The Soul Society has finally caught up with Rukia’s activities on Earth and her own brother, Byakuya Kuchiki, has come to take Rukia back. A Soul Reaper giving their powers to a human is a serious crime and Rukia must face her punishment for having involved Ichigo now. However, Ichigo isn’t going to let her go easily and neither are the rest of her friends. Based on the popular manga series in Weekly Shonen Jump comes Bleach: Volume 5 from Viz Media.
Audio: English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Extras: Clean Ending, Production Art, Collector’s Art Stickers, Manga Preview, Trailers
Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product.
Episode seventeen opens with a bang as Ichigo shows that Renji Arabai’s Zanpaku-to, Zabimaru, is all bark and no bite. Having recieved a serious blow from Renji’s sword, Ichigo once again taps into a power hidden within himself—just like when the Menos Grande appeared in Volume 4. Renji’s swift moves are slow in comparison to the untapped potential Ichigo has. However, Byakuya Kuchiki uses this moment of showing off to slice Ichigo’s Zanpaku-to and deliver a fatal blow to his ability to function. Collapsed on the ground, Ichigo is stunned by his almost complete loss of movement and how fast Byakuya can move. Rukia begs her brother to let Ichigo simply bleed out on his own and die rather than having Byakuya deliver the final blow. He debates it, but Rukia’s insistance that she will go peacefully changes her brother’s mind. As Ichigo struggles to reach Rukia before she steps into the world of the Soul Society, Rukia looks back in sadness at her dying friend.
Luckly for Ichigo, Urahara happened to be in the area and took him back to the shop where Urahara’s staff could save the former Soul Reaper. (What, you didn’t really think they would kill him off did you? This isn’t X!) Episode eighteen and nineteen focus on Ichigo training to regain his Soul Reaper abilities. In the real world, everyone appears to have completely forgotten that Rukia existed before. The fact that the world can actually continue to spin without his friend saddens him, but there is one person who remembers. As the class enters summer vacation, Orihime catches up with Ichigo on his way home to ask what happened to Rukia. Orihime’s little talk helps Ichigo realize he must fight to bring his friend back from the other side, where all she faces is a trial and a death sentence.
Thanks to Byakuya’s blows, Ichigo lost his Soul Reaper form and even the basic ability to exist in soul form without a chain anchoring him to his living body. Training in a vast desert-style chamber hidden beneath the Urahara store, Ichigo faces dificult lessons like… fighting Ururu Tsumugiya (yes, the little shop girl with a bad haircut) in order to rebuild his Soul Sleep and Soul Chain abilities. Ichigo doesn’t take this seriously, until he sees that her small frame holds a tremendous amount of power. Lesson two tosses Ichigo into a hole and Tessai binds Ichigo’s arms with a spell. Ichigo must reach the top of the hole within 72 hours or his chain will be eaten away and Ichigo will become a hollow for the Urahara shop group to destory. Again, it doesn’t sound impossible, but looks can be deceiving. Meanwhile, Urahara’s black cat friend, Yoruichi, has taken Orihime and Chad under his wing so that they can learn how to access their Soul powers on command in order to join Ichigo’s quest in the Soul Society world. The three track down Uryu, but he turns down joining the black cat’s lessons in order to train on his own.
Episode twenty rounds out the first large story arc of Bleach as Rukia waits for her execution and Ichigo finds the Soul Reaper ability hidden within himself. However, just becoming a Soul Reaper isn’t enough. Ichigo’s Zanpaku-to was destroyed in the fight with Renji and Byakuya. However, Urahara challenges Ichigo to face his third lesson to force the boy to learn the true name and power hidden in his Zanpaku-to. Elsewhere, three of Ichigo’s friends with Soul abilities ready to join the trip to the Soul Society. Just wait until Ichigo finds out who is coming along for the ride.
Bleach wraps up the first lare story arc in the series with a cliffhanger and a satisfying end to the story arc’s rough first episodes. While all the training could get old given it is stretched out over three episodes, the humor is endless, from reactions to a talking cat to Urahara’s constant messing with Ichigo’s head at every turn. The animation and character design tweaks are also a welcomed change since first appearing in the last volume. The Soul Society world should be a treat to watch with the more detailed looks. The Japanese cast is well done with Shinichiro Miki leading the cast as the playful Urahara as he teases Ichigo relentlessly. Yuki Matsuoka also continues to improve with Orihime’s recently-expanded role. Fumiko Orikasa (Rukia) only appears briefly in these four episodes, but the sadness in facing death and knowing how her brother will react really shows how much she’s grown into the role since the early volumes. The English production from Studiopolis stays about where the last volume was, with little movement forward or backward for the cast overall since Johnny Yong Bosch (Ichigo) takes up most of the screentime. Michelle Ruff and Fumiko Orikasa again present a slightly different take on Rukia’s reaction to terrible news, making for an interesting comparison of interpretation.
Bleach: Volume 5 is a collection of laughs with a cliffhanger ending to lead into the next story arc. Bleach has become a real treat to watch and the next volume should be very interesting as some of the supporting cast have their roles expanded. A box set with the first twenty episodes is coming out, so if you haven’t picked up the series yet you have a new option besides the first five single volumes. The video is clean and the subtitles contain no errors. However, I again have to voice my displeasure at seeing the slang “Awright” instead “All right” in subtitles. The DVD extras are the usual clean ending credits, some production art, and a sticker sheet of the episode title cards. The DVD also came with a Rukia card for the new Bleach Trading Card game, but your milage may vary depending on the retailer. Bleach: Volume 5 ends the first story arc with a bang and the next one looks like a lot of fun. A little more Kon subplot silliness would be nice, but I’ll take expanding the roles of Chad, Uryu, and Orihime any day, because this series needs more lead roles and fewer small supporting characters.