Story and Art by Tite Kubo. $9.99 (each). Publisher: Viz Media
As a part of my plan to incorporate manga into The Anime Beat, Viz kindly sent me a bundle of current releases. Surprisingly, I found Bleach Volumes 29 & 30. I say surprisingly not because I was unaware of their publication; Viz has been at it for a while. But does Bleach, anime or manga, need press, let alone reviews? Its immense audience exists, regardless of where the pen falls – or I suppose I should say where the key is punched.
Be that as it may, two thoughts emerged upon reading these volumes. First, as a part of the Arrancar story arc, their bindings are bursting at the seams with the epic, heroic combat that has made Bleach so famous. In their search for Orihime, let alone Aizen, Ichigo and friends have clandestinely entered Hueco Mundo. And obviously the Espada are waiting. After splitting up, Ichigo finds himself pitted against Dordoni Alessandro Del Socaccio, Uryu against Cirucci Sanderwicci, Chad against Gantenbainne and Nnoitora Jiruga, and Rukia against Aaroniero Arruruerie. Yes, that’s quite a mouthful. And yes, a plot structure founded upon single combat that leads to a climaxing rescue is a replay of the save Rukia arc. But between the usual bankai, Ichigo’s hollow powers, and Chad’s discovery of an untapped potential, this is classic Bleach. The name of the game: fight to protect your friends, even if your adversary is stronger.
Next, I have to admit that I, like so many, first came across Bleach through the anime. And if you exclude occasional filler and the mediocre Bount arc, the manga and anime coincide quite nicely. But you do need to peruse the illustrations of Tite Kubo. Put it this way, the opening of every Bleach anime episode is the intricate and premeditated art of Kubo’s vision. Just think back: Ichigo walking softly in black, the wind slowly unraveling his zanpakuto; Ichigo and Rukia lazily napping on a picnic blanket; soul reapers draped in stylish garments sipping in a midnight coffee shop. Even more than the entire episode itself, that minute or two of anime is bewitching. You’re reminded of why you got so caught up in the first place. Well, an entire manga volume is like that brief anime moment. The manga is as close as you can get to the source of Kubo’s creative talent.
Oh, and the Espada character design and Spanish lingo comes off much better in print. Add the voice over of anime, and these characters tend to fall into the trap of Spanish/Mexican stereotypes.
Anyway, it’s Bleach. You know you love it. Just go buy it!