Otaku USA Magazine
Bleach, Volume 23-24

After a report is delivered to the Arrancars, a group of the vicious Hollow/Soul Reaper hybrids descend upon Karakura town with the sole purpose of utter annihilation. It doesn’t matter if the Reapers they run across have only a speck of energy, they’re going down, as is anyone else in the area with even the most remote of spiritual powers. The intimidating leader of this kill ’em all mission is Grimmjow Jaegerjaques (yes, you read that right), and his particular destination just so happens to land him in the vicinity of Ichigo and Rukia.

Once those two discover the vast power difference between these Arrancar and the ones they last faced, however, the focus switches to other Soul Reapers that are now tasked with one-on-one square-offs with the remaining enemies. That right there is just about all the explanation anyone needs for the events to come, as both volumes 23 and 24 almost exclusively focus on these battles.

One would expect a pair of volumes that hardly spend any time with the stars of the show to be kind of a drag, but the second-string action is some of the best stuff these chapters have to offer—it certainly doesn’t hurt that page after page of massive, dialogue-free action splashes make it all fly by at a rapid-fire pace. The highlight of volume 23 is definitely the battle between Ikkaku Madarame and Arrancar no. 13. It’s the perfect preview of how each of these fights involves both sides bringing out bigger and bigger guns in an effort to sway the tide by any means necessary.

For the most part, Tite Kubo is comfortable enough with his action sequences to refrain from switching back and forth between a handful of them, saving the audience from the unnecessary confusion of keeping track of what’s going on in any given skirmish. Despite a couple of exceptions in the later chapters, these scenes are shown nearly from beginning to end here, and they’re much more dramatic and exciting as a result. There are enough full-page eye-grabbers between chapters 198 and 214 to make one think the series might eventually give up on chitter-chatter all together.

Throughout the exaggerated blood splatter and mid-air explosive bursts, the strength of future Arrancar is teased just like it was in volume 22. You know how it goes—the if you think we’re strong, just wait’ll you see who’s next kind of thing runs rampant. Considering how brutal it’s been going up against these Arrancar thus far, the thought of battling a purportedly much tougher group known as the Espada sets up a nice atmosphere of dread.

Things don’t start to calm down until the end of volume 24, making these two a decent pair to read back-to-back. If the idea of nonstop spirit-powered action is, by some bizarre twist of fate, a turn off to anyone reading this, then… let’s just say the world of shonen storytelling isn’t going to be of any service to you. At this point, however, most readers of Shonen Jump should be in it for the long haul.

Publisher: Viz Media
Story & Art: Tite Kubo
Rating: T