ANIME & MANGA - Review
12:00 - 23rd October 2015, by NEO Staff

Bleach Series 16 Part 2

After the larger part of a decade, and over 350 episodes, Bleach is coming to an end. We rejoin Ichigo as he trains to attain the newest incarnation of his powers – The Fullbring. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang are perfecting their own paranormal abilities in preparation for an inevitable tussle with Tsukishima, the renegade Fullbringer.

However, not everything is as it seems, and between the ruthless training regimen required to fulfil his potential, and his foe’s reality-bending powers, Ichigo might just find himself in more trouble than he’s ever been before – and all without his trusted friends and allies to rely upon this time round.

While this arc does everything that we’ve come to love from Bleach over the years, it can’t help but feel a little anticlimactic after the – literally – earth-shaking fight between Ichigo and Aizen in the last season. Manga readers will know that the Fullbring Arc is more of an interim story between two bigger arcs, but while the manga continues unabated, there’s no news of new episodes airing in Japan in the foreseeable future, which means that this is all the Bleach we’ll see – in animated form, anyway – for now.

Though it’s not the best ending to a series as well-loved as this one, the season is still a great story arc on its own merits. After kicking things off with the seemingly-obligatory light-hearted filler episode, we jump straight back into the story, and the remaining ten episodes are packed full of awesome action. Without giving too much away, we finally get to see the eclectic band of Fullbringers from Xcution use their diverse and unusual abilities in a bunch of fantastic battles. One of Bleach’s strengths is seeing how the characters’ various weird skills play out when they inevitably clash against each other in spectacular fashion, and this new cadre of oddballs don’t disappoint when it’s their turn to hit the battlefield. The Shinigami, too, who were mostly absent in the first half of the season, re-enter the fray for the first time since in the in-universe timeskip.

What’s more, there’s a hefty dose of mystery running alongside the swordfights – once again, it’s not possible to say too much without giving away the twists, but this definitely isn’t as straightforward as the arcs we’ve seen in the past. Rather than a straight fight between two super-powered entities, this arc is more about an enemy who keeps to the shadows, and our protagonists are subject to a lot of mind games and trickery in their struggle to win the day – it’s a much different style of storytelling than has been used in Bleach previously, and when combined with the fast-paced skirmishes we’ve come to know and love from the series, it just goes to show how far the series has come since its inception.

As ever, Bleach’s art is simply sublime. While the character animations and designs are as great as they’ve always been, where this series has always shone is in the flashy effects and stylistic choices that set its aesthetic apart from other titles. With the anime’s run coming to an end now, it’ll be interesting to see which series – if any – will take up its mantle as the one to beat when it comes to fully utilising the medium’s artistic potential.

This second half of the anime’s final arc might not be as climactic as Bleach deserves, but the Fullbring Arc has all the dramatic action and characters that the fans crave, as well as managing to raise the stakes in new and interesting ways. Here’s hoping the final manga arc gets animated soon!

Not as monumentally huge as previous arcs, but this conclusion to the Fullbring story definitely won’t disappoint fans of the series.
SCORE: 3.5/5
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