PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!
Spoiler free summary: In Volume 59 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo has faced loss before. He’s been beaten. He’s been utterly crushed, but he always had his friends and the seemingly invincible Soul Reaper captains to lean on. The defeat they suffered at the hands of the Vandenreich was complete and terrible. Even through all the losses, there is nothing left to do but what he always does: Get stronger. And he isn’t the only one with more strength to find.
Character: I’m trying to verify this volume is the one I think it is. I read them all in basically two days, so It’s hard to separate one from another in that way. From what I can research at the moment, I feel like this is the one. This Volume is essentially my favorite in the series. It has a great fight (though maybe not the best in this arc). The thing is, this is the volume where characters I care about reveal things that give me a better understanding of who they are. It has great worldbuilding. And these characters grow. Kenpachi steals the show (and some other characters that I hesitate to mention because of spoilers). Almost every other volume has some sort of revelation that was either really cool but poorly executed or just plain uninteresting. This reveal is both interesting and well executed, and that’s why this volume stands out to me. We not only learn why Kenpachi works the way he works, but we understand just how far he’s gone to make it so his fights are a fun challenge.
Exposition: This is still provided through dialogue during fights, but it’s not nearly as cheesy as other fights. This is because the fight isn’t full of comments like, “See there, I set you up for that move.” Instead, the conversation is there. It’s two people who deeply respect each other striving to push each other to a new level. There’s love and respect and loss, and the dialogue is about them rather than an odd sort of commentary of the fight we can see.
Worldbuilding: We learn more about Bankai here and the history of the court guard captains. This is less about Bankai, which we saw plenty of lore on very early on in the series, and more about the backgrounds of characters we actually care about. A lot of this story was rushed in some ways and equally too slow. This is because we get background on characters we only met on issue ago. We have no relationship to the characters that leads us to even care why they’re doing what they’re doing. So the back story at best only makes us care, but then they win or lose, and we never see them again. What’s the point? This volume has character we’ve had a chance to get to know, and it expands on their stories. That expansion gives us insight into the history of the captains and the politics of the world. They work in harmony as great story telling should.
Dialogue: While this is a step up from what it has been, it’s probably not perfect. I will say it’s probably equal to the best that I could do, which I say only to acknowledge that it’s already about as good as I could do at my level. Sometimes I do these reviews, and I worry readers might come to believe I think I could do better. This is an opportunity for me to admit I don’t think I could. However, I do think there is a higher level to dialogue to be reached.
Description: This volume is actually all about description from a certain point of view. This entire volume revolves around two very specific scars, and those scars serve as a storytelling tool that really makes this volume sing. The best part is one of those scars has always been something we knew about but didn’t know the origin of. Here we have description serving not just as a way to distinguish one character from another, but also as a way to develop that character. The scar helps us identify one character from the crowd, but the story of how that scar came to be helps us understand that character better. This is great storytelling at its best.
Overall: The good news is this is my favorite volume. The bad news is there are plenty left to go. I think there’s something to learn about “fighting manga” here. I’ll acknowledge that some of the fights are cool, but fights in an of themselves can only reach a certain level of entertainment. For fights to be memorable, they need meaning and emotion. This volume demonstrates that and helps us see why the others don’t measure up so well.
Thanks for reading,