An intense battle against the Arrancar ends somewhat anticlimactically, as the villains retreat, seemingly giving up on the fight altogether. Something more sinister lurks, though, and a new threat rises once Ichigo and the others realize that Orihime has been abducted into their villainous fold. Despite the fact that her capture was made to look voluntary, hinting at betrayal, Ichigo, Chad, and Uryu set off to Hueco Mundo, land of awkwardly named characters, and home to the Arrancar. It’s kind of like back when Rukia was held captive.
Okay, it’s a lot like that.
Upon arrival, they discover the stronghold Los Noches deep in the distance, a distance that only seems to extend onward as they approach, like a really convincing desert mirage. This gives ample time for them to run into some of the colorful locals, including little girl Arrancar, Nel Tu, who takes an almost immediate liking to Ichigo.
She and her two companions make up one of the more bizarre groups in Bleach, and add some much needed levity to the mostly grim-faced proceedings. Despite the fact that they should be enemies with the Shinigami, Nel and her adoptive brothers decide to tag along. They’re likely already considered traitors based on the fact that they didn’t put up any sort of a fight, so why not ally themselves with the most sure means of protection in sight?
This volume illustrates some things that I appreciate about the series, as well as some about which I’m not as enthusiastic. For the former, I dig the fact that the enemy abducting one of the team’s most precious allies doesn’t lead to a bunch of hemming and hawing about what to do next. There’s no thumb-sitting or gee-whizzing, just a no alternative trip right to the enemy’s doorstep, with little disregard for what kind of bewildering force awaits.
That said, the fights are as predictable as ever in their… unpredictability, if that makes any sense. It’s perfectly fine for a series to contain a lot of dramatic, reversal-of-expectations fisticuffs, but many of Bleach‘s feel identical to one another. I know, “this is shonen, DUH.” Fair enough, but it’s worth pointing out regardless.
Tite Kubo skirts around these issues by at least making some of the new enemies interesting, and the volume closes on the cliffhanger shocka to a fight I’m looking forward to seeing play out further. Going into detail would likely end in someone yelling at me, considering how deep into the volume it occurs, but the character is yet another strange Kubo design that works despite itself. Sometimes I think he has a big wheel of clothing combinations and facial structures that he just spins recklessly and wishes for the best.
One thing’s for sure, if for some reason anyone is unsatisfied with previous levels of fighting, and is looking for more fighting in the near future, this isn’t the time to slack off on Bleach. The next few volumes promise just that, and it’s not going to stop until Orihime is back safely with her friends. Well, technically it’s also not going to stop after that, but we all know that by now, right?
Publisher: Viz Media
Story & Art: Tite Kubo
BLEACH © 2001 by Tite Kubo/SHUEISHA Inc.