In the summer of 2012, I promised Roger Ebert that  I would watch all the Japanese movies available on Hulu Plus. At the time I didn’t realize that most of them were Zatoichi films. As of 2 August 2014, there are 321 movies. Some of which I have seen. Most I have not. I’m going in numerical order because that’s what seems to be easiest on Hulu Plus with my Roku (bought at Roger’s urging).

First up is an adult (as in mature and not as in pornographic) anime called “Bleach The Movie 3: Fade to Black.”

This anime you can watch with the English-dubbed. I hate that, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. I watched both.

First, as always, I want to consider the title. The title is taken from English and on the original poster, written in English. This works because the standard Japanese education requires English language reading ability. I can’t help but think that the title refers to the hero’s hair color, but that isn’t the case.

The Bleach series (ブリーチ)is a Japanese serialized manga that has been published in “Weekly Shōnen Jump” since August 2001 and is popular enough to have produced an animated television series (produced by Studio Pierrot) from 2004 to 2012, two video animations, four animated feature films, ten rock musicals and, of course, video games.  This is a cultural phenomena.

As the English title indicates, this 2008 animation is the third movie after “Bleach: Memories of Nobody” (2006) and “Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion” (2007).  Our protagonist is Ichigo Kurosaki or in Japanese 黒崎一護(くろさき いちご). His last name means black promontory. His first name means first protection. At one point in the series, they use a pun because Ichigo is a homophone for the Japanese word for strawberry.

Ichigo has bright spikey orange hair and he has a samurai scowl although he is kind-hearted. Life isn’t fun in the world of Bleach.  For comic relief, there is a modsoul named Kon (コン)and is most often seen taking the form of a male lion plush doll. According to the Bleach Wiki, Kaizō Konpaku (改造魂魄) or modified souls are “artificial souls designed to enhance regular human physiology, making them capable of battling Hollows equally.”

The Hollows are “corrupt spirits with supernatural powers which devour the souls of both living and deceased humans.” They have not, according to the Bleach Wiki, crossed over to the Soul Society (here I imagine Motown playing in the background) after their death. They can cross over into the human world and the Soul Society and are considered the opposite of human beings.

Although still a student at Karakura High School, Ichigo has a paranormal occupation. He can see ghosts. One day he meets a young girl spirit named Rukia Kuchiki. Rukia is a member of the Soul Society and a Soul Reaper. As a Soul Reaper, she guides the good ghosts to the afterlife and protects humans from the Hollows.

In “Bleach: Fade to Black  君の名を呼ぶ (Kimi no na wo yobu, I Call Your Name), the tagline is “Goodbye Rukio.” 

Bleach presents us with a contrast of old Japan and new Japan. Ichigo is, at times, dressed in modern casual–loose fitting shorts and a t-shirt, and at other times dressed in a haori and hakama (but without that forehead shaving samurai hairdo).

The old world is the Soul Society with a little steampunk. In his lab, Mayuri Kurotsuchi 涅マユリ (Kurotsuchi means black soil)  is confronted by a pair of sinister siblings. What makes them sinister is they have a scythe and they don’t use it to cut people down, but to cut off memories. Kurotsuchi causes an explosion that releases a white liquid that merges and separates into a river of serpents. The serpents cover the world of the Soul Society and freeze many of the Soul Reapers.

In the real world, Kon shows Ichigo a note, but Ichigo thinks it is gibberish at first. In a dream, Ichigo recalls Rukia and goes to Kisuke Urahara 浦原喜助 (Urahara means creek field and Kisuke means joyful aid/help), but Urahara can’t remember Rukia yet he has her listed as a customer. Ichigo and Kon then go to the Soul Society and they are attacked. No one seems to remember Ichigo.

Rukia is living with a sister and a brother, who tell her they used to be close friends, but she has forgotten them. From here Ichigo, Rukia and their friends and Soul Society colleagues fight to regain memories and defeat what they learn is a parasitic Hollow that was released during the explosion and cuts away memories with a scythe. Ichigo must decide whether to slay Rukia who becomes possessed by the monster, changing her into Dark Rukia.

“Bleach: Fade to Black” is worth watching in Japanese or English because it is an important part of Japanese pop culture. The anime mixes themes of Shinto spiritualism with Christianity and Carribean Santeria voodoo.

 

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