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.