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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Manga Review: Bleach GN 56

Bleach volume 56
Author: Tite Kubo
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
192 pages
When a mysterious group of warriors calling themselves the Vandenreich attacks, Ichigo heads to Hueco Mundo to help his friend Nel. And when the Vandenreich takes the fight to the Soul Society, an all-out war between Soul Reapers and Quincies breaks out! (Source: Viz.com)
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the events of Bleach's 55th and 56th volumes.
I thought the 55th volume of Bleach was bloody. No, y'all haven't seen bloodshed like this volume - oh no, it's a straight massacre going on. People are dying in the hundreds and the only thing standing between the Quincies and the death of all Shinigami is a certain orange haired Deputy Shinigami with the impossible ban kai. In a book split between Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, the bodies are falling and every Shinigami is on call to protect their home in the afterlife from extermination.

In this latest volume of Bleach, it is Quincy versus Shinigami - and the Shinigami are not looking so good. In fact, I would not put real money on some of our favorite Shinigami actually surviving this last story arc. I also have to wonder what those in Vandenreich have been doing this whole time that they've surpassed the soldiers of Soul Society in ability, aside from training like mad. Of course, it helps that the Stern Ritter - the elite soldiers of the Quincy's Vandenreich army - can make the ban kai ability pretty useless.
The Stern Ritter can steal the ban kai of any Shinigami they come across. Any Shinigami, of course, except for Ichigo Kurosaki's. He's just so gosh darn special! Is it because he's a Deputy? Is it his Hollow side a.k.a. Shirosaki? Or maybe it has something to do with whatever Urahara and Isshin have been cooking up behind the scenes? Honestly, it's probably just because Ichigo is a Big Damn Hero and can't be contained by the universe's inner logic.
The 56th book is fights, fights, fights. There's Shinigami and Quincies and Espada and humans dueling it out without abandon or reserve. Ichigo is actually reserved action wise, giving up a lot of page space to Aizen's leftover Espada and his colleagues in Seireitei who are literally fighting for their lives. Luckily for Ichigo fans, the times he does show up he shows up big and makes a difference in every scene he shows up in. I'm so glad Tite Kubo has stopped sidelining his main character!
Even though there are a lot of ridiculous things in this book, like the fact that the elite Shinigami of Soul Society can't handle the Stern Ritter on their own or that the SR can steal abilities like nothing, we get to see more of the residents of Soul Society and the Shinigami that make up the various divisions. Hey look, actual people are in Kira's division! Someone is actually in all five seats! This arc seems to be a good way for Kubo to expand upon the faces that we usually see in black hakama and better illustrate the Soul Society population that for the most part toils in obscurity behind their captains and vice captains.
I'm also amused by the presence of Soul Society's communication room, filled with computers and used to wirelessly send messages to the people battling it out throughout the compound. For a place that seems set in Japanese antiquity and tradition, the computers are as anachronistic as telephones in Naruto's Konoha Village. Is there a division that handles A/V issues? Oh my God, does Soul Society have a Media Services and where can I sign up?
I'm still waiting for a Vandenreich character who gets me interested in them as a character, not just a Quincy with a fancy ability. There were Espada under the rule of Sosuke Aizen who did this, but none of the Stern Ritter have stood out yet. Of course, they haven't had a real chance to create a presence for themselves. I've personally got my eye on the young woman with the heart-shaped belt buckle that looks a little like ex-Fullbring user Riruka. She'd better be delightfully evil!

The Quincy Blood War has had some good points so far, but it seems like a whole lot of build-up to something even bigger. The initial invasion itself was pretty quick, although Kubo will most likely drag out the fights between the division captains/vice captains and the Stern Ritter because he can and because Weekly Shonen Jump doesn't actually want him to stop the series just yet. But if he can remember to intersperse the hot action scenes with the more character-driven scenes, we might just have a fitting conclusion to one of the biggest shonen series in recent history - the conclusion we've all been waiting for.