Rukia’s fate but the incredibly swift (and I’m assuming powerful) Gin stops their from being any potential violence. Back in Uruhara’s shop/training area, the 72 hours come and go and Ichigo makes no progress in regaining his powers. As the last of his soul chain is devoured, he begins to transform into a hollow and Tessai decides it’s time to kill Ichigo before he becomes what one would assume would be an absurdly powerful Hollow.

While Ichigo’s body is becoming covered in the Hollow “material” (?), he begins to have a vision of a strange man in a cape in a world of boxes. The man tries to tell him his name but Ichigo is unable to hear it. Suddenly, the world begins to dissolve around Ichigo and the man implores him to find the box with his shinigami powers (at which point Ichigo remembers Ishida’s story about how shinigami‘s soul ribbons are red). Ichigo finds the hilt of his zanpakuto (though not the blade). In  a massive explosion, he destroys the giant implement Tessai was going to use to kill him and emerges out of the pit in his shinigami robe. He also has a Hollow mask on but with one quick bash of his sword’s hilt, Ichigo is back to his normal bad-ass self. He passes his second test and now must do his third and final one which is to knock the hat off of Uruhara’s head who draws his own zanpakuto (which means he’s hiding something about himself). Uruhara nearly kills Ichigo when Ichigo sees his zanpakuto‘s spirit again and finally learns the swords name, zangetsu. It becomes a massive sword whose type I can’t really name and Ichigo easily (in one swing) knocks off Uruhara’s hat (and would have killed Uruhara if he hadn’t put up a shield). Seven days later (after Chad, Orihime, and Ichigo all say goodbye to their families), they return to Uruhara’s shop one last time (along with Uryu) to finally enter Soul Society. Uruhara has created a massive portal but he gives them a dire warning. They only have four minutes to make it through. Any more and they’ll be stuck between the world’s forever and thus they head out with Yoruichi as their guide.

Once again, Bleach continues to expand the mythology of the series and I still enjoy it. It hasn’t become overly complicated but it also isn’t mind-numbingly simple like say the mythology of DBZ. The way that their weapons are apparently sentient spiritual beings reminds me at least a little bit of Soul Eater (though those weapons were straight up people. Kind of. I never really understood how the hell that all worked). And while it still bothers me that it took Ichigo simply learning his sword’s name to quickly overpower Uruhara (who is perhaps the “Big Good” of the series to the “Big Bad” that is [for now] Byakuya), at least it was a suitably bad-ass moment. And while I can’t make up my mind whether or not his current zanpakuto (when it’s named) looks cooler than the sword when it was unnamed, I definitely know that Renji’s flail-sword was much more bad-ass. However, the art-work (on the show especially cause it had color) where we see Ichigo with both the soul reaper stuff and the Hollow mask with all of the bandages flowing off of him cause of Tessai’s spell was one of the best drawn scenes from the series so far. It really sold how bad ass that whole moment was.

I could probably write a little bit more but I still have to review Glee from last night plus do my “Song of the Day” post so I’ll draw my rantings about Bleach to a close. We began the Soul Society arc the second that Rukia ran away from Ichigo’s house and three volumes later, I’m still enjoying this story. Maybe things will change when we actually reach the Soul Society, but I’ve even enjoyed the scenes that I’ve read that have occurred there. There’s this interesting feudal Japan thing going on that lends it an air of mystery (at least to me as a non-Japanese person), and there are certainly bad guys and good guys in the group. The series teased us that Renji was the real psycho of his duo but we’re quickly learning that title (of villain if not psycho) goes to Byakuya, and that there might be people within the Soul Society that are even worse than him. Tite Kubo keeps crafting a really cool world and as long as this world remains interesting and I keep learning awesome new things about it, I’ll keep giving this series my attention.

Final Score: B