ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:39 - 28th March 2013, by Matt Kamen

Bleach

It's all about reunions and new beginnings in these ten episodes, as we rejoin Ichigo Kurasaki and his soul reaping buddies for the start of the sixth season of Bleach. This also marks the point that the ongoing anime series resumes adaptation of Tite Kubo's original manga saga, following the previous 'Bount' story arc of original content.
Starting with a brief spell of normalcy as the cast return to school and prospective calm, we have a few welcome comedic moments that the series can sometimes forget in the midst of its afterlife-and-death struggles. The reprieve is short-lived, however, as no sooner than Ichigo sits down for his first class of the day than he crosses paths with creepy new kid Hirako Shinji. Acting up a bit for the class with some pervy jokes, Shinji seems friendly enough at first, but soon reveals a much darker nature - he's a 'Visored', someone who, much like Ichigo himself, has unlocked the same hybrid powers of Soul Reaper and their opposite numbers, the Hollows. Unlike Ichigo, he seemingly has little interest in helping maintain the balance between the three realms of soul Society, Earth and Hueco Mundo, and in seeking to bring our red-headed hero to the dark side, might prove to be just a little bit evil.

This set marks the beginning of the 'Arrancar' arc, which sees an escalation of the threats posed by the Hollows and the return of the scheming Sosuke Aizen as the big bad of Bleach. It wastes no time in getting the blades swinging again either, with Shinji's identity revealed and threats being posed to the heroes by the end of the first episode. That's not to say it's all mindless action - more than a few sub-plots are set in motion, such as why Ichigo's classmate Tatsuki can see the supposedly invisible Shinigami artefacts he wears, and why the team's archer, Uryu Ishida, is still without his spiritual Quincy powers. They're all lingering questions that won't be easily addressed by just the swinging of a ghostly sword.

Although we didn't think the filler content of the previous few sets was actually that bad, there's definitely a renewed sense of purpose and a refreshing energy that's returned to the show with this batch of episodes. We suspect a teensy increase in the budget behind the scenes too, as the fights are dazzlingly well animated - even a brief one of Ichigo against a pork-obsessed Hollow has a certain sparkle to it. Elsewhere, the comedy is on target, if a bit slapstick at times, the new opening and closing songs are catchy and upbeat, and the story hooks you from the off.

It's also a surprisingly good jumping on point if you're a little Bleach-curious, with no deep knowledge of the prior seasons entirely necessary. The opening episodes fill you in with all you really need to know - these guys here have spiritual powers, there's a war in the afterlife, here's some new stuff, go.

All in all, it's a return to form for the popular series, and certain to please old and new fans alike.

It's a new series, with new characters and new adventures for them - Bleach is back, and still our favourite action show!
SCORE: 4/5
TAGS: Bleach, Manga
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