Review: Bleach: Fade to Black, I Call Your Name (2008)

bleach_fade2black_1Fade to Black, I Call Your Name is the third Bleach film, based on the very successful shonen anime series of the same name.  Much like the other two films, this one requires the viewer to understand a good bit of what has gone before.  I’ll admit that I lost interest in the series when it stopped focusing on the relationship between Rukia and Ichigo, the two protagonists, and instead began delving into the endless ranks of the Soul Society.  If you’ve never watched a single Bleach episode, this isn’t the place to start.  I’ll refrain from rehashing the back story as I’ll assume you have some knowledge of the Bleach universe if you continue reading.  You’ve been warned.

This movie is a little better than the previous two, but that’s not saying a whole lot.  They each focus on soul reaper minutia and endless battles that simply don’t interest me.  It all seems to have been concocted just for the sake of making a movie.  While that may well be, it’d be nice if the writers were a little less transparent about it.  When I watch one of these cash-ins, I miss the early days of the series when most of the events took place in the real world.  There is no longer any dynamic between Rukia and Ichigo because most of the plots keep them separated.  For the life of me, I can’t imagine a less inventive plot point than having Rukia play the damsel in distress yet again!

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This time around Rukia is kidnapped by a couple of weirdos who attack the world of the Soul Society and erase her existence from the memories of everyone but Ichigo and Kon (the belligerent stuffed lion who is powered by a little lost soul).  The two of them are suddenly seen as invaders and the rest of the SS think they’re the cause of the attack.  Insert fights, rinse, repeat.  There’s a little more to it than that, but you get the idea.

The plot is straightforward and most of the most popular SS members get their moment in the spotlight to please the rabid fan base, but all in all it’s an unsatisfying exercise.  What I wouldn’t give for a really cool fight with a Hollow these days!  What screen time isn’t spent on massive battles is spent on obtuse retcon and Soul Society techno-babble that would shame even the writers of Star Trek the Next Generation.  Every event has some lengthy and unknowable explanation.  The one bright spot is Kon.  He’s as funny as ever.

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The animation quality would be fine for TV, but for a feature in the age of beautiful animated movies like Sword of the Stranger , it’s sub-par.  That’d be okay if the story were more compelling, but it isn’t.  I also found the character designs had changed for the worse.  Rukia just isn’t so cute anymore.  The obnoxious soundtrack was the last nail in the coffin for me.  What happened to the great music from the series?  I miss Orange Range.

Of course, none of this will matter to the hardcore Bleach fans.  They’ve already heaped a tremendous amount of praise on this feature.  Just like any other successful franchise, there are those who will be pleased with anything that even vaguely resembles the characters they’ve grown to love (Star Wars Episode I, anyone?).  I’m evaluating this as a standalone film, and as such, it fails to entertain.

Not recommended except for those who can recite the names of all the Soul Reaper captains.  Ready?  Go!

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