April 20, 2011

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Bleach Volumes 9, 10, and 11

Written by Tite Kubo
Illustrated by Tite Kubo
Viz

Ichigo and his team reach the realm of the Soul Society, but that's only the beginning of their troubles. As they fight gatekeepers and deadly traps, it soon becomes apparent that this rescue mission is almost certainly doomed to failure. That won't stop Ichigo or his friends as they continue to fight against the odds to rescue Rukia--even if they have to go through the entire Soul Society to do it. Follow along as the invasion begins here in these three volumes of Bleach.

After finishing these three volumes, I came to a conclusion about Bleach as a manga series. While these are not great comics, they certainly are *fun* and sometimes that's all I ask for from a manga. Kubo reminds me a lot of Tom DeFalco, long-time Marvel writer. Nothing he did would be considered amazing, but the story is entertaining and once in awhile, you get some really cool moments that put the story above that of an average comic.

In the case of Bleach, one of the things that makes this manga work so well for me is that while Ichigo is a bit of an idiot, he's a determined idiot. He's been powerless to control death dating back to when his mother was taken from him, and this is his chance to make things right. Ichigo says he's doing this to pay Rukia back, but I think it's more to show that he's not afraid to face death, if it means getting power back into his life. Every Soul Society character he faces is just another person telling him he can't control fate, and Ichigo won't have any of it.

That determination makes for a pretty compelling character to follow, and it drives the reader to want to keep going and see how Ichigo manages to reach his goal. (Since this is a shonen manga, I can't see Kubo having his main character fail in this rescue mission.)

The manga itself takes an interesting turn towards the serious in these volumes, as Ichigo finds himself faced with longer, harder odds that test his resolve. We get a new character to have some comical elements, a Soul Reaper hating fellow named Ganju who joins in as a way to find out why his brother was killed at the hands of Soul Reapers. (It's an interesting and as yet unexplored plot point that two of the rescue party have no love for Soul Reapers yet are risking their lives for one.) Ganju does some of the funny things no longer appropriate for the others, and it's a good addition, I think.

Plus, not unlike Crazy Harry from the Muppets, he likes to make things go BOOM!--and that's always fun to read.

Creatively, this continues to be okay. Kubo gives us a bit of fan service in Ganju's sister, but it's pretty harmless beyond annoying a few parents here and there because of Volume 9's completely unrepresentative cover. The action scenes remain pretty clear and I like that the Soul Society villains aren't all sword wielders, which would have gotten really boring really fast.

One weakness in these volumes is the dialog, which tends to be a bit on the overly typical side. Ichigo spouts words of resolve, villains spout words of arrogance, and there's so much posturing you'd think they were trying to score rhetorical points instead of kill points. It's a minor sin, however, that goes away when we get into the more comfortable wordless action sequences, which remind us that the big draw to this series is watching these characters battle it out to see whose will comes out on top.

Bleach is about as close to a Western superhero comic book as anything I read from Japan right now, and that's not a bad thing. Sometimes we just need DeFalco-like "hoo hah" fun. If you do, too, give Bleach a shot. As long as you know what you're getting into, it's just fine. Sit back and enjoy the ride!