Okay, so as much as I LOVE Bleach…and I really mean love in all caps, the movies are a bit…um well they aren’t canon so I find them enjoyable yet unnecessary. In all honesty I probably like them more than that but I have to look cool writing this review…about anime…
No but seriously, I haven’t written any reviews over Bleach yet for various reasons, but I felt I needed to write one for this movie. First of all I noticed that it wasn’t well received on this site which saddens me not because I thought it was super mega fantastic but because I feel like any Bleach fan, big or small, should at least watch the first, what, ten minutes that may actually be the credits. Why you ask? Because in the first few minutes of this film you get to see the Ichigo vs. Ulquiorra fight the way it should have been. No interruptions, no stupid other things happening, no dumb feelings. Just plain, amazing animation with two of my personal favorites just beating the crap out of each other. So here’s the rest of the review but if you just stop here and go watch the opening scene, know this: I’m cool with that.
So, the plot is kind of unnecessary in my opinion. Ichigo and friends are attacked in their most unfortunate home of Karakura Town at the most unlucky high school ever Karakura High by these guys called Unforgiven who are escapees from Hell. Bad mojo right? The Unforgiven are led by a guy named Shuren who kidnaps Ichigo’s sister Yuzu and takes her to Hell with him. So of course Ichigo and friends go after him in order to save her. Shuren has a Just Between You and Me moment and tells Ichigo his whole reason for bringing Yuzu to Hell was to get him to break the chains that bind him and the other Unforgiven to Hell with his Ichiginator form. When Ichigo is like “No way” some fighting happens and maybe some betrayal and other spoilers and Ichigo and Yuzu are shoved back into the real world while friends are left behind. The Soul Society gets pissed at Ichi for using his hollow form which of course stops him for like a minute before he decides to go back to Hell to save his friends. Not a horrible plot but I think an easier explanation would be this: Ichigo fights, sometimes in hollow form. The story is sort of ran over by the fighting, which by the way, is not the worst thing ever. Just don’t expect a content heavy story.
Like I said way up at the top, the animation is mega cool. I find this to be true about most Bleach movies but this one in particular is just way too good. And like I said in the not so up at the top section, the whole movie is Ichigo fighting junk so of course they are going to break out the big guns for this sort of thing. And let me tell you, the guns are big, very big.
I rather enjoy the various sounds of Bleach whether it is the opening/ending themes or background music and the movies are no different. I don’t remember any specifics being super amazing for this one but then again I don’t remember them sucking either. Good to know huh?
Characters 10/10- as always for the regulars 6/10- for the newbies
I absolutely love the regular characters from Bleach, every single one of them…except Omaeda…so their rating is still 10/10. The new guys however were a little subpar. The idea of the Unforgiven from Hell is kind of cool but I have a hard time finding non canon stuff very interesting as far as content goes. Shuren was kind of overrated and Kokuto was pretty obvious. And I guess that’s it for that section. Someday I’ll do a review on Bleach as a whole and this category will be ridiculously long.
So, after re-reading this review it kind of sounds like I hated the movie, but I didn’t I promise, it’s just really hard to get super into something that has nothing to do with the canon story line. I don’t know when I developed this problem but it seems I have it now. Like I said, amazing animation and neato fights both old and new. Bleach fans should definitely watch it, others should watch it if they want.
Another time, another review.
Don’t make me repeat myself. It will help to read my reviews of the previous movies prior to reading this one.
And thus came the fourth Bleach movie. This time around they tried to blend it in with the core story a bit, just so you will know when exactly it happens… supposed. It is still a spin-off from the true story as the Fake Karakura battle never happened and Ichigo didn’t lose his powers.
Anyways, the story begins by showing Ichigo’s battle with Ulquiorra. This was basically just a hook, since most people watch the show for the Inner Hollow and somehow liked that emo clown. Whatever, that battle was like everything else in the series; completely random BS Kubo was making up while drawing it. It is nothing but a flashy opening, seeing Inner Hollow Mark 3 and Super Demon Clown Release Mark 2 fighting over a pair of breasts called The Kurosaki-kun bimbo. And if any of you plan to watch this movie just because you are Ulqi fans and expect a rematch later on, SUCKEEERS NO MORE ULQI THEREAFTER. In reality this entire introduction scene is completely irrelevant to what follows next. Funny thing; I thought introductions were meant to foreshadow what comes next. But then again this is Bleach we are talking about so we might as well say it was very fitting after all. The really intelligent viewer will catch on to the secret meaning of this and realize that THIS WILL BE RANDOM SHIT AS USUAL! ARE YOU REALLY EXPECTING SOME PLOT IN THIS MOVIE AND NOT COOL ACTION? ARE YOU RETARDED?
Anyways, after the flashy finale, the filler plot kicks in (just like what happens 90% of the times in the main series as well) and we see Ichigo having a normal day in his life. Kicking random bullies, being kind hearted to dead kids, fighting with his father… Hey wait a second, why do all that seem so familiar? HEY, IT’S THE EXACT SAME THING THAT HAPPENED IN THE PILOT EPISODE! Damn Kubo, you ran out of ideas to the point you are repeating THE EXACT SAME PLOT from the series? … TWICE? … IN JUST TEN MINUTES?
Anyways, after that he goes to school where the only thing that is not happening is studying and learning. Such concepts do not exist in the Bleachverse and schools are places young people gather just for lame humor and piss poor romance that never leads anywhere waiting to happen. And indeed, random stuff start falling down and nobody suspects a thing. Yeah, some students almost got killed by the debris and the whole incident went by like nothing much happened. That makes sense, especially since the whole town has always been oblivious to all the mass destruction and murders that take place every three days.
Anyways, the school eventually blows up and these evil dudes attack, so Ichigo and his gang go to stop them… Hey, wait a second, why didn’t his sword fire that laser beam when he went bankai? Damn, more inconsistencies! Well whatever, it’s not like there are rules or restrictions in this show and as expected a flashy but completely random battle follows. For some reason the villains want Ichigo’s sisters but instead blow up his school. And when one of them is defeated he is taken to hell by that gate we haven’t seen since episode 5. Yeah, I guess every single Hollow that was defeated after that episode was not evil enough to deserve the gate… or Kubo just forgot about it until he decided to make this movie, which is nothing but a rehash of scenes from the main series. THIRD SCENE THAT REPEATS!
Ah Rukia is in this film too. Is she going to be kidnapped for the nth time so Ichigo can have something to do? … Nah, it can’t be, this time it’s is his sister that needs saving, so we already have the same old objective. Rukia’s role is to kindly explain what happens in hell with her amazing drawing skills. Oh, and as usual she is useless in battle and thus she had to be saved by Sado… who appeared on that roof out of nowhere when unlike everybody else he can’t fly with the speed of light and was in the other side of the city ten seconds ago. Lovely consistency.
After that they are taken to hell by a guy from that place who claims he wants to help them get her back. They get to fight all the goons there and once again we see Kubo repeating scenes from the main series (*cough* Rukia defeats Espada 9) before it is revealed he is the big bad of the film and all that was a trick for Ichigo to go berserk and destroy the gate permanently so there will be no chains to keep them there. Surprisingly Ichigo’s sister is saved but Rukia gets captured in her stead, and now is all naked in chains and tortured by the big bad. Oh I see she finally got her real place in this movie and once again ICHIGO NEEDS TO SAVE HER! He goes to fight the villain and gets yet another power up just when he is about to be killed (yeah Kubo, that is the only thing you know how to save your protagonist), and with it he magically beats the big bad and fixes the gate in a minute. The end. Isn’t it lovely when the main villain goes through all the trouble of setting up an elaborate plan against a complete idiot hero, who just storms in and never thinks anything, yet loses because the hero has plot armor? Doesn’t than make all efforts pointless if your are not the main lead who wins no matter what even with no brains or strategy? Am I overthinking this for a show called Bleach?
I must say this movie had by far the least amount of context. While the other three had some sparks of drama by focusing on a secondary character, over here we get squat. The main villain tries to offer some sort of drama over his grim existence in hell but who cares; he is a generic Big Bad for the sake of having something to fight. Plus it was as I described nothing more but a collection of scenes from the series, thus not even the plot was anything new. So ok, they showed how hell looks like and gave Ichigo his SSJ4 form, all of which will most likely be rendered useless when the main story will ACTUALLY have to be about hell.
The best part is of course the action scenes and only in terms of hollow (lol) entertainment. I can’t say I was thrilled with the coloring or the animation as they felt too blobby at times and less detailed and with less cinematics in shading than the previous movies. The soundtrack also felt weak this time as it was too much pop and too less cool in the sense it doesn’t make you feel anxiety and unrest.
There are still the usual clichés you find in any fighting shounen movie, it is still to the most part a parade of special attacks. Surprisingly, for the first time ever it was not about “Let’s save Soul Society for the millionth time” theme but “Let’s close the gates of hell” for a change. It even fooled us for awhile to think it was about saving a girl other than Rukia or Inoue before it finally returned to the good old Rukia… Plus now she was naked and chained; so double the service (and lol, she is the only one naked when the other captured males are still dressed; phallocracy ftw). Even the big bad’s identity is deceiving. The final showdown though was rushed and a cop-out; extremely disappointing even for the few remaining Bleachtards. Even this new form he gets looks rather lame; I was misled to think I was watching Saint Seya for a few seconds… Hey wait a second… Hell? Golden armor transformation? A rescue mission to save a chick? DAMN KUBO; LEAVE POOR SAINT SEYA ALONE!
Value and enjoyment ain’t much as usual, and this time are even lower for the lack of even some hints of personal drama. This fourth attempt is even more shallow than usual, as it was 100% pointless action. In all, Bleach went to hell with this movie (not that it was that far away from there the way it went under after the SS arc).
If only there were Blanks and Sheena in the main series, which Aizen was going after in order to make the key, if only the Fake Karakura war was depicted like in Diamond Dust Rebellion and if only there was an Espada like those two kids in Fade to Black to give Rukia further role in the series, before hell breaks loose...
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 1/2 (looks blobby compared to the previous ones)
Character Figures 2/2 (cool or sexy looking)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 2/2 (good)
Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of explosions)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (typical)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 0/2 (a shameless rehash of the series)
Pacing 1/2 (rushed)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 2/2 (cool or sexy)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none for most or makes no sense for the rest)
Catharsis 1/2 (some poor one for the filler characters)
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none; it’s just a filler mission)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 0/4 (nothing interesting in it to remember it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
The movie offers nothing new to the series and even has poor drama that heads nowhere.
A warning: this review is extremely long and, as such, is divided into five sections: Plot, Animation, Music, Characters, and Themes/Symbolism, with some having sub-sections. Given how low the score is, I wanted to explain where I was coming from as best as I could. Despite its length, I hope you find it useful and can look past the ranting...I love Bleach, but I was just very, very disappointed with this movie. I apologize in advance if I come across as hateful. I wrote this right after watching the movie, so I was very worked up, especially at the beginning. Feel free to leave a comment and argue on the other side, if you'd like. I'm more than open to hearing others' opinions, and quite honestly I want to view this movie in a better light. If you can make me do that, you have my gratitude. :)
Plot…plot…what’s that again? Oh, that’s right. Lots of explosions and blood and flashy fight scenes. If that’s the case, then this movie had an outstanding plot, one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Okay, I’ll stop with the sarcasm. There was almost no plot to speak of, whatsoever. I can’t believe Kubo admitted he wrote the story for this movie. Here’s a quick rundown of the plot:
Several Unforgivens escape from Hell and invade the World of the Living. Specifically Karakura Town, of course (really, why does anyone even live there anymore?). Anyway, they kidnap Ichigo’s sisters and hold her ransom, demanding Ichigo help them destroy the Gates of Hell. Another Unforgiven suddenly appears and fights alongside Ichigo, helping him to rescue Karin. The Unforgivens escape with Yuzu, however, returning back to their base in Hell. Ichigo and his friends head into Hell with the help of the mysterious Unforgiven, Kokuto, to rescue his sister. While there, Ichigo notices his Hollow mask appears whenever he spams Getsuga Tenshou (maybe Kubo is trying to tell you something, Ichigo), and Kokuto warns him that his Hollow side could take over while he’s in Hell.
There’s the plot. As we all know, that last sentence there is the sole reason people were so excited for this movie (myself included). Before I get into that, though, let me explain what happens next: nothing. Literally. That summary you read above takes about 15-20 minutes in the movie, mostly due to the nonstop fight scenes. After that, we’re treated to nothing but fight after fight after fight for the rest of the movie. Yes, I love Bleach’s fights as much as the next person, but this is absolutely insane. There is honestly no story to speak of. To give you an idea, it’s exactly like the notorious FKT Arc. Now, if you liked FKT, then by all means watch this movie. To the rest who want a somewhat compelling plot and a story that requires at least a little thinking, move along.
It was a great concept, I’ll say that. Hell is the only realm Kubo hasn’t detailed yet, and this movie was the perfect opportunity to dive straight into it. Even without a plot, the movie still had a chance to redeem itself by exploring the setting and culture of this unknown world. After all, Bleach has always been known for its vivid and well-done folklore, which has been enough to pull it through its less-than-great moments at times. And yet this movie manages to fail even there. Besides for a brief explanation of what it’s like to live in Hell (being constantly eaten by the Guardians, being reborn, and then repeating the process until the soul is completely broken down), there is almost nothing here. The characters never interact with other inhabitants of Hell, either, so we don’t get to hear their take on it or see the effects of living in eternal damnation. As for the world itself, we see a few different layers of Hell, but the various realms and their purpose are never detailed or even mentioned. As a result, Hell never seemed like a horrible place. I never saw any true signs of suffering or despair, perhaps because of the distance between the viewer and its inhabitants. Honestly, it didn't seem like that bad of a place to live. Considering Hell is supposed to be the ultimate punishment, that's a bit of a problem. I’m not asking for The Inferno here, but this doesn’t even come close to Bleach’s normal quality of world building. That one-shot chapter Kubo released on Hell a year back had more development than this.
Next: the plot holes. How a movie so devoid of plot can possibly have holes is beyond me...does that mean the score should be negative? Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of some of the holes I noticed below; they’re laden with spoilers, as a warning, so don’t read them if you actually want to watch this movie.
NOTE: If you know the answer to any of these plot holes, please let me know! I admit that I was half-asleep while watching parts of the movie (long fight scenes tend to do that to me), so it's more than possible that I missed something.
-Kokuto’s betrayal made absolutely no sense. There was no foreshadowing, it was completely sudden (literally one second he’s a “good guy,” the next he’s skewering Ichigo with his blade), and his actions/reactions had no basis whatsoever. So, let me get this straight…his sister was killed, and now he wants to get revenge on…who, exactly? Everyone? He already killed the guys who murdered her, so what’s going on here? And he wants to break free of Hell and doesn’t care if he turns the world into Hell in the process. Meaning he would still, technically, be trapped in Hell even if he DID manage to escape. Doesn’t make sense? Don’t worry, I don’t get it either. He is the worst villain in the movies to date, enough said. Heck, he’s the worst villain in the entire Bleach world to date. I’d take Butterflaizen over him any day. At least he’s good for laughs.
-Why did Kokuto hate Shuren? This was never explained, even though Kokuto said countless times “those guys get on my nerves.” Then again, nothing about Kokuto makes sense, so I suppose this shouldn’t be an exception.
-Last time I checked, Renji shouldn’t have seen Ichigo go VL before. Actually, Renji shouldn’t even know Ichigo has an inner hollow in the first place. So someone please explain to me why Renji acts completely nonchalant when he goes VL right in front of him. If one of my friends suddenly transformed into a demon, I’d probably freak out. Just saying.
-How did Ichigo and his friends get out of Hell? The movie never bothered to explain this. One second, they’re in the depths of Hell surrounded by hordes of Guardians, the next the ending music plays and, lo and behold, they jump out of the Gates of Hell.
-On the note of escaping Hell, how on earth did Shuren, his minions, and Kokuto escape from Hell in the first place? Once again, this was never touched upon. Considering the whole movie revolved around Hell, I think this is rather important. If Hell is this easy to break out of, you’d think the Shinigami would be a little more concerned about it.
-What on earth was this new form of Ichigo about? He goes from VL to that without any explanation. The most that was said was some cryptic explanation about how “Hell was helping him.” Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. When Renji asks Ichigo what’s up with his new form, Ichigo replies, “This? I don’t really know either.” I’m not joking, that’s how poorly the movie was planned.
-There was no consistency with the Soul Chains. The main reason Kokuto searched for VL Ichigo was so that the chains binding him to Hell could be broken; obviously for someone to go to all that effort, it can’t be easy. Yet Yuzu, who was considered to be beyond help and officially owned by Hell after her Soul Chain appears, recovers instantly for no explained reason and suddenly returns to the World of the Living. Then there’s Rukia, who dies while in Hell and is reborn with a Soul Chain; according to the folklore in the movie, this should mean the person is bound forever in Hell. Instead, Ichigo rips off the chain in one second flat, and that’s the end of that. Where’s the consistency here?
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
*****END OF SPOILERS*****
Now, on to the moment you’ve all been waiting for: that last sentence back in the summary, VL Ichigo. I am here to tell you that yes, Ichigo does indeed go Full Hollow. And it’s a huge disappointment. The fight lasts for about two minutes, and all VL Ichigo does is stand in one place while shooting Cero after Cero. Then Renji sends him back to the World of the Living after realizing his fight was a complete let-down and all the angry fangirls were about to rip him to bits(okay, I made that part up, but he DID send him back to Karakura to keep him from going completely out of control). And that’s it, people. We never even got to see Ichigo go on a Hollow rampage. Actually, Ichigo almost goes VL again at the very end, but he stops himself last minute, so that doesn’t even count. In other words, the single reason this movie may have been worth watching went down the drain.
“But wait, what about the Ulquiorra vs VL Ichigo remake?” Actually, that is the only thing this movie did right, as out of place as the scene is. It takes place right at the beginning of the movie and is pretty much a two minute summary of the fight. It’s very fast-paced and brief, but the animators did a spectacular job with it. It’s downright amazing; actually, I watched it over five times before heading on to the rest of the movie (not joking). This is what the original fight should have been like. The animation is smooth and fluid, the colors are both suitably dark and brilliant when needed (Ceros and the flames), and the intensity will have you on the edge of your seat. This part alone is worth watching; my only regret is that it wasn’t longer, but I’m happy with what we got. Since I don’t want anyone to waste their time on this movie, I’ve uploaded the fight to Youtube (I apologize for the video quality; I’m not sure why Youtube butchered it like that. I’ll try to fix it…it really lost its impact). Just a warning, though: if you haven’t watched/read the original fight, don’t watch this. Since it’s a fast-paced summary of sorts, you most likely won’t be able to tell what’s going on.
The only decent part of the movie. Hell Verse is nothing but fights, but I will say the director went to great pains to make sure they look amazing. Everything is smoothly animated, crisp, and filled with lots of tiny details. The fights themselves also showcase lots of interesting angles that are simply too expensive or time-consuming to draw in the actual series, and I respect them for trying something different. Why, then, the two points knocked off? Quite simply, the design of Hell was a let-down. Many of the layers were drab and plain, to the point where you could tell Kubo wasn’t even trying. Those that were a tad more exciting were still utterly unmemorable; I just watched this movie yesterday, and I can’t remember anything about what the world looked like. How Kubo managed to make Hell boring is beyond me.
There’s no denying that Hell Verse has a great soundtrack. It’s a notch up from Shiro Sagisu’s previous work, filled with epic full-orchestrated tracks and opera vocals. The problem lies in the repetition of these songs. The same handful of songs is played over and over again throughout the movie, to the point where they grated on my ear. I can only handle the same song for so long, despite how amazing it might be. I still don’t know why this was an issue, since the soundtrack had plenty of variety (I’ve listened to the entire track online). It really is a pity, considering how easily this could have been fixed.
I’ll start with the new movie-only characters. First, most of the character designs were sloppy and distasteful, if not downright disturbing. I’m not talking about Szayel or Aaroniero “disturbing,” which I consider to be tasteful and well done. I mean simply revolting to the point of wondering what Kubo was on at the time. All, for the record, are fodder characters that have an irksome habit of resurrecting whenever they feel like it. FKT, anyone?
The two main characters (Shuren and Kokuto), on the other hand, actually had very good, unique designs. It’s a pity they had no personality to match. Shuren, who is supposed to be the main villain initially, has about one minute of screen time overall and disappears halfway through without any warning. Even when he does appear, all he ever says is “Destroy the Gates of Hell, Ichigo! Then, we will be free!” *insert insane laughter here.* Now, on to Kokuto. Initially, Kokuto started out as a very interesting character with a decent backstory. The reason he was sent to Hell is compelling and harkens back to one of the original themes of Bleach: blurring the lines between what’s good and evil. He was actually a very likeable character…that is, before he fell apart. Kubo completely butchered his character and turned him into a convoluted, confused mess. I won’t go into the details here due to spoilers and the length of this review, but if you’re interested read the first Plot Hole I mentioned in the Plot section. It goes into some detail about Kokuto’s degeneration.
On to the regular characters: Ichigo, the nakama, and the Shinigami. The movie revolves mostly around Ichigo and his friends (including Renji and Rukia), though none have any characterization or interaction to speak of. All they do is fight, yell, and break stuff. Had the movie actually had meaningful interactions it would have made up for the lack of a plot a tiny bit, but even that is nonexistent.
I would also like to mention that the Espada and Arrancar are not in this movie whatsoever. Besides for the brief redone Ulquiorra fight, the Arrancar aren’t shown. This wouldn’t be such a big deal (after all, none of the previous movies mentioned them), but considering Kubo advertised this movie using the Arrancar, it’s a huge letdown. All of the promotional ads, the one-shot chapter, and those full-color pages showcased the Arrancar; if Kubo never intended to have them in the movie, he shouldn’t have displayed them in the advertisements.
As for the Shinigami, they don’t appear until the last twenty minutes of the movie and are hardly shown even then. Actually, I respect the director for doing this; the last two movies threw in those super-long fight scenes at the end as an excuse to show off all the Shinigami, and I’m grateful they didn’t take that route in this movie. That being said, I wish the Shinigami had appeared more; perhaps it would have led to greater character interaction. However, the one time there was interaction (between Byakuya and Ichigo), the former was completely out of character. Since when does cold-hearted Nii-sama try to comfort Ichigo? After he left his beloved sister in Hell, no less. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. The only good part in this movie, character-wise, was Rukia screaming in agony while being squeezed to death. It was, dare I say it, very satisfying. No, I’m not usually a Rukia-hater; let me explain. Normally, I absolutely love Rukia (she’s the main reason I watch Bleach), but like her older brother she suffered from Out-of-Character syndrome. She acts more like Orihime than her usual self, standing around helplessly and screaming out for Ichigo over and over again. Remember that scene at the end of the trailer when Rukia screams Ichigo’s name? It gave me the shivers and made me even more excited for this movie, though I was worried it wouldn’t be in the movie itself (as often happens with anime trailers). No need to worry: it is, and not just once. I lost track of the number of times she screamed “Ichigo!” Come on, Rukia, you didn’t scream like that when you were being crucified or stabbed to death by Aaroniero. Pull yourself together already. It’s rather sad and a mark of how poorly done this movie is when I start to hate my favorite character. Even Rukia couldn’t save this mess.
It's rather strange that the Themes section gets a higher score than Characters and Story combined, but at least the themes brought new, interesting material to the table, even if they suffered from being under realized. The themes in this movie are smothered by all the non-stop fighting, but they are there. I mentioned the main one before: blurring the lines between what's really good and evil. Unfortunately, this theme fizzles out toward the end similar to how the theme of humanity disappears in the Arrancar Saga, but it still makes for some interesting discussion. Did Kokuto really deserve to be sent to Hell? More importantly, did Ichigo have the right to banish him once again to its depths? What makes Kokuto's actions any different than Ichigo's? (Ichigo killed Ulquiorra out of revenge, after all. I believe this is why the animators decided to include the Ulquiorra vs Ichigo fight at the beginning). If Kokuto and Ichigo really aren't that different, then does that mean Ichigo is destined for eternal damnation? If that's the case, wouldn't that mean that many of the other Bleach characters are also doomed? It's a pity these questions weren't developed more in the movie itself (hence the lowered score), but I still enjoyed thinking about them. It made the movie a bit more thought-provoking.
Hell Verse embodies Bleach at its worst: no story or characterization, tons of meaningless fights, horrible character designs, and plot holes galore. I wanted to love this movie, but even being a diehard Bleach fanatic I could find nothing to enjoy. I’m sorry to say it, but Hell Verse is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a long time. The only way I could recommend it is for the themes alone, as I admit I found them to be fascinating. If the themes mentioned above generally interest you, then you may find something to enjoy beneath all the fights. Otherwise, just watch the Ulquiorra vs. Ichigo fight and let the rest go. You won't be missing much.
Well. I take back all the bad things I said about Kubo. Everything I said about this movie still stands, but Kubo isn't to blame. Click the link below and go to the middle of the page...you'll see what I'm talking about.
Poor guy. I honestly feel for him. I'd be upset, too.
Brains versus brawn. Brawn versus brains. Round and around and around they go ...
The most puzzling thing about shounen anime and manga is the distinct lack of heroes with both strength and intelligence, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the long running franchises. All too often it's the villains who possess this combination of traits, while the hero is nothing more than a super powered idiot with a tendency to rely on guts and brute strength. Risk evaluation, cause and effect, strategy, and other concepts that have more than one syllable seem to be beyond the ken of the typical shounen protagonist, and while there are some vague similarities between them and the brutish heroes of yesteryear, at least characters like Conan knew how to plan and make traps.
It seems as though the once great shounen sagas are becoming nothing more than parodies of what might have been, and charging headlong into the fictional wastelands (where all good ideas go to die), is Tite Kubo's Bleach and its latest feature, Jigokuhen (The Hell Verse).
Now some people may remember a chapter of the manga called Imaginary No.1: The Unforgivens, which introduced the character of Shuren and showed him to be far more powerful than at least two of the Arrancar (who somehow ended up in Hell). This side story forms the prelude to Jigokuhen, which picks up the narrative after the whole business with Aizen has been concluded (that is, if the opening scenes of the fight with Ulquiorra are anything to go by). Karakura town is at peace once more, Ichigo and his friends are back at school, and everything seems right with the world.
Unfortunately, dark forces are stirring once more ...
Continuity has always been an issue for the Bleach franchise and this movie is no exception. The story appears to be set at a time after the current arc in the manga (you know, the whole thing with the Fullbringers), and Ichigo seems to have shaken off the effects of the Final Getsuga Tenshou. Then again, this is Bleach we're talking about, and given the storyline in the other movies it's more likely that the writers for Jigokuhen were more interested in opening up new ways to continue the franchise than they were in creating a viable narrative. That said, the plot is decent enough, but there's always the nagging thought that this feature has been made for reasons that have nothing to do with telling a story, especially when the actual content of the movie is little more than the same storyline regurgitated ad nauseum (i.e. Ichigo powers up and saves the day).
Jigokuhen features some rather nice visuals but there's little in the way of actual innovation because of the inherent franchise limitations on aspects like character design (although one can never rule out genericism caused by a lack of ideas). There are also some glaring irregularities that stand out over the course of the movie, one of which is Rukia's flash of nakedness and subsequent yet familiar white outfit towards the end of the movie (I'll pause for a moment while the fanboys squee).
The viewer is supposed to believe that her shinigami outfit "disintegrated" because of her situation at that point in the narrative, which may not seem like much at first, but when you take into account the fact that both Ishida and Renji have already gone through Rukia's ordeal, one does have to question how they managed to keep their clothes whole and on their bodies while she didn't.
Fortunately Jigokuhen is no slouch where the animation is concerned, especially during the action sequences, but that's not enough to balance the flaws where visuals are concerned.
As for the acting, if you've seen an episode of Bleach then you're in for ... more of the same. The voice actors may be talented and know the characters inside out, but none of that helps when the plot and the script have been written by people with a mental age of seven. The dialogue is exactly what one expects from an episode of Bleach, with lots of angry and/or frustrated shouting and screaming, and so much ham they could start up a new business selling sandwiches.
The ending theme, Save The One, Save The All by T. M. Revolutions, is a rather generic J-rock song that works well with the movie, but given that the franchise is about as generic as they come, maybe that's not such a surprising thing. Jigokuhen also features a variety of dramatic classical and operatic tracks that serve as the background music to a number of the action scenes, but while the usage and implementation is decent for the most part, choreography has never really been a strength of the franchise.
With a mixture of wooden deliveries, frustrated screams, people shouting, and lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth it's pretty obvious that Jigokuhen is little more than an attempt to put a set of characters with textbook shounen reactions into a new situation and set them off to spin around before exploding.
And that's pretty much exactly what happens.
Aspects like character development are virtually non-existent in this movie, while other factors like characterisation are actually dependent on whether one has read or watched the main series (and more importantly, whether you enjoyed it or not). In all honesty there isn't really much one can say about any of the characters other than that they are who we expect them to be. Ichigo is the knight in pyjamas wielding an oversized kitchen knife whose tendency to charge in where angels fear to tread is getting tedious (seriously, it's like nobody in shounen entertainment outside of One Piece is able able to learn from their mistakes). Chad is the reliably stoic sidekick, while Renji and Ishida sometimes offer light comic relief. Rukia, Inoue, Karen, Yuzu, and almost every other female Ichigo's age or younger, are all the princesses waiting for the knight to come and rescue them.
You get the picture.
The thing that is surprising is that Jigokuhen does work as part of the overarching Bleach saga, but only from a very narrow and specific perspective. If one is able to ignore the recent storylines in both the anime and the manga, and overlook many of the flaws, then it may be possible to enjoy this movie as no-brain entertainment. That said avid fans will probably like this more for what it heralds in the future which, given how the story ended, will probably result in Ichigo becoming the head of Soul Society, or even the next Soul King.
Jigokuhen is watchable though, but while doing so I found myself thinking of Diamond Dust Rebellion and Memories Of A Nobody, both of which deviated from the typical method of problem solving synonymous with shounen stories (i.e. hit it in a melodramatic way until it stops moving, then give it a few more whacks just in case). Neither of those movies will stand the test of time, but they're a damn sight better than Jigokuhen (which in turn is marginally better than Fade To Black). It's a sad fact that the last two feature length outings have been uninspiring, lacklustre affairs with plot holes so big one could drive a tank through them, and that's just the tip of a very large iceberg.
If nothing else, Bleach: Jigokuhen proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this franchise lives and dies on the only trick it has.
One word sums up prety much everything I feel about Hell Verse: sadness. I'm sad because I know Kubo looked forward to Hell Verse as a project because it was the first Bleach movie he was allowed to help producing and he did a lot of color spreads, wrote the backstory and developed the concept into something that could potentially had become a great, almost canon Bleach movie. Alas, this is not the case as most of Kubo's ideas were discarded and it was too late to do anything about it. As a diehard Bleach fan, this was very easy to notice. I can spot the aspects Kubo had in the writing, but it's not enough. Far from it. Hell Verse has a great initial concept that's very interesting. What happens if someone is wrongly convicted? Well, the one character that was supposed to give us an answer to this question went from midly interesting to complete trash.
But let's go back to the beginning. Hell Verse is probably the most developed in terms of plot than previous Bleach movies. Makes sense, considering it's based off Kubo's special chapter and Kubo helped to design the concept. The initial idea is also quite nice aside the whole "Ichigo must rescue Yuzu from bad villain". There are a lot of concepts floating around about the morality of people's actions ranging from the initial "are bad guys in Hell really bad guys?" to "what if good guys are so caught up in fighting the bad guys they do the bad guys a favor?".
So we have these villains attempting to escape Hell because they hate being in Hell. I mean, it should be obvious as they are supposed to be tortured to eternity until they go insane and their souls are reduced to dust. Doesn't sound like something pleasant. So of course Ichigo and friends must go stop bad villains from escaping Hell because according to the good guys' point of view, the villains are bad, right? However, the story takes a drastic turn for the worse from that point onward since the concepts that were driving the plot magically disappeared. Bad guy became bad guy again, and good guy became good guy.
The remaining cast basides Ichigo and the main villain didn't add much to the story either besides for the sake of fan service. While the plot is still significantly better played out than with the previous movies we've had, possibly rivaled by Fade to Black only, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Then we have some villains that appear at the start to diasppear halfway through and never be heard of again.
Out of the main Bleach cast, the only person who really got some serious acting time was Ichigo but instead of capitalizing on what makes his character great, what we got was a horribly butchered version at his worst, and furthermore, nothing justified the kind of reactions he showed. Yes, poor lil' sis Yuzu was captured but does it warrant such overreactions we see? No, it doesn't, because there was zero build up that could explain his pseudo mental breakdowns. It's not even close to what we see in The Lust and later also in chapter 459. So in sum, I felt Ichigo's character was mostly horribly out of character. I had the same issue with Rukia who has now twice in a row been treated like a damsel in mistress in Bleach movies and I don't like it. Where did the Rukia go who was able to manage on her own?
And let me not even start on character development. There was zero. The one new character that had the potential to be great was flushed into the toilet by tossing away his backstory that could had been genuinely interesting if done right. As for Ichigo, he just goes "Waah, Yuzu!", and the rest of the characters don't receive enough screen time. There is one scene I like where Orihime almost hugs Ichigo and tells him to return, and that's pretty much all the drama that we got. It was a nice scene though, given that Ichigo still doesn't know that Orihime loves him and she almost openly confessed there. Another potential conflict flushed into the toilet.
So what was great about Hell Verse? Animation, pretty much. Fighting scenes were top notch, and for once I didn't end up completely bald because Ichigo's face actually looked like how it was suppose to look for most of the part. It felt consistent and the CGI was great most of the time. I also feel that Hell Verse had a lot of potential to be developed into something great if it had been developed as an OVA series instead of a movie at one and a half hour. It clearly wasn't enough because there was so much going on in Hell Verse that simply made no sense whatsoever because we never got any backstory or explanation as to why such and such happened.
So yes, I feel sad. I think Hell Verse had the potential to be genius if all of Kubo's ideas had been incorporated properly and if Hell Verse had properly taken off from the chapter Kubo actually wrote. I also think Hell Verse had been great if every aspect of it had been more developed such as characters, plot and the concept itself. As it stands now, it is possible one of the best Bleach movies to date but that hardly says a lot. One can watch it for the animation quality alone. At least that is something Studio Pierrot did right. It is however the only thing.
Hell Verse receives a very weak 5 from me. You can watch it with your brain shut off, but if you're looking into what you think makes Bleach great, none of that to be found here, sorry. What is there is just completely butchered.