Bleach Box Set 5 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, June 24, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Eighteen episodes that revolve squarely around fighting and a little bit of back story. Pardon me while I yawn.
What They Say
The deadly Bounts have infiltrated the Soul Society seeking revenge, and Ichigo and his comrades are quick to follow. But with the large amounts of reishi available in the Soul Society, the Bounts' power seems nearly limitless, and even the most formidable Soul Reaper captains have a grueling fight on their hands.
At the Department of Research and Development, Bount leader Jin Kariya is after the Bount Crest known as Jokaisho, which has the power to blow all of the Seireitei away, and only Ichigo and Chad stand in his way!
Contains episodes 92-109.
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 eighteen episodes spread across four discs with four episodes per disc for the first two and five on each of the second two discs. Being a recent show, the transfer for it is in very clean and solid shape and is for the most part generally a good looking release. 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.
Similar to the fourth season box sets, we get a good release that I wish the first three seasons had gotten. Rather than the digipak we’ve had before, we know get a thin cardboard cover that holds four black thinpak cases. The color of choice this time is a deep black for the overall design which works nicely to make this a dangerous looking set. The central focus for the character artwork is that of Ichigo and Byakuya together looking very tough and powerful. It’s very simple but highly effective with the serious look and the way the eye is dawn right to the characters. There isn’t a lot of text on the front here which works out nicely. The back is designed like previous digipaks but in the shade of blue where it uses the series name and breaks out what it is. The summary is kept to the lower right with white text on the black that looks good but is pretty minimal overall. The discs production and technical information is all listed underneath that, though I would have liked to have an episode listing/breakdown there as well as the other place it’s found on the back isn’t quickly visible.
Inside the box we get the individual thinpak cases which all utilize the same artwork as was found with the individual disc releases. Though clear might have worked better, these covers are all very appealing with the elemental color backgrounds and the strong focus on the character artwork. The back covers are all laid out the same with a good bit of open unused space, a brief summary of what the story for that volume is and a listing of the episodes to be found on there. There are several shots from each episode also provided with each volume and a simple breakdown grid that’s more about the logos and copyrights more than anything else. No show related inserts are included in this release nor are there reversible covers.
The menu design is one of the better ones from Viz in recent memory as it uses the blocking movements from the opening sequence to showcase scenes from the show. Kept to an all black background, the visuals slide in and out along with lines of color all set to a brief bit of instrumental music. 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.
A few extras are on the discs here and spread out across all of them. Each disc has a selection of production art pieces which covers the basics of characters and the like while we also get a clean version of the closing sequence. The fourth volume has the unique piece to this set and it's not a behind the scenes piece like we usually get. Instead we have a section where we can select each of the thirteen captains, by symbol only unfortunately, and get a screen of text and character artwork that breaks each of them down a little. It's decent, but it obviously lacks any kind of depth.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the two box sets that made up the fourth season where it was all about a lengthy setup, the fifth season is a few episodes shorter and is all about the action. In a non-complimentary way, this season felt a bit like Dragon Ball Z where it's one long series of fight sequences. This is the payoff arc to all the setup as the Bounts have used Ishida and his Quincy heritage to gain access to the Soul Society so they can change it and make up for all the pain and suffering that they've had to deal with over the centuries.
Because of the nature of this particular season, there's really not a lot to it in terms of really meaty material. The arrival of the Bounts to the Soul Society has them seeking out those they can sway to their side, which there are quite a few because of the class system that's set up there. While we've predominantly seen those in the upper class that are Soul Reapers with great power and relatively fancy and clean digs, there's a good number of people that live outside the main walls that have no powers at all and a significant portion of them live in what looks like poverty conditions. They're ripe for Kariya and the others to tweak and nudge into following them as they can portray themselves as liberating and changing Seireitei so that it's a more just and noble place for all of its citizens, not just the Soul Reaper's themselves.
While the Bounts figure out the best way to approach Seireitei and get past the gates, Ichigo and the others end up crashing with Ganju and She Who Must Be Obeyed as they make their own plans. Sadly, Kon gets separated from the group and spends practically the entire arc elsewhere, off screen, only to show up briefly at the end all ticked off that he wasn't able to be of help. Not a surprise, but I had hoped to see a bit more of him since I find him a very welcome bit of comic relief in a series that often takes itself far too seriously. With both groups figuring out how to proceed, the show slowly makes its way into Seireitei and we end up going down the path of multiple fights.
What I discovered with this set, and was fairly aware of with the previous set, is that the entire Bount arc lacked any sort of real attachment for me. The core cast of characters that are new here, the Bounts, really were pretty bland at best. They were either in it for revenge, as we learn the truth of Kariya's story, change such as Koga wanted or just for the hell of it as we got from the others who had their own little issues to deal with. The Bounts all have their reasons for being there and their anger, something we get a lot more back story on here as the origins of the Bounts are brought to light and how the Council swept them under the rug, but it lacks any sort of real connection for the viewer. It's all just happening, very predictably, and without any serious emotion. None of the Bounts really leave an impression here, enough so that it was hard remembering most of their names outside of Kariya until they were rarely send in the show itself.
Where the arc tries to spend some time is in the back story of how the Bounts came to be as the actual creator, Rantao, arrives in the midst of a battle after biding her time and building her power for... what, hundreds and hundreds of years? She's got a guilt complex over what happened to them upon their accidental creation and the way the Council treated them afterward. She's got a few minor ties to the Living World that we see through Ishida but by and large she's trying to serve as the moral weight of the arc by atoning for what's happened before and making it all right. Sadly, she's such a cardboard character with no real past of her own that she can't even begin to pull off the role. As the story goes on and more details arrive as more research is given over to the subplots, we do see just what happened way back when but it's all like Rantao herself, it's clinical and simply there.
The fifth season of Bleach is thankfully over, and when you add in the two box sets of the fourth season to the total storyline of the Bounts, it's really amazing that they spent this many episodes to tell such an uninteresting story. Sadly, they were caught in the place where they had to fill out a good chunk of time until new manga stories were available and they had to make something that wouldn't have any lasting impact. Most fans could feel that this had no impact, which isn't a bad thing, but they didn't make it compelling and fun to watch. Even Ichigo knew to hide from a lot of this as he and Rukia have little screen time overall as more time is spent with everyone else across numerous fights. That certainly didn't help it either. I'm hard pressed to call this a bad arc, but it's the kind of material that doesn't leave a good impression in the long run. At this stage, I'm just glad it's done and over with and hopefully on to much better things.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Artwork, Clean Closings, Thirteen Captains Squad Roster
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.
Mania Grade: C-
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
Running time: 450
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2