Team TokuNet writer Tony C. takes a look at the much anticipated adaptation of the popular supernatural themed manga.
Bleach is the critically acclaimed shounen manga series by Tite Kubo that ran in Weekly Shonen Jump from 2001-2016 with an anime series that ran from 2004-2012.The movie stars Kamen Rider Fourze‘s Sota Fukushi, Ryo Yoshizawa, and Erina Mano. The story features a teenager named Ichigo Kurosaki in the town of Karakura who can see and interact with ghosts. One night, Ichigo meets a Soul Reaper (Shinigami) named Rukia Kuchiki. Soul Reapers fight off Hollows, creatures who have not yet passed on to the afterlife. And when Rukia is injured during a battle with a Hollow, she transfers her powers to Ichigo. With the powers of a Soul Reaper, Ichigo finds himself clashing with other Soul Reapers that have come to retrieve Rukia alongside the incoming threat of a Hollow known as the Grand Fisher.
This is the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, high school student and Soul Reaper.
Shinsuke Sato has directed previous live-action adaptations of famous manga series such as Gantz, Library Wars, I Am a Hero, Inuyashiki, and (my personal favorite of his) Death Note: Light Up the New World. This time, he was tasked to adapt Bleach’s first main arc: The Substitute Shinigami Arc.
Overall, I would say he was successful. Narratively, this adaption was pretty well done for crunching roughly 8 volumes of the manga into one nearly 2-hour film. But that’s not without some minor hiccups along the way.
I really enjoyed the first half of this film, as it follows nearly beat-to-beat of how the beginning of the story in the manga and anime. But then, the 2nd half of the middle act does lag in pacing which hurts the film more than it should’ve. I never did quite enjoy the choice of the dark color palette they used in the film (I’ve noticed that some live-action films use this palette to make the film more “dark” and “serious”). Though despite this, I’m thankful that they did keep some comedy intact. The action was top-notch too, although not too many scenes of it. If you were expecting to see a lot of action, you may find yourself in disappointment.
As with most shounen media, there is always a training sequence at some point in the early part of the story. But, when the film came to that point, it should’ve been 10 minutes at most, keeping within the pacing of the film up to this point. Sure, talking is never a bad thing, but I felt like Sato could’ve pulled back a few scenes to save for time and really keep the momentum going. But, it thankfully picks up in the final act with an ending that brings closure to the film, but also leaves a subtle opportunity for a future sequel.
Going into the ending, this was pretty depressing. Ichigo is cut down by Byakuya (Miyavi) after his fight with Renji (Taichi Saotome). And right before Byakuya is about to finish him, Rukia comes in and surrenders herself over. Spouting out that she was wrong and that Ichigo means nothing to her. And, after going through the movie with these two, it’s a bummer to hear those words come out of her mouth (yes, she’s only saying that just so her brother can spare Ichigo’s life, but it still hurts nonetheless). Then his memories get erased and it fades to black. The last scene in the film is Ichigo in school, back to his normal life again with his friends. But then there’s a look on his face that doesn’t quite seem like he’s truly forgotten everything.
The choice of having Renji and Byakuya in the film, despite appearing much later in the original manga/anime, was a smart move for Sato. In the manga and anime, there was a lot of focus early on with random Hollows that Ichigo had to fight. So, by cutting that part of the story out of the film and having these two characters appear, we could get right into the meat of the conflict. While the Grand Fisher is a formidable villain (one who killed Ichigo’s mother after all), having Renji and Byakuya being the final conflict in this film was the correct choice. Seeing these two in action in the final act was more satisfying to watch than the Grand Fisher (as he is CGI and all).
Chad (Yu Koyanagi) and Orihime (Erina Mano) do have small roles in this film. I did expect them to not have much screen time in the film, but they were present for key moments throughout, which was a pleasant surprise. I have a feeling both their roles will be expanded if a sequel is made. I’m just glad their roles weren’t reduced to being a cameo as I previously feared.
Ichigo (Sota Fukushi) and Rukia (Hana Sugisaki) were the standouts of the film. The chemistry between both characters were just like in the original works. And, I’m really happy to see Sota Fukushi’s acting has improved (Kamen Rider Fourze was the last thing I watched him in). If the movie had just been these two characters the entire time, I would’ve been okay with it. Although I’m curious as to why they chose to have Rukia with longer hair in this film.
Shinsuke Sato did a successful job adapting Bleach. While I do question the color palette of the film and part of the middle act, his decisions on the story regarding what to keep and what to cut out from the Substitute Shinigami Arc were the correct choices. Opinions on the ending may vary for some (whether you find it depressing or not), and the action, while enjoyable to watch, is very lacking in quantity. But, I’m happy to say that this was a good live-action adaptation, and I recommend it if you were ever a fan of Bleach or just curious to see another solid Shinsuke Sato film.
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