The Rescue story arc finally comes to an appropriate ending…
What They Say
Rukia's life has been spared - for the moment. While Renji races away from the execution grounds with Rukia in his arms, Ichigo's battle with Rukia's cold-blooded brother, Byakuya Kuchiki, rages on. Can a substitute Soul Reaper vanquish the most accomplished captain of the Seireitei?
Before the dust can settle, even greater upheaval shakes the Soul Society to its core when the depth of the deception and betrayal at the hands of a beloved - and supposedly dead - captain comes to light. Ichigo and his comrades may have saved Rukia from execution, but who will save the Soul Society?
Contains episodes 59-63.
As usual, we listened to Bleach in its original language of Japanese. We also sampled the English track, which does a fairly good job of keeping up with standard set by the Japanese cast. In listening to both language tracks we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Again, the transfer for Bleach does not disappoint in its original full frame aspect ratio. Bleach’s transfer is consistently clean and pleasing to watch. All of the colors appear very solid and exhibit great vibrancy. Cross coloration is absent and aliasing is almost nonexistent. On rare occasions there is just a small bit of noticeable background noise, but nothing to be concerned about.
For this collection we are treated to the final boxart color variation for “The Rescue”. Volume 15 continues to feature the silver foil front cover design. In addition, the spine of the case and the volume number is now colored in blue. The same logo and text layout appears as it did in the previous volumes. With the mysterious, yet sinister Captain Sosuke Aizen featured on the front cover. The backside of the case contains the usual series name displayed in silver along with the volume and episode numbers. The standard brief Viz summary of the volume is also contained here along with a few shots from the show. The standard technical information about the DVD is provided at the bottom. The insert for this volume, like the previous volumes, is a black piece with the title from the back cover on it along with chapter stops. The inside jacket has now changed to a white background with the black soul society graphic. A nice little extra inclusion is a sticker sheet that has the front cover and four smaller stickers for each episode number. As a bonus, this collection comes with a key chain!
As with previous volumes, the same cool menu design is used in this release. The blocking movements are used again from the opening sequence to showcase various scenes from episodes 59-63. Again, all of this is kept to an all black background with visuals that slide in and out along with lines of color all set to a brief bit of instrumental music from the show. The navigation strip is along the bottom that has very quick access to the submenus.
Again, as in previous volumes, the same types of extras are featured. A selection of production art for some of the characters is also available. We also get a clean version of the closing sequence. The manga preview contained in this volume is mainly an advertisement for Viz’s other manga titles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
The primary plot point for the past 40 some episodes to save Rukia finally come to a satisfying ending. However, this does not cleanly tie up everything into one nice little package. You will also find that these five episodes cover a lot of ground really, really fast…
As this volume opens, we see the Ryoku gang finally makes it to the top of Soukyoku Hill a little too late as all of the major action is now happening elsewhere. They are greeted by Lieutenant Yachiro who helps them piece together what is going on. These characters have been somewhat neglected as of late, and it is good to see them come together at the end to provide moral support for Ichigo and Rukia as both of them are going to need it.
Of course the Byakua and Ichigo showdown continues and runs amok throughout the duration of the first episode. There must be infinite amounts of blood for everyone in the Soul Society. As the rivals take blows to all important parts of the body there is bleeding, more bleeding and blood spurts galore. Ichigo and Byakua could literally fill up the Red Cross blood bank supply for a year! As with any Bleach fight, there are copious amounts of monologuing to satisfy that Shonen craving that everyone so desires. Oh, and I might add that the mysterious Hollow mask makes its appearance again as Ichigo is pushed to his mental and physical limits. It is probably the first time we really get to see Byakua a bit freaked out! With both men literally near death, Byakua finally comes clean with his motives and admits defeat. Byakua finally comes to grips with the possibility that the promise he made to his family and the very reason he is fighting might not be a worthy cause.
Upon the conclusion of the big fight, the focus returns to Central 46. The Central 46 have been murdered and dead for quite some time. As Tôshirô and Rangiku piece together what has happened, and discover the truth, the culprits, Gin and Aizen show up. Aizen reveals his true nature to Tôshirô as he explains his cold, calculated use of Momo. This episode, and in fact the whole collection, really makes you want to hate Aizen. He toys with Tôshirô and effortlessly drops him to the ground in one fell swoop. Aizen arrogantly continues to reveal who, what, when, where, and how he has managed to accomplish what he has done when Captain Unohana and Lieutenant Isane Kotetsu show up to back up Tôshirô.
An alert is sent out to all squads, even the Ryoka about Aizen’s plot. It leaves you wondering what the pair is really up to, but even that is soon to be discovered. The loose ends are quickly coming together at this point. Knowing they are on plan B, Aizen and Gin quickly turn the attention to the task of capturing Rukia. They track down Renji and Rukia, and transport the pair back to the site of the Soukyoku. Renji attempts to protect Rukia, but his effots are futile before an arrogant, power-bloated Aizen. But, Aizen hasn’t faced Ichigo yet. Just as it seems like Aizen is about to have his way with Renji, Ichigo shows up. For all their effort the pair cannot save Rukia from Aizen.
Now, the truth behind the whole story arc is finally revealed as Aizen begins to explain his true intentions. His goal is to gain the ultimate power by fusing Hollows with Soul Reapers. He wants to harness the power that Kisuke Urahara (aka. Hat and Clogs) used to create a material known Hogyoku. It is a forbidden orb that can dramatically increase a Soul Reaper’s abilities by removing the barrier between Soul Reaper and Hollow. This orb was planted by Urahara into none other than Rukia to hide it. Aizen, learning of the orb’s whereabouts, planned Rukia’s execution in order to recover the orb.
As reinforcements show up, Aizen’s purpose for the entire twisted plot is fulfilled as he reaches within Rukia’s soul and extracts the Hogyku. With the Hogyku in hand, Aizen orders Gin to kill Rukia. In the nick of time, Byakua shows up to saving Rukia while getting speared in the process.
A royal rumble sorts ensue as Soul Reapers and former Soul Reapers show up to assist in stopping Aizen. But as Aizen’s back is against the wall, a Menos Grande appears in the sky above them, and provides the schemers a grand exit using an impenetrable light that envelopes the evil trio.
As the collection draws to a close, the backstory for Rukia’s inclusion in one of the four great families is revealed. Byakua reveals his motives for his actions against Rukia. He begins by telling her about his marriage to her older sister, Hisana. Byakua’s marriage to Hisana defied the intentions of his family name. When his wife was gravely ill, she asked that he find Rukia, her sister that was separated from her. Her dying wish was for him to find Rukia and to protect her. Byakua made two vows then; to not defy the law again and to protect Rukia. In retrospect, Byakua realizes that his obedience to the law in this case, wasn’t the best choice. Hind sight is always 20 – 20, smart boy.
With all of the fighting that has occurred, you can’t close this story arc out without some campy, slap stick humor. The last episode contains that infamous Bleach humor that comes in at just the right time as the seriousness of the overarching plot has now concluded! Mix in some sake, a couple of other Soul Reapers, and Rangiku, and you get some real good laughs.
The final loose ends are tied together, and Ichigo is finally acknowledged by the court guard with a Substitute Soul Reaper Badge. As the crew returns home, you know that more battling fun is coming down the track. Since Ichigo is now an acknowledged Soul Reaper, the only question now is who will be the next enemy and is how quickly will Aizen make his move?
The Rescue story arc comes to a satisfying conclusion that ties up a lot of loose ends that have been hanging out there for some time. A former rival of Ichigo’s finally comes clean with his bullheadedness and admits to his failings. An evil plot that has run through the entirety of the Bleach saga has fully revealed its ugly head, and it’s nasty. A former ally has played everyone as fools as he finally gains the ultimate power that he has so desperately sought. This collection really amps up the hate factor towards Aizen and sets the tone for a new plot that I will anxiously be awaiting.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Artwork, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, Samsung BDP-1000 Blu-ray Player with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.