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This Week in Anime
Is the Live-Action Bleach Movie Any Good?

The live-action Bleach movie has premiered on Netflix, but is it worth watching? This week, Nick and Jacob find out if WB's version can please fans or stand on its own.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.





Nick D
Jake, it's finally that magical time of the year. The weather's getting colder, the leaves are changing colors, and Netflix is arbitrarily dumping a mountain of anime on our doorstep like a dead lizard from your cat.
Come on Nick, where's your fighting SPIRIT? (Get it, cuz Ichigo fights ghosts?)
Listen man, I followed Bleach weekly through its entire final arc. I have physically lost the ability to be excited about anything connected to it.

That's fair. I watched only the first 50-ish episodes what feels like A THOUSAND YEARS AGO now, so I was cautiously optimistic about revisiting this world and characters again.

To be honest, I kinda was too. Much as I dislike Bleach's back half, it was one of my introductions to anime and manga in general, and I still have a ton of nostalgia for the Substitute Soul Reaper arc.
Though upon revisiting the anime I found I'm still haunted by leekspin regardless of nostalgia.
Christ, next you'll be bringing up Caramelldansen. You know what, lemme just rip that band-aid off right now:
This is over a DECADE OLD.

Yet it's so dated that it feels like it's old enough to drink. Or maybe that's just me feeling like drinking.
Yeah, I was cautiously optimistic for this movie, but I guess I should have known Warner Bros. Japan gonna Warner Bros. Japan by now.

I'll give Bleach this much, it's more competently directed and acted than the FMA movie. At least it feels like a solid attempt to make a real movie out of the material, rather than slapping together important moments from the source and calling it a day.
Yeah, I really dug the casting! Let's start with nice things first, because I have several. Ichigo and Rukia delivered good performances that helped their duo carry the movie. The wardrobe design, while certainly not as hard to adapt as many other anime, was convincingly natural, it didn't look like cosplay at all. The first arc material they're working with also adapts well to a feature film. I didn't hate watching it. So they done fine in many regards.
I'm of two minds on Ichigo's casting. On the one hand, Sōta Fukushi is still as likable and engaging as he was in Kamen Rider Fourze. On the other hand, he feels weird as Ichigo, like a totally different character from the surly straightman I'm used to.
I thought he was a good live-action approximation of Ichigo in the same way that they shifted his dad and Rukia's characters to be more "normal", which is to say if you retain the goofy slapstick and anger level from the manga, it might be off-putting and not endearing coming from a real person. Like the high-five he gives Rukia there is one of the only times he's nice to her, and the movie definitely relied on that chemistry for its story to work emotionally because of the way they truncated things. So I can dig it.
It's not a bad performance by any means, but it's definitely a different interpretation of the characters that can feel jarring if you've spent as much brainspace as I have thinking about early Bleach.

If nothing else, I enjoy seeing Fukushi mug for his life during the action scenes.
Yeah, and I gotta admit that the high five also spoke to the movie's greatest problem, because that scene was the most I ever smiled during the experience, which should not be the case. This movie is pock-marked with halfhearted attempts at quirky levity in a dull gray melodramatic dirge.
I get that this is just how WB does things, but why did they take inspiration from Suicide Squad of all things for this movie's tone?
You mean you DIDN'T bust out laughing when a Nu Metal song about drinking your milk started playing during Ichigo's big fight scene?
Okay yes, that was extremely funny all three or four times it happened (please stop reusing the same song for fight scenes, this is a feature film not an anime series), but I wasn't supposed to be laughing. :'D
I'll take what I can get, but yeah, this movie files down most of the comedy and character from its chosen arc, and the end result definitely suffers because of it. Probably the biggest loser in that regard is Rukia. In the series she was Ichigo's instructor, but also kind of weird in a deadpan way that Serious Business Ichigo could bounce off. In this movie, she's the solemn one with lots of baggage and very few jokes to call her own.
Though their training montage offers some choice bits.

The training montage (high five included) was the best and worst part of the movie. It was the best because it felt most like the dynamic in Bleach to me, or at least something resembling its style and levity, oppressive WB color palette notwithstanding. But it was the worst because it happens like AN HOUR into the movie instead of at, say, the 30-minute mark, which is the optimal place to put this important turn if you're trying to pace Bleach's first 20 episodes into a conventional three-act popcorn movie.
Well obviously we needed that time for other important stuff. Like just dropping Ishida's entire backstory on us in one scene and then forgetting about him for an hour.
I was honestly stunned by how much this movie managed to turn what should feel like a LOT of content into something that felt like it was STRETCHING just to get to feature length. There was no reason for Chad or Orihime to be there. Time with Uryu was basically just a waste too.
And THIS is how they decided to introduce Byakuya? He doesn't even look important in this shot, much less threatening.
Byakuya and Renji get screwed pretty hard, yeah.

Definitely a place where the casting fell on its face in trying to be dark or hardcore or something. Renji's boring instead of fun and Byakuya's boring instead of scary.
Like putting aside their dogged insistence on killing Ichigo and Rukia for no established reason, they're just really bad villains. Renji is just constantly standing to the side licking knives and waiting to inexplicably lose to Ichigo.
Ichigo trained REALLY hard for like four whole days, Nick. He's a really good shinigami now. Did you SEE how many tires he pulled across the ground?
Sadly, that didn't leave time for learning trash talk.

The "you're slow" comeback was funny the first time, when he's throwing it back in Renji's face. Not so funny when Byakuya says it for a THIRD dialogue callback because they couldn't think of anything more interesting or god forbid in-character.
At least they kept this line. This movie is marshmallows of charm in an ocean of soggy cheerios.
Bad performances aside, I'm also just not sure of their motivations. Like they want to kill Ichigo to get Rukia's powers back, but then they decide to also kill Rukia for breaking Reaper Law or whatever, but then Rukia pretends to hate humans all of a sudden and they're just like, okay you can come back.
FIGHTS, Nick, they need to be ANGRY to FIGHT longer in the third act!

It really feels like both were included entirely because they're popular characters and we gotta get some Soul Society jokers in here, even though the Grand Fisher material would be a perfect choice for a self-contained movie.
And for what it's worth, the fights are well-choreographed, iffy effects and directing aside. It feels like the production crew put a lot of effort into this endeavor, but not much inspiration, and that's most of what you feel while you're watching it: "Oh they're trying, they just don't have any interesting ideas." The movie literally opens with Ichigo's mom's death scene, because hey, what's the simplest and most cliche way you could open a Bleach movie?
I mean yeah, it's cliche, but it's also the closest thing to a singular emotional through line in the pre-Soul Society material, so I do like that the movie tries to zero in on that for Ichigo's character.

It's just a shame that it mostly goes nowhere and Grand Fisher is basically a subplot in its own movie.
Yeah they succeed pretty well at giving live-action Ichigo an arc. I thought this line did a great job of summing up the guy's values without having to break for a distracting monologue.

The movie is at its best when it's focused where it always should have been, on Ichigo and Rukia's growing friendship. Now if only they'd given Renji and Byakuya the boot and brought that story into his existing relationships with Chad and Orihime. Give poor neglected Urahara some opportunities for levity, change that awful omnipresent gray-blue color scheme into something more irreverent and poppy to match Bleach's aesthetic, and maybe this could have been good.
Oh come on, the human cast gets tons of great moments! Ishida fights alongside Ichigo for like a minute!
Chad lifts a thing!
Orihime...is present!
As it stands, well, I didn't hate it. It was certainly better than the FMA movie! But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone either. It just sort of exists.
Yeah, there are bits and pieces of a promising movie in this whole thing. But to really double down and make something that works on its own, they either needed to do the unmarketable thing and keep the Soul Society cast confined to a sequel teaser while they focused on the humans, or totally restructure the story so that Byakuya and Renji actually have anything to do with the emotional core. As it stands, the movie's mostly just a curiosity if you're somebody who liked Bleach and have a couple of free hours.
Or if you're an IchiRuki shipper.
There are IchiRuki shippers?

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