As we dive back into the world of Bleach, you will recall we last left our heroes in the world of Hueco Mundo as they strive to put a stop to Aizen and his fiendish… wait, that tale isn’t continuing for a while? Instead we’re going to be treated to a new standalone story set in the world of the living (that has nothing to do with the ongoing story from the last volume) surrounding a mysterious trio taking refuge on Earth?
This is what you will be met with as you pop in this DVD set. As mentioned in my review of Series 8 Part 2 (read it HERE) due to production issues when the series first aired – namely that the anime was far too close to the Manga of Bleach being published at the same time in Japan – series 9 began a new original story to break the flow of what we had been watching. But I’m happy to report that from my perspective this is actually a welcomed change and isn’t as bad of an occurrence as some might perceive. Yes it is an original story, which I appreciate can be a major turn off for some people, but the good thing about this collection of episodes is that it does takes us back to some older ground of the Bleach universe. We get to see our heroes in the world of living attending school and joking around with each other, reminding us that at the end of the day they are only high school students. (Something that in all honestly I had forgotten about given the serious overtone of the Hueco Mundo story.) So, although it has created a bump in the road of a story we have already invested a lot of time in, it is nice to have a break once in a while before plowing on with whatever awaits us next (in this instance) in Hueco Mundo.
Now the downside to this is that there are many unanswered questions, including the status of some of the heroes, which did feel quite odd given the circumstances at the conclusion of the last volume. But if you can put that aside and treat this for what it is, a new story, you will find it to be one that has some variety and enjoyable moments.
This new story is fairly simple, but just to confuse you slightly there are two separate ones running simultaneously. First of all we have a princess, Rurichiyo Kasumioji, and her two bodyguards venturing to the world of the living who have conveniently been followed by a large number of hollows. It turns out that, unbeknownst to her, Rurichiyo is being targeted because someone within her clan doesn’t want her taking control of it. On the flip side, following the treachery of Gin (a fair few seasons ago), Squad 3 of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads is finally having a new Captain appointed in the form of Shusuke Amagi. However there is an air of mystery & uncertainty surrounding this appointment as to many he wasn’t a candidate for the position and more importantly to some, he isn’t even an existing member of the squad. Yet there is clearly something unique about him (and the comrade of his that he also brings into the squad), perhaps a trait that may prove to aid their attempts of restoring the reputation of Squad 3.
For me the hook of the episodes in this set was the story involving the new Captain of Squad 3, although it should be noted that even though the title of this arc is “New Leader Shusuke Amagi”, that particular part of the story isn’t touched on nearly enough within this volume. There has always been an air of mystery surrounding the Court Guard Squads since we were first introduced to them many moons ago. They come across as being very special and getting a chance to see the inner workings of one of them is an opportunity we have not had. Though, as I alluded to, this part of the story is not the crux of the content in this volume, which is as shame, what we do get to see is quite intriguing and does a good job of maintaining its importance. The situation regarding the princess takes the pole position a lot. While somewhat intriguing, being completely honest it isn’t what I wanted to see. Hopefully the rebuild of Squad 3 will overtake the level importance of this Kasumioji Clan story in the next DVD set.
The other thing to note regarding Series 9, Part 1 is that it’s the first Bleach release that Kaze have handled the production duties on. The main differences you’ll find is the new look box art and the image printed onto the discs that make you feel like you looking into a kaleidoscope. Other than that the only other notable difference is menu layout when it comes to changes. However there is an omission that will likely get some hardcore fans annoyed. Following the conclusion of each episode there is a preview for the next and then an animated short known as an ‘Omake’. These shorts could be a brief expansion on something referenced during an episode or simply a random comedic scenario. These have been present in all past releases handled by Manga UK but due a production error of some kind involving the assets (according to Kaze UK on Twitter) these are not present anywhere on the DVD. Given these post-credit scenes actually aired at the end of episodes on television in Japan it’s really odd these haven’t been included on this set.
That aside I did enjoy this collection of episodes. The story involving the new Captain is the main selling point in my view. The scenario involving the princess could be described as an excuse not to have the likes of Ichigo and Rukia missing for a number of episodes. But again I enjoyed this set because of the mix of being back in the world of the living and the dichotomy of having a focus on the development of Squad 3 in a way we’ve never seen before. For those heavily into the Bleach universe you will likely get good enjoyment out of these episodes. For those who just want the main story to return or perhaps to more a casual viewer, you will likely feel this as an unnecessary stopgap – which in fairness, it is – but you may get some enjoyment of the Squad 3 content.
Bleach: Series 9, Part 1 is available on DVD by Kaze UK via Manga Entertainment.
Order at Amazon UK HERE.
– Jeremy Graves