Much as I loved the Bleach TV series in its earlier days, recent volumes have been a bit… drawn-out for my liking. Nothing quite like the time constraints of a theatrical release to hold that failing in check, though, so here's hoping Memories of Nobody is all that's good from Bleach without the bad…
What They Say
In Karakura Town, there has been a sudden outbreak of unidentifiable spirits called "blanks" (vacant souls) while in the skies of Soul Society, the real world has been reflected. A mysterious female shinigami called Senna has appeared before Ichigo along with a man named Ganryu, leading a group called the "Dark Ones".
Audio is presented in English and Japanese 2.0 stereo versions. The observant will notice that the 5.1 options that were on the movie's US release aren't present, so there's a black mark for starters. I listened to the Japanese track for this review, and there's decent use made of the available soundstage to provide depth to the action scenes, while dialogue is clean and clear. There were no obvious problems – it's just a shame that we missed out on a full surround track when one's clearly available.
Video comes in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and as you'd expect from a theatrical release is impressive to look at. Colours are bright and vibrant and animation fluidly done, with the encode doing a good job of capturing it all without anything noticeable in the way of defects. Impressive.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The menu system is simple enough, with Ichigo featuring on the main screen against an ominous sky. Options are provided for Play Feature, scene selection, Set-up, and Trailers.
Yet again, the UK release is shortchanged compared to the US, as the bonus disc that came with the R1 version isn't included here. That leaves us with no extras, other than the aforementioned trailers for other Manga releases.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Ichigo's already weird existence gets even weirder when he and Rukia, encounter a group of mysterious white ghosts who are quickly dispatched by a carefree and absent-minded girl calling herself Senna. She appears to be another Soul Reaper, but if she is, why have they never heard of her before and what is the cause of her rather severe and inconvenient amnesia? Coinciding with the appearance of Senna and the rather unusual spirits is a strange phenomenon that is affecting the dimension that bridges the gap between the living world and that of the Soul Society. Further investigation by Ichigo and Rukia reveals the work of a vengeful group of beings calling themselves the "Dark Ones" and who are determined to cause a chaotic colliding of dimensions that will ultimately destroy all worlds. Only Ichigo, Rukia and their fellow Soul Reapers have the power to prevent the disaster, but will their spirit vanquishing fighting skills be enough?
Anyone who's read my reviews of shonen shows, including Bleach, will know that I get a bit hot under the collar when it comes to fight scenes that go on for ever. At the time of writing this, I'm partway through the Seireitei arc in the Bleach TV series, and after well over 20 episodes of it I'm losing the will to live. But you'll also know that, outside of the fight sequences, I've considered Bleach one of the better and more inventive Shonen Jump shows out there, and the constraints put on the story by a movie-length offering play up its strengths. But before we get to that…
The movie takes place after the show's Seireitei arc, which allows many of the characters first introduced as adversaries there to come into play as allies here. I always had a hard time keeping track of the Soul Society captains and lieutenants, and that doesn't change much here – fortunately their appearances are short and to the point, just long enough to let them show off their signature moves before we move onto the next. Ichigo and Senna are the real stars of the show.
Ichigo we already know all about, while Senna is perhaps the most interesting and curious character introduced to the show so far. She's full of life, full of energy, and eager to help those around her (living or otherwise) who are in need. She's also a powerful Soul Reaper, able to deal with an army of Blanks that Ichigo and Rukia weren't even able to touch. But thanks to her 'amnesia' she's also something of a mystery – where she came from and what she truly is are both questions that are core to the movie's plot. Personally, I loved her, and it's a huge shame that, with the movie done in such a way that it's a stand-alone story, there's no likelihood of her ever making it into the regular cast.
And then there are the bad guys, who receive far less in the way of development. Their aim is simply to close the gap between the dimensions that contain our world and the world of the Soul Society, and by doing so destroy reality itself – Senna is the key to being able to do that (for reasons awkwardly explained in the movie), and so Ichigo and the other Soul Reapers are brought into the conflict, in an effort to both save the world and, at least from Ichigo's point of view, save Senna as well. The villains are cookie-cutter characters, given only the most basic personalities and motives, and there simply to be fought against. In some ways that's a shame, but in others that's really all we need them for.
It's all the good parts of Bleach, without the bad. There's some off-beat humour, the development of a real connection between Ichigo and Senna, and plenty of Soul Reaper action which is kept short & to the point. The decent story, coupled with the high production values, make it very easy to watch, and the pacing only rarely lets off enough for you to catch your breath. If only it could be like this all the time. I can't even think of anything significant abou the movie that I didn't like, other than the way the Big Red Reset Button is so enthusiastically hit at the end of it (although hold on for a touching short scene after the closing credits), but that's par for the course for movies such as these and not a surprise at all.
Memories of Nobody really is Bleach at its best, with plenty going on and a 'guest' lead character in Senna who really does hold the attention well. Its standalone nature is probably the only flaw, but that's minor when offset against all that's good here. Even if you're not a fan of the TV series, this movie should be well worth a look.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.