For those who picked up the first season set of Bleach and have been waiting
to see what happens, the wait is over. Viz has released Bleach Season
Two: The Entry where the adventures of Ichigo and his friends continue.
This set contains the next story arc where the teens from Earth infiltrate
the Soul Society in order to save their friend Rukia. Though the constant
battles do get just a bit repetitive, the creators put in a few filler episodes
to flesh out various characters backgrounds and to break up the story a bit.
If you enjoyed the first season, you'll like this one too.
Background: Ichigo Kurosaki is not your average kid. Sure,
he goes to high school like other kids his age, and he helps his father out
at the medical clinic that his family runs, but Ichigo can do something most
people can't: He can see ghosts. It isn't scary or freaky; it's
just something that he's learned to live with.
One day he spots a girl, Rukia Kuchiki, that he assumes is a ghost, but she
isn't. She's a 'Soul Reaper', someone who helps dead people pass on
to the other side. In addition to that, Soul Reapers fight Hollows,
spirits that weren't been able to pass on and have subsequently turned into
monsters who feed on people's souls.
While talking to Ichigo, Rukia is attacked by a Hollow and wounded badly.
Knowing that Ichigo won't stand a chance against the evil monster, she transfers
some of her power to the young man. At least that's what she tries
to do. For some reason he absorbs all of her power. With his
new-found abilities he's able to easily defeat the Hollow, but afterwards
he's not able to give Rukia her powers back. Without her powers Rukia
isn't able to return home either, to the Soul Society. So it's up Ichigo
to do her job and hunt down Hollows before they can hunt anyone.
Over the course of the first season, discovers some of his friends have special
abilities, like Orihime Inoue who can summon forth six small spirits that
each has a different ability and that live in her hair pins. Chad is
a tall muscular kid Ichigo's age who looks intimidating but is meek and mild
in temperament but can channel great power. Then there's Ishida, a
quiet studious person who is secretly a Quincy, a race of priest who also
hunt hollow and have a deep hatred of Soul Reapers.
Season Two: At the end of season one, or the first story arc
to be more accurate, Rukia was arrested and taken back to the Soul Society.
Apparently it is against their laws to give Soul Reaper powers to a human,
and the punishment for doing so is death. Though Rukia warned Ichigo
not to follow, he along with Inoue, Chad, Ishida, and Yoruichi (a talking
cat who knows quite a bit about the Soul Society and helped to train Inoue)
vow to get her back.
There are a couple of problems, the least of which is getting to the Soul
Society, something that Yoruichi helps them with. Once in the other-worldly
dimension they have to enter the city of the Soul Reapers, Seireitei.
It's surrounded by a huge impenetrable wall and the gates are protected by
huge guards. Even if they were able to breach the wall somehow, they'd
still have to face the city's numerous guards, the incredibly powerful Lieutenants,
and the unimaginably strong Captains. Then find Rukia and then escape.
It's a totally impossible mission. Good thing that no one told Ichigo,
but even if they did, he wouldn't care. Nothing's going to stop
him from paying his debt to Rukia.
This was another fun season. The series reminds me of Dragon Ball Z,
another show I enjoy, in a lot of ways. Like DBZ, this show is filled
with battles sprinkled with a good amount of humor, and the fights can go
on for a long while. These 21 episodes just consist of the battles
Ichigo and company have to fight just to get to their goal, and this season
doesn't even delve into what happens after they find her.
There were a couple of stand alone episodes thrown in to mix things up, which
was nice. These usually gave background on a character and were the
most enjoyable shows of the season. One installment looks at Chad's
background, how he came to be a pacifist, and why he decided to fight with
Ichigo. Another filled in some background on the Soul Society and one
of their Lieutenants.
The best single episode however takes place back on Earth. The kids
from the Urahara Shop, Ururu Tsumugiya and Jinta Hanakari meet Karin, Ichigo's
sister, and fight some low level Hollows that have appeared. The TV
psychic Don Kanonji sees this and decides to create a youth super-hero group,
Karakura Superheroes! They'll appear as a segment on his show to boost
the sagging ratings. When the kids don't appear too excited, he tells
them that the position of the red hero is still up for grabs, which brings
out the competitive spirit of the kids. Absolutely hilarious.
These next five volumes of the series, containing 21 episodes, come in a
nice 'book' style case with a page for each DVD. The book itself is
housed in an attractive slipcase. Inside the front cover is a pocket
that contains a nice mini-poster of Ichigo.
The set comes with the original Japanese audio track as well as an English
dub, both in stereo. I alternated between the two every episode for
the first couple of discs, and finally settled on the Japanese track which
was just a tad more natural sounding. The English actors did a good
job, and managed to breathe live into the animated characters. While
the show would have been enhanced by a multi-track audio option (especially
during the fight with the Menos Grande), the stereo audio was fine.
There was a little use made of the soundstage, though not as much as I was
There are optional English subtitles, though they don't translate signs or
written text, which was a bit irritating at times.
This show is presented with a full frame image, which looks pretty good.
The colors are nice and strong and the blacks are solid. There was
a little banding in some scenes, but aliasing was largely absent, as were
other video defects.
Each of these five discs comes with a series of production sketches and a
clean opening or closing. The final DVD also has a featurette, Behind
the Scenes of Bleach. This 21-minute show has interviews with the English
voice cast, who talk about their characters and the recording process.
It was a nice look at the dubbing process.
This is another fun set. Not as much actually happens as in the first
set, the battles do take up quite a bit of time, so it's not quite as exhilarating
as season one. Still, if you liked the first set, run out and pick
this one up too. It gets a strong recommendation.