By Ryohgo Narita and Tite Kubo. Released in Japan by Shueisha. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Jan Mitsuko Cash.
The first half of this book is, to put it bluntly, a slog. It’s the giant fight against Tokinada that I’d been expecting, but for the most part it’s content to not be “Bleach, only well written” like the first two books but “actual Bleach”, which means that everything moves at the pace of a lethargic snail who’s having trouble getting going in the morning. Tokinada shows off his zanpakuto, whose gimmick is that it can copy the attacks of other Zanpakutos, which also means that he is Monoma from My Hero Academia and thus we can hate him even more. Fortunately, around about the halfway point, several things happen that make the book better. We get some lore we actually care about, Hisagi shows up to remind us he’s the star of these books, and we get some truly interesting characterization from one of the minor big bads I mentioned last time, who finally finds a thing to care about. That said, Nanao is still useless. It is Bleach after all, I guess.
The fights pretty much divide up how you’d expect. The super overpowered kid takes on Zaraki, and Tokinada takes on literally everyone else. Tokinada reveals his motivations for being the biggest smug asshole in all of Bleach (and given this is a series whose villains are ALL smug assholes, that’s a high bar), and these motivations will be very unsurprising to anyone who has read Baccano!, also by this author, as Tokinada and Fermet really do have an awful lot in common. Meanwhile, Hisagi has a chat with our overpowered child before all this begins, and reasons that the way that they’ve been raised means that they’re unable to decide anything on their own or have a moral center. He thus decides to make it his goal to raise this child right. And it turns out that he’s got a solid ally on that one, too. Now if only they could somehow stop Tokinada. Perhaps… if Hisagi finally figured out his bankai?
Bleach tends to run on cool moments, with everything in between just filler while you wait for the next one, so it’s good to see that there are a few here, the best of which is Hisagi stopping Zaraki from fighting Hikone – stopping Zaraki from a fight he’s pumped up for is damn near suicidal, but his reasoning is excellent, and even Zaraki has to agree, to the astonishment of everyone else. Hisagi’s fight with Hikone, using his newly discovered bankai, is also pretty damn cool. And I was pleased to see less death in this book than I expected, though given this is a book that resurrected damn near everyone killed off in the last Bleach arc to show they aren’t really dead, I should not be all that surprised. I also liked the lore that was given to us (which should have been in the actual manga, as is mentioned in the afterword) about the past of the Soul Society and what terrible things keep it going.
That said, Christ, this book is too long. It’s not as long as the 2nd book, but it’s still 285 pages when 185 could have easily sufficed. It’s essential reading for Bleach fans, but everyone else can easily skip it.
Oh yes, love to see Grimmjow shipping IchiHime.