Bleach Series 05 Part 02 Review
It's a time to rejoice, for the final ten episodes of the Bount Arc are upon us!! Not only that but Bleach Season 5 Part 2 opens by reaching the 100th episode landmark, which sadly is wasted by a complete lack of fanfare or anything of particular note at all happening in Episode 100. Mabashi and his boring possession doll Ritze are wreaking havoc across Seireitei and we discover that a single stab from one of those tiny little Bitto that invaded Kamakura Town can actually inject a poison that as Soifon learns can incapacitate and eventually kill a captain-level Shinigami, which raises the question as to why Kariya didn't just unleash a horde of Bitto upon Soul Society the moment he arrived but of course logic died a long time ago in this story arc so we won't dwell on that!
The format is fairly simple for the first half of this volume: A single Bount, a single hero, a single episode (mostly) to conclude their evil Bounting ways once and for all, which is certainly something of an anti-climax given how long they've been hyping the powers of these super-regenerating reishi vampires. In Episode 101 it is Sawatari's turn to face the music against Kurotsuchi Mayuri in a fight full of needless exposition and pretty much nothing else of any excitement, unless watching a whale gobble up walls and tiles is exactly what floats your boat. Mayuri is the one shinigami who can regenerate whole limbs instantly so of course he's contractually obliged to lose an arm or two in every fight it seems and that might float your boat as well.
Ishida takes on the dullest of the dull: Yoshi in Episode 102 while Kariya invades the Department of Research & Development because it turns out that a super-powerful artefact full of Bount energy known as the Jokai Crest buried there. Naturally this is the first time we've heard anything about some hidden artefact that can turn a Bount into a walking Nuclear Bomb, but again at this point in the story Kariya could pull a planet out of his arse and it wouldn't seem out of place with the standard of plotting being as high as it currently is. This puts Ishida's fight on the back-burner until Episode 103 when it takes centre stage and subsequently bores us to tears. Amazingly for a creature that can consume the entire world around her to regenerate Yoshi is one-shot by a remarkably weedy blow!
Hitsugaya decides he needs some Bount action in Episode 104 by hunting down Koga, who has had something of a change of heart after realising Kariya seeks total annihilation rather than simple revenge. You may remember Koga as the Bount who owned Ichigo rather easily at a couple of earlier points in this story but since then he has become something of a big girl's blouse and his doll: Dalk is easily despatched by the frosty powers of Hyōrinmaru. It's at this point we learn that Dalk's true form is in fact a large axe which Koga wields, enabling him to fight to the fullest of his strength - which is slightly perplexing considering a batshit psycho female insectoid who can shapeshift and spew thousands of bullets in all directions at once strikes me as something of a much greater weapon, but there you go.
With Kariya's lieutenants taken care of and the rather bizarre condition that it takes about a day for the Jokai Crest to fully activate being somehow known to everyone in Seireitei, our heroes are granted a slight reprieve in Episode 105 to rest up and recharge the batteries for a do-or-die final confrontation with the final Bount. This means lots of empty dialogue exchanges between various shinigami about what the situation is and who has been taken care of before Rantao makes her move the next morning. It turns out she has known how to track Kariya down from the moment he arrived in Seireitei, but naturally the obvious conclusion is for her to attempt to "finish things herself" rather than actually tell the vastly more powerful captains of Seireitei anything about this.
Before you can groan at this absolutely appalling contrivance Rantao has whipped out a farty Kido-rifle and had her arse handed to her by a now godlike villain, leading to another Bount flashback focussing on the hypocrisy of Soul Society and how ultimately they're to blame for all this mess, although what this flashback mostly does is simply piss all over the continuity Kubo will be establishing in future episodes (which were written into the manga by the time the Bount Arc started, so the writers have no excuse).
Episode 106 starts with a better flashback detailing the origins and betrayal of the Bount from Kariya's perspective, shedding light on how he got his powers and that rather crap scar on his chin. The writing is as bad as ever but the directing of this flashback isn't too bad, and when it's over we get back to the action as Ishida arrives on the scene showing Rantao-levels of reticence to have his more powerful allies accompany him and ensure the threat is eliminated even if he fails. Naturally Ishida has somehow become less of a wet fish than he was in the fight with Yoshi as explained by inane expository dialogue when he starts fighting, but naturally he's still not powerful enough to be a credible threat to Kariya, so his arrival is pure flaccid narrative wankery.
It may be appropriate at this point to stop and ponder why exactly the writers gave Uryuu Ishida a major role in this arc. He had no powers right from the start so they obviously had to come up with some silly part-time Deus Ex Machina to bring him up to spec and then reset him back to impotence at the end so Kubo's canon plotline could continue, so keep him on the sidelines and away from the action like Orihime and Chad were this entire arc. It's not like Bleach is short of supporting roles to take his place is it? Chad or Renji or heck even Orihime could have been given the role Ishida plays in this story as the whole Bount/Quincy connection really was completely superfluous.
Dwelling on the shortcomings of this arc is probably equally superfluous by this point, but the writers are genuinely intent on keeping the Bount Arc awful from beginning right to the end as they insert yet more contrivances to distract from the final confrontation between Ichigo and Kariya that plays out across Episodes 107-109. This is the point when the narrative should stop and the action should kick in, but instead we see relatively little fighting and too much of the shinigami of Seireitei running around locating yet more Jokai Crests that have magically been inserted into the script. We were told Kariya had the power to nuke Seireitei back in Episode 102 and we dubiously accepted it, so why at this late stage are the writers changing this to mean he was actually the first bomb that will set off a chain reaction of bombs across the city? It's like the millionth nonsensical contrivance this arc.
So with that, the Bount Arc fizzles out with a whimper and definitely not a series of bangs, but part of you may wish that Kariya had succeeded in destroying everyone if only to ensure that there will never, ever be another filler arc as bad of this put into production again. The one consolation of surviving this rubbish is that hopefully it doesn't get any worse than this.
PresentationThe aspect ratio remains a constant 1.34 for this final volume in the Bount Arc and the presentation is to the same standards as previous volumes, so I will simply repeat my A/V review from the first set here:
Bleach’s transfer generally looks quite pleasing: The print is in pristine condition and colours are crisp, bold and exhibit little to no noise or bleeding. Contrast and brightness levels are excellent and the image is about as sharp and detailed as you’d expect from the show’s varying production methods – plus there’s no noticeable Edge Enhancements either. However, there are two factors that let the transfer down a little: The usual NTSC-PAL standards conversion and the amount of Mosquito Noise in the image, pretty much every frame on these DVDs exhibits some form of Mosquito Noise!
Eschewing their recent trend of slapping on DTS and DD5.1 tracks to their releases, MangaUK have decided to just stick with the original Japanese DD2.0 track and an English DD2.0 track for the fans who like their American dubs. For the purposes of this review I sat down and listened to both tracks and can confirm they are both pretty equal in terms of quality. So with that being said I’ll just talk about both audio tracks as one singular track. The DD2.0 surround audio is of suitably high quality, handling the loud destructive action sequences with plenty of verve – thanks mostly to the punchy bass, good dynamics and some genuinely effective use of the rear channel. Dialogue too remains very clear and audible with no tearing when voices are raised; solid bass lends the voices a nice resonance as well.
Optional English subtitles are provided with no spelling or grammatical errors.