An Anime Review – Bleach Movie 1: Memories of Nobody

This was the first motion picture done using the characters from the shonen anime series Bleach (Shonen, remember, is a shortcut signaling high-action adventure designed more for boys than girls.)  Like the shoja {more romantic and humorous} anime series Fruits Basket, I believe that this movie will appeal to anime lovers of both sexes.

Memories of Nobody also is a fairly good introduction to the myriad of characters Bleach contains, and avoids a lot of the many-layered plots playing out through the series by neatly side-stepping them.  Our hero is once again Ichigo Kurosaki, an intelligent and stubborn high school boy who has the ability to see and communicate  with ghosts.  Way back at the beginning of this series, Ichigo witnesses something he should not be able to see – a shinigami (soul reaper) sending a confused soul off to the lands of the Soul Society, an intermediate world of the afterlife.  Rukia, the soul reaper he catches at work, accepts his help briefly when she’s injured by a resisting soul – a hollow, a soul that has gone bad, so to speak, and is a threat to both lost spirits and humans.  The results of this encounter set up the first major arc of the anime series.

Now, in the best comedic tradition, I told you that story to be able to tell you this one.  In Memories of Nobody, we are apparently past the first arc.  Rukia is once again a soul reaper with full powers, and Ichigo has been given an amulet from the Soul Society which makes him a Substitute Soul Reaper.  This allows Ichigo to continue dispatching hollows, and gains him both help and interference from the court guards of the Soul Society.

We find Ichigo and Rukia, guardians of Karakura town, dispatching a hollow and suddenly finding odd, floating creatures in white robes and red hats that remain and even increase their presence – and do not disappear when Ichigo tries to send one of them to the afterlife.  When the red hats become threatening, a strange shinigami named Senna appears, and with a stunning art effect of tornado-like sword work, magically sucks up the creatures before Ichigo and Rukia can figure out what they are.

Rukia heads back to the Soul Society to see what she can find out about the unknown soul reaper Senna, while Ichigo tries to keep tabs in Senna and ask her a few things.  From her, he finds out that the creatures are called blanks, spirits from the Severed World, the place between Earth and the Soul Society.  These souls have amnesia, and are seeking their memories – memories stored in something called a Memory Rosary.

Enter  a former soul reaper named Ganryu who was tossed out of the guild decades before; he and his followers are also searching for the Memory Rosary.  But the former soul reaper is trying to take the Rosary and use it to cause a collision between the worlds of the living and the dead – an event that will destroy both places.  The Soul Society comes to some startling conclusions about Senna, and with scarcely an hour to avert catastrophe, Ichigo finds himself trying to protect the living, the dead, and Senna – from both his friends and his foes.

This movie has a tad more budget than the TV series, and the animation reflects this – the battles are vivid, expansive events, bringing together many of the odd denizens of the Soul Society and their powerful weapons.  Detail work gives us the striking image of swirling autumn leaves as well as Karakura by night.  The animators take chances with both artwork and story, and the internal music is a great backdrop.  We even see some of the humor that Bleach generally contains (there’s a running gag about Ichigo constantly dumping his real body wherever it’s handy and running off as a spirit to fight hollows without placing a substitute consciousness in the body.  Ichigo keeps coming back to ambulance attendants trying to revive him.)

A new viewer will have no idea who all these soul reapers are, and we get only a flash of Ichigo’s human friends and spirit warriors.  Still, Bleach: Memories of Nobody makes sense and has tension despite elements that could sidetrack the eye and the story.  Ichigo’s brief friendship with and championing of Senna has moments both humorous and touching.  In the end, a moment in time, slowly forgotten by those who witnessed these events, has a depth rarely seen in anime, and is more sophisticated than the usual Bleach episode.

If you’re a fan of Bleach, don’t grumble too much about the brief cameo appearances of many series characters, and newcomers should enjoy the ride without worrying how each soul reaper may fit into the puzzle.  This one was definitely worth my time.  In fact, I flipped it back to Netflix too fast – I’d watch it again, and would like to check out the extras (like Making Of… and interviews with the voice actors) that are recommended by other fans of this movie.

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About Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Cat Kimbriel is working on a a contemporary fantasy about curses, ecological change, and very different ways of looking at the twilight worlds. She's still working on a short Nuala piece and mulling over a new Alfreda novel. You can find her fantasy & science fiction, including free samples, at her Book View Café bookshelf. These books can also be found at major online booksellers. Her personal blog is here, and you will find her on whatever social media currently interests her. Cat builds worlds that contain compassion and justice -- come join the journey.

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