I reviewed the first volume of Bleach back in July (2018) but suddenly felt the urge to continue reading the story, so here we go with Volume 2 of Tite Kubo’s weird, metaphysical monster tale!
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Tite Kubo – Bleach Volume 2 (2001/2004)
For those folks who haven’t read my first review, Bleach follows the adventures of Ichigo “Strawberry” Kurosaki, a high school kid who can see and talk to ghosts. In the first volume, Ichigo was attacked by a demonic creature, called a “hollow,” that was drawn to him because of his powerful “spirit energy” (the factor that gives him the ability to see ghosts.) Before the hollow could kill Ichigo and his family, Rukia arrived, claiming to be a “Soul Reaper,” an agent of the “Soul Society,” whose job is to hunt and destroy hollows. However, Rukia was injured in the battle with the hollow and forced to transfer some of her powers to Ichigo, so that he can destroy the monster. Unfortunately, Rukio discovers that she has accidentally given ALL of her powers to Ichigo, and can’t seem to get them back, forcing Ichigo to take over her “Soul Reaper” duties---guiding dead folks to the other side and killing hollows---until her powers can be returned to her.
Volume two starts in the middle of a story that was begun in the first volume. Chad, an incredibly tough but kind-hearted friend of Ichigo, finds himself in possession of a parakeet that can talk and claims to be the spirit of a young boy. Many of the folks who are around the parakeet end up being attacked by some unknown force (which is, of course, a hollow---but most people can’t SEE hollows, only Soul Reapers and, for some unknown reason, Ichigo can.) (Most of this info comes from the first book in the series, and this book starts, pretty much “WHAM BAM!” in the middle of the tale. In other words, I wouldn’t really recommend STARTING with this book, if you haven’t read volume one. It’s not uncommon for manga to contain continuing stories, but this one really doesn’t even bother to give much of a “catch-up” or recap of the first volume---it hits the ground running and never looks back.) Ichigo, who can see ghosts, realizes that there is something weird about the parakeet and, at the start of this volume, goes looking for Chad to make sure he isn’t hurt or killed by whatever is inside the bird.
The story is good---a combination of creepy, ghost fiction and fierce, monster-fighting action. This second volume isn’t quite as funny as the first one was, but it makes up for the lack of slap-stick humor by having a couple of cool, freaky monsters in it. The hollow that takes up the majority of this tale involving the parakeet is very powerful and has a number of unpleasant secrets. (I don’t want to spoil anything for folks who might want to read the book, so I’ll just leave it at that…)
After the Chad / parakeet story is resolved, the second part of the book is another interesting tale involving something called a “mod konpaku,” which is an artificial “soul” created by the Soul Society to combat hollows. This tale is lot funnier (and less disturbing) than the first half of the book, and the story does come to a decent resolution before the book ends, which is cool. (You don’t need to buy another volume for closure.)
One minor note, which might turn some folks off, this book is presented in the right to left format, which is a common way to print manga. In the 1980s, a lot of manga titles were “flipped” so that the stories, which are presented right to left in Japan, can be read left to right by American audiences, but I’ve read that some manga artists felt flipping the book made their art look “wrong,” so a lot of manga titles are now left in their original format, and English language readers start at the “back” of the book and read the other direction. The text is presented in standard form, but the panels have to be navigated in the opposite direction from an American comic. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take more than a few pages to get the hang of it, and I don’t even notice, now, that I’m reading the comics “backwards,” anymore---but I suppose some folks might have a tough time with it. Really, though, there are a lot of fun manga books, so it’s a worthwhile skill to have to be able to read some really exciting and unique stories!
And Tite Kubo does tell some interesting stories, and I love his line art in this series, as well. The book is black and white, like the previous volume, and the designs for the monstrous hollows are exceptional. Each hollow is drawn differently, and they usually appear as some combination of animal or insect and human, with a freaky, skull-like mask covering their faces. The creatures, always creatively depicted, are my favorite parts of the series. The book is meant for teens, so it’s not overly bloody or disgusting, and there isn’t really any explicit sexuality (although, like a lot of manga, there is a bit of “fan service” in the depictions of some of the female characters, but nothing over the top.) Overall, this is a good volume in the series, building our bonds with the various characters and presenting a solid, creepy ghost story to boot. I’m not going to say this is Earth shattering work that changes the way I look at manga, (you’ll have to wait for my review of Dororo for that), but Bleach is a very solid, entertaining, fun series, and this book does a good job of developing the characters and moving the story along! (And, the book is easily available for about $8 bucks on Amazon, or as part of a three-in-one collection (along with volumes 1 and 3) for about $11 (USD.) That’s a seriously good deal! (If I didn’t already have them, I’d probably go for it!)
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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