Sunday 23 December 2018

Bleach (2018) - Movie Review seems that last year’s Death Note movie has opened up the floodgates for live-action anime adaptations on Netflix. And what’s more, judging by the myriad of memes I’ve been seeing all year, they don't seem to be doing too well. Not to say that I’d be too surprised at that, seeing as Death Note wasn’t exactly the best introduction to a genuinely great franchise, but I’m willing to keep an open mind about all this. So, for today, we’ll be looking at a few of these adaptations, starting with the story of a high school student tasked with saving the neighbourhood from a giant seaweed monster. It’s anime; don’t even try and act surprised at that.

Well, this already off to a good start in that this definitely got the characters right. Sota Fukushi as Ichigo, the high schooler who is suddenly given the powers of a Soul Reaper, hits badass brooding quite well, and his willingness to keep fighting no matter what in true shonen fashion makes for a realistic but still noble lead. Opposite him, Hana Sugisaki as Rukia, a Soul Reaper and reluctant mentor to Ichigo, handles the character arc quite smoothly in how her and Ichigo’s relationship develops over the course of the story. From there, and the solid supporting cast who all leave a healthy impression by film’s end, the story has a great foundation for some pretty damn good visuals.

It’s an action film about people fighting vengeful spirits with giant swords; this needed to be able to sell that and it absolutely nailed it. The visuals effects are mostly good, with only a couple moments of too-obvious CGI, and the design textures on the Hollows are very nice. It has the same fidelity to it as Ryuk from Death Note, meaning that we get to see that level of ideal manga translation in a film that deserves that attention to detail. And the fight scenes involving some cool and well-choreographed sword fights, and the destruction helps to sell the occasionally-wonky graphic quality.

But honestly, the most impressive thing about this is that it works so freaking well even without a connection to a larger series. It manages to convey the series mythology regarding the Hollows, why they are showing up and why the mission of the Soul Reapers to stop them is so vital, in a pretty breezy fashion, getting the important details across without bogging down the main story in the process. And while the pacing can get sluggish in a few too many places, to the point where it feels like whole scenes are being repeated wholesale at times, the main story about redemption and what the characters are willing to do for their loved ones makes for some palpable emotional moments on top of that.

This hits pretty much all of the main points that any anime-to-live-action adaptation should aim for: Translate what makes the material worth checking out, without feeling like you actively need to know about it already to get the full effect, while delivering on its own as a piece of entertainment. Considering this is an adaptation of a series that features one of the worst declines in quality of its kind, given how bad the original manga got over its lifespan, this is a surprisingly solid result. One can only hope that the others can do as well as this.

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