Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Sep 30th 2005
In order to pull Ruika from the clutches of the Soul Society, Ichigo has to enter that world, and in order to do that he's going to be pushed further than he's ever been pushed before. Painful and demanding training are necesarry to push Ichigo to the edge and unveil his Soul Reaper powers; with his own Chain of Fate consuming itself, will Ichigo be able to prevail and rescue Ruika?
Ichigo's hyperkinetic ghost-bustin' adventures continue in volume 8 of Bleach, Tite Kubo's mass marketing machine straight from the pages of Shonen Jump. Simply put, if you know what to expect from this series and like that kind of thing, then this is not only a particularly good volume of the series, it's one of the more important volumes at that. If you're not a Bleach fan, this will be yet more over-the-top incomprehensible nonsense that apes everything that's come before it. Either way, Bleach is what it is.
Volume 8 finds Ichigo trapped at the bottom of the “Shattered Shaft” where his “Chain of Fate” is in danger of self-consumption; if it succeeds, he'll be transformed into a Hollow and will become the very thing he's fighting against. The climax of this volume is one of the more important events so far in the series, with Ichigo wielding a new blade and becoming a full-on Soul Reaper on his way to save Ruika from the villainous Soul Society. For fans of the series, this is one of those big “holy crap” shonen moments, and Kubo pulls it off with as much shonen-style flair as anyone could ask for; one could even say the author's particularly kinetic art style is edgy enough to be perfectly suited to this kind of story. That it's pulled off so well means it'll be compelling and fun enough even for the most jaded and cynical of anime fans, and that's saying a lot. Bleach's high points are in its likable (yet sometimes ridiculously vast) collage of colorful characters and its competent pacing. There's a brief moment in this volume where they spend a chapter or two at a summer festival and the pacing slows down a lot, but it's forgivable given how plot-heavy it is overall.
If the storyline sounds really familiar, that's because it is. There isn't a single new idea in Bleach; it's literally all been done before. Plucky young hero with powers he doesn't understand slowly becomes more and more powerful, gains new friends and funny talking animal sidekicks along the road to challenging the evil establishment and ultimately overcoming all odds with his ridiculous new powers. The formula's been done again and again to the point where reading Shonen Jump titles sometimes feels like you're reading the same book of Mad Libs where a different author has scratched out the names of the characters and changed the visual trappings of the story around just enough so it might feel different. Bleach suffers from this syndrome, but it also happens to be one of the better iterations of this storyline; the whole “Soul Reaper” thing, the characters themselves and the very basic tenets of the story itself keep the viewer engaged, even though they've read this story probably ten times in the last few years.
Tite Kubo's spectacularly edgy artwork helps Bleach stand out even more, and this volume is no exception. Straight, clean angles and very distinct characters (although they do seem as though they're all going to the same hairstylist at times) make every image leap off the page, with the action sequences feeling much more ‘alive’ than they do in other, similar titles. At moments Bleach resembles the kind of hyper-stylized graffiti art you see spray-painted or airbrushed on overpasses and snowboards, and it's a style very much unlike any other manga title out there. If you're a student of art or just like to appreciate uncommon (but not totally out-there) manga style, definitely check Bleach out.
There's a contingency of manga fans out there who just love to complain about translations, and I can't see them complaining much about the translation here, but I most certainly will. The language in Bleach practically requires a lexicon at the back of every volume simply so you can understand what the heck these people are talking about half the time. Like any shonen adventure manga, the characters all stand around and shout expository dialogue both at each other and at themselves; Bleach is especially heavy on this sort of thing, and the translation is very much worse for the wear. There are simply far too many obscure Japanese words and complicated English phrases in them. Here's a sample:
“This gate has a Reishi Henkan-Ki – A spirit-particle conversion machine – on top of a normal tunnel world gate. The two are attached by covering the gate with Ketsugo-Fu – union tags…As you know, the Soul Society is a world of Konpaku, and it is impossible to enter without looking like a Konpaku.”
Excuse me, what? So the reishi konpaku ghost particle machine gate is… oh, forget it.
I may not be 12 anymore, and I realize kids have a unique ability to remember words and phrases from TV shows they love that have their own particular language, but a slightly clearer translation would have been nicer. Having to go back and read word balloons full of jargon that you can barely recognize from previous volumes is like wading through mud just so you can figure out what's going on. It's a good story, but sometimes it gets weighed down by how much exposition is necessary in order for the reader to even understand the narrative. Excessive jargon isn't really appreciated.
Bleach fans will no doubt be absolutely thrilled by this volume, and even jaded manga readers will find some excitement, which says a lot in Bleach's favor given how clichéd and derivative the proceedings are. It's tough not to care a little bit about the characters, and the artwork really pops. You won't really find a better shonen adventure title on the market right now, at least not one that's aimed for younger teens like Bleach is. If you find yourself sometimes needing a dose of silly, over-the-top adventure, consider giving this one a shot.
Story : B
Art : A
+ fun story, cool art, great characters
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