Bleach Volume 5

Written by Tite Kubo
Illustrated by Tite Kubo

A very deadly game is afoot when a fellow student from another set of people who reap souls challenges Ichigo to a duel. Setting off a bomb basically designed to lure hollows of all kinds, Ichigo and his soul-sensitive friends soon find themselves facing hordes of hollows. Can they make it out of this pride-made disaster alive?

This was a much more action-oriented issue of the series compared to the ones before it, which make sense, given the premise. Ishida has opened pandora's box in a fit of pique, and now all sorts of monsters are going after anyone with the slightest sensitivity. It's a neat idea that works out rather well, as it allows Kubo to make explicit all the hints he's been throwing out, and shows that this world of soul reaping is not nearly as straightforward as Rukia has led Ichigo to believe.

I like that the fights all have their own feel to them. Ishida fights with a spiritual bow, to counter the swords that reapers appear to use. There's a feel of snobbery and elitism in his movements that fits the character well. Ichigo does his usual thing, as emotional as ever, and Orihime's defense mechanism is completely different from everyone else. It's both cute and deadly, which again, fits her well.

The spotlight, however, is on Chad. We already know he's a bit strange compared to the rest of the world, but here he gets a makeover that even he's not expecting. I thought the progression from vague recognition to being able to fight the hollow was really well done, especially with the comparisons to Chad's past life. It's little touches like that which make this different from other shonen manga in my opinion, and is a big reason why I keep read it from trade to trade.

Though the focus is on action, we do get a little bit of personal details. I mentioned Chad's history above, but there's also time to fill in a bit about the Quinceys, and Orihime's relationships. I thought it was kinda cool that her feelings about people ended up tying in to the hollow she has to fight.

We also still get the moments of humor, such as Chad's friends wanting to make sure they get to the restaurant in time for the specials and Ichigo's complete inability to notice anything, such as the fact that Ishida has been in his class the entire time. Those little touches here and there always keep me entertained.

Despite being action-packed, I was able to follow all the action without a problem. Kubo does use a lot of shonen action lines and large sound effects, but they don't get in the way of the actual story. No one is ever going to call Bleach a fine work of art, but the panel structures do what they need to do for the reader to get the feel of each battle, and that's good enough for me. I continue to like how Kubo uses eye motion for conveying emotion, since there's not much room to do anything else this time.

I'm still not sure if I'll follow Bleach all the way out to the end, but when I have a shonen itch, this scratches it nicely. I certainly don't think it's amazing, but those looking for a solid shonen should be happy with what they find here, and there's nothing wrong with that.