“Read a Damn Book – 155: Bleach Volume 4”
Read a DAMN book! We’re back, baby! After a more than two week hiatus, and writing that post about going to the library book sale where I talked about how valuable reading is, I realized that I needed to shift my focus (mostly away from Minecraft), and get back to sharing the printed word! For this review, I thought I’d look at another volume of Tite Kubo’s Bleach, the series about a teenage boy who can see ghosts and eventually learns to fight monsters, but it’s been so long since my last look at this story, I thought I needed to revisit the series starting with book one. (I have already reviewed the first three volumes: #1 on 24 July 2018, #2 on 5 Dec. 2018, and #3 on 15 Feb. 2019---the latter of which was SEVEN MONTHS AGO! Time certainly flies!) Thankfully, the books are fun enough that I didn’t mind rereading them, and easy enough to get through that it only took me a few days (even though I read VERY slowly, and I haven’t been putting as much time into reading lately as I should---except at night, when I read stuff on my Kindle because of my severe insomnia. I woke up at 4:30 this morning, after going to bed around 11:00 P.M. last night and reading for a while before falling asleep! BUT that’s not what you’re here to read about!) Sooooo, let’s get to the review!!!
[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 4 (2004) [Translated by Joe Yamazaki]
Like the other books that I’ve read in this series, Volume 4 continues the minimalist cover concept---white background, logo, and a character---this time including an image of a fellow who we assume MUST be important (important enough to be on the cover), but who isn’t even introduced until the last few pages of this book. Because his story isn’t really what this book is about, let’s just get him out of the way quickly. His name is Uryu Ishida, and like the main character of this series (Ichigo), Ishida fights and kills Hollows (which are monstrous evil spirits that eat souls, both human and ghost.) For some reason, Ishida hates Soul Reapers---the folks who USUALLY fight Hollows. (We find out why he hates Soul Repears in the next book---although I can’t remember the reason… It’s been nearly ten years since I last read this series, and my memory ain’t that great!) So, we meet the guy on the cover in the last few pages of the book, but we don’t really learn much about him in this volume…
What we DO get in these pages, however, are two pretty good stories. The last volume was very dark and gloomy, and ended with Ichigo experiencing his first real failure as a Reaper, so THIS book starts with a humorous story focused on Kon, the walking talking teddy-bear. It’s a quick little tale, but it’s pretty funny and serves as a tension breaker and breathing spot before we jump into the next adventure. (Although I should say, this story is a bit cringy, both because of some scatological humor and for a bit of creeper-esque sexism…)
The second story, which makes up the bulk of this book, is about a popular television psychic, Don Kanonji, who comes to town to film an episode of his show. Ichigo, who can see ghosts himself, isn’t impressed by what he figures is a fake spiritualist and publicity hound, but most of his friends and family LOVE the guy. In fact, a majority of the people that Ichigo knows end up going to the abandoned hospital where the psychic’s television show is supposed to be filmed, and they drag Ichigo along… However, Ichigo quickly realizes that a REAL ghost is inside the building, and the spirit isn’t happy. In fact, it’s right on the verge of turning into an evil, destructive Hollow---and Don Kanonji’s filming is only making it worse.
This entire episode is fun and funny, with the over-the-top antics of Don Kanonji making up most of the humor. He does seem to have some ability to see ghosts, but he is completely unaware of the existence of Hollows, and so his “performance” threatens to erupt into real violence and death, if the creature that he’s about to unleash makes its way into the crowd of people who have come to watch the filming. It’s a nice mix of humor and tension, and Kubo’s black and white line drawings do a great job of conveying the frantic nature of the scene. Kubo uses action lines, irregular panel shapes (not just traditional squares or rectangles), and scribbly / squiggly exaggeration on both the characters and the lettering in this section, which throws the reader off balance and adds to the tension of the story. Both visually and story-wise, this is an exciting story-arc.
One thing I do want to talk about, and I realize this might just be a cultural thing, is the concept of “courage,” as it’s discussed in this story---and unfortunately, it’s a bit…sexist…although that seems a bit too strong of a descriptor. In a number of places (throughout the Bleach series) Ichigo says he wants to PROTECT his sisters. He wanted to PROTECT his mother, as well. Ichigo’s father, who tries to shield his daughters from a shower of glass caused by an explosion, says (on page 112), “If Daddy can give his life for his darlings…he’ll die happy.” Right before he passes out. Men (and boys) protect---women and girls need protection. This happens over and over again in this series.
Even Rukia, the Soul Reaper who teaches Ichago about Hollows, and is MUCH older than the teenage body she’s inhabiting would suggest, NEEDED Ichago’s help in the first volume of the series to defeat a nasty monster, which is why he is now a Soul Reaper, too. In this volume, as Ichago and Rukia are trying to get into the hospital to stop Don Kanonji from disturbing the angry spirit, they are tackled by a bunch of security guards, and Ichigo yells for Rukia to “shake off” the guards holding her back and come help him. She says, “Why don’t YOU shake them off! You’re a guy, aren’t you!?” (page 75.)
In other words, guys are strong---women aren’t. Even though Rukia, herself, is much older and a far more experienced Soul Reaper than Ichigo is. In terms of tactics and experience, she SHOULD be his superior, but she still thinks---because he’s a guy---HE has to be the STRONG one.
I realize this is just a silly, action comic about fighting monsters, but it’s still frustrating to see comments like this being so prevalent throughout the series. And it’s why seeing characters like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer are positives, in my opinion. Brute strength isn’t the same thing as courage, and males sometimes need PROTECTING, too.
So, with that bit of nastiness out of the way, I’m going to say that most everything else about the book is pretty good. It’s funny, the art is good, and the action sequences are well done. In addition, this book is rated “T” for “Teen,” which means there isn’t any cussing or splatter-gore or overt sexual content (so if those are what you’re looking for, I’d recommend From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell…) But if what you want is an entertaining, somewhat silly, book about fighting monsters, Bleach is pretty dang good…and (if you stick with it) the story develops in some really weird directions over the next SEVENTY volumes!!! (I have not read them all…)
Okay! Later skaters!!!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
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