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ANIME REVIEW: “Bleach Unforgiven”

ANIME REVIEW: "Bleach Unforgiven"

The star of the fantasy-adventure Bleach, hot-tempered, red-haired high school student Ichigo Kurosaki
(Johnny Yong Bosch) ranks among the most popular anime heroes of the 21st
century. Tite Kubo’s original manga has sold over 82
million books; the broadcast series ran for more than 350 episodes, and
was adapted to numerous video games and rock musicals. The Bleach franchise also includes four theatrical feature films. The
third, Fade to
(2008), which is being
re-issued on disc (with the fourth, here), is the best, with the most dramatic story and some of the
most spectacular effects.


Ichigo always had psychic powers, then he met Rukia (Michelle
Ruff), a Soul-Reaper charged with ensuring the deceased find safe repose with
the Soul Society and combatting the soul-eating monsters called Hollows. She
had been badly injured in combat, and transferred much of her power to Ichigo,
making him a Substitute Soul-Reaper.


During the course of the series, Rukia and Ichigo shared
many baroque supernatural adventures. Their relationship remained a friendship,
not a romance, although the depth of their feelings for each other was beyond
question. Ichigo visited the Seireitei, the headquarters of the Soul Society,
and forged deep friendships with several of the powerful officers, notably
Renji (Wally Wingert) and Hitsugaya (Steve Staley). He also became close to other
important figures, notably Urahara (Doug Erholtz) (a.k.a “Hat and Clogs Guy,” a
favorite of cosplayers at cons) and Yoruichi (Wendee Lee), a princess who
sometimes appeared in the guise of a talking cat


As Fade to Black
opens, the eccentric (not to say addled) Soul Society researcher Captain Mayuri
(Terrence Stone) accidentally triggers an explosion that releases a horde of
serpent-like creatures who bury large sections of the Seireitei in a whitish
gunk. The material may look like mashed potatoes, but it traps anyone caught in


An eerie-looking girl and a gaunt young man with a oddly-shaped
scythe appear. They capture Rukia, asserting they will destroy all her memories
so she can stay with them forever. They not only wipe Rukia’s memory clean, they
cause everyone else forget she ever existed. Even Ichigo initially forgets her,
but recollections of their earlier adventures haunt his dreams. Typically, Ichigo
charges to the rescue, but he’s shocked when no one in the Seireitei remembers
him either–not even Renji and Hitsugaya.

Urahara’s research and the secret  biomechanical memory back-up Mayuri maintains
enable them to find the source of the attack: a parasitic Hollow with a
scythe-like appendage that severs memories. But Ichigo insists the bonds of friendship
can transcend the attacks of any Hollow—and even death. His unshakeable faith
in his ties to Renji, Hitsugaya, Urahara, and especially Rukia enable him to
conquer the insidious Hollow and its ghostly victims.


As the title suggests, the first Bleach film, Memories of
(2006) also focused on the survival of memories: the story introduced
the Shinenju, an entity composed of
the memories of thousands of lost souls. The new characters proved less
interesting than the familiar cast. The second, Diamond Dust Rebellion (2007), which centered on Ichigo’s friend Hitsugaya,
packed more of an emotional punch.


In Fade to Black,
Noriyuki Abe—who directed the other features and the series—combines a strong
story with flamboyant battles in a high energy yet moving film that will
delight Bleach fans. The fourth and
final feature, Hell Verse (2010), which
is packaged
with Fade to Black, boasts
some spectacular battles, but the story feels both thin and familiar. The
script  sets up numerous rules then
violates them: unbreakable chains break, unbreachable portals are breached, and
irreversible procedures get reversed. 
Once again, Ichigo’s loyalty to his friends triumphs over a malefactor’s

Bleach: Unforgiven 2-pack (Viz:  $14.98, two discs DVD)

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