Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media
Running Time: 525 minutes
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
Welcome to the reason there should be a 12-step program for anime fans.
I am officially an addict.
Oh yes, I admit if openly and proudly. I’ve been hooked on the series since the first season introduced us to a boy named Ichigo Kurosaki, a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki and a number of Ichigo’s friends and family that are pulled in the almost secretive battle against Hollows. There’s a reason this series has been overhyped and it’s that this show is really that good. While I can sing it’s praises all day, I prefer to shine a light on the series best season. BLEACH: Season 2 Box Set propels the series to an addictive and new heights while keeping much of what we loved about the first 20 episodes of this series.
Having become a substitute Soul Reaper in the first season, Ichigo has taken over Rukia’s duties that not only include guiding souls to the afterlife but also defending them from dangerous wayward spirits gone bad called Hollows. In the wake of transferring her Soul Reaper abilities to a living being, Rukia’s actions have been considered illegal by the Soul Society itself and so the governing bodies of the Society send two Soul Reapers to find and arrest Rukia. It’s a shock to both Rukia and Ichigo that the two Soul Reapers that have come to take Rukia back are none other than Rukia’s brother Byakuya Kuchiki and a close friend named Renji Abarai.
Ichigo fights the seasoned Soul Reapers only to be badly injured in the process. In the end, Rukia – in order to keep her brother from dealing a killing blow that would finish off Ichigo – surrenders to them and is whisked away to the Soul Society to face sentencing. A defeated Ichigo is rescued by Uruhara (who Ichigo calls Mr. Hat-and-Clogs) while Ichigo’s friends Orihime, Chad and the Quincy named Uryu meet the mysterious talking cat named Yoruichi who prepares them for the trails ahead while Ichigo trains with Uruhara.
BLEACH: Season 2’s box set begins with episode 21 as Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, Uryu and Yoruichi race through a portal that would take them to the Soul Society. After a rather clumsy and painful entrance, the group finds out that they’re not quite where they would like to be and a massive gate leading into the Soul Society’s main citadel itself is guarded by a giant guardian. It’s Ichigo who battles the guardian and it is after the battle that we meet a Soul Reaper named Gin Ichimaru that becomes something of a mystery in the episodes that follow.
In order to break into the Seireitei area of the Soul Society, Yoruichi thinks that a fireworks expert can break through the invisible barrier that surrounds the rest of the Soul Society by way of a huge cannon. You can imagine the reaction on the others’ faces at the thought of the idea. It is also here that we meet Ganju Shiba who has a real disliking for Soul Reapers for reasons I won’t spoil here. Immediately disliking Ichigo, it’s a blast watching the two start off as bitter rivals and end up depending on each another once inside the Seireitei.
While the cannon does manage to shoot them over the barrier, the group becomes separated. Ichigo ends up with Ganju while Uryu ends up with Orihime. Chad ends up in another section as well while Yoruichi somehow manages to make it to another part of familiar territory. With the Soul Society already on alert, various squads take arms in order to find the intruders. Meanwhile, Rukia is placed in the Repentance Cell, a holding cell reserved for those who are to be scheduled for execution. It seems that even her own brother won’t put in a request for a less severe sentence. Her only real friend in the Soul Society at the moment seems to be the squeaky-voiced Hanataro who is put in charge of bringing the lovely prisoner her meals.
The twenty episodes follow the group as they make their way to the Repentance Cell, dispatching low-ranking members of various squads. It is Ichigo, however, that faces off against the likes of Lieutenants and, of course, a battle against Renji. Almost immediately, Renji comes to see that this is not the boy he faced off against in the world of the living and in one of the most endearing moments, a defeated Renji pleads with Ichigo to save Rukia. By far one of my favorite episodes is where Renji – in a flashback – reveals how he met Rukia and their trails in the Soul Society Academy. We also come to see how Rukia has come to obtain the Kuchiki name.
There are a number of truly memorable and action-packed moments in this second season. Uryu faces off against an almost lunatic head of the Research and Development Squad in one of the most outstanding battles. Chad confronts a powerful Soul Reaper just as Ichigo encounters the violent and deadly Kenpachi Zaraki. In the middle of all of this, a Captain named Aizen is found brutally murdered. Could this be the work of the always-smiling Ichimaru? It might seem so to those that have served under Captain Aizen. Then there’s the interesting and humorous revelation of who Yoruichi really is and I won’t go any further but I must say that it’s a transformation you really won’t see coming.
In the end, Ichigo’s short reunion is cut short by the presence of Byakuya himself. While Ichigo’s strength and abilities have improved since his training with Uruhara, it’s clear that he just doesn’t have what it takes to take on a person as powerful as Rukia’s brother. By the last episode, the fate of Ichigo’s friends, the mystery behind Aizen’s death and Yoruichi’s realization that Ichigo is still not strong enough to take on the likes of Byakuya is left open for the next 20 episodes that conclude the entry and rescue story arc.
Uncut Season 2 is by far the best of the BLEACH box set series and the 20 episodes (that contain episodes 21-41) are the best in the series so far. There are some extras in the set that include the production art that is included in the individual DVD releases and a Behind the Scenes feature worth watching. Overall, this is a box set that BLEACH addicts will definitely want to watch again and again.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Ichigo and company enter the Soul Society to rescue Rukia and believe me when I say that this is one of the most exciting and action-packed seasons of this series. There are also some wonderfully memorable scenes in this season whether it’s the battle between Renji and Ichigo or the revelation of Yoruichi’s true form.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The video quality isn’t bad at all and that’s a good thing considering the animation and flashy effects are among the best.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The audio is another strong quality and that’s thanks to an equally talented Japanese and English dub cast. I love the original Japanese voices but Johnny Yung Bosh handles Ichigo perfectly. In my opinion, BLEACH has the best opening and closing theme songs heard in anime (although I’m not crazy about the “Happy People” closing song that appears in the middle half of this season).
There are some production art sketches on every disc but the highlight here is the somewhat lengthy
on-the-set” featurette that provides plenty of insight on voice acting from the likes of Michelle Ruff (who voices Rukia) as well as the talent that provides voices for Byakuya Kuchiki, Renji Abarai and Hinataro. There’s also “clean” ending for certain episodes.
There’s a reason your anime-loving friends keep talking about BLEACH and this second season box set certainly proves that. Having caught our attention with the first season, this second season retains a lot of what we loved about the first only this one draws us in further with the Soul Society story arc that