Story/Art: Tite Kubo
Translation/Adaptation: Joe Yamazaki
What They Say:
Facing a powerful opponent, the mysterious Kisuke Urahara is forced to reveal his Bankai for the first time. Meanwhile, Ichigo finally makes it to Yhwach’s throne room, but what can he do against an enemy whose power is omnipotence?!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bleach’s penultimate volume is a difficult one to really dig into, not because it’s especially dense, but because it does virtually nothing to distinguish itself from the rest of the arc. The Thousand Year Blood War arc has more or less fallen into a routine of having one of the Soul Reapers start fighting one of the Quincies, struggle as the Quincy overpowers them, and then unleash a previously unseen ability to win. It’s not a bad idea in isolation, but the way Bleach has repeated this formula ad nauseam has made it more exhausting than anything else.
It doesn’t help that the current fights are far less interesting than their predecessors. Kisuke Urahara’s fight against Askin is a great idea—Kisuke’s gotten a lot of cool moments before and we’ve been waiting to see him go all out for a long time—but the fight ends so quickly that his role almost feels pointless. We’ve barely gotten to see Kisuke’s Bankai in action before Grimmjow randomly shows up, kills Askin with a surprise attack, and is incapacitated by the poison that Askin releases before he dies. It’s a colossal waste of two fan favorite characters, one of whom we’ve been expecting to return since Hueco Mundo, and the abrupt shift back to the Gerard only makes it more forgettable.
The Gerard fight itself is also even less interesting than Askin fight. The latter benefits from Kisuke and Askin both having cool abilities, while Gerard’s ill-defined ability to cause miracles is sub-par by Kubo’s standards. There’s too little explanation given for what he can do and what the exact limits are, which makes his constant regenerating feel tedious. Even as Kenpachi, Toshiro, and Byakuya keep unleashing new attacks, it doesn’t feel like they’re making any progress. Kenpachi’s intervention spices things up a bit since he’s always entertaining to watch, but even that isn’t enough to save the fight as a whole. After they fight for a bit—with Kenpachi randomly getting a Bankai for no real reason—we’re left in the exact same position as before he arrived: with Toshiro and Byakuya fighting a giant Gerard who seems unstoppable. Even Toshiro unleashing a new form after his ice petals disappear just comes off as another repetition in an already dragged out-fight.
This issues wouldn’t be too bad in isolation—both fights are okay taken by themselves—but their place in the arc only exacerbates their flaws. Like I said in my volume 71 review, the way everything is sandwiched back-to-back with no breathing room robs all of these individual moments of most of their impact. It would take a lot to stand out in all this mush, and these fights aren’t enough.
This volume is also hurt by the lack of Kubo’s stand out panels. He still likes to contrast the Soul Reapers’ black outfits against the white background, but there aren’t as many impressive panels here, so the flaws in this approach are more apparent. There’s so much empty white space in some of his panels that the world just feels empty. It also makes fights harder to follow since there are so many panels of a white streak hitting something against a white background without enough shading to really clarify what’s going on.
The word “tedious” should never be applied to a battle shonen like Bleach, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about this volume. There’s been so much focus on secondary battles throughout this whole arc that every big moment ends up being just another reveal in a long string of them. Without any breathing room to let the individual fights and abilities sink in, nothing is able to stand out from the crowd, even long-awaited reveals like Kisuke’s Bankai. At least we’re almost at the end. I just wish Bleach had taken a better route to get there.
Content Grade: C-
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: B+