Bleach has always been known as one of the greatest manga series of all time. Whether you’re looking for a quality action series, a deep look at the supernatural, or just want a cast of fun character then Bleach would be the place you turned to. It was the best member of “The Big 3” but had nothing ongoing once it ended. Well, this one shot seems to spell good things for the future of the franchise so I’m pretty hyped. The title may not sound quite right and fan translations switch it up a bit but I’ll go with the official translation on this one. Interestingly Viz cuts out the mention at the end that this is the Hell Arc which is in the other versions. It’s part of why I’m 100% confident this is starting a new arc since the raw seems to use that term but only time will tell I suppose.
It picks up well after the end of the series. Ichigo has become an editor now and is trying to support his friend’s cafe when he gets a call from Renji. The Soul Society is holding a barbaric ritual where they slaughter some Hollows at a specified place in honor of the fallen Ukitake. Ichigo points out that this seems suspect at best but decides to tag along. Pretty much all of the big shots will be there and so it’ll be a fun way to catch up with his old friends. What Ichigo doesn’t realize is that there is more to this ritual than it may seem at first glance.
It’s hard to talk about plot much beyond that because unlike a stand alone one shot, this one is meant to lead up to a new series/arc or at least it plays out that way. A good chunk of the chapter is about the supporting character chatting as we see a lot of new and old faces. Things are going pretty well in the Soul Society but can peace ever last? Then we learn the dark secrets about this ritual.
See, since Soul Society is completely corrupt, whenever a Captain dies in battle, they hold this ritual to send him to hell. Granted, most of them don’t actually know that this is happening but I’m not surprised that the Soul Society implemented this. The World Government, Hidden Leaf Village, and Soul Society are all corrupt but you could easily make the case that the Soul Society is the biggest culprit of the 3 in terms of being caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
They torture and run live experiments on their prisoners of war, they murder their own people, they have aristocratic families who have literally paid off the justice system and sweep murders under the rug, They intentionally segregate the world into an area for the rich and one for the poor, etc. The Soul Society are consistently portrayed as evil if you ask me, but the main thing is that they aren’t as bad as the Hollows which is why you’re supposed to root for them. They were even going to seal Ichigo away at the end of Bleach after all so you can’t trust these guys.
So when this chapter brought in more twists about them I can’t say that I was surprised. It was the natural conclusion to their overall actions. Still, since it is now coming to the forefront I would like to see some change within the system itself. There’s a lot of potential here for an arc in Hell. It also seems like things may be dicey for the Captains. As the one shot explains it, all Hollows go into Hell of course but beyond that, any Soul Reaper with the power of a Vice Captain or higher that dies goes in there are well. So the Hollows likely outnumber the Soul Reapers since they are going to have a lot of Espada and Vasto Lords in there. I’m pretty excited for those fights once Ichigo steps in.
Unlike some series endings, Ichigo didn’t lose any of his power at the end of Bleach. It seems like he’s back to having one sword but I wouldn’t assume that makes him weaker. So when he goes into Hell I’m expecting him to take some big names. He’s definitely not going to take this lying down. The one shot ends with a pretty direct cliffhanger so I’m hoping we get a formal announcement soon. There’s just so much to look forward to.
The chapter itself doesn’t have much fighting since this is mainly set up. We do get a quick skirmish though and I was glad that Ichigo was able to hold his own. Renji got speedblitzed but when is he not getting wrecked right? It made sense that he would go down rather quickly because that’s how it always is with him. There’s a reason why Renji hasn’t really risen up the ranks much. If the villains were able to beat Ichigo then I’d be a little more doubtful since that would be a huge power jump. A weakened Ichigo after fighting 4 Espada fights back to back was Captain level in Arc 2 so right now he should be stronger than the combined might of Soul Society.
The art is pretty good as always. Kubo always had top tier talent in that area and it really looks like he has not missed a beat. The writing was solid and the whole chapter really flew by in the blink of an eye. It’ll take a long while to get used to all of the new characters’ names though. The cast was already considerably large and it looks like that will continue with this series.
Ichigo and Renji’s kids haven’t done a whole lot yet. I expect them to get decent roles but it does look like the grown ups will still be the main characters and I’m definitely all for that. Let these guys grow up a bit more first and then I think they will be ready for the main spotlight. Until that time they can just wait it out on the sidelines. There’s nothing wrong with being on the bench after all.
Overall, It’s good to have Bleach back. Not just for the memes and “We’re back guys!!” posts everywhere but because the series was just a blast. If this new series/continuation can keep on going with the consistency of the original series then I’d say we’ve got nothing to worry about. I suppose it’s a good time to relive your favorite fights as we gear up for this.