by Carl Kimlinger,


DVD Box Set 8

Bleach DVD Box Set 8
Everyone's training for the coming battle with Aizen's herd of arrancars. When they arrive, however, no one is properly prepared. Grimmjow returns to Karakura Town, escorted by Yammy, Luppi, and Wonderweiss, all of them Espada except Wonderweiss, who is...weird. The clash goes poorly for Karakura's defenders. Until, that is, Aizen's true objective becomes clear and the fight becomes moot.

Aizen has a sword that screws with people's heads and a stone that creates arrancars, but his real superpower is the dick move. His ability to find and follow the most bastardly course of action is so inhumanly well-developed that it deserves nothing less than superpower status. He's definitely not someone you invite to a party. He does, however, make for great TV. Take his emotional brutalization Hinamori back during the Rescue Arc. Or his callous use of Rukia to get at the Hogyoku. This set finds the king of slime back in peak condition, which naturally means it has some killer content.

Unfortunately you have to navigate a disc's worth of tedious filler to get at it. That's four episodes for those unfamiliar with Viz's per-disc episode counts. The first is probably the worst, a corny affair during which Soul Society's two biggest bumblers team with its biggest narcissist to help a dead baker reconnect with his living mother. The final two, both part of the same story, are a close second. Aizen gets in some minor douchebaggery to foreshadow things to come, but it only leads to a couple of underpowered fights designed mostly to keep animal mascots Lirin, Kurodo, and Noba in rotation. Renji and his eyebrows do get some welcome screen time, but they deserve a better platform than a couple of dully-animated Hollow-slayings. The disc's other episode has Kon possessing a girl's stuffed dog and awkwardly healing her lonely heart. It sounds about as fun as blinding yourself with chopsticks but turns out, contrary to all logic, to be pretty good. It's nice to see the comic relief get a story with a little meat on it, and if that isn't your thing, there's always the sight of Kon-as-adorable-stuffed-dog going Jet Li on a Hollow.

Even so, it isn't an easy disc to get through. So when Grimmjow and company are sent by Aizen to wreak some havoc in Karakura Town, the relief is palpable. And we aren't the only ones feeling it. Released from the interminable training, the animators tear into the Espada action as if starved for worthy content. They almost immediately regain their eye for uber-cool poses and neato power-ups, and spike each fight with jolts of violence so beautifully executed (they give Grimmjow the world's most awesome flying kick) that it's hard to believe that they're the same guys who were sleepwalking through Renji's rinse-and-repeat fight just episodes previous. It's easy to get caught up their enthusiasm. The show is, for a while at least, the rock 'em, sock 'em shonen action machine it was before runs of filler and mopey soul-searching robbed it of its energy. Blood is spilled, new powers are tested, and enough testosterone leaks from Grimmjow to give a football team incurable man-crushes.

And then Aizen makes his move. Or more accurately, his move is revealed. It unfortunately cuts the fights short, leaving them inconclusive and unsatisfying (though still more satisfying than the throwaway filler fights and excuses for emo agonizing of the past few sets), but it definitely has its compensations. For the sake of those who haven't seen these episodes already (, all three of you), I won't say what it is. Suffice to say it leads to one of the handful of episodes in which Bleach tries to play on our softer emotions and actually succeeds. It's an excellent episode, perhaps one of the series' best—a deeply sad and equally touching parting of characters' ways that makes explicit the previously implied feelings of a crucial player in Ichigo's life. Nearly as important, it, like the best of Aizen's dick moves, punts the plot in an entirely different direction than it was heading. That the direction it punts it in is a Rescue-Arc-styled invasion of Hueco Mundo (the world of the Hollows) isn't exactly heartening, and neither are the small fry that are fought there, but it does get the series moving in earnest again and at least now we don't have to worry about keeping all of those repetitive attacks on Karakura Town straight.

Plus, Hueco Mundo gives the series an excuse to indulge its love of atmosphere again. The black and white wasteland of the surface world, with its starless skies and dead crystal trees, is a particularly inspired creation, and coupled with the series' dissonant score puts some of the menace back in its style.

After nearly a 150 episodes there isn't much new to say about Viz's dub. It has become something, like the sharp character designs, rock-guitar-meets-mariachi-band score, dumb yet somehow funny humor, gorgeous minimalist packaging, dearth of meaningful extras, Orihime's eyeball-melting cuteness, or that particular bit of piano they always break out for the weepy bits (which actually works well this time) that we just take for granted. And this set doesn't add much new to it: if you liked it before, you will now; if you didn't, you won't. It does bear noting that Stephanie Sheh acquits herself well as Orihime, though not as well as Yuki Matsuoka, and that the rest of the cast handles the increased intensity with skill.

Set eight is a transitional set, marking the final shift from the filler-plagued Karakura Town arc to the action-packed, if flawed, Hueco Mundo arc. There are great episodes to be had here, and good fights, as well as further proof that Aizen MUST DIE, but it is a very uneven collection of material, both in tone and in quality. It is best taken as a necessary stepping stone on the way to the good stuff, or as dressing for the single superb episode at its center, not as straight entertainment.

Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+

+ Episode 141; finally takes us out of Karakura Town to somewhere where there's real fighting to be had.
Must suffer through dopey filler, repeated training montages, and dismal action to get to episode 141; artistic merits prior to the resumption of the main plot are spotty.

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Production Info:
Director: Noriyuki Abe
Series Composition:
Tsuyoshi Kida
Kento Shimoyama
Masashi Sogo
Kazuyuki Fudeyasu
Miho Imamura
Mio Imamura
Rika Nakase
Masahiro Okubo
Masao Ookubo
Taketo Shimoyama
Masashi Sogo
Natsuko Takahashi
Michiko Yokote
Genki Yoshimura
Noriyuki Abe
Masami Anno
Kiyomu Fukuda
Yasuyuki Honda
Masashi Ishihama
Satoshi Ishino
Masahiko Komino
Chiaki Kon
Junya Koshiba
Masashi Kudo
Hotaka Kuramoto
Tadahito Matsubayashi
Yuzuru Mitsui
Kazunori Mizuno
Takehiro Nakayama
Yasuto Nishikata
Hiroaki Nishimura
Tetsuto Saitō
Ogura Shirakawa
Yoshifumi Sueda
Hideki Tachibana
Yuzuru Tachikawa
Hiroki Takagi
Shinichi Tōkairin
Shigeru Ueda
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Hideyo Yamamoto
Episode Director:
Noriyuki Abe
Kiyomu Fukuda
Shigeki Hatakeyama
Tetsuo Ichimura
Akane Inoue
Akira Iwanaga
Takushi Kimura
Chiaki Kon
Junya Koshiba
Masashi Kudo
Hotaka Kuramoto
Keizou Kusakawa
Tadahito Matsubayashi
Nobufumi Matsuda
Yuzuru Mitsui
Kazunori Mizuno
Geisei Morita
Yasuto Nishikata
Hiroaki Nishimura
Kazuo Nogami
Mitsutaka Noshitani
Rokou Ogiwara
Yukio Okazaki
Kazuma Satō
Kazunobu Shimizu
Ogura Shirakawa
Yuzuru Tachikawa
Hiroki Takagi
Shigeru Ueda
Takeshi Yamaguchi
Mitsue Yamazaki
Unit Director:
Masashi Kudo
Shingo Ogiso
Yuzuru Tachikawa
Music: Shiro Sagisu
Original creator: Tite Kubo
Character Design: Masashi Kudo
Art Director:
Natsuko Suzuki
Sawako Takagi
Tsuyoshi Fukumoto
Masaya Hamaguchi
Yuki Kasahara
Hideaki Kudo
Katsusuke Okamura
Mayu Shirai
Sawako Takagi
Shinobu Takahashi
Mayu Usui
Norihiko Yokomatsu
Animation Director:
Eiki Arasato
Eri Baba
Bum-Chul Chang
Manabu Fukazawa
Akihiro Fukui
Yeong-Hun Han
Shin Jae Ick
Hiroaki Imaki
Masashi Ishihama
Tomomi Ishikawa
Nobuyuki Iwai
Akio Kawamura
Gi Nam Kim
Hyon Ok Kim
Yong Sik Kim
Seiji Kishimoto
Ryo Kobayashi
Yukari Kobayashi
Makoto Koga
Masahiko Komino
Atsushi Komori
Mitsuki Kosaka
Fumiaki Kouta
Tsuguyuki Kubo
Masashi Kudo
Manabu Kurihara
Shinichi Kurita
Boo Hee Lee
Shuji Maruyama
Shuuji Miyazaki
Minoru Morita
Yuji Moriyama
Shingo Ogiso
Masaya Onishi
Shigetsune Ōsawa
Hye-Ran Park
In-Hee Park
Jong Jun Park
Sanae Shimada
Makoto Shimojima
Natsuko Suzuki
Shinichi Suzuki
Yoko Suzuki
Kei Takeuchi
Yukari Takeuchi
Seiki Tanaka
Miyuki Ueda
Tomomi Umemura
Masaru Yamada
Asuka Yamaguchi
Osamu Yamamoto
Yoshimitsu Yamashita
Naoki Yamauchi
Teruhiko Yamazaki
Takeshi Yoshioka
Director of Photography:
Toshiyuki Fukushima
Katsufumi Sato
Shunji Aoki
Ken Hagino
Kyoko Kobayashi
Mai Nagai
Yutaka Sugiyama
Jun Takibuchi
Yukio Yoshimura

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