Returning for its third theatrical outing following two brilliant predecessors, we delve back into the world of powerful Ichigo Kuosaki and the soul reapers in Bleach with Fade To Black on both DVD and Blu-Ray. Though it should be noted that this review is purely based on the Blu-Ray release of the movie.
As was the case with Memories Of Nobody and The Diamond Dust Rebellion, Fade To Black is a standalone original story that has no bearing on the continuum of the Bleach universe. However despite this it serves as a powerful reminder of just how unpredictable and great the franchise is, giving you a great sense of unknowing, a feat harping back to the early days of the series.
Fade To Black begins with the one of the more mysterious members of the Court Guards in the Soul Society, Mayuri Kurotsuchi attacked in his laboratory. As a result he has a panic attack of sorts, displaying tendencies that he is unfamiliar with his surroundings and fellow colleagues. This prompts a fair portion of Seireitei to succumb to the wrath of this new foe that has got everyone’s number. Meanwhile an unsuspecting Rukia becomes the victim of the attackers in turn being taken away by them. When we first see Ichigo everything seems pretty normal in the world of the living until the sudden realization that he doesn’t know who Rukia is! In fact upon further inspection it seems everyone has forgotten about her too. As a result, some of those trusted bonds that have been built are not there meaning that Ichigo’s quest for answers has just got harder with more questions than answers coming to the forefront.
As a whole this movie succeeds in keeping up the great trend of theatrical outings for the Bleach franchise. The direction the movie leads you in keeps you the edge of your seat. As an example, because a main detail throughout is the lack of memories of Ichigo, for a long time viewer (like myself) it takes you back to the early days of the series when this universe within Bleach was expanding into the Soul Society and you didn’t know what was lying in wait. There were new characters aplenty, you didn’t know what was going to be presented next and you knew full well that no-one knew who Ichigo was, thus making him a big target to takedown. Moving to the present day, because things are so well established with many bonds having been created it effectively throws a large spanner in the works and plays on those same emotions generated by the viewer in the early days, but with twists and turns thrown in too.
One detail I simply must bring up is the quality of the animation and how it compliments the story, more specifically the action sequences, throughout the whole film. To be quite blunt, it is simply stunning how much better it is compared to the TV series, in relation to what has been released in the UK by Manga Entertainment thus far anyway. It shows you just how amazing this universe can look, especially in high definition. It’s clear a lot of time and effort went into producing this film to make look the best it possibly can be and it certainly demonstrates that right from the opening scene. Perhaps the biggest payoff for fans of Bleach is how many characters are ultimately involved in the story and the fact you get to see many engage in combat in this glorious Blu-Ray transfer.
The soundtrack is very appropriate for the diverse scenes it accompanies as well. It’s very loud & dynamic in the action scenes and very atmospheric in the quieter scenes. Both the English and Japanese vocal casts do a great job of putting across the tone of the film making it very enjoyable no matter how you want to view it.
Unfortunately there are no special features to compliment this release. Yet in spite of that it’s well worth the purchase in my opinion. As a standalone original story within the Bleach universe you get a piece of everything, predominantly contained within the Soul Society. The quality of the animation coupled with the story is more than enough reason to add this to you (no doubt ever expanding) anime Blu-Ray collection.
– Jeremy Graves