Tag Archives: reapers/shinigami

Bleach (2018 Movie)

Warner Bros.

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Kurosaki Ichigo: a normal high-school student with bleached-looking hair, a grumpy expression . . . and the ability to see spirits. The wheels of fate begin to turn as this ability leads to his encounter with a shinigami, Kuchiki Rukia, and spin completely out of control as their encounter with a dark spirit known as a Hollow leads to Rukia’s injury and Ichigo’s subsequent taking on of her shinigami powers. In effect, he becomes a substitute shinigami, fighting Hollows until he’s strong enough to give Rukia’s power back to her without dying in the process. He may even get a shot at the Hollow that killed his mother years ago. Assuming Rukia’s superiors don’t kill them both first.

I was surprised and pleased to see a decent live-action remake of Bleach released this year. This movie takes the first major story arc, all the stuff with Grand Fisher, Ichigo’s becoming a substitute shinigami, basically everything up to Rukia’s return to Soul Society, and compresses it into about an hour and a half of fast-paced action. It’s quite well done and manages to summarize a lot of information into a very brief chunk of time without losing the story in the process. Still, I would recommend this mostly for fans who are already familiar with the story, or at least the basic concepts, because it’s kind of a huge info dump even still. They did a good job keeping the balance, though, with drama, humor, and of course some action-packed fights interspersed. And the fights are properly epic. The CG throughout is very impressive, especially for the Hollows themselves. The casting was well done, especially for Ichigo himself and for Yuzu and Inoue, although I don’t personally love the casting for Renji. Honestly, my biggest complaint is just that, because there are sooooo many characters in Bleach, there just wasn’t time for lots of character development for everyone. Like, at all, in some instances. But still, they did a good job of picking a few key characters and developing them well. I liked that they actually took a proper story arc from the original manga instead of just making a random plot or hugely distorting a main plot, and I honestly do think they did well trimming and unifying it to work as a movie. So yes, I would recommend the live-action Bleach, particularly to fans of the original anime/manga.

Written by Shinsuke Sato & Daisuke Habara/Directed by Shinsuke Sato/Based on Bleach by Tite Kubo/Starring Sota Fukushi, Hana Sugisaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Erina Mano, Yu Koyanagi, Taichi Saotome, Miyavi, Seiichi Tanabe, Masami Nagasawa, & Yōsuke Eguchi/Music by Yutaka Yamada

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Author: Neal Shustermanscythe

Arc of a Scythe, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

In a world where all the needs of humanity are met, where even death is reversible, Scythes stand apart as essentially the only remaining source of true death. Established as a sacred trust to ensure that the booming and aging population does not completely overrun the earth and exhaust its resources, Scythes kill–or “glean” as they call it–although not nearly enough to mimic the effects of normal death in the past. One such Scythe, Faraday, has chosen to take on not one but two apprentices, in opposition to the traditions of the Scythedom. But the other Scythes turn his decision against him, deciding that only one of his apprentices will survive the apprenticeship, killing the other apprentice. Scythe apprentices Citra and Rowan will not readily bend to this edict, however, regardless of the pressure put upon them–particularly considering the feelings they have for one another.

I know all the premises of Scythe sound really weird and dark and complicated–and they are. A huge chunk of this book is set up and world building and background, which is completely necessary to understand the story as it develops. But Neal Shusterman is such an incredible author that the background doesn’t feel like an info dump at all; rather it’s interwoven as a part of the story such that you don’t even realize you’re being fed these huge chunks of backstory. As for the premise, strange as it is, it works remarkably well and allows the author to focus in on several interesting philosophical and psychological points. In this world, humanity really wants for nothing. Death–however much focus may be put on it due to the Scythes’ part in the story–is incredibly unlikely for any given individual within the next century or so. Even apparent age can be turned back so that a centenarian can appear (and feel) twenty again. In this state, Shusterman draws attention to the stagnation that occurs when people don’t have anything to struggle for, any clock to race against. On the other side of society, he brings in some interesting observations regarding the sort of people who would be chosen to be Scythes–and the effect that such a horrendous job would have on those people. Add to all the interesting world building some absolutely stellar characters and an intense, rather horrifying plot, and you’ve got an incredible book. I would highly recommend Scythe, although I would also caution a certain level of reader maturity due to the violent focus of the story at times. I’m definitely looking forward to the next volume in this set!

As an aside, is the cover of the book not just fabulous?!


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Soul Eater NOT!

Bones Studio

Directed by Masakazu Hashimoto/Music by Asami Tachibana & Yuuki Hayashi/Based on the manga by Atsushi Ohkubo

Tsugumi Harudori is your average 14-year-old, dreamy-eyed Japanese schoolgirl. Or so she thought, until she started having parts of her body transform into weapon-like forms. Turns out, she’s your average 14-year-old, dreamy-eyed Japanese schoolgirl who just happens to have demon-weapon blood in here genes and who can transform into a halberd at will . . . or at least, she will be able to just as soon as she figures out how to control her powers. And so, Tsugumi ships off to the Death Weapon Meister Academy in the United States to get some training and pair up with a meister. She quickly makes some good friends there including two aspiring meisters–the tsundere Anya, who is fascinated with commoners and who clearly has a hidden past, and Meme, who is clearly capable and whose past might be just about anything . . . if she could only remember! Tsugumi’s life gets a bit more complicated when the three start rooming together–and when both of them declare their interest in partnering up with her. But with her groundless optimism, Tsugumi’s bound to find some way to work things out, right?

Soul Eater NOT! is a super-fun spinoff of Astushi Ohkubo’s master work, Soul Eater (which I highly recommend). While Soul Eater is rather dark and ominous–in a cool and adventuresome sort of way–Soul Eater NOT! is much more cute and slice-of-life (and just mildly shoujo ai). It’s a great story in its own right, but I think it has the greatest appeal for those who already know and love Soul Eater; NOT! is dated prior to the events of the original story, and it features all kinds of cameos and back-story to flesh out what you already know from the original (like how Jackie & Kim got together or the Thompson sisters’ job at Deathbucks coffee, complete with maid uniforms!). But even if you don’t know the original or like such an intense, action-packed story, Soul Eater NOT! has a certain appeal, definitely–the characters are wonderful, and the story is cute, fun, and just exciting enough. The art in the anime is very cute (the manga is too, but I haven’t had the chance to read all of it yet  and will review that separately)–it’s like a brighter, lighter version of the art in Soul Eater, but still stylistically consistent. The voicing and music is great, too, very fitting for the setting. (By the way, this is done by Bones Studio, one of my favorite anime studios ever. They do great work.) Soul Eater NOT! is definitely a recommended anime, especially for Soul Eater fans, but also for anyone who likes a cute, kind-of shoujo ai, kind-of mahou shoujo sort of story.

Note: This anime consists of 12 episodes. As of now, there is no English dub (not that I’d watch it anyway), but I am hoping for an American release sometime soon–please?


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Death Note II: The Last Name (Live Action Movie)

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko/Produced by Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kohashi, & Takahiro Satō/Music by Kenji Kawai/Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama, Erika Toda, Shinnosuke Ikehata, Shidou Nakamura, Shunji Fujimura, Takeshi Kaga, & Nana Katase/Based on the manga by Tsugumi Oba & Takeshi Obata

Following his girlfriend’s death at the hands of the mass murderer popularly known as “Kira,” Light Yagami has finally been allowed to join L’s investigative team. Which is, of course, the best possible place for Light to keep an eye on things and to steer suspicious away from the fact that he is actually Kira. All is going according to his precise plans, of course. However, when a second Kira emerges, acting flashily and carelessly killing even the innocent, Light’s cover is definitely threatened. It’s a close race between L and Light to find this second Kira and secure their cause’s victory.

I really, really enjoyed watching Death Note II: The Last Name. This is the sequel the the first Death Note live action film and picks up the story right at the point where L and Light begin to have more interaction. I really love the dynamic between these two, and I feel like their actors pulled this off excellently (loved the chess game!). The cat-and-mouse interplay is extremely intense (in a cool fashion). I though all the actors did well, and I was particularly pleased with the casting for Misa–Erica Toda pulls her off beautifully. I must admit, while Rem was quite well done, he totally didn’t fit my mental image for voice and such, so that was a bit of a clash. They did change a few plot points compared to the manga, particularly at the ending of this movie; however, I found the choices to be consistent with the characters and premises of the manga, so it works. I do miss M and N, though. . . . If possible, read the manga first. But if you like the Death Note manga, I think both the first live action movie (see above) and Death Note II: The Last Name will also be enjoyable for you.

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Death Note (Live Action Movie)

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko/Produced by Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kohashi, & Takahiro Satō/Music by Kenji Kawai/Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama, Erika Toda, Asaka Seto, Shidou Nakamura, Shigeki Hosokawa, Shunji Fujimura, Takeshi Kaga, & Yuu Kashii/Based on the manga by Tsugumi Oba & Takeshi Obata

Around the world, criminals are being punished as never before. Those who might once have worked the system and escaped justice are now being mysteriously killed, and the world is taking notice . . . and taking sides. Some laud the perpetrator–whom they dub “Kira”–as a savior, protecting the weak and reducing crime in the name of justice. Others see Kira as simply a mass murderer, using “justice” as an excuse for his wrongdoings. College honors student Yagami Light has his own opinions on the subject . . . but he might be a bit biased.

As a long-time fan of Oba-sensei and Obata-sensei’s amazing manga and of the anime based on it, I found the live-action movie version of Death Note to be an intriguing take on the story. Certain plot elements are changed–for instance, Light starts out as a college student and has a steady girlfriend instead of being the playboy he is in the manga. The focus is a bit different also–you don’t even meet Light at first, or see L until nearly the end. Still, I think the choices they made stay true to the spirit of the story and work well in movie form. The casting was very well done, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of L and Misa in the sequel/conclusion. My one complaint is that the CG on Ryuk (the shinigami) looked kind of off and video-gamey, but what can you do? Personally, I’d say read the Death Note manga first, but do also check out the live action movie–it’s quite good.


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Bleach, vol. 1-48

Mangaka: Tite Kubo

Ichigo is your average 15-year-old kid with an attitude. He lives with his dad and two sisters, helps out with his dad’s clinic, goes to school, hangs out with friends . . . oh, and he sees spirits. So maybe it’s only a matter of time until he gets drawn into the issues of the spirit world, but when it happens, it really happens! One night, a Soul Reaper girl by the name of Rukia Kuchiki happens to wander through his room tracking a hollow (a bad spirit), never suspecting that Ichigo would actually see or notice her. One thing leads to another, and Rukia finds herself unable to fight the hollow. In order to protect her and his own family, Ichigo takes her Soul Reaper powers on himself and becomes a Substitute Soul Reaper. From which point, things really start getting out of hand. . . .

Bleach is absolutely epic. One of my favorite manga, and indeed, one of my favorite stories in any medium. The plot is huge and complex, yet it maintains an impressive cohesiveness. I seriously don’t know how Kubo-sensei manages to make all the details work in a story that’s serialized in a magazine. Bleach is definitely a shounen story, with plenty of battle sequences, but that’s okay.  It’s about the only manga in which I actually enjoy the battles; they’re honestly pretty cool. Regarding the characters, the cast of Bleach is astonishingly huge, yet each individual is crafted with paternal affection–even the antagonists and random side characters! (It’s one of the only stories that I can sit with my friends and have conversations about what this or that character would do in this or that random situation–and love it!) The art is also quite nice–clean and crisp and slightly funky. It’s fun to see Kubo-sensei’s style develop as the story progresses. So yeah, Bleach gets top recommendations all around.

Note: I know it’s pretty unusual for me to review a segment of a manga that’s still ongoing, but volumes 1-48 make a fairly complete story with a clean break before the next segment. I’ll cover the later volumes when the manga’s finished. But I couldn’t wait that long to review a manga I love this much!

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