Bleach Volume 3

Written by Tite Kubo
Illustrated by Tite Kubo

Ichigo's adventures as a soul reaper take a very personal turn, as a family outing to his mother's shrine potentially turns deadly. Having been unable to stop his mother's deaht all those years ago, can he use his new powers to prevent more family tragedy? Will being a soul reaper mean constant attacks on his family? And just how much of a role should Rukia play in this fight?

This third volume is definitely darker than the first two, taking Ichigo down a very personal path and causing him to have doubts about the whole situation surrounding the death of his mother. I like how Kubo uses several viewpoints to help the reader glean the truth: Ichigo's, his friend's, and of course the hollow that attacks. It means we got more than the standard flashback, and I appreciate the effort to try and do things a little bit differently.

In this volume, we also see the main difference between a traditional soul reaper and Ichigo. While a reaper has almost no ties (perhaps none at all) to the living world, our hero feels differently. These hollows are attacking his friends and family. Therefore, he approaches the battles differently. That stance nearly costs him, again and again. Ironically, in this case, the very reason he makes it personal is part of why he has difficulty winning the day.

We also get a scene with the hollow that puts an entirely different spin on how they work. I'll be curious to see how the events of the final pages work their way back into the book. I also wonder how Rukia is going to handle the vastly different way Ichigo uses her powers.

Though the primary focus is on Ichigo here, we do get some insight into his family's relation to ghosts and the spirit world, as well as some evolving emotions from Rukia and the fake Ichigo. The latter's comment about how hard it is to be as stolid as Ichigo is a nice use of a third party to cast light on the main character.

The best scenes, though, are where Ichigo works through his anger and pain regarding his mother's death. Already a sore subject, the idea that his ghost-viewing powers might have caused her to die drives him into an even angrier place than he was to start with. When he's talking to Rukia and his father by the end, there's real emotion behind the words.

I think the artwork in this volume was better than in the second trade. Kubo keeps the action in a realm that's easy to see, and the many breaks to learn more of the death of Ichigo's mom help to break up the panel composition. There are still quite a few shonen action lines, but they highlight the movement more than obscure it this time around. I was glad to see that, as unclear art would definitely make me stop reading, no matter how much I was into the story.

This was a really strong volume of Bleach, in my opinion. Kubo's work is solidly within the realm of shonen but brings something extra to the table that makes this something I want to keep reading. If you've seen this all over but wasn't sure about it, I feel comfortable suggesting that you give it a try.