Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bleach (manga, vol. 24) by Tite Kubo

This volume begins with the tail end of Ikkaku's battle against the Arrancar from the previous volume. Ikkaku beats him, and there's a flashback to the time Ikkaku first met Kenpachi Zaraki. In a slightly more recent flashback, Renji asks Ikkaku to become one of the new squad captains, a replacement for one of the traitors, since Ikkaku can perform Bankai. However, Ikkaku's ability to perform Bankai is a closely guarded secret, because all he wants to do is "fight and die as Zaraki's subordinate." Renji agrees to honor Ikkaku's wish to keep his Bankai a secret.

In the present day, Renji and others are continuing their battles against the Arrancars. Ururu goes into massacre mode during Renji's battle and joins the fight - unfortunately, the Arrancar (Ilfort) releases his Zanpakuto and impales Ururu. Ginta gets her away from the Arrancar and Renji continues the fight on his own.

Meanwhile, Captain Hitsugaya is also fighting an Arrancar (Shawlong Qufang) using his Bankai, while Rangiku is lying on the ground, apparently too wounded to fight. Ichigo continues trying to fight another Arrancar (Grimmjow), while Rukia also lies wounded on the ground. Ichigo is forced to activate his Bankai and must even used Getsuga Tenshou, the technique used by his Hollow side - Ichigo can only use this technique a few times before the Hollow part of himself tries to take over. Although this technique allows Ichigo to wound Grimmjow, it's still unlikely he'll manage to beat him. Before that becomes an issue, however, former Soul Reaper Captain Tosen appears and forces Grimmjow to abandon the fight.

Although things looked grim for all the other fighters, everyone's odds get much better after the Soul Reapers are authorized to remove the restriction upon their powers. Every one of them (Rangiku, Hitsugaya, and Renji) manages to kill their opponents. After all the battles are over, Orihime heals everyone who was badly hurt (except for Ururu, who gets healed by Tessai at Urahara's shop). Back in Hueco Mundo, Tosen lops off Grimmjow's left arm as punishment for his disobedience.

As the volume wraps up, Kubo shows a bit of the training Uryu is going through to restore his powers, Hitsugaya worries about how the Soul Reapers will manage to fight the Arrancars in the future (they had to fight with their full power, and even then they only barely managed to survive against the weakest Arrancars), Chad asks Urahara to train him, and Ichigo disappears, possibly to join up with the Visoreds.

As usual, things looked really bad during most of this volume, until the Soul Reapers revealed they had an ace up their sleeves. Of course, things can't be too easy, so readers are reminded that the Arrancars everyone managed to beat were only the weakest of the bunch - no one in the group, not even Ichigo or Captain Hitsugaya would, at this point, be able to beat stronger Arrancars. That's a bit bleak, though, so I'm sure that they'll all figure out a way to beat the Arrancars anyway - no matter what Ichigo goes up against, he always figures out a way to get himself and his friends out of bad situations alive.

I'm really curious about what Ururu is. Did Urahara create her as a Hollow fighting machine? It certainly seems like her fighting skills are something automatic. Ginta doesn't seem to be the same sort of thing - I wonder if he's human and Ururu is something else (or maybe a human with add-ons).

Overall, I enjoyed this volume, and I'm really enjoying this series. I figure I'll probably end up buying volumes of this series form here on out, just so that I can find out what happens next. Here's hoping the series doesn't go on for too long beyond this point - even at $8 a volume, it's going to get really expensive to keep up with this series if it goes into 30, 40, or more volumes. As far as extras go, there's the results of Japan's 3rd Bleach popularity poll and a prolonged gag comic that appears in the blank pages between chapters. The gag comic mainly involves Shuhei, who's been invited to take part in a snowball tournament between the 11th through 20th place popularity poll finishers. At first, Shuhei doesn't want to take part, but then he sees that Rangiku will be involved and spends some time fantasizing about saving her during the snowball fight. I wonder if Shuhei's as interested in Rangiku in the main story as he is in this gag comic?

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Shaman King (manga) by Hiroyuki Takei - Manta, a rich but wimpy kid who can see spirits, meets Yoh Asakura, an apparently lazy shaman. They become friends, and Yoh gains Amidamaru as a spirit partner (spirit partners can lend their skills to shamans, and Amidamaru was a samurai). Gradually, Yoh befriends others, participates in battles against other shamans, and sets out on the path to becoming the Shaman King. Those who'd like another series that includes lots of battles and spirits might like this series. There is also an anime based on this manga, but I haven't seen it yet and can't say how similar it is to the manga.
  • Naruto (manga) by Masashi Kishimoto; Naruto (anime TV series) - Naruto, a young ninja, is determined to become the best ninja in his village, but he must first learn teamwork and better fighting techniques in order to survive all the tests he needs to pass in order to become a full-fledged ninja. Those who enjoy Bleach's battles, characters with amazing abilities, and fantasy elements may enjoy this manga series. Like Bleach, this series features action, humor, and drama.
  • Inuyasha (manga) by Rumiko Takahashi; Inuyasha (anime TV series) - Kagome is an ordinary schoolgirl living in present day Tokyo. One day, she travels to feudal Japan by way of an ancient well and discovers that she is the reincarnation of the priestess who once guarded the powerful Shikon Jewel. After the jewel is accidentally shattered, Kagome, a half-demon named Inuyasha, and others team up in order to recover all the shards. Those who'd like another story involving big action scenes and powerful opponents might want to try this series.

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