Never in my life did I think I would find myself saying BLEACH is moving fast. If you’ve been following along with the last few reviews, you’ll know that the episodes 1 and 2 of BLEACH 2022 covered five and four chapters of the manga, respectively. This week surpassed the both of them and covered six chapters. Even more, these were six chapters full of new information, explosive action, and incredibly important interactions between major characters in the series. BLEACH 2022 is consistently showing itself to be a more efficient, focused version of its original anime and manga source material alike. The story and order of events is constantly being tweaked to better accommodate a visual progression. All the while, small details that might have occupied multiple manga panels are skillfully reduced to a few moments or, when they add little to the core of a scene, removed entirely.
This episode featured an updated version of the classic BLEACH song on the precipice of defeat. This is the first song on the anime’s very first original soundtrack. In the BLEACH 2022 version, the original melody forms the backbone of the song while drums and guitar riffs layer over the top. I think this familiar yet fresh audio is the perfect analogy for how seeing this long-optimized version of BLEACH feels for someone who both watched the original anime and read the manga week after week.
However, changes can cause some concern. BLEACH 2022 episode 3 also added a significant number of new scenes. These scenes were almost entirely dialogue and serve to build up more of the narrative and lore of the story. Personally, I think the addition of these scenes will be good in the long run if done properly. I’ll be discussing that and more in this review, though unfortunately not everything in the episode given just how much content we got from it. Spoilers are beyond this point.
A Fantastic Second Battle for Ichigo
First and foremost, watching Ichigo fight again was incredible. Once again BLEACH 2022 showed off its strong attention to lighting. I think this is incredibly important for this season given the nature of Quincy combat. Unlike prior seasons where melee implements were the focus and bursts of spiritual energy somewhat secondary, combat against these Quincy is a constant flurry of flashing energy and quick attacks. This is the second time Ichigo has fought in BLEACH 2022 (the hollows don’t count; that wasn’t a fight that was curb stomping) and once again the fight showcased a lot of his growth from his original time in Hueco Mundo.
Ichigo is much more thoughtful than he was last time — surveying his opponents before engaging and actively thinking about their abilities in the midst of combat. He chooses to catch Heilig Pfeil (henceforth I’m just saying arrows) to gauge their strength and attempt to demoralize his opponent. It’s incredibly similar to the way the arrancar Ulquiorra Cifer first encountered Ichigo way back in the Hueco Mundo arc. Ichigo chooses to not immediately use his Bankai, no doubt worried about the theft ability, and we get a lens into the deliberation he makes mid combat.
I’ve seen musings online that this fight’s animation quality was lower than prior episodes. Personally I don’t feel that’s the case and if it is I don’t think it’s worth thinking about. Opening episodes are always meant to be showstoppers, especially when they’re premiered to media outlets and lucky fans like BLEACH 2022 was.
Extra Scenes and Risks
The middle portion of the episode was the biggest surprise for me, primarily because I had never seen its contents before. The scenes where Uryu searches his family archives were entirely new for the anime. In a meta sense, this does mean that BLEACH 2022 has (at least the seeds of) its own continuity apart from the manga. This isn’t wholly unexpected given how much of the BLEACH manga had to be rushed to completion. At least in the context of this episode I also believe this addition was positive, for a few reasons.
This episode proceeded at a pace and with a process that shows a clear desire for quicker progression through certain elements of the story. We’re already aware of how long this arc will be (4 cours) and the per-chapter rate of each episode. In order to maintain this surprisingly fast pace BLEACH 2022 is going to have to add extra scenes somewhere. The difference between this and filler content however is that this actually accentuated the story. The BLEACH 2022 anime, unlike the manga, drew the audience’s attention much more toward the origin of the Quincy with this episode. We begin to see Uryu questioning his heritage, the Quincy Quilge Opie (who fought Ichigo) speak directly about the archaic nature of the Ishida family’s techniques, and members of Soul Society ponder the morality of warfare against Quincy. This adds an additional layer to an existent element rather than add an additional element, like previous filler did.
This sort of move has obvious risks — adding too much in the wrong places can bloat the story and adding the wrong things in general will make it feel like the original anime filler all over again. But if BLEACH 2022 maintains the pattern of addition that it held here I do think the additions will be meaningful.
This week we saw multiple fantastic battles and several important conversations across Soul Society, including a clear centuries’ worth of frustration from many of the older Soul Reapers. BLEACH didn’t shy away from showcasing the complete domination of recurring cast members at the hands of Quincy either. BLEACH 2022 is painting a scene of absolute desperation and doing so in a much more brutal and visceral fashion than any previous arc. Earlier villains like Aizen felt like their journey couldn’t be stopped. The Quincy feel like their journey will crush everything in its path before it finishes. And I can’t wait to see the rest.
Featured image and screenshots via Hulu.
© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot