I received this galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Also, I wrote a full, spoiler-free review for this whole series at Hot Stuff for Cool People.
I’m a huge fan of the Bleach series as a whole. I just… never expected it to be as emotional and raw and beautiful as it is. I expected a ton of action and excitement and, you know, duking it out, and there is a lot of that, but it’s so balanced that even though that kind of thing isn’t really for me (I’m weird, I’m not particularly into action of any kind in my manga or books) I just absolutely adore this series.
But I think it is, generally, as a whole that this series works. In the first few volumes, that mix of emotion and human interaction and action was blended within each book. As the series stretched on, some volumes were more people and relationship oriented, and others were more strictly fight scenes. I mean, there’s always a bit of a blend, but sometimes I feel a little like I have to read through a really long fight scene, sometimes volumes long, to get back to the more human emotions I can connect to.
Volume 64 of Bleach is like that. It’s one very long fight scene, with the start of a new battle tacked on at the end. Luckily, the author, Tite Kubo, is… basically a genius. So even though I’m not much into fight scenes, he makes them really creative and interesting, and even when there isn’t a lot of introspection, he still offers the reader so many ways to connect to the characters who are, basically, attempting to kill each other. You feel for both the good guys and the bad guys, or at least come to understand them a bit, and it’s that gray zone that he spends so much time in that makes me really love anything Tite Kubo writes.
So… This volume covers the battle between Kenpachi and Gremmy, one of the Quincies. I don’t honestly know if Gremmy is one of the Quincies, actually, or like a tool they’re using, because after 64 volumes, read months apart, I simply can’t keep up with who’s who, exactly. The nice thing, though, is that I never feel really lost, which can definitely happen when you’re reading a terribly lengthy manga series with such long periods of time between volumes. Even though there are about a million characters, and they all have about a million different motives for whatever they’re doing, Tite Kubo makes them, individually, pretty memorable.
Anyway. Kenpachi and Gremmy. It’s a creative battle (the ideas about how people fight and how their weapons work are just surprisingly clever) and even though it takes nearly the entire length of the volume, I was never bored, and there was some nice introspection and such- although I would have liked a little more.
The other thing that never ceases to amaze me- the main character of the series, Ichigo, makes absolutely no appearance in this volume, and neither do any of his closest friends, aka the other main characters. Kenpachi and his people are, at best, second string characters. But although I love the main characters, I didn’t miss them. That’s a real gift there, to be able to ask a reader to focus on characters who aren’t, technically, that important- but obviously they are important enough, because as the reader, you care about them enough not to wonder where the other characters have gone.
At the end, another fight scene starts up, and I had to kind of look sideways at this one, first because it just came so abruptly on the heels of the other and it felt like a bit of a rush. And wow, can we just have a bit of a break between these things? Fighting seemingly invincible enemies is… fun, I guess? But it does get a bit like, what can possibly happen next? And it felt like a lot of that was being thrown at me. I mean, it’s kind of draining, to be told over and over that there is No Way Out, and then get put right back into the same situation without a little, I don’t know, plot.
And also, one of the new characters had a truly ridiculous name which I have to assume was somehow butchered in translation. (Candice Catnipp? You’re kidding me, right? There’s no way that came from the Japanese.) But that’s such a small point.
Overall, I wished there had been a little more personal interaction and a little less let’s-bludgeon-each-other, but the art was gorgeous, as usual, the story was rich with creativity, and I enjoyed it a lot.