Bleach’ one hell of an adventure
Chiyono Sugiyama / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Bleach: Jigoku-hen (Bleach: The Hell Verse)
Three and half stars out of five
Dir: Noriyuki Abe
Voice cast: Masakazu Morita, Toru Furuya, Kazuya Nakai, Fumiko Orikasa
Surely nobody would choose to go to hell–except Ichigo Kurosaki, that is. The protagonist of Bleach: The Hell Verse jumps straight into the underworld, a place even a shinigami–a grim reaper–is forbidden to enter.
This, the fourth movie in an ever-growing franchise that includes a highly successful manga series and a TV series, is an entertaining piece of work that offers up a glimpse of depth for its lead character and an interesting take on what hell might look like.
The story begins when the gate to hell opens up over Karakuracho–the home town of Ichigo (Masakazu Morita). Shinigami Rukia Kuchiki (Fumiko Orikasa) and Renji Abarai (Kentaro Ito) investigate as masked men dressed in black attack Ichigo’s high school.
The boy and his classmates attempt to repel their mystery assailants, who they soon discover to be condemned sinners led by Shuren (Toru Furuya). But Ichigo and his cohort are overpowered by their attackers and two of Ichigo’s younger sisters are taken hostage.
Another sinner, Kokuto (Kazuya Nakai), shows up and helps one of the sisters escape, only for yet another sister to be snatched. Ichigo and his friends mount a daring rescue attempt and head “south.”
“Bleach,” created by Tite Kubo, first appeared in manga magazine Weekly Jump in 2001. The series, which has filled 47 volumes so far, also has become one of the most popular anime titles in the world.
But this is perhaps the first time in that long history we get to see Ichigo driven by emotion as he tries to save his sisters from a life in the underworld.
The film’s main battlefield is hell, a topic that has not yet been dealt with in the manga series. The filmmakers decided to avoid cliche and chose a rather simple image of a multi-layered Hades that includes a world in which desperate sinners hide behind cubic structures to avoid being eaten by the giant skeleton keepers of hell. Another layer consists of a desert made of sinners’ bones.
The battles are fast-paced and powerful, particularly after Ichigo’s body is taken over by his “hollow,” or his evil alter ego, losing control of his own actions.
The quality of the animation and the story’s atmosphere never disappoint, while voice actors Furuya and Nakai give convincing in their performances as the new characters for the film.
Though the series already has a built-in fanbase, the fact that this is a spin-off–and not a mere continuation–of the TV series means little-to-no background knowledge about the characters and story is needed to enjoy the film.
The film studio, meanwhile, is offering free comics containing an original story based on the film by Tite Kubo to the first 1 million viewers nationwide.
The movie, in Japanese, opens Dec. 4.
(Nov. 26, 2010)