Bleach – The Movie: Memories Of Nobody

voice cast: Masakazu Morita, Johnny Yong Bosch, Chiwa Saito, Gina Bowes, and Michelle Ruff

director: Noriyuki Abe

96 minutes (12) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
Manga DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Sarah Ash

Ginger-haired Ichigo Kurosaki is not your average 15-year-old student; he’s a substitute Soul Reaper. Ichigo has to be ready at all times to destroy the monstrous Hollows that feed on wandering souls still attached to this world and ensure that those souls pass peacefully on into the Soul Society. So when he and Rukia Kuchiki, his Soul Reaper partner, suddenly encounter a crowd of drifting white spirits (‘blanks’) by the railway station they are more than a little puzzled. Their confusion increases when a young girl claiming to be a Soul Reaper appears out of nowhere to banish the blanks in a red tornado of autumn leaves. The newcomer reappears in high school uniform and introduces herself as Senna. She then proceeds to lead the increasingly grumpy Ichigo on a wild spree around the local mall, whilst Rukia returns to the Soul Society to try to gain more information about the self-styled Soul Reaper and this new and disturbing phenomenon.

Meanwhile, Ichigo’s unfailing sixth sense detects something distinctly ‘wrong’ about Senna, especially when she wants to be up high so that she can see the river. Yet, irritating though her erratic behaviour may be, he can’t find it in his heart to abandon her. As more bizarre phenomena disturb the peace of Karakura Town, the leading members of the Soul Society take a keen interest. It seems that a group calling themselves the Dark Ones are using Senna and the blanks to gain their revenge on the Soul Society after being cast out many years ago – and their leader Ganryu has set both worlds on a disastrous collision course.

If these names and concepts have you scratching your head, then you’re almost certainly a newcomer to the work of Tite Kubo; Bleach: Memories Of Nobody makes no concessions to viewers unfamiliar with the Bleach manga or anime TV series. However, if you’re willing to go along for the ride, you’ll experience a fast-moving supernatural adventure which combines breathtaking action sequences with some genuinely moving moments. But you won’t discover here how Ichigo first met Rukia and became a substitute Soul Reaper, and many of the film’s references which will delight devoted fans will probably leave you more than a little perplexed. But if that’s enough to send you to investigate the source material, then you’re in for a treat; Bleach is one of the most enjoyable and addictive shounen TV series to make it to our shores in a long while. As a plus, Tite Kubo’s creation of the Soul Society makes an intriguingly imaginative variation on the growing Japanese fantasy mythology of shinigami (death gods) and their mysterious interactions with the world of the living.

The striking character designs by Masashi Kudo are, if anything, even more distinctively rendered than those of the TV series, as are the backgrounds, bringing Ichigo’s home town vividly to life, from the shopping centre to the autumnal riverside and the local cemetery. For one of the strengths of Bleach is that, having established the very ordinariness of its setting, the supernatural interventions – when they come – are much more believable.

But what if you’re already a Bleach aficionado? Perhaps the most one can ask of a film arising from an existing series is that it should avoid the trap of becoming an extended filler episode, merely showcasing the characters, yet adding nothing to our understanding of their motivations. But, happily, Memories Of Nobody manages for the most part to escape that trap, by concentrating on unravelling the enigma posed by Senna’s mysterious appearance. Inevitably, some major players make only the briefest of cameo appearances, so fans of Chad, Uryuu and Orihime may justifiably feel themselves a little short-changed. Instead, the script concentrates on Senna’s plight and her growing relationship with Ichigo is sympathetically portrayed.

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The music is by Shirou Sagisu, who composed the score for the TV series, so there are plenty of familiar themes to recognize and little new material. The voice actors from the TV series reprise their roles to good effect in both the original Japanese and the lively and likeable US dub, with Ganryu (Masashi Ebara/ Troy Baker) and Senna (Chiwa Saito/ Gina Bowes) the new players.

In spite of the fact that the Dark Ones’ plot, when finally revealed, is more than a little predictable in fantasy terms, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy this film; it makes a worthy addition to the world of Bleach. And don’t be too hasty to switch off during the long credits sequence, as I nearly did; there’s one brief scene that follows on that would be a real shame to miss!