It's time to do another side story that would feel a whole lot more appropriate at Halloween.
What They Say:
Two monster hunters arrive at an old castle where Franken Ichigo, Succubus Rukia, Vampire Uryu, Pumpkin Orihime, Mummy Renji, Witch Rangiku, and Wolfman Hitsugaya all live as lackluster monsters.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It's not too much of a surprise that Bleach is playing again in the realm of the filler story since they usually take a little time to get going each year after the break. In some ways you wish it was more like US TV in that they'd just air repeats for the duration rather than put the fans through things that the most vocal don't like, but ratings tend to not suffer too hugely and there's the fear of taking the brand off the air for too long at a time. What is strange is that while last weeks episode worked well as a New Year's themed story for the most part, this one feels like it belongs at Halloween as it deals with Franken-Ichigo.
With this being the kind of episode it is, plot really doesn't matter much as it's more about the gags and visuals that come up from it. Ichigo looks surprisingly good as a Frankenstein's monster character and some of his internal monologue bits reminded me of Ataru's brief time spent in the same role back in Urusei Yatsura. Rukia makes her appearances as a pint sized succubus in red leather with black wings that sits on Ichigo's shoulder to help get him where he needs to go. Hitsugaya's priceless as a wolfboy of some sort but it's Rangiku who makes you all warm inside as she wears a traditional anime style witches outfit. The Soul Society as viewed as a horror location is very well done, showing how it can be adapted into another form and still retain its charms.
With everyone being portrayed as monsters, having them on the opposite side of the norm by being the ones hunted adds a nice bit of fun to it all. When the monster hunters show up, in the form of Ryuken and Ichigo's father, it's pretty much all over the map in action and comedy as they go back and forth. There's subplot material to it with the Snow Crystal, but as I said, plot is really inconsequential here as it's all about being silly and having fun. Yet they manage to do it with a fair bit of style as well. Often these kinds of story can be misses rather than hits, but Bleach has found the right balance this time around and have put in a bit of extra effort and attention to detail to make it a surprisingly fun episode overall.
Part of the fun of fantasy fillers like this is to see the characters in a whole other light. What I've found with this concept over the years is that it's very rare to find one that you'd actually want to see revisited. With the 'lackluster monsters' episode, I have to admit that I'd love to see even a short run spin-off series of everyone in this form and explored a bit more. The character designs work really well, there's a good sense of fun about it and it feels like there's a whole lot more detail to the overall setup than you usually get. And let's be honest, Rangiku as a witch is simply too adorable, as is Rukia as a succubus. Bleach filler episodes typically make me wince as much as One Piece ones, but this one left me grinning from ear to ear right up to the end.
Japanese 2.0 LAnguage, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.