First Look: Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War

Alternative title(s): Bleach Sennen Kessen-hen
Manga Adaptation by Pierrot
Streaming on Disney+, Hulu

Premise

Just as the Bleach anime returns after a decade long gap to cover the final arc of the manga, the Quincy faction returns after a thousand years to take their ultimate revenge against Soul Society. Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends might be the world’s only hope, etc. etc.

Iro’s verdict: Know What You’re Getting Into

As someone who has read the Bleach manga from start to finish, read it live week-to-week during most of its run, watched the anime, and has no intention of watching any more of it, I offer the two following statements. First, I think it’s a genuinely good thing that this is finally happening; despite my problems with Bleach, its anime didn’t necessarily deserve to be cut short while Naruto/Boruto and One Piece keep on trucking to this very day. Second, I think the storytelling in this arc is fundamentally flawed, to the point where I’d describe it as outright bad.

Here’s an example, helpfully provided by this premiere. The character Chojiro Sasakibe (the white-haired, handlebar-moustached fella) only had one major battle in the manga’s run, wherein he was defeated in a single blow by the main protagonist Ichigo. Nevertheless, context implied that he was capable of more impressive feats and was keeping his true power level hidden due to some kind of code of honor. During the events of this episode, he unleashes his heretofore unseen Bankai (read: ultimate special move) against a new villain, only to be defeated and killed offscreen. This is a pattern that repeats over and over again during the final arc (20 volumes of manga, and to be 4 cours of anime). Side characters whom the audience thinks are cool repeatedly reveal their true power, often hinted at for years of series runtime and often giving their lives in the process, only for their efforts to be ultimately futile. Frankly, I think it sucks.

Production-wise, this looks solid, CG monsters aside. Director Tomohisa Taguchi puts his experience from the neon cyberpunk streets of Pierrot’s Akudama Drive to work, valiantly attempting to adapt Bleach‘s infamously heavy chiaroscuro in a way that the old anime never quite managed, let alone tried. There appears to be plenty of production lead time as well, so I have no reason to believe that it’ll suddenly tank in visual quality. Shiro Sagisu returns on music with a new remix of memetic theme song “Number One” and making full use of Evangelion choral chanting otherwise. Basically the entire surviving voice cast is back like they never left. It’s all pretty much being done exactly as you would hope a proper revival would be, and I’m sure the recent resurgence of Bleach fans will slurp this one down with open mouths. More power to them, but I remember how this turned out last time and I won’t be sticking around.

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