Ichigo Kurosaki is a 16-year old high school student with a special ability – he can see ghosts! After his family is attacked by a malevolent spirit known as a Hollow, Ichigo, with the help of Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki, must become a Soul Reaper himself in order to save the ones he loves most.
Based on the incredibly popular and successful Manga and Anime of the same name, Bleach is Netflix’s latest live action film to attempt to capture the essence of one of Japan’s greatest exports and after lackluster efforts such as Fullmetal Alchemist, I am pleased to report that this may just be the best endeavor to date.
Directed by Shinsuke Sato, the film follows the anime’s first arc in which Ichigo initially receives his powers and must help Rukia overcome the Soul Reapers Byakuya and Renji after she breaks the Shinigami code whilst also dealing with the vengeful souls called Hollows; massive, creepy creatures which were once people who died with a grudge.
From the outset, there is a great deal that Sato gets spot on in regards to the source material (a lot of the early scenes are taken straight from the Anime). Ichigo (played by the charismatic Sôta Fukushi) is portrayed brilliantly – Fukushi manages to find the right balance by Kurosaki’s cynical side whilst also deep down having a big heart. His counterpart Rukia (Hana Sugisaki) is also as much of a faithful adaptation of the character from the manga within the confines of the abridged and slightly altered story which was constructed by Sato in order to keep a consistent pace and easy to follow narrative for newcomers to the crazy world of Bleach. Fukushi and Sugisaki’s charisma is clear to see and is most definitely elevated by the pairs time together on Takashi Miike’s 2017 film, Blade of the Immortal.
In terms of the films other characters, some of those that fans of the source material will remember take much more of a backseat in order to, like I alluded to earlier, have a consistent focus on the films core plot line. For example, Orihime (Erina Mano), Chad and Ishida shows signs of having a much more intriguing character development arcs, which could very well be elaborated on if the film does well and gets turned into a trilogy as the director apparently wishes it to become. That being said, the Bleach fanboy in me would have liked to have seen a little bit more from them, especially the bad ass Chad.
As many may know, Asia’s version of Hollywood unfortunately does not have the financial power that we over in the West possess and that can sometime hinder projects such as this that require a fair amount of CGI. However, that most certainly is not the case for Sato and his team. They have managed to create some rather terrifying looking Hollow’s which (as far as the main ones go) look honorable to their manga counterparts. The grand fight set-pieces that take place in the films final acts find harmony in feeling authentic whilst also brutal and fantastical.
At its root, the Bleach live action movie was made to not only satisfy die-hard fans of the original manga and anime series but also welcome in a new generation of fans to the worldwide phenomenon and it most certainly accomplished that. I for one hope that Netflix and Warner Brothers Japan decide to take this adaptation a step further and put more money behind it to make it not only ONE of the best efforts at anime live action, but to make it THE best.