Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 49.95
- Running time: 300
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Bleach
Bleach Box Set 7
Bleach Box Set 7 Anime Review
By Chris Beveridge
January 13, 2011
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Ichigo's attempts to deal with his inner Hollow continues as he goes to the Visoreds for help.
What They Say
While Captain Hitsugaya's advance Soul Reaper troops adjust to life in the World of the Living, Ichigo and his friends undergo extensive training to prepare for the battle with the Arrancars. Ichigo is determined to learn to control his inner Hollow, but the Visoreds he goes to for help are just as determined for him to release it. Then, when Soul Reaper Rangiku saves a young soul from a Mock Arrancar, the extent of Sosuke Aizen's grand scheme is slowly revealed.
Contains episodes 122-133.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The two stereo mixes that are included with this release are pretty good with an encoding of 224 kbps which gives it slightly more depth than the 192 kbps standards we usually hear. With a lot of action to it as well as some exaggerated dialogue sequences, Bleach has a fairly decent stereo mix that has some nice directionality to it but nothing that really sets it out as a truly strong piece. The opening and closing sequences have some solid use but overall the mix is straightforward and competent. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This set contains twelve episodes spread across three discs with four episodes per disc. The transfer for Bleach is on part with previous season sets with a very clean look and solid materials. Colors are solid without any really noticeable bleeding, though some of the red items sometime seem like there's a touch of it. Cross coloration is absent and aliasing is very minimal. Probably more out of expectation, the show does seem a bit soft in how it's presented. Part of it comes from the way so many shows are just so clean and vibrant looking, that something of this nature doesn't feel quite right – especially for something of this pedigree. Backgrounds do exhibit some noise and there are a few very noticeable areas of mosquito noise as well, but by and large this is a good looking release.
Bleach shifts things for the packaging for this set as it uses a standard keepcase that holds the three discs inside of it. The keepcase comes with a slipcover that works like a picture frame as it's all white with the die cut center that shows the keepcase artwork underneath. That artwork which shows through is that of Shinji and because it's an upside down image as seen on the single volumes, it looks really badly here. I really like the die cut design with the slipcover but it doesn't work well with the artwork that's here. The back cover to the slipcover is the same as the keepcase itself which goes back to how we've seen previous season sets. The logo is along the left, vertical, while the right has blank space along the upper half. The bottom half gives the short summary of what the season is about as well as the production information. What's included in the set is there as well as the strip along the bottom that would normally be a technical grid but is instead all about the logos. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release mirrors the front cover with its die cut slipcover design except that it’s sideways instead with the framing, and that there are a few other softer gray ones in the background. The foreground one in black allows for clips from the show to play throughout it that are tied to that respective volume and with the music associated, it all has a nice mood setting feeling to it for this season. The navigation strip is along the bottom with quick access times to submenus and starting the show. Viz continues to avoid direction episode navigation from the top level but they're not the only ones to still do that. While this is a simple approach, it's done well and is a definite change from how Viz has done things in the past. On the downside, the discs did not correctly read our players' language presets and defaulted to English only for audio and no subtitles – which is unfortunate since there isn't a sign/song subtitle track so you initially believe the songs are not subtitled.
The extras for this release are pretty standard as we saw with the single volume discs in that we get the clean ending sequence and more production artwork. There's something called the Kon test, but every time I tried to use it, the disc went into stop mode and back to the player menu, not the disc menu. There's also an omake section but I didn't check it out as the Kon test section ticked me off with what it was doing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shifting Bleach to smaller sets of twelve episodes is certainly an interesting approach and so far I think it's working fairly well as we get into the Arrancar arc of the series. The previous set had a good flow to it as it got back on track after a really long and uninteresting filler arc by bringing Aizen back to the forefront. With it being twelve episodes, it moved quickly, introduced a lot of material and kept the characters and the viewer on their feet. It also ended at just the right point by putting Ichigo on notice that he's lucky to be alive at this point and has to figure out what he needs to do in order to deal with this new enemy.
Over the twelve episodes in this set, a fair bit of ground is also covered but it's more in the setup phase than a heavy action phase. There is a good bit of fighting, often through training, but it doesn't have the heavy feeling that we got in the first set. The opening side of the set works really well as it has Ichigo going to see Shinji and the other Visoreds since they have mastered the way to suppress their Hollow aspects. The battle of wills that takes place is almost amusing as Shinji tells him it's not a matter of him wanting it, it's a matter of their being willing to train someone who is worthy of joining them and that's all. Yet he doesn't want to join them, but he clearly has both the power and the need. Ichigo's nature gets him what he wants, but it's not exactly what he had hoped for.
The battle to deal with his Hollow side, something he's very afraid will overtake him because of his nature, has him facing off against it in the virtual space again where he's conquered his zanpakuto before. This time, it's not there but the Hollow version of him as a black and white aggressive and angry person is. The battle he fights against the Hollow is two fold though, as he has to deal with this internal battle where his mind is focused on it and without a weapon, while his body turns more and more into a Hollow on the outside as the Visoreds do what they can to slow him down, hoping that he'll actually conquer it. The inner battle has some interesting dialogue to it, but I find myself conflicted about the king and horse analogy as Ichigo's obvious and expected victory should have the Hollow side completely put down under his control, especially going by the way the Hollow side of him lays out the whole concept.
One subplot that comes up in this set that I liked a lot involved Orihime as she's still coping with finding her place in what's about to come. The threat level only continues to grow as the realization of what Aizen has in the works but Orihime is unable to really help as her only offensive capability has been broken as Tsubaki via the hair ornament was shattered in the last battle. There's a strong push by others to get her to stay out, which doesn't exactly anger her, but makes her feel even more useless as she sees the training that not only Ichigo is going through, but Chad as well as he manages to get Abari and Urahara to help him with some training so he can go toe to toe with what's coming.
Where the show goes kind of off kilter a bit, and at first into seemingly filler territory, is when Rangiku comes across as young boy being accosted by a Hollow that's trying to take his spirit power as he's already dead and has the chain on his chest. You can see the story that's going to come from it as he has to be the gruff loner punk kid who doesn't need anyone's help even though he's in a tough situation and really does need it so he can get some finality in regards to his sister. What saves it is that the Hollows that are going after him are part of a large plan that Aizen is letting unfold and it actually has a purpose. It's just involving the kids reduces the impact and lets it go in unwelcome directions that the show wouldn't otherwise with at least late teen characters if not older.
There are light moments to be had in this set as well, such as having Hitsugaya get involved with an elementary school soccer game or Ikkaku getting all into the mindset of going through a kendo competition against another school. But a lot of what defines everything here is the growing darkness that they're going to have to face. Through the encounter with the Hollows, they learn about Aizen's plan to sacrifice some hundred thousand souls on Earth in order for him to go to the Royal Family of the Soul Society to get what he needs to move his plan to the next level. The introduction of a higher level to the Soul Society isn't unexpected, but making it a figurehead thing with royalty feels a little unusual. Still, with Aizen and his group making their moves here and there in preparation and watching Ichigo and the others taking it all very seriously and training hard, the set has a good feel to it and moves well.
There's a lot to like with this set of twelve episodes, even if it does feature a Rangiku fashion template montage as she spends some time shopping in the World of the Living, as it gets things moving well after the introduction of both the Arrancars and the Visoreds in the previous set. The world of Bleach continues to expand, even if it doesn't feel like it's all fully mapped out to make sense, in a way that keeps it relatively exciting and fun to watch. In particular, I like that Ichigo can essentially be off screen for several episodes as others deal with their training or the Soul Reapers acting as advance agents on Earth spend their time doing research and investigating what's going on. And going shopping and getting involved with people in a way they shouldn't. It finds the right mix of action, comedy and story building that makes it fun to watch.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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