For those of us who did not regularly watch Toonami ten to fifteen years ago, Bleach is an anime based of a manga of the same title, by Tite Kubo. The anime initially played like a sort of Japanese Ghostbusters before it morphed into something far more interesting, a supernatural class struggle heavy on samurai sword play. Although the story faltered toward the end of the series, it was and still is considered one of the best shonen series ever.
About a year ago, I was excited to hear that Bleach would be adapted into a live action movie for Japanese theaters. Here’s the trailer:
I was immediately relieved that it did not look like absolute garbage. For some reason, anime adaptations have been more miss than hit (See Netflix’s Death Note, for example). But this Bleach movie seemed to grasp how this adaptation could work: keep it simple. The elaborate class struggles that provide the foundation of the later series are barely, barely, hinted at in this movie. Instead, the focus is the relationship between Ichigo Kurosaki, a human teenager with orange hair, and Rukia Kuchiki, a low level soul reaper on the trail of some monster ghosts. Through a series of unfortunate events, Ichigo and Rukia trade places, and Ichigo learns that Rukia was tracking the ghost that killed his mother. Rukia also learns that by switching places with Ichigo, she has broken the law of resorts and will be executed if she does not kill Ichigo, which she doesn’t want to do.
The fun of the movie is watching Ichigo grow from angry teen dealing with the guilt of being unable to protect his mother into a fierce budding swordsman whose true potential is far deeper than anyone really knows. There are some fun sequences of ghostbusting that showcase some decent CGI monsters combined with practical effects.
The showrunners wisely kept the scope of the movie small. As a result, the movie is a good first taste of Bleach. I’m eager to see the next arc, the Soul Society arc.
Downsides? Well, it’s got a small scope, and with that scope is a similar budget. The budget was spent largely on the 2 main ghost sequences and corresponding special effects. Also, the movie ends in a way that indicates they have not committed to a sequel. I liked this movie so much that I was disappointed it ended.
I’m definitely hoping for a better funded sequel that takes us into Soul Society so we can see the fun that comes from the dozens of sword battles, bankai, and all the rest. Please, if you liked Bleach, if you like anime, if you like swords, please watch. I would live to see more good adaptations like this.
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions!!!