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Bleach, Volume 3: The Substitute (Episodes 9-12)
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Bleach, Vol. 3 (DVD)
Ichigo and Rukia continue their work as Soul Reapers, protecting the spirits and the living. But they are not the only ones with the power to defeat the evil Hollows. A rival called a Quincy appears with fearsome powers of his own--and a grudge against all Soul Reapers. When he issues a Hollow-battling challenge to Ichigo, it could destroy the world of the living!]]>
Director Noriyuke Abe ably juggles battles, emotional scenes, and slapstick as the popular comedy-adventure Bleach continues. In a rare, gentle moment, Ichigo's father tells him he shouldn't blame himself for his mother's death, but should honor her memory by living in ways that would make her proud. Although his father's advice buoys his spirits, Ichigo vows to avenge his mother by slaying the Grand Fisher, the powerful Hollow that killed her. Ichigo and Rukia face a more immediate challenge at school. Uryu Ishida, the top student in their class, is a "Quincy:" a descendant of a clan of Hollow-hunters who despise their rival Soul Reapers. The icy Uryu challenges Ichigo to see who can kill more Hollows, and releases a potion that attracts the hideous creatures.When a Hollow threatens Ichigo's sister Karin, his muscular friend Chad unleashes his latent monster-fighting powers to save her. It's everything Bleach fans love and expect. (Rated "Teen," suitable for ages 13 and older: violence, grotesque imagery) --Charles Solomon
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And in the third volume of "Bleach's" anime, he's called on to defend his pride not once but twice -- first by his mother's killer, and then by a new rival. In the meantime, the anime also serves up some backstory on Ichigo's gentle giant pal Chad, and an unabashedly goofy spiritualist who makes Ichigo's duties just a little harder to perform.
Ichigo is enraged by Grand Fisher's attacks on his little sisters -- and the realization that this Hollow killed his mother six years ago. Telling Rukia not to interfere, he charges in with the intent of killing the Hollow even if he is killed in the process. Unfortunately Grand Fisher has a dirty trick up his sleeve -- but the trick might turn on him as well.
Then the hit TV show "Spirit Hunter" comes to Karakura -- and though Ichigo loathes the show, he gets dragged along by his family and Rukia. Unfortunately flamboyant host Don Kanonji has a unique method for disposing of ghosts -- and it happens to turn "bad spirits" into Hollows. Now Ichigo must somehow dispose of the new froggy Hollow without endangering the crowds.... and on live TV.
Then Rukia starts receiving Hollow signals, only to have the signals vanish by the time she and Ichigo arrive. Turns out it's prickly classmate Uryu Ishida -- who also turns out to be a Quincy, the mortal enemy of Soul Reapers. He ropes Ichigo into a Hollow-slaying contest, deliberately causing Karakura to be overrun. And across town, Chad is attacked by one particularly large one as he tries to defend Ichigo's little sister Karin -- and calls on a new power of his own.
The third volume of the "Bleach" anime is something of a crossroad -- the plot is obviously about to blow out in every direction, with more Hollows than ever before. And additionally, it's pretty obvious that soon more Soul Reapers will be entering the scene -- and it sounds like this might be a bad thing for Rukia.
In the meantime, we get plenty of slam-bang, gory action -- Chad's punching power, Ichigo's vengeful duel with Grand Fisher, Uryu's glowing spirit bow, and even our hero haplessly being dragged up the side of a building by a giant frog. Additionally, we get the gruesome details of how a Hollow is made, and a flashback of Rukia's that hints at her own darker past.
But there's a lot of comic relief. The Don Kanonji episode is full of it ("BOWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"), right up to the end. Even the grimmer episodes have their funny moments ("Noooooo! I'm friends with a NERD!" Keigo howls upon discovering that Ichigo is No. 23 in their class), especially when the writers start mocking Ichigo's memory problems ("Icky... bow... icky-bow... METAL-SU! Ichy... ichy-armadillo!").
And Ichigo reaches a sort of catharsis for his feelings of guilt, particularly in a touching scene where he hears her last thoughts. Fortunately then it's back to goofy pals and Hollows to provide the usual levels of stress. And we finally see Isshin acting like a real dad for once -- his graveside talk with a grief-stricken Ichigo is both touching and rather cute.
Additionally, these episodes introduce Uryu, a sort of anti-Ichigo -- he's prickly, chilly, sews like a maestro and hates Soul Reapers. It's not clear why yet, but perhaps it has something to do with the old man he thinks about. And we get to see some fleshing out of Chad's personality, particularly since we see a pep talk given to him by his kindly old grandfather.
The third volume of "Bleach" fleshes out the characters, introduces a new one, and inserts some laughter before veering into a deadly Hollow-killing contest.
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