If you've been watching any Cartoon Network shows lately, you can't help but be aware of Bleach, a surprisingly popular (for its wacky premise) anime involving ghosts, crazy swords, wacky characters, and general mayhem.
A short while back, we were fortunate enough to receive the first season's box set of Bleach from Viz, who've been doing the American dubbing and release. When I say "first season", I mean that this box set comprises 20 episodes, and approximately two complete story arcs - actual "seasons" of some long-running anime series being somewhat hard to pin down.
For those who miss it, the general premise surrounds a young Japanese boy (Ichigo Kurosaki), who was born with the ability to see ghosts lingering in the world. He happens upon a group of afterlife guardians of sorts, known as "shinigami" (sometimes translated as either "death gods" or "soul reapers") whose job it is to shepherd untainted souls to the next phase of the afterlife, and to kill off tainted souls who prey upon human souls that don't move on quickly enough.
Through a series of bizarre circumstances, Ichigo gets charged up with the powers of a "soul reaper" himself, and then begins to awaken weird powers in some of his classmates as time goes on. The first series deals mostly with his initial adventures and interaction with the soul reaper who caused this transformation, Rukia Kuchiki.
But enough of that - if you're reading this, you are obviously capable of catching up on the rest of the story on your own. The real question you want to know is: is this worth buying? The answer, thankfully, is yes - though the point at which the box set leaves off will probably have you running to get the next (hey, the series has broadcast over 180 episodes in Japan). In fact, one of the small problem points for writing this review was the need to check up on whether the series would stay good, or only stay good until a certain point. I'm happy to be able to report that it's a series that (aside from a small filler arc yet to come) will remain good for a decent while yet.
The other question anyone dealing with a box set like this will ask is: subtitled, or english dub. Personally, I'm a sub kind of guy. Fortunately for lovers of english-language dubbing, Viz took their time and got it right; the box set feels a lot like Tenchi Muyo in being very easy to watch in either language, and nobody's voice seems woefully inappropriate for their character (I'm looking at you, Slayers).
The bonus material for the set is alright, but the box itself makes for an interesting treat - a nice small-size poster as an insert, very well-done character sketches behind each disc, and a little "extra" surprise for those who look into the sleeve itself.
If you have the chance and the spare funds, consider adding this one to your collection.
Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!