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‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War’ Brings About a New High for Shounen Anime

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A certain orange-haired substitute Soul Reaper is back with the release of “Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War,” a direct sequel to the “Bleach” anime series that ran from 2004 to 2012. As one of the Big Three in shounen manga alongside “One Piece” and “Naruto,” the hype surrounding the new season of “Bleach” was undoubtedly high. The season’s premiere received a 9.6/10 rating on IMDb and rose to number one on the MyAnimeList rankings when it was released on Oct 11. Without a doubt, the return of “Bleach” will bring forth a new high for battle-brazen anime with its stunning animation, beautiful soundtrack and emotional franchise conclusion. 

“Bleach” takes place in a world where Soul Reapers, guardians of the souls going through the cycle of transmigration, fight corrupt spirits that devour human souls called Hollows. Ichigo Kurosaki (Masakazu Morita) gains special powers through a chance encounter with Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki (Fumiko Orikasa). As a substitute Soul Reaper, Kurosaki becomes deeply entangled with the matters of the Soul Society, a place where deceased souls gather. Fighting alongside his friends Uryuu Ishida (Noriaki Sugiyama), Yasutora Sado (Hiroki Yasumoto) and Orihime Inoue (Yuki Matsuoka), who each have their own special abilities, Kurosaki realizes that there are many more dangerous powers at work and vows to protect his loved ones at all costs. 

“Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War” picks up from the end of 2012’s Lost Substitute Shinigami arc, which includes the last 23 episodes of the original anime series. A group calling themselves the Wandenreich is planning an attack on all Soul Reapers, claiming that they will annihilate Soul Society in five days. With new allies and new enemies appearing in his hometown, Kurosaki is ready to fight once again. 

The pilot episode gives a brilliant re-introduction to the world of Soul Reapers and Hollows. When a duo of Soul Reapers finds themselves in a dangerous situation, the main quartet — Kurosaki, Ishida, Sado and Inoue — arrive in the nick of time to save them, each showcasing their iconic abilities to the audience as their names are written on the screen in large, bold text. Viewers experience a wave of nostalgia from Kurosaki’s “bankai” form and his signature attack “Getsuga Tensho,” looking much cleaner with a black-and-white color scheme instead of the original black-and-red. Noting the ten-year break, the ending sequence is prolonged to add a montage of the events of previous arcs that refresh viewers’ memories. 

Photo provided by anitrendz.net

The new season is animated by the same studio that was in charge of the original series. Studio Pierrot’s name may have faded into obscurity in recent years, but the studio produced other big names such as “Naruto,” “Tokyo Ghoul,” “YuYu Hakusho” and more. Regarding this highly-anticipated sequel season, Pierrot gave “Bleach” a much sharper, refined look compared  to their 2012 work on the show.

The action also received an upgrade, with fight scenes elevated by stunning special effects. Inoue’s “Shun Shun Rikka” abilities sport a soft orange glow with beautiful ripple effects on her shield. A single punch from Sado’s “La Muerte” slams a Hollow into a building far away, leaving behind a skull-shaped imprint on the wall. Ishida’s blue arrows are accompanied by a series of beautiful particle effects that reflect his abilities as a Quincy. Kurosaki’s classic “Getsuga Tenshou” received the best upgrade of all: the black-and-white burst of energy starts off faint but explodes with power as he raises his sword, wiping out all enemies with an explosion of dust, wind and fire. This is only the first episode and evidently, it’s only uphill from here. 

The original voice cast returned for the new season, and although it has been ten years, they sound just as fans remember. The soundtrack also makes a strong comeback with a rearrangement of Kurosaki’s theme “Number One,” which was showcased in the preview released before the season began. The track immediately brought forth a wave of nostalgia for fans — “Bleach” is back for its true ending. 

Being the conclusion to an immensely popular, long-running series, the Thousand-Year Blood War arc had some mixed opinions on release. Some readers were displeased that many of the fights followed the trope of characters battling with secret abilities unbeknownst to the audience, a potential product of lazy writing. Others were unsatisfied with the number of loose ends in the series’ conclusion in 2012. However, author Tite Kubo’s current involvement with the production will likely make up for some of its past mistakes. So far, “Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War” is extremely promising and will bring about the conclusion “Bleach” needed and deserved. 

It is not a common thing for a series to receive a sequel ten years after its conclusion; hence why everyone was excited to hear the announcement for a new season of “Bleach.” It’s a big moment for both the action genre and the anime community as a whole. “Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War” is scheduled to have 52 episodes with breaks in between, and the pilot episode is a promising beginning for a new high for popular anime. 

Grace Tu is a 2022-2023 Social Media Manager. She can be reached at tug2@uci.edu.