Hola, Bleach fans. 1TrueSensei here, new at this review game. I've gone over the first review hurdle by writing the Naruto 434 review, so I decided to try my hand at another of my favorite mangas, Bleach.
Ahh, who am I kidding? I just wanted to muscle in on -The Underscore-'s territory
Anyway, I don't like to do the long introductions, so without further ado, the Bleach Ch. 344 review, presented by the 1TrueSensei. Enjoy.
Bleach 344: The Pride
Last week, we left off with the third of the 7 Deadly Sins, the Gluttony. The end of last chapter saw Ishida bombing Yammy to kingdom come with one of Mayuri's little toys, along with shooting down any credibility his character ever had ("I swear on the pride of the Quincy!" and all that) but I digress...
This week we see Ichigo and Ulquiorra look on as Ishida walks away, action movie style, from the blast behind him. Yammy, showing true Espada toughness (good for you, perfectly wasted character; good for you) hangs on to the edge of the hole made by the bomb as Ishida, this time in true "Ishida" style, proceeds to tell Yammy just how screwed he is since he arrived. With a somewhat badass line of "Mala Suerte, I pity you," Ishida, who has shot an arrow at the section of floor Yammy was hanging on to, watches as Yammy falls down the hole and out of our lives.
I'm Falling and I Can't Get Up!
As Yammy plummets into the hole, an expletive still fresh on his lips, Ishida comments on how he's broken every pillar on the floors below the mine, making sure that Yammy has a long, uninterrupted fall all the way to Las Noches' basement (good-bye perfectly wasted character; good-bye!). Ichigo, pulling off that blank stare that shounen protagonists have down to a tee in situations like this, (you know, this one-->)
throws a wondering glance in Ishida's direction. Our favorite bespectacled hero, still floating on his post-"perfectly wasted character"-high, decides to answer all of Ichigo's questions before he can ask them. After being healed by Mayuri (right after Renji of course, since the cooler character deserved seniority) our favorite mad, immoral scientist created a mine that reacts to an Arrancar's reiatsu. Ishida, presumably after destroying all the necessary pillars, applied it to the ceiling of the floor directly below where Yammy was and we all know what happened after that. With a classically snarky, "Any other questions?" from Ishida, Ichigo replies in an equally snarky tone, "I never had any in the first place; you're the one who wouldn't shut up."
Protect the Long-Haired Baby Seal with your Life!
Is it degrading to call a female character a long-haired baby seal? Perhaps. In fact, I'll admit that it probably is. But I dare you to tell me, with a straight face, that Inoue doesn't look like one in that panel. I dare you
Ichigo asks Ishida to shield Inoue with his body from the reiatsu he's getting ready to unleash, and Ishida, continuing their long-standing tradition of never-ending snarkniness, tells Ichigo that he would even if he hadn't asked. Then, left hand reaching up to his face, Ichigo apologizes to Ulquiorra for the wait (can I get some of that apology too?) and promises him the Hollowfication that he's been waiting for.
100% Pure, Unadulterated Beastliness
Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I strongly dislike the change in Kubo's art from his earlier work. The characters look more like the fashion models they are only supposed to act as on cover pages than the characters they were originally drawn as IM(humble)O. The cover page for this week is a perfect example of this *still shuddering in fear at those eyes*, yet it seems that Kubo made up for all of his past sins with this beauty:
Yes, Kubo. You're forgiven. The beastliness of the pose jumps off the freakin' page and shows us a glimpse of what Ichigo is steadily becoming while in Hueco Mundo. This isn't the same Shinigami who fought Byakuya Kuchiki, beating him through fierce determination. This is primal, basic, and unrestrained. With the black streaks of Hollow reiatsu racing away from his fingers, neck muscles tensed and straining, and his tattered Shinigami robes fluttering in the wind, Ichigo looks less like a Substitute Shinigami and more like a raging Hollow. Can you smell the fanboy coming off me right now? Good. Glad to know I'm not the only one
Unlucky Number Four
Masked and ready for action, Ichigo slashes at the eternally calm Ulquiorra, putting a dent in his defenses for the first time in this match by cracking his opponent's sword with the strength of his Hollowfied swing. Dodging a swirling Getsuga Tenshou, Ulquiorra takes the fight outside through the hole in the room with Ichigo hot on his heels.
Ulquiorra prepares a Cero, calm face looking on Ichigo impassively, and fires a pretty impressive one in Ichigo's direction. But you didn't think it'd be that easy, did you? Course not.
In another impressive panel, Ichigo blocks the Cero with his sword with little effort, and Ulquiorra, seeing that this Ichigo is no pushover, flies above Ichigo, prompting our hero to pursue. A burst of debris shows Ulquiorra launching himself out of the dome of Las Noches and into the dark, Hueco Mundo night.
With the curved sickle of the Hueco Mundo moon as a backdrop, Ulquiorra informs Ichigo that under express orders from Aizen, Espadas #4 and above are forbidden from releasing beneath the dome of Las Noches, and as the chapter draws to a close the last thing we see is Ulquiorra muttering one word: "Bind", the command for his Resurrecion form.
I liked this chapter much, much more than just about all the chapters that have come out this year, and many stretching back into last year. The plot moved forward significantly (though at the price of a perfectly wasted character) and the long-awaited release of Ulquiorra will be revealed next week, barring a character shift by Kubo of course. Don't jinx the manga, you say? Too late
It seems that the predictions of many fans as to the top four Espada being Vasto Lordes might come to pass, as it is only these four who are forbidden from releasing beneth Las Noches. So looks like next week we can look forward to a Hollowfied-Ichigo on Steroids against our first ever Resurrecion Form Vasto Lorde. Sounds epic, and I hope that Kubo delivers and digs himself out of the hole many of us see him in.
Chapter Rating: 7/10