Concluding the first series of one of the biggest anime in years, Bleach 1:2 runs right on from the precedent set in the first volume, seeing the resolution to Ichigo’s conflict with classmate Ishida Uryu, the onset of powers in his friends and the repercussions of the dictates of Soul Society.
With Hollows appearing everywhere because of the bait spread in the air by Ichigo’s new rival, even the previously effortless Ishida begins breaks a sweat. Overcome, he allies with with Ichigo, but the invasion is spread wider than they’re capable of overseeing even together, leaving countless others at risk. Relief is found, however, in Ichigo’s friends, who begin to develop powers as consequence of their proximity to him, and his massive, overflowing reserve of spiritual energy, which had previously brought only Hollows to his doorstep, and that of anyone close to him.
Even when Ichigo and his friends manage to get the upper hand it isn’t long until the real reason behind the vast infestation comes to light, as the sky begins to crack at the hands of the Menos Grande, a giant Hollow guiding and formed by hundreds of others. When the shopkeeper Urahara and his crew arrive the severity of the matter and the role of their current subject of interest, Ichigo, becomes readily apparent, as he binds Rukia, leaving Ichigo and Ishida to fight the behemoth.
When all is said and done Ishida slowly works his way into the group (by no will of his own other than to score a free meal) and more new characters arrive on the scene to flesh out the cast of permanent characters. But all isn’t well for long as members of the Soul Society appear to imprison and execute Rukia for the crime of transferring her powers and duties to a human being – to Ichigo. When he and Ishida are defeated by the pair who lay claim to Rukia’s life she tells Ichigo not to follow her, and to appreciate his last moments alive. Awaking bandaged in Urahara’s shop, Ichigo has the current state of affairs related to him, and is told that if he wants to rescue Rukia, he and his friends will have to break into Soul Society after ten days of intensive training. Resolved, they all agree, and set the course of action for the next few series as they prepare to fight the various lieutenants and captains among the Soul Reapers if necessary, and risk their lives to save Rukia.
There are some great moments in this volume, progress is made within the story and the fiction is advanced yet further, tension is ratcheted up a notch and this volume generally has better footing than the one that preceded it. By and large the merits and criticisms are the same, but where the first felt like it had too little in the way of cohesion, it’s here that Bleach begins to hit its stride and succeeds in maintaining a sustained atmosphere that’s characteristic of the series. It’s readily apparent that the series has matured in the use of its devices, and comes off as more confident for it.
As such, though lesser in content than the first, this volume still represents great value, and a consistently high standard, making it recommendable for most anyone who enjoys action, comedy or good fiction, marred only by points of less than impeccable animation (but even these aren’t too consistent a foil).
Bleach is a genuinely enjoyable series with a great atmosphere and enough virtues to appeal to any anime fan – with the best yet to come.