Bleach: Series 4 Part 1

“Ever since the powers of the Soul Reaper were thrust upon me, my whole world has changed. Now I’m Ichigo Kurusaki, substitute Soul Reaper, and I’m combining my powerful spirit energy with this blade in order to protect my friends!”

Let it never be said that one should openly dismiss filler episodes purely because they are filler. After all, without filler we would never have the epic tale of Son Goku’s quest to obtain a driver’s licence. Filler has its place, preventing the content of the anime from running ahead of the manga and, if it can, entertaining the audience with its stalling act. The Bount arc is a two season-long filler arc between the Soul Society and Hueco Mundo arcs of Bleach. Does it entertain, given its status as filler?

I never liked the second arc of Bleach. The Soul Society arc took one page far too many from the Dragon Ball Z play book and, quite frankly, bored me to tears. The Bount arc goes some way to elevate this by use of enemies whose gimmick, the Persona-like Dolls, serve to turn battles into ones not unlike those seen in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. This, in turn, forces the heroes to figure out and then exploit the enemy’s weakness before the same can be done unto them. It certainly beats the “My Spirit energy is over Nine Thousand so my Spirit Gun will catapult you into another dimension” approach of the previous arc; that much is certain.

This is the first of three sets for season four of Bleach, containing the first eight episodes of the Bount arc (64 – 71) and is mostly focused on re-introducing every character thrown to the wayside for the Soul Society storyline and setting up the enemy group for this story arc. The most noticeable change for this part of the story is to have Renji, who acted as Ichigo’s rival in Soul Society, become the Soul Reaper officer for Karakura Town, leading to some genuinely hilarious moments with him and Ichigo. If this arc was just a year’s worth of Renji being an idiot trying to deal with the various paranormal events that tend to happen in this series, and driving Ichigo up the wall in the process, I think it would have had a place in the filler pantheon right next to the Driver’s Licence episode of Dragon Ball Z. As it stands, this just looks to be a good set of filler episodes.

Filler is often associated with episodes that have next-to-no budget to make sure that there’s money to animate the canon material and I personally believe that this is where the scorn for most filler comes from. Whilst there are a few moments in this set that look slightly off (one moment during the first disk when Renji gets told off by Ichigo for eating out of Orihime’s fridge coming to mind) it doesn’t devolve into characters losing their heads or having their eyes in weird places like filler episodes for other series that could be mentioned, and Studio Pierrot (Yu Yu Hakusho) has to be praised for not going overboard in cutting the budget in this regard.

The dub takes a somewhat pragmatic approach in its adaptation, changing lines to suit the situation, toning down Kon’s more “interesting” passes at Orihime, and generally making the lines flow better from the perspective of an English narrative.
Whilst he didn’t have a hand in these episodes specifically, the late Carl Macek (Robotech) did have his hand in outlining the style of the dub. Whilst it isn’t as extreme as some might view his work with Macross, it does change the flow of some scenes and that might be a turn-off for the more diligent fans of the show but shouldn’t affect people who are coming into the proceedings blind.

The voice work is still of the high quality that it was in previous episodes with Johnny Young Bosch and Wally Wingert (Dr. O’Shay in Astro Boy: Tetsuan Atom) in particular pulling off the double act between Ichigo and Renji with great aplomb.
The decision of picking up this set (and the other two that make up this season of Bleach) ultimately depends on if you want to watch filler. These aren’t the best episodes of Bleach but they’re certainly not the worst by any stretch.

In Summary
This two disk set will entertain if you give it a shot but it’s not a necessary purchase.

7 / 10