Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 2 - Europe
- Released By: Manga UK
- MSRP: 19.99
- Running time: 200
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Bleach
Bleach Vol. 1:2
By Bryan Morton
March 04, 2008
Release Date: February 25, 2008
What They Say
With hordes of soul-eating Hollows descending on the human world, Soul Reaper Ichigo and his rival Uryu have their hands more than full! A Hollow that can turn humans into zombies attacks the school, and in the struggle to save her friends, Ichigo's classmate Orihime discovers her own unique spiritual powers.
Rukia the Soul Reaper knows she is on borrowed time, staying in the world of the living longer than allowed. Having transferred her powers to Ichigo, she is in big trouble when two enforcers from the Soul Society come after her. Now Ichigo will have to master his sword and learn to control his spiritual energy if he is to save her from execution!
Comprises episodes 13-20.The Review!
Ishida's attempt to score one over on Ichigo backfires when his lure attracts something far more powerful than expected, while the Soul Society would like to have a word with Rukia about why she's spent so long in the human world…Audio:
Audio is presented in English and Japanese 2.0 stereo. I’ve been trying to widen my linguistic boundaries lately, to I listed to this release in both English and Japanese. Both tracks are fairly standard stereo mixes, with some effort having been made to properly place dialogue and effects on the soundstage but nothing particularly spectacular past that. There were no obvious dropouts or other problems. As for the English track - I’ve been becoming more accepting of dubbed anime lately, and Bleach is another series where the quality of the English voice-acting has quite impressed me.Video:
Video’s hard to quantify in one way – this is a recent show, so in general the animation is clean and colourful, while the transfer is free of any obvious encoding issues. Where it’s strange is that there are scenes dotted throughout the disc where the animation has noticeably more detail (both in terms of shading representing lighting, which adds a lot of depth to the animation, and in the amount of work that’s gone into portraying the characters) than for the rest of the disc. These scenes really do look good, but they’re different enough from the show’s usual level of animation that they do jar a bit. I can’t really criticise for the extra effort having been made, though. Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.Menu:
The menu is a static screen, with an image of one of the main characters broken up under black bars. Options are provided for Play All, direct access to each episode, language setup and extras. There are no transition animations, so it’s all quick & easy to use.Extras:
Each disc (it's a two-disc set) has a creditless version of the show’s closing sequence, and a gallery of production artwork. That’s your lot.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
While clearing up the mess at the school, Orihime spots a giant Hollow, lurking on top of the gymnasium. She's smart enough to know that the others won't be able to see it, and that she really needs to get them away from it - but it's aware that she's seen it, and it's not about to leave any witnesses to its presence. When it attacks, Chizuru is injured - and the injury gives the Hollow control of Chizuru's body, and another way to attack Orihime. Chizuru's not the only one of her classmates that's infected, either - but Orihime has powers of her own that are about to manifest themselves for the first time. Ichigo, meanwhile, is still busy dealing with the Hollow horde unleashed by Ishida, but the sheer number of Hollows that have appeared in the town is far beyond what he expected, and beyond his own ability to contain. If the fight is to be won, Ishida and the others are going to have to work together - but his past history with the Soul Reapers means co-operation isn't high up his list of things to do. The appearance of a Hollow more massive than anything they've seen before, though, may just persuade him otherwise…
Later, Rukia's extended absence from the Soul Society leads to Ichigo being forcibly stripped of the powers she's lent him, and on her return to the Society she's sentenced to death for her actions – sentence to be carried out 25 days hence. In the human world, the only people who even remember her now are those with spiritual powers – Ichigo, Ishida, Chad and Orihime – and together they resolve to get their missing friend back. But first there's the matter of developing their powers to the level needed to take on the Soul Society – training harsh enough that it threatens to kill Ichigo…
I had Ishida pegged last volume as being set up to be a very interesting series villain, but within the first episode here he's turned around to being one of the good guys – a good guy with a chip on his shoulder, perhaps, but useful nonetheless. I can't say that change has done the character any favours, though – I liked
him as an evil so-and-so, and he's just not as much fun on the side of goodness & light. The resolution to the "duel" between Ichigo and Ishida leads to Ishida discovering that he's not as powerful as he thinks he is, and to Ichigo discovering he has more strength than he initially thought. That's a common thread of this release – while Ichigo does meet with the odd setback (such as being killed, although he's not about to let that stop him), as the story goes on he just gets more and more powerful, to the point where he's frankly hugely overpowered.
It's all in the name of rescuing the damsel in distress, though. Rukia always knew that she'd have to return home eventually, and that her return would have consequences – but she never expected a death sentence. Her return to the Soul Society introduces a few new characters – her "brother", Byakuya, who seems as though he'd be quite happy to be rid of his sibling (although there are hints that there relationship may not be as simple as brother and sister – we'll see); Byakuya's second-in-command Renji, who's a little more easy-going but still dedicated to following his orders; and silver-haired Ichimaru, who only appears here briefly but who look likely to be a thorn in Byakuya's side. These are the people that Ichigo and his friends are going to have to fight through to save Rukia, and they're not going to be walkovers.Bleach
has surprised me so far by being a fighting show that's consistently enjoyable – there are enough comic moments and other scenes away from the fighting thrown into the mix to stop the series becoming just one testosterone-filled scene after another, and I appreciate that mix in styles. I also think the characters are a great bunch, and this release has given some of them a little more development and reasons for joining Ichigo's fight. So far, so good.
The only real problem is that so much time is spent preparing Ichigo and the others for their fight against the Soul Society that at times it really does feel that the story has ground to a halt. It's a four-episode arc (the disc ends with the gang ready to leave for the Soul Society) covering several weeks of "real" time, but it feels
horribly slow, even though there are some fun moments along the way as Ichigo begins to realise just how powerful he's become, even without Rukia's powers to draw on. But while the pacing is an issue (an one that's hopefully going to be addressed in future volumes), it's not bad enough yet to spoil the enjoyment of the show.In summary: Bleach
is quickly becoming my favourite fighting show – not much of an accolade, to be fair, but it does have a way of presenting itself and its characters that takes it beyond the tedium that other shows in the genre seem to have. This release is a little slow in places, but not so much so that it becomes a chore to watch. If fighting shows are your kind of thing, you could do far worse than picking this up.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Creditless Ending,Production Art
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.