REVIEW: DVD Release: Bleach: The Movie 2 - The Diamond Dust Rebellion

Film: Bleach: The Movie 2 - The Diamond Dust Rebellion
Release date: 6th September 2010
Certificate: 12
Running time: 89 mins
Director: Noriyuki Abe
Starring: Akira Ishida, Masakazu Morita, Fumihiko Tachiki, Fumiko Orikasa, Hiroki Yasumoto
Genre: Anime
Studio: Manga
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

Noriyuki Abe's stylish and thrilling anime is a classic Japanese samurai tale of revenge, sabotage and the loyalty of friendship, which explores the strength and unity of one squad of warriors as their relationships are pushed to the limit.

The King's Seal is an artefact which holds immense power and magic, and is consequently protected unquestionably by a band of samurai known as the Soul Society.

Squad 10 of this society, captained by one Toshiro Hitsugaya, are given the task of transporting the Seal, but are ambushed by a mysterious Soul Reaper and two powerful female twins, known as the Arrancar.

Toshiro appears to recognise the masked Soul Reaper, and the two do battle, during which the squad captain is injured. Abandoning his post to pursue the assailants, he is consequently suspected of working in cahoots with the Soul Reaper and the Arrancar. This revelation induces the leaders of the Soul Society to act under the severity of the situation, and they order the suspension of all of Squad 10's activities - and the immediate capture of Toshiro.

This is only the beginning of the adventure for Toshiro, who later passes out with fatigue in front of Soul Reapers Ichigo Kurosaki and Uryu Ishida. Awakening in Ichigo's house, Toshiro is uninformative and vague, and refuses to explain to Ichigo exactly what is going on.

He eventually leaves the Kurosaki residence and is pursued by Ichigo, who becomes increasingly more impatient with the Captain's vagueness. During an ambush by the Arrancar, Ichigo is injured and Toshiro escapes.

The Soul Reaper thief's identity is then revealed with startling consequences. After the thief injures 8th Division captain Shunsui Kyōraku in an attack, the Soul Society increases the hunt for the King's Seal, and orders Toshiro's execution…

Stylish perfectly describes this now cult classic. Indeed, the Bleach series is renowned within the manga genre for its imaginative and complex system of characters and cultures.

The artwork, as could be expected, is at the forefront of the film's dazzling aesthetic of sword fights and flying samurai. One of the film's most inventive battle scenes takes place between the Arrancar, Uryu, Ichigo and the 13th Divison's Rukia Kuchiki. The Arrancar release a band of Hollows, souls of deceased humans who they control. These terrifying spirits are a fantastic example of both the imagination displayed in the film, and the effectiveness of the artwork in creating such ghastly enemies. The battle which follows displays not only the sheer power of the Soul Reaper's attacks, but also the individuality of their sorcery.

The relationships between the characters are anything but simple. When Toshiro discovers the identity of the Soul Reaper thief, he reawakens the history of his own life through a series of informative flashbacks. The 10th Divison are also ultimately divided between their loyalty to the Soul Society's orders and their leader, Toshiro. During the scene in which the squad track down Toshiro, they ultimately plead with him not to resist and to hand himself in. Director Noriyuki Abe therefore manages to create a subtext of the complexity of human relationships through which to contextualise the film's culminating battle scenes. Thus, the film offers its audience so much more than simply good versus evil.

Often characters are flamboyant, as seen in the 8th Division's captain, Shunsui Kyōraku. The seemingly indifferent, pink kimono wearing warrior dons a straw hat and often confuses the rest of the characters with his offhand attitude to locating the Soul Reaper thief. Ikkaku Madarame, on the other hand, appears to be a more typical samurai character. With his baldness, and enthusiasm and confidence in battle, it is easy to see how the Soul Reapers are not only often in juxtaposition with each other, but also compliment each other's diversity. Indeed, it is, at times, almost breathtaking to consider the enormity and complexity of the Bleach world and its inhabitants. The mystery surrounding the identity of the thief only serves to heighten this sense of uncertainty with regards to the film's characters. As they begin to discover the nature of their enemy, the intrigue which surrounds the protagonist's personalities is only heightened further.

This is a film and a series which appears to have it all. As usual, the imaginative power on display in Japanese anime appears to know no bounds. Bleach 2, as a film standing on its own, offers merely a minute insight into the extensive world of this vast series, which also encompasses graphic novels and video games. The entire story is clearly of epic proportions, and the real treat of the series comes from catching that first glimpse of the Bleach world, and knowing that there is always more to discover.

An aesthetically beautiful, synoptically complex and morally diverse display of the true art of Japanese anime, and storytelling at its absolute finest. IT

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