BLEACH 2022 just finished up its first season, reviving the anime after a decade of empty space. Before even moving into evaluation of the season or the finale, it’s worth giving props to what an incredible project this was. Anime are rarely given second chances. Those that are tend to be series that completed an anime series many years ago and get re-done entirely (think Fruits Basket or Hunter x Hunter, both of which had an improved anime run after the initial one). In the case of BLEACH, the story picked up neatly from where it stopped, but with a decade’s worth of improved artistic technology and industry knowledge under its belt. Despite that, BLEACH 2022 managed to both bring back fans of the original series and attract those who weren’t fans in the first place. The new series had breathtaking visuals and incredible quality that tapped into the viral energy prevalent within sakuga clips and fan edits. It walked back onto the stage of top anime so casually and gracefully that it felt at once as if BLEACH had never gone away and had always been of such high quality.
This season (or the first cour of this arc) and its finale concluded a fairly faithful adaptation of the manga with a few additions and omissions. Most omissions came in the form of winnowing down the lighthearted scenes from the manga. Minor jokes and passing remarks that didn’t add too much to the story were cast aside to give more bandwidth to crucial scenes. A few new sequences involving the history of the Quincy and Soul Society were added, giving fans more lore to immediately fall in love with. Both changes felt very much similar to the refinement Ichigo himself goes through in the final moments of this season. By taking a look at the past, taking what you’ve learned in the present, and applying that cacophony of progressing experiences toward the future, something truly incredible comes forth.
This article will, as the title suggests, discuss details from the entirety of the season. The first section is specifically about the final two episodes. The latter section is holistic. I wouldn’t recommend reading further until you’ve caught up.
A Finale Full of Emotion
This set of episodes presented the final piece of Isshin and Masaki’s combined origin story. In my opinion, these episodes were much more satisfying than the last. The first episode of these flashbacks relied a lot on combat and not as much on the natural weight of the scene. Because the combat itself was rather meh, that made the episode as a whole feel like it had less weight than it should have. In contrast, the finale much better conveyed the incredible strain and struggle Ryuken experienced while balancing his desire for Quincy posterity alongside his kind nature and desire to protect those close to him. He was definitely the strongest performance in terms of the memories themselves. On top of that, Isshin’s narration had an austere quality to it that perfectly exuded the years of sorry and patience that comes from someone living to protect others for so long. This was perhaps the longest we’ve ever seen Isshin go without slipping into a joke or a gag. It definitely paid off.
The final portions of the finale focusing on Ichigo and his reunion with Zangetsu were done similarly quite well. These episodes saw the return of Ichigo’s inner world with the aesthetic of BLEACH 2022, adding greater highlights and warm tones than the original anime. That world instantly filled with rain and a massive ocean, signifying both the suddenness at Ichigo’s despair and its depth. The reveal of old man Zangetsu as Yhwach in the manga felt quite powerful and it was just as powerful here. Because of how much better a job the anime has done at portraying the existential anger behind the Quincy’s strength, Zangetsu’s final speech to Ichigo felt much more substantive than it did in the past. Alongside the revelation that Ichigo has been suppressed from the beginning of the series and that Uryu has joined the Quincy army, this finale did great work to set up a transition point right into the second cour of the arc in July.
BLEACH 2022 Proves the Story was Always Alive
This continuation of the BLEACH anime was by no means a miracle. It is the result of the original story being finished and plenty of resources going toward the project. The anime adaption has consistently been quite faithful, almost to a point of maniacal precision at times. That decision to follow the original manga so closely is obviously quite different from the original BLEACH anime which constantly dragged out canon scenes and introduced filler arcs to keep from outpacing the manga. That original anime was a continuous one, meaning there were no substantial breaks during which no BLEACH content was released. I think this instance of the anime is a strong piece of evidence that the production cycle of both anime and manga can be self-destructive at times. Tite Kubo crafted an absolutely amazing series and it’s frustrating that it took flashy animation for a lot of the anime community to realize that. Had it been given more time and perhaps some breaks, BLEACH never needed to have ended its anime when it did. Hell, the manga probably could’ve been even better with more time to carefully bring the story to a clean conclusion. Every version of BLEACH has been great, even if one is next to a shiny, new one.
This season of the Thousand Year Blood War arc was fantastic on nearly all fronts. Animation and art were amazing. Lighting has been some of the best I’ve seen in any anime — ever. Music, from familiar songs to interpolations of the original BLEACH soundtrack, were delightful to hear. Voice acting went to an entirely different level; characters in every single episode brought a myriad of emotions to life and kept the quality of them consistent episode after episode. I called BLEACH 2022 a refinement earlier and I want to reiterate that again. This phase of the anime is a degree of execution that deserves years of sung praise.
Congratulations to everyone behind an incredible first season of the return of the BLEACH anime, Anime Corner’s Fall 2022 best anime of the season. A lot of anime can learn both from this series’ past and present. I hope the next seasons are just as much a thrill to watch as this one was.
Featured image and screenshots via Hulu.
© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot