Bleach – Season 3: The Rescue arc

Bleach – Season 3: The Rescue arc

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After failing to rescue Rukia, Yoruichi rescues Ichigo from a fate at Byakuya’s hands and promises to teach him how to master the second stake of zanpakuto – Bankai. However, he only has three days before Rukia’s execution in which to master it, because the Soul Society chiefs have brought it forward. As it dawns upon Ichigo that he and his allies are running out of time, he knows he has to make some decisive moves. Will he be able to become strong enough to save Rukia before it’s too late?

IMG_1834.PNGThis is where Bleach veers back into the typical shounen – with the hero fighting his way through an unknown environment, facing down adversaries and learning more new powers in order to become stronger when faced with the main antagonists to pull off that heroic rescue that he vowed to do right at the start (without really knowing what he’s going up against). The main conflicts in this arc branch off into various individual and group confrontations whilst allowing for character and backstory development. Though there is some greater evil at work further on down the line, Bleach does very well in incorporating a great deal of depth and intricacy of underlying motives.

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Obviously the main antagonist comes as no surprise to many, for those who have already watched and those that have read the manga, as well as the interesting revelation of those that have chosen to betray Soul Society in order to help their fellow conspirator. These featured some very dramatic episodes and a range of great scenes, from the moments leading up to Rukia’s rescue and Ichigo’s success in achieving Bankai in such a short space of time. There was a good ‘apology’ scene between the two of them afterwards which was both heartwarming and amusing.

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The plot twists also managed to keep my brain functioning – it takes pure logic to solve the mysteries surrounding Soul Society’s current state. These developments occur during Rukia’s execution: the mass-murder of Central 46, captains turning against each other, and a conspiracy against Soul Society is revealed – Aizen and his conspirators are identified and marked as traitors.

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What separates Bleach from other shounen series is its art, design and animation. This has come on leaps and bounds since the first season already, which we can see in the colour contrasts of the stark shinigami uniforms whilst maintaining individual elements to help with differentiation. The zanpakuto we have seen so far are brilliant – such creativity involved in their design and unique abilities –and are certainly superior to the plethora of anime swords I have seen in other shounen series, and make for very dynamic and varied fight sequences – of which no two are ever the same.

Attention to character development is still on the increase. We see Ichigo pull out all the stops and putting his life on the line to keep his promise of rescuing Rukia, obtaining a phenomenal level of spiritual power in the process. This anime introduces yet more of the ever-growing cast of soul reapers and get straight down to putting them in action in frenetic action sequences full of blood and zanpakuto. There is more of a focus on certain characters, clearly highlighting them for more involvement in the plot further down the line. We also have a revelation regarding the eccentric shopkeeper Kisuke Uruhara and his potential links to Soul Society, which brings a new light of intrigue to his personality.

The music, again, remains very strong. Each theme has its own distinct sound and vibe, ranging from almost-symphonic to eletronic rock. It does well to suit various atmospheres and suit the sometimes darker tones of some of the intense fight scenes. The opening and ending music are very good – ‘Ichirin no Hana’ by High and Mighty Color provides a hard rock upgrade while ‘Life’ by YUI is more wistful and replaces the cheerful ‘Happy People’.

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This arc is a real turning point for the series and makes for a good transition into the next manga-focused arc. Though not without its flaws, Bleach continues to work because of its attention to backstory and characterisation, steered by just enough plot and peppered with humour. The third arc is a satisfying finale to Rukia’s rescue and has set the foundations well for future developments.