published in Empire No.69, Sydney
Hip, flashy, funkily fragmented - the first volume of the Bleach TV series hits all the spots as a slightly darker mid-teen mystical-actioner. 15-year old Ichigo has been born with the ability to see spirits around him - a talent which mostly irritates him. When he encounters Rukia, a Soul Catcher, he becomes embroiled in a brewing battle as malevolent spirits (Hollows) rupture the mortal world to capture innocent beings (Wholes). Classic good-versus-evil it may be, but anime's non-Christian slant on the cosmos ensures that Ichigo's battle will be played out on an emotional minefield. The following volumes are sure to stretch this further.
published in Empire No.84, Sydney
Like most current anime aimed at the 15 year old boy market, Bleach fires up all cock-sure, heady and maniacally leashing out in all directions. 15 year old Ichigo looks like a carrot-headed Johnny Rotten reborn into Japan (with better teeth and physique). The punk is all attitude, and Bleach positions Ichigo in high school as it is today in Japan, devoid of any sentimentality or nostalgia, but chockfull of cynical hipness. He’s self-centred, has chips on his shoulders – and he can see spirits (the standard curse for teens in fantasy anime).
With his spirit-seeing ability, he is fatefully drawn into chance contact with Rukia, a ‘death god’ whose job it is to vanquish Hollows: soul-eating spirits who prey on weak or debilitated humans. A very unlikely partnership is formed between Ichigo and Rukia as they aid each other in battling a rising tide of Hollows. And here is where Bleach starts to transform itself. Ichigo doesn’t merely mature as he learns various lessons in life, but through his continual confrontation with death, he re-enacts a peculiarly Japanese act of transformation, turning himself inside-out to re-invent himself. It’s a draining cathartic experience which takes some very bleak and dark turns. The second season is set to get wonderfully worse.