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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Manga Review: Bleach GN 59

Bleach volume 59
Author: Tite Kubo
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
192 pages
The Battle: After the defeat of the Soul Reapers by the mysterious group of warriors calling themselves the Vandenreich, Ichigo heads to the royal palace to heal his wounds. With that accomplished, it’s time to get stronger! But does Ichigo have what it takes to survive some super-intense training?! (Source: Viz Media)
I have to admit, I came into the 59th volume of Bleach with very high expectations. The previous volumes had been so good and so promising, teasing a reinvention of the world we know as well as Ichigo's own purpose as a Soul Reaper. But this volume left me wanting more. It left me somewhat disappointed. Having said that, the plot manages to advance by leaps and bounds and ends with a great twist, so it is certainly not the worst volume this manga-ka has turned out.

The volume opens with Ichigo and Renji still training to make their zanpaktou stronger so they can fight and defeat the Vandenreich. The next step in their training leads them to the Gatonden, ran by Kirio Hikifune. Apparently, in order to recharge, the two Soul Reapers must eat an entire banquet of rich foods, like a food boot camp ran by the chefs of fellow Shonen Jump manga Toriko. It's insane, immense, and ridiculous.
I am immensely uncomfortable with the fact that Kirio is only so fat because of her spiritual pressure, but that when she cooks, it gets used up in the process, leaving Kirio with a slamming body and splendiferous bosoms. We simply can not have a plus sized female character without an adjoining plot point that turns her skinny, making her size temporary. I'll just sigh and move on, because at this point Squad Zero has turned into another excuse for Kubo to introduce wacky, quirky characters that lack inner development and serve more punchlines than plot lines.
Having said that, the time spent with Oh-Etsu, the man who created the zanpaktou, is immensely important to explain how zanpaktou work, where they come from, and why Zangetsu has been broken. His Phoenix Palace seems like a one-off joke at first but gains serious significance, as it ties into the truth behind zanpaktou. Ironically, these points won't be new to people who have been watching the Bleach anime; one of the so-called filler arcs, supervised by Kubo himself, already addressed all of this!
The volume is split between Ichigo dealing with his own zanpaktou as well as the aftermath of training with Oh-Etsu and the battle between Unohana and Kenpachi. It's a gorgeously drawn battle and gives both characters some great back story, but ultimately the fight left me flat. It didn't help that I had gone into the fight having completely forgotten why they were fighting in the first place. But the artwork and panel work ended up being top notch, and I think fans of both Unohana and Kenpachi will enjoy those relevant chapters.
It's a good thing then that the last three chapters of this volume are a lot more exciting. The events within them are major game changers and involve Ichigo's familial background. Yes, it involves even more flashbacks than look like they will run into volume sixty, but it will hopefully be worth it. And it should explore the history of Isshin the Soul Reaper, before he was the goofy single father we've always known.

Now that Ichigo is arguably at the lowest point of his life – even lower than when he didn't have his ability to see spirits – it's time to rebuild the teenage Soul Reaper we know, but first we must discover what made Ichigo in the first place. If Ichigo is to restore his strength and his position and take back Zangetsu, it will certainly take a full rebirth on his part. Whether or not Kubo has the patience to do that properly and doesn't abandon proper character development while busy sprinting towards the manga's finish line is arguable.