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Bleach, vols. 10-20 (Tite Kubo)

With the help of the semi-crazed, ultra-buxom rocketry expert Kukaku Shiba, teenaged novice Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki and his motley crew arrive not-very-subtly in the Soul Reaper city on their quest to rescue Rukia Kuchiki, the Soul Reaper who inadvertently lost all her own powers to Ichigo in the first volume of the series. As you may recall, Rukia's actions in the living world have resulted in her being sentenced to death, and so the story becomes a race against the clock to rescue her.

The party is split up before they hit the ground, and these 11 volumes trace their assorted paths through the city as they attempt to find each other and rescue the young woman who became their friend during her sojourn in our world. Along the way, they win the grudging approval or dire enmity of various members of the Soul Reaper guard companies, and we learn more of the backstories of both the original party and their new acquaintances, as well as a lot about Soul Reaper society, training, and politics. Something is very rotten near the core of the Soul Society, and Rukia's situation is just one move of a sinister power game that some of its members are playing. Volume 20 wraps up the story arc with a dramatic showdown that involves just about all of the most interesting characters we've met thus far in the series.

Bleach, vols. 10-20 (review)

Holy crap, does Kubo bombard us with new characters in these volumes! There are 13 guard companies, each with a captain and assistant captain, and we meet all of them, plus various lesser luminaries - some of whom are extremely vivid personalities to say the least (I think "vivid" barely begins to describe the joyfully narcissistic peacock Yumichika Ayasegawa, for example).

The main frame of the story arc is a series of confrontations in which Ichigo is forced to become stronger - both in combat with Soul Society officers and in training with Yoruichi, who, it turns out, is not actually the kittycat we met in the earlier volumes. But similar story threads follow the development of Soul Reaper Renji Abarai, who showed up to menace Rukia and Ichigo at the end of the previous set of volumes and who turns out to be carrying a torch for Rukia from their earliest days; Ichigo's schoolmate Uryu Ishida, who has a terrifying confrontation with the self-made monstrous head of the Research and Development arm of the Soul Society that leaves Uryu apparently stripped of his Quincy powers; and even mousy Hanataro, a middling member of the utilitarian Fourth Company, who are charged with all the uninteresting, unchallenging Soul Reaper duties, such as healing and supplies - as well as Ichigo's friends Chad and Orihime.

All of this is terrifically entertaining and pitched at breakneck speeds: the flashbacks to the various characters' histories provide the only breaks in the action (and even some of the flashbacks are pretty action-filled!). Some of the aspects of the Soul Society don't make a lot of sense (the noble Soul Reapers are born in this alternative world, an idea which boggles the mind on a metaphysical level ... ), but the momentum of the plot carried me along willy-nilly anyway. I personally would like to know more about some of these characters' histories, but either Kubo will tell us more in the future, or - well, that's why the good Lord let us invent fanfic.

I have to speak specifically about Volume 20, which was amazingly apocalyptic. The discovery that Aizen was alive all along - and Momo's fate at his hands - were a devastating one-two punch. Toshiro's apparent destruction thereafter hardly registered. I was rather gratified by Unohana's confrontation of Aizen and Gin, even though it didn't do much but delay the inevitable - but I guess that was valuable, because it gave Ichigo a chance to arrive. I was also glad that Rangiku was able to stop Gin, at least until outside forces interfered, and was deeply pleased when Byakuya arrived to help save Rukia at the end.

There are plenty of wonderful characters in these 11 volumes ... among my favorites: Yumichika and Ikkaku, Kenpachi and Yachiru, Yoruichi, Renji, Hanataro, Shunsui, Jushiro, Toshiro, Rangiku, and Ganju. I am a little ticked off by the handling of most of the female characters: it seems odd to have women as Assistant Captains and then treat them as frail little things. I love Shunsui Koryaku, but Nanao is basically just his secretary, and he treats her as such. Momo, likewise, is supposed to be basically a powerful sorceress - everyone keeps mentioning her force and skill at Kido - but she's a sweet, delicate, emotionally vulnerable little creature. Rangiku, at least, despite her amazing boobage, seems to be a genuinely tough cookie. But I understand that this is a shonen manga, and I guess that's the way it's going to be.

I really had to do this, because I may be able to get hold of volume 21 this weekend, and I desperately wanted to be blogged up to date on at least one more series!

Comments

meganbmoore
Sep. 29th, 2007 04:07 am (UTC)
*is blinded by the sparklies*

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