It Came from Japan – Bleach: Hell Verse
Reviewer was provided a Blu-ray review copy by Viz Media.
If you came to this review with the hopes that the reviewer is fully familiar with the Bleach anime series, and therefore would be able to give an accurate assessment on which Bleach: The Movie – Hell Verse is a worthy supplement to the original, then you’ve gone to the wrong place. Truth is, prior to receiving this review copy, I had never seen a single episode of the show. That’s not to say I’m not familiar with animes regarding a human tasked with bringing evil spirits back to the afterlife; that distinction goes to Yu Yu Hakusho, the series that actually hooked me on anime in the first place.
So I wouldn’t be completely lost in this review, I fired up VizAnime and watched the very first episode of the Bleach anime. Despite the movie being listed as a non-canon standalone title, I highly recommend watching the debut episode first, as it serves as a phenomenal crash-course on Hollows, Soul Reapers, and Ichigo’s powers.
Like my previous review of Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I, Bleach: Hell Verse comes as a near barebones release with trailers, art galleries, and the option to watch the film in Japanese or English. Generally, I watch anime in it’s original Japanese language with English subtitles, but since I can’t tell the difference between bad and good Japanese acting, I’ve chosen my native language in this review.
Even with just one episode’s worth of information, I couldn’t help but get a sense of déjà vu from the opening minutes of this movie. The introduction to Ichigo was nigh-identical to that I had seen before, down to the punks knocking over the flower pot placed in memorial of a dead child, Ichigo getting them to apologize to the child, and the spirit showing itself to him. Given that the show had 366 episodes worth of content to go off of, I’m sure that this homage was deliberate.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is about as cliche as it goes. When Ichigo was forced to traverse the many layers of Hell to save his sister, the literary geek in me itched in anticipation for an anime adaptation of Dante’s Inferno. Instead we get a layer that is pretty to look at (on Blu-ray, the colors really pop), but with hardly anything deviating it from the previous save for environmental dangers. Where the cliche really starts to pile on is on that final layer of Hell, where the obviously evil guide through the inferno reveals himself to be the true big-bad, Ichigo has a moment of near defeat, then he pulls through in the end through a very convenient and wholly unexplained new transformation that takes out the foe in one blow.
In the end, Bleach: Hell Verse is a visually beautiful, yet forgettable story that does little to appeal to anyone but the biggest fans. For that reason, as a standalone release from the series itself, I cannot recommend this movie past a rental.