Bleach Volume 4

Written by Tite Kubo
Illustrated by Tite Kubo

It's Ichigo versus reality television, as a soul-sensitive charlatan comes to his neighborhood, hunting for ratings. When the bombastic Don Kanonji literally pokes a stick into things, he could bring doom to the entire town. Only Ichigo can cancel this affair, but can he do it with Kanonji trying to hog the spotlight?

Kubo picks a perfect whipping boy this time around, as reality television is so easy to make fun of that it gives the whole trade a nice sense of humor after the rather serious nature of the last volume. His portrayal of Kanonji's fans is hysterical and the way they all go for the showman while Ichigo does the actual work is a nice commentary on popular culture.

I also like how this time around, we have a breather piece as Kon gets a comic spotlight, and the ending, with the arrival of a new, soul-reaping person, promises to keep the storyline varied as much as possible. I'm not a huge fan of the shonen premise, so having it altered here and there helps me keep going through a longer series. (Though from what I understand, this may not always be the case with Bleach, so we'll see how long I opt to keep reading it.)

Within the battle itself, there is a lot of little side work showing that Ichigo is not the only person in the town with soul sensitivity. Chad, Ichigo's sister, and others can see to varying degrees what is going on, and depending on the closeness of anime to manga, that's going to be important later. The chapter headings are also pretty cool in terms of illustration, my favorite being Ichigo as Clark Kent. Unlike some of the other shonen manga I've read, these small inclusions make for a bit more depth and keep me wanting to read on.

Also, while I don't comment on translations very often, I do want to give a notation to Joe Yamazaki, who manages to capture the puns in the slogans and catch phrases of Kanonji very well. I'm starting to notice things like that the more that I read in translation.

The art on this one is pretty good, overall, but lacks some of the finer points we've seen in other volumes. The big battle is not nearly as clear as I'd like it to be, but the emotions on the characters faces are still present. I also think the hollow design this time out was a bit plain. (Given the hospital theme, I think a lot more could have been tried.)

My connection to shonen manga is a bit shallow at best, but I like the character interactions that Kubo uses, even in a volume like this that is based mostly around an extended battle and the incursion of a brash scenery-chomper. There's also a lot to be said for the concept of hollows and lost souls, and I want to see how Kubo approaches it. I'm sufficiently hooked to read on, and I think this is a shonen title that I could recommend to those who aren't very taken by the premise. It's just enough above the tropes to keep me interested, and I think that would hold true for most folks giving it a try.