Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 23

Bleach DVD Set 23 includes episodes 317-329 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Bleach DVD Set 23

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: December 16, 2014

Set 23 begins a new filler arc for Bleach, which is known as the “Gotei 13 Invading Army” arc. This arc runs for 26 episodes, and the first 13 of them are included on this set.

This filler arc begins with the Soul Reapers discovering that the time in the Precipice World is out of sync with the Soul Society. Over the course of the episodes in this set, it’s discovered that Inaba Kageroza, one of the scientists who works under Mayuri Kurotsuchi, is a traitor who’s behind the distortion of time and the reigai (clones of the captains and lieutenants who have been fighting with the Soul Reapers). Inaba is a character who was created specifically for this arc, and by the end of this set, it’s obvious that he’s way overpowered. Of course, if the writers hadn’t overpowered him like they did, this story arc wouldn’t have lasted for 26 episodes. Unfortunately, the more powerful we see that this character is, the more ridiculous the story seems.

This arc also introduces another new character named Nozomi Kujo. Kon investigates a spiritual disturbance and finds a girl covered in rags who is lying asleep in a parking lot. Kon, who is in Ichigo’s body at the time, takes her back to the Kurosaki house. After it’s revealed that Inaba is after Nozomi, Ichigo and the others decide that they need to protect her. But Nozomi stays very aloof for the most part and doesn’t seem grateful for their protection. I suspect that the writers were trying to create some kind of cool and distant character, but with the way she acts and with the things that she says, she comes across as being bitchy and annoying. I can honestly say that I haven’t liked this character up to this point, and it’s going to take something major happening by the end of the arc for me to care about her.

This arc also sees Ichigo trying to do the things that has normally done as a Soul Reaper, even though his powers are fading after his battle with Aizen. Of course, this issue isn’t helped any when he finds himself being framed for the distortion of time in the Precipice World. At this point, Ichigo’s “dealing with his fading powers” is the fact that others keep mentioning it to him or they reference it in action scenes he’s involved in; we don’t actually see him consciously thinking about this himself. There would have been the potential for some good character moments if we saw Ichigo consciously thinking about his fading powers as he tries to help out with the situation. There are still 13 more episodes of this arc to go, so perhaps we might see some of this near the end of it.

For the most part, what I’ve seen to the “Gotei 13 Invading Army” arc hasn’t done much for me. The new characters who are introduced are rather annoying, and there hasn’t been much to the story to truly keep me interested in what’s going on. There are a couple of amusing moments with Kenpachi and Yachiru during this set, but those moments are probably the most memorable parts of the story included in this set. At this point, I’m only going to finish it off this story arc when I watch the next set so I can get back to canon material. Also, I want to be able to say that I’ve seen all of the Bleach anime.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the omake continue to be cut off from the end of the episodes and collected together in the “Omake” feature included in the bonus features on each disc. The quality of the omake on this set pretty much matched the quality of the episodes; overall, they were uninteresting and rather forgettable.

There’s a clean opening and clean ending included on both discs, and it’s the same opening and closing due to the fact that neither song changed over the course of these 13 episodes. They both have options for English subtitles and Romaji subtitles.

“More From VIZ Media” includes the exact same trailers that appear at the beginning of each disc when it first starts up. Not only that, but the trailers used for Bleach DVD Set 23 are the exact same trailers that were used for Set 22. This really made me feel as if whoever put this set together put even less effort into the “More From VIZ Media” feature that usual.

If you’re a Bleach fan, I would only truly recommend picking up Bleach DVD Set 23 if you want to have a complete collection of all of the episodes of the series or you want to be able to say that you’ve seen every episode of the series. Casual viewers can skip the episodes included on this set and not miss anything.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Anime Film Review: Bleach the Movie: Hell Verse

Bleach the Movie: Hell Verse is the fourth film released for the Bleach franchise.

Bleach the Movie: Hell Verse

Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: December 4, 2012

The movie sees powerful masked spirits known as Sinners attacking Ichigo and his friends while they’re at school. Meanwhile, another group of the spirits goes to the Kurosaki Clinic. When Ichigo gets there, he finds that the spirits’ leader, Shuren, has attacked his sisters. A Sinner named Kokuto, who is not affiliated with the others, manages to rescue Karin; however, Shuren escapes and departs to Hell with Yuzu. Kokuto offers to assist Ichigo by showing him the route into Hell, and they are accompanied by Rukia, Renji, and Uryu. The film ultimately focuses on Ichigo and the others going through Hell and trying to rescue Yuzu, while dealing with unexpected surprises that await them there.

When it comes to Hell Verse, I thought that it relied too much on battle sequences and utilizing various shonen tropes, rather than making an attempt at trying to tell an actual story. Because of all the tropes being used, I found myself just having to go along with and accept what was presented in the story. Due to the lack of a strong story in the movie, I found it hard to remain interested and invested in what was going on. Also, the film relied on the audience having watched the prologue episode that appeared in the Bleach television anime series before watching the movie, because no time was spent on establishing why Rukia and Renji were in Karakura Town at the beginning; this explanation only appears in the prologue episode.

I also found myself feeling very confused near the beginning of the film, because two of the scenes were basically recreations of the first couple of scenes in the first episode of the Bleach television anime series. There were some slight changes made to the details of these scenes, but I could easily tell that the scenes were very similar. At first, I thought they were true recreations of those scenes, until I picked up on the slight changes in the details. To be honest, I don’t understand the point of doing this, especially for the first scene. At least with the second scene, it was establishing the fact that Ichigo’s father would be away from the clinic.

When it comes to the animation, I have to say that what I saw in Hell Verse was on the weaker side for a Bleach film. While it looked a little better than the animation used in the television episodes, it was still quite a step down from the animation in the first Bleach theatrical film. Also, I noticed at least a couple of instances where an attempt was made to utilize computer graphics, but the CG ultimately stood out way too much from everything else and was more of a distraction than an enhancement for the scenes it was used in.

After watching all four Bleach theatrical films, I have to say that Hell Verse was the weakest. There was an interesting concept going into it, but I felt that the film was a little too short to fully develop what little bit of actual story there was.

When it comes to the DVD release, the audio is available with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

There were a total of three bonus features included on this release. The first is a “Production Art Gallery,” which includes 12 pictures; all of the pictures are in color. “Japanese Trailers” includes a total of two trailers for the film; unfortunately, no subtitles are included, so unless a viewer can understand Japanese, it’s impossible to tell what’s being said. The final extra is “More From VIZ,” and all this includes is the Neon Alley trailer that plays at the beginning of the disc when it first starts.

In the end, I can only truly recommend Bleach: Hell Verse to fans of the franchise who want to watch and/or own everything associated with Bleach. Those who consider themselves to be casual viewers can skip watching Hell Verse and not miss anything.

The reviewer checked out this item through the King County Library System

Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 22

Bleach DVD Set 22 includes episodes 304-316 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Bleach DVD Set 22

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: September 30, 2014

Set 22 opens with two filler episodes. The first is another episode produced to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bleach, with some of the characters turned into monsters and supernatural creatures. The Snow Crystal from the earlier filler episode that retold the beginning of the series in an Arabian Knights setting returns, and Ichigo and Ishida’s fathers are monster hunters. Oh dear Lord, this filler episode was extremely painful. Who thought this was a good idea to celebrate an anniversary of the franchise?

The second filler episode sees Hisagi, Rangiku, and Isane investigating mysterious murders in the Rukongai. Hisagi and Rangiku go on ahead, and quite a bit of the episode focuses on the crush Hisagi has on Rangiku. While this wasn’t as bad as the first filler episode in the set, I still didn’t enjoy this episode very much. It relied heavily on a couple of running gags that really weren’t funny. By the end of the episode, I just wanted to return to the canon storyline from the manga.

The next five episodes in the set all contain canon material, and finally bring about a resolution to the Arrancar arc. This particular story arc started back in Set Six, and with all of the interruptions it had due to filler material and filler arcs, it took this long for it to finally finish. It was a rather satisfying ending to this arc, even if it took 200 episodes to finally get here. My favorite part of these final few episodes of the arc was getting to see the backstory involving Rangiku and Gin. I was amazed at how, within a couple of episodes, Gin became a sympathetic character. When I first encountered Gin early on in the series, I never would have envisioned myself ever thinking he could sympathetic. And the resolution of the arc sets something in motion for Ichigo that should become important at such a point the anime returns to canon material.

Unfortunately, the final six episodes on Set 22 are all filler material, with each one being a stand-alone story. The first of these filler episodes sees the return of Karakuraizer, a concept that’s appeared a couple of times in some of the earlier filler episodes. I didn’t enjoy the earlier Karakuraizer episodes, and I didn’t like this one, either. I can only hope that I will never have to see Karakuraizer again in the remaining episodes of Bleach.

The remaining filler episodes are a mixed bag. Three of the remaining filler episodes were actually rather decent, while the other two were just bad. Of the good filler episodes in the set, I would have to say that the episodes focusing on Yachiru and Toshiro were the best, because they were both rather emotional. While the characters who are introduced in these filler episodes will never be seen again, these episodes had such a compelling story to them that the viewer will have an easier time remembering these particular filler characters.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the omake are still cut off from the end of the episodes and collected together in the “Omake” feature that’s included on each disc. Overall, I thought the quality of the omake on this set was decent, although there were a couple of stinkers mixed in.

There’s a clean opening and clean ending included on both discs, and it’s the same opening and closing due to the fact that neither song changed over the course of these 12 episodes. They both have options for English subtitles and Romaji subtitles.

“More From VIZ Media” includes the exact same trailers that appear at the beginning of each disc when it first starts up. Even though this has been the case for the past few sets, it still feels like somebody didn’t want to go to a lot of effort for this particular bonus feature.

If you’re a Bleach fan and want to have all the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection, then you need to get a hold of Bleach DVD Set 22. The main draw of this set for fans is the fact that it contains the final five episodes of the Arrancar arc, although there are two or three filler episodes near the end of the set that are decent and worth watching. Outside of those seven or eight episodes, most of the rest of the set can be skipped without losing anything.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 21

Bleach DVD Set 21 includes episodes 292-303 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Bleach DVD Set 21

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: June 3, 2014

Set 21 has nine episodes of the canon storyline and three filler episodes; however, one of the nine canon storyline episodes is an entire episode recounting the various battles Ichigo has had in the canon story. In addition, the subsequent episode spends roughly half of its runtime in this flashback about Ichigo as well. So in the end, there are really only seven-and-a-half episodes that truly progress the story in this set.

But a lot actually takes place in those seven-and-a-half episodes. There’s a major battle with Aizen that involves the vast majority of the characters currently on the battlefield, but Aizen manages to cut them all down. Yamamoto makes a major sacrifice during a battle, Ichigo and Gin end up battling it out, Ichigo learns something shocking about his father, Urahara and Yoruichi show up and join in the fight, and Aizen goes through a transformation. The canon material was actually the most enjoyable part of watching Bleach DVD Set 21, with the only exception being the episode-and-a-half of flashback. For the most part, it felt like the story was actually moving and wasn’t being stretched out.

Unfortunately, the canon storyline was broken up in this set to include filler material. The first time this happens is right when Urahara suddenly appears and attacks Aizen in the fake Karakura Town. Instead of continuing on with this fight, the series shifts to two filler episodes. The first filler was created to promote the fourth Bleach film, Hell Verse. The Soul Reapers are making films for a film festival to raise money to rebuild the Seireitei. It was supposed to be a light-hearted and comedic episode, but I didn’t find it to be that funny. Also, it was frustrating because there’s no way to tell where this episode could realistically fit into the series’ timeline, since many of the characters who appear in this episode are currently unconscious or are badly injured in the fight in the fake Karakura Town. This particular episode felt like a waste of time, and its inclusion frustrated me since it broke the flow of the canon storyline.

The second filler episode serves as a prologue for the Hell Verse film. I can’t really comment on how effective of a prologue it is, since I haven’t seen Hell Verse yet. However, of the three filler episodes included on this set, I’m the most forgiving of this particular one since it ties in with the Bleach film that was released at the time these episodes were being aired on Japanese television.

Bleach DVD Set 21 ends with a filler episode that’s set in the new year, and it’s split up into two stories. The first story sees some of the Soul Reapers playing a game of karuta that ends up going out of control when they start fighting with each other to get the right card. This story was meant to be humorous, but I didn’t find it to be funny; in fact, I thought it was rather stupid. In the second story, Orihime sees her friends celebrating the new year with their families and seems to be feeling alone. She runs into Rukia and Renji, and the three of them go to the Urahara Shop and join them for their celebration. This story had so much potential, especially with Orihime’s angle. Unfortunately, the story spent more time finding ways for Renji to become a “punching bag” and running the gag into the ground. I suspect that this episode aired right around New Year’s Day, but I just felt like it wasted time and kept the viewer away from the exciting canon storyline.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the omake continue to be cut off from the end of the episodes and are collected together in the “Omake” feature that’s included on each disc. Overall, I thought the quality of the omake on this set was a little stronger than the ones I’d seen on the past couple of sets.

There’s a clean opening and clean ending included on both discs, and it’s the same opening and closing due to the fact that neither song changed over the course of these 12 episodes.

“More From VIZ Media” includes the exact same trailers that appear at the beginning of each disc when it first starts up. Even though this has been the case for the past set or two now, it still feels like somebody didn’t want to go to a lot of effort for this particular bonus feature.

If you’re a Bleach fan and want to have all the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection, then you need to get a hold of Bleach DVD Set 21. The only real drawback to this set is the fact that there are a couple of ridiculous filler episodes included. However, if you skip those two episodes and focus on the canon material and the prologue for Hell Verse, then this set will probably be a little better of a viewing experience.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 20

Bleach DVD Set 20 includes episodes 280-291 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Bleach DVD Set 20

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: March 18, 2014

Almost all of the episodes in Bleach DVD Set 20 focus on the canon storyline from the manga source material. The exception is Episode 287, which retells the events from the first 60 episodes or so; the difference is that the characters we know from Bleach have been placed into an Arabian Nights setting. This episode was created and thrown into the middle of the canon storyline to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bleach manga, but I failed to see how this truly connected to the manga. Overall, I thought this episode was pointless and was painful to watch. Not only that, it was irritating that this was thrown into the middle of a major story arc.

Outside of this, the episodes in this set primarily focused on the battles taking place in the fake Karakura Town. The Visoreds who arrived right near the end of the previous box set team up with some of the Soul Reapers in order to take down the three remaining Espada. Of these battles, the most interesting was the one with Halibel. There’s a surprise twist as to how she is ultimately defeated, and the audience is also treated to some backstory for Halibel before she is completely defeated. While some back story was also provided for Stark, it wasn’t as interesting as Halibel’s was.

But after the Espada are defeated, there’s still Aizen, Jin, and Tosen to deal with. Jin manages to impale Hiyori, but she isn’t killed. Instead, she is slowly dying from the blood loss, with her only hope of survival being someone with healing powers to arrive and help. Hisagi and Komamura also have a battle with Tosen, which includes backstory for how Komamura and Tosen met and why Tosen joined the Soul Society. For the most part, both Komamura and Tosen had primarily been more in the background or just kind of “there” in the story, so it was nice to see these characters get some attention and development. But I had to feel bad for Komamura when Tosen activated his release form and could see. One of the first things that Tosen says to Komamura upon seeing him for the first time is that Komamura is uglier than he had imagined. That taunt had to hurt, at least a little.

Ichigo also becomes important to the action when he returns to where Renji, Chad, and Rukia had been battling with the powered-up Yammy in Hueco Mundo. Ichigo tries to go against Yammy, but he only manages to cut Yammy slightly. But Byakuya, Kenpachi, Mayuri, Nemu, Unohana, and Isane arrive, with Kenpachi more than ready to take on Yammy by himself. As soon as Kenpachi showed up, I knew we would be in for an epic battle since Kenpachi loves fighting so much and doesn’t back down.

Mayuri creates a Garganta, which is used to send Ichigo and Unohana to the fake Karakura Town. Unohana seems to think she understands why Mayuri wanted to send Ichigo to help out there after remembering something that had happened with Aizen in the past. Unfortunately, they don’t make it to the fake Karakura Town before this set ends. The stage definitely seems to be getting set up for Ichigo to be the one to save the day. I think it’s safe to say that Ichigo will pair up with Shinji to battle Aizen, but I’m not sure who would be battling against Jin. However it goes, it’s obvious that this story arc is building and is getting closer to reaching its conclusion.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the omake continue to be cut off from the end of the episodes and are collected together in the “Omake” feature that’s included on each disc. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of these omake to be amusing.

I was actually surprised to discover that there was no production art included in the extras on either disc in the set. This had been such a standard bonus feature in the Bleach DVD sets prior to this point.

There’s a clean opening and clean ending included on both discs, and it’s the same opening and closing due to the fact that neither song changed over the course of these 12 episodes.

“More From VIZ Media” includes the exact same trailers that appear at the beginning of each disc when it first starts up. It felt like this was done simply to make less work for putting the bonus features together.

If you’re a Bleach fan and want to have all the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection, then you need to get a hold of Bleach DVD Set 20. The only real drawback to this particular set is the fact that it includes the Arabian Nights-themed retelling of the first story arc. Fortunately, it’s just the one episode, and a viewer can easily skip it if they want to in order to continue with the canon storyline.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 18

Bleach DVD Set 18 includes episodes 256-267 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Bleach DVD Set 18

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: September 10, 2013

The first 10 episodes in Set 18 continue the Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale story arc, and these episodes show what happens after the fall of Muramasa. The final two episodes in the set finally return to canon material from the Bleach manga.

The first 10 episodes introduce the Sword Beasts, which are the zanpakuto of Soul Reapers who have died. The zanpakuto didn’t die with their respective Soul Reapers, so they are lost and start going on rampages. These episodes see the Soul Reapers and their zanpakuto in their materialized human form taking on these various Sword Beasts. Each of these episodes is a stand-alone story; while there were one or two stories in this filler arc that were interesting, the vast majority of them were rather stupid.

The final episode of the Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale made it clear through various dialogue cues that the episode would end with everything resetting to zero. The fact that a super Sword Beast that absorbs the spiritual energies of other zanpakuto and causing them to turn back into swords also helped cement the idea of this being the final filler episode in this set. The frustrating thing about this episode is that the zanpakuto talk about this super Sword Beast like they’ve known all about him for a while, yet this episode was the first time this particular Sword Beast was mentioned or referenced.

And while it was great to finally return to canon material in this set, the first of these two episodes was simply a recap of the various battles that had taken place between the previous filler arc and the Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale arc. And the final episode in the set does a short recap of the very end of the previous canon episode before finally progressing the story arc forward. So while I was grateful to finally return to the canon storyline, I was also disappointed at just how little that story progressed before Set 18 came to an end.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the omake are still being cut off from the end of the episodes and only appear as part of the “Omake” feature that’s included on each disc. The omake on this set were rather mixed when it came to how humorous they were. Some were amusing, while others just seemed to fall flat.

Each disc also has Production Art as a bonus feature, which include either eight or nine pages. Most of the production art is line art of the characters that appear in these episodes, with a few pages that also included occasional color art.

Each disc also has a “Clean Ending” option in the bonus features. The first disc includes the textless version of the first ending theme that appears on Set 18, while the second disc includes textless versions for both ending themes that appear on that disc.

If you’re a Bleach fan and want to have all the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection, then you need to get a hold of this set. Unfortunately, it’s still primarily filled with filler material and only includes a couple of canon story episodes that don’t progress the main storyline very much. But if you want to have all of the episodes that feature canon material, then you need to get a hold of Bleach DVD Set 18.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Anime Blu-ray Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 5

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Ranma 1/2 Set 5 includes episodes 93-115 of the series in their original Japanese airing order. Surprisingly, all of the episodes in this set appear in the exact same order that these episodes appeared on VIZ Media’s original DVD releases. This release also uses the original Japanese title cards for the episodes instead of the ones that were created for the English dub. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Ranma 1/2 Set 5

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: March 3, 2015

Ranma 1/2 Set 5 consists primarily of filler episodes and the stranger canon storylines from the original manga. This includes episodes that focus on Martial Arts Tea Ceremony, Martial Arts Dining, Martial Arts Shogi, and Martial Arts Calligraphy. To me, the best episodes in the set are the ones that introduce Gosunkugi, reveal that the principal of Furinkan High School is really the Kuno siblings’ father, and Kodachi being reunited with her long-last father. While there were occasional filler episodes that were somewhat amusing, such as Ranma temporarily becoming Nabiki’s fiancé, the vast majority are either painful to watch or just did nothing for me. Of the five Ranma 1/2 sets that have been released up to this point, Set 5 has the weakest episodes.

This Blu-ray release includes remastered high definition video straight from the Japanese Blu-ray masters. Overall, the Blu-ray remastering looks decent on this set, although I did see an occasional scene that looked grainy or looked washed out. It’s possible that the Blu-ray masters VIZ received from Japan had these same issues, so I’m not blaming VIZ for the occasional visual defects on this set. However, I do have to hold VIZ accountable for the couple of subtitle errors that I saw while watching this set with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

When it comes to the bonus features, there are a total of five that appear on Ranma 1/2 Set 5. The first is “We Love Ranma Part 5 – We Love Collecting,” which runs for about nine minutes. It includes interviews with cosplayers, voice actors, superfans, and anime industry professionals talking about the various Ranma 1/2 items that they’ve collected. Once again, this feature places more emphasis on the cosplayers, who I don’t know and don’t really care about, over the industry professionals and superfans. Overall, I’ve been rather disappointed in the “We Love Ranma” interviews that have appeared on these sets.

“Next Episode Previews” is a continuous piece that includes all of the next episode previews that aired with the episodes that appear on Ranma 1/2 Set 5. I don’t understand why this feature is included, since the previews are already included at the end of each episode.

The “Clean Opening” includes a textless version of the opening that appears on each episode in Ranma 1/2 Set 5, and “Clean Ending” includes a textless version of the closing that appears on each episode. Trailers are also included as a bonus feature.

This Blu-ray edition also comes with a 32-page booklet. The booklet opens with a “What Happened Thus Far” write-up that summarizes what happened in the episodes that appeared on the previous Ranma 1/2 set. The majority of the booklet provides a brief summary and screen shot for each episode, as well as production credits for the original release of the series and the credits for those involved with this Blu-ray release. The booklet has glossy pages that look nice, but are a little slippery for holding when you’re reading through it. It’s still a nice booklet, though, and I’m glad to see that it was included. The set also came with an art card with a picture of Ukyo that was used as the cover picture for the Ranma 1/2 Random Rhapsody DVD box set.

The box that the Blu-ray case, booklet, and art card come in is very sturdy and looks nice. The back of the box that gives a description of the product is actually something you take off of the box after you unwrap it.

While the episodes included in Ranma 1/2 Set 5 may not be the strongest in the series, I would still recommend this set to fans of the franchise. This is the best way to get Ranma 1/2 in high definition on Blu-ray without having to pay an arm and leg to try to import the Japanese Blu-rays.