The end of what has been labelled the first series of Bleach on DVD left us tantalisingly on the brink of a major journey for Ichigo Kurosaki and company, with the show's protagonist and his motley crew of friends about to embark on a dangerous mission to Soul Society to save their captive friend Rukia before she's executed for her so-called crimes.
Thus, this first batch of twelve episodes from the show's second series details the group's journey, first to Soul Society, and then into its heartland, the home of the world's Soul Reapers known as Seireitei. On the way they meet yet more colourful characters, most notably Kukaku Shiba, a rather feisty fireworks expert, and her brash brother Ganju. Of course, the real action of the series begins once the team finally makes it into Seireitei, and from that moment forth we're treated to a bumper festival of what this series does best - Great characters, a good soundtrack, and slow-moving and dialogue heavy yet strangely gripping fight scenes that can occasionally take your breath away.
Thus, in essence this set of three DVDs is where Bleach well and truly turns into the stuff that shōnen anime is made of, leaving your thoughts about this series largely down to whether you love or loathe this particular meaty chunk of Japanese culture. It may not be deep or profound, but Bleach at its best can be a Hell of a lot of fun, mixing in just the right amount of comic relief with those epic and often overblown action sequences that would make even Chuck Norris break sweat. Okay, well it's maybe not quite that intense, but you know what I mean.
While I really enjoyed the initial part of the series and its human world-bound, Hollow-fighting action, the move to Soul Society does give this series a chance to stretch its legs in a far more imaginative direction, and it shows in the fantastic and fascinating character designs of the many that make up Soul Society's thirteen squads of Soul Reapers. We also begin to feel the first elements of conflict in the Seireitei camp despite the invasion if Ichigo and friends, which adds some additional intrigue beyond the core plot surrounding the attempt to save Rukia from her fate.
In other words, as we progress through the episodes on offer here, this show simply oozes cool. From Ichigo's attitude through to his opponents and the fights each and every character indulges in, you can't help but grin inanely at the almost beautiful lack of subtlety of the whole thing - This series knows its target audience, it knows what they want, and it hits that target over and over again with the ease of a well-trained Quincy. If you enjoyed any previous forays into the Bleach universe, then you'll absolutely love this, and if you're yet to dip your toe into these waters but think it sounds like your kind of thing, then what are waiting for? Come on in, the water's lovely, albeit a little bloody and rubble strewn.