Bleach Volume 9

 “It just keeps getting more complicated” – Rukia

So, how does one top the gripping finale to the previous set?

With a filler episode in the filler arc that does precious little to keep up with the emotional high that is riding from the last by treating the aftermath with comedic irrelevancy.

Oh dear.

It takes some doing to turn my opinion of  a series on its final stretch but somehow Studio Peroit did it. Whilst there are about two good fights in this set, the rest is offset by the same plodding pace issues that haunted the Soul Society arc; fights often overlap each other in some demented battle for the viewer’s attention with little to no pay off. To make matters worse, the fights are now slipping back into Dragonball Z mode with characters spending an age waffling on about their Bankai and spirit pressure instead of actauly fighting.

All I could think during this set is “why didn’t Series 4 end with the events of Set 2”? These last episodes of The Bount arc (80-91) seem to exist to stall for time, throw more Soul Reapers into the mix than is really necessary, and to ultimately waste the promise that Ishida’s betrayal had.

Oh and Series 5 is, unless there’s one hell of a plot twist that’s going to happen in episode 92, going to take the story back into Soul Society. Oh, be still my beating heart (!).

On a more positive point there are two fights of note which allows this set a pass (as begrudged as it is). The first fight is one that focuses on Chad and Nova (One of the three Mod Souls made to track the Bount) and a Bount whose doll, a massive wood space whale thing, can disappear into subspace and pop up to eat things whole. It’s telling that the fight takes two episodes, flounders in the middle with Chad suffering from a crippling bout of the Emo, and ends with the enemy running off and still leaves me on the edge of my seat and with a smile on my face – even if the enemy in question didn’t bite the biscuit at the end.

The second comes later on in the set and has the Soul Reapers that have been deployed to the living world fighting against a Bount who controls his Doll using Tarot cards. This fight is awesome on several levels: the doll looks absolutely awesome, and the way it’s controlled with the use of Tarot cards isn’t something I’ve seen in much anime. Also, props need to be given to Kirk Thornton for making Ugaki come off as a genuine creep, as he’s pretty much winding every last combatant around his finger (or deck of Tarot cards as the case may be) and breaking their backs wide open from afar. It’s a crying shame that battle concluded rather decisively; it would have been nice to have seen more Tarot card shenanigans going into Series 5.

However, that’s about it for the good things in this set. Everything else went downhill pretty darn quickly; The budget bubble has finally popped and I was noticing instances of budget-cutting near consistently with at least one shot per episode looking off or half drawn, I’m personally wondering what is the point of certain filler-only characters who claim to be of use against the enemy but all they have done in this set is be “Me too” copies of Kon without the rampant misogyny and besides the Space Whale and the Tarot Evangelion, the designs of the Dolls have taken a massive knockdown from the designs of the last two sets and seem to be less focused on fighting smart, as was the case in the last two sets, and more about having power levels that are over a given number of thousands. Even Dolls that showed up in the previous sets are not safe from this reverse evolution, thanks to a power-up that mutates them.

Also, as if to be a counterpoint to the two good fights, Go Koga (the big guy with the Sphere/Human Doll)’s duel with Ichigo (something that takes a whole disc to resolve) is boring. The Doll looks like a mess that crawled out of Ballz 3D and there’s an episode-long flashback in the middle (describing why Koga is as he is) that really didn’t need to be an episode long. In short, this fight is a mess and refuses to get to the point. I think there was a battle where Rukia and Orihime were confronting each other in there as well, but they sort of sliced that in as if to say “We don’t want to give you the resolution to the protagonist’s fight, so let’s cut away to something even less interesting!”

The disks have no obvious production flaws in them and hold the same bonuses as every Bleach disk I’ve seen in this series (a clean opening or ending, pages from the production sketch book, and maybe trailers). Manga haven’t done much to the show for the DVD release and I’ll give them props for not overcomplicating the matter.

It’s very hard to recommend this set and it’s a shame that I have to say that. I enjoyed watching set two and it’s a crime that the series ended in such a manner and sets up the next to be a retread of the Soul Society arc. I’d wait until the series box set comes out; you’d be better serviced buying the whole thing for the price of two sets and acting as if you’re buying Sets One and Two and getting the third as a bonus or something.

In Summary
A poor conclusion to Series 4 that has succeeded in putting me off even giving Series 5 a try. There’s a few diamonds in the rough here but it’s not enough to pull it into being anything beyond the tired stereotype of filler.

5 / 10