With the previous two volumes leaping back and forth from person to person with every finalizing slash, one might expect the same from volume 25 of Tite Kubo’s fan-favorite Bleach, but the focus is narrowed considerably with Ichigo Kurosaki’s self-control on the line. Seeking help from the Vizards, a group that has complete control over their inner Hollows, Ichigo stubbornly looks to suppress his own with no idea of just how difficult a task that’s going to be.
Forced to prove his strength, the Vizards relentlessly attack in shifts, demanding that Ichigo let go and release his Hollow if he wants any hope of harnessing its power rather than keeping it submerged. There may be no better group to learn from than one that openly dons their mask, letting the Hollow within become part of their offense, but it all builds up to yet another battle inside Ichigo’s mind that should hopefully settle things once and for all.
Nothing’s that simple, of course, but those are the basic goings-on of volume 25, another Bleach release appropriately loaded from beginning to end with the makings of a mega-action-stuffed baked potato. Kubo goes all out with some of the best splash pages to date, which only sounds like what I said about the last dozen or so chapters because it holds doubly true. The Vizards put on a vicious clinic for Ichigo, and this is hammered home with every page full of screaming faces and soaring blades, and every punctuating, show stopping spread.
As we continue with this eternal saga, my only concern is that the back and forth of Ichigo’s battles may begin to wear on certain portions of the audience, if it hasn’t already. I love Tite Kubo’s artwork and I especially dig the way he presents shonen action in the page-splattering way it should be, but Ichigo’s fight with his Hollow self is about as predictable as they come. There’s mortal wounding, lessons are learned, and I wouldn’t dare spoil what happens next, but you get the picture. If Bleach didn’t have so many other characters buzzing about and if they didn’t all do so at such a breakneck pace, this would be pretty hard to get over for some.
Before my brow can even grumpily furrow itself, though, they ring the figurative bell and the final chapter is ready to move on to something totally new for the next volume. Chapter 223 leads into a story that puts the hardly spoken of King of the Soul Society in peril, with fierce antagonist Aizen gunning for the royal palace beyond the society’s boundaries. While he doesn’t have the key necessary for entry, he’s in possession of something much more dangerous: the knowledge that, at the cost of 100,000 human souls, he can craft his very own.
Thus we transition into what is explicitly called a “decisive battle,” and the trap is set. If Kubo keeps pulling me in with these cliffhangers, then I might as well stop finding anything to complain about and just roll with Bleach as it continues to be an interesting and exciting ride.
Publisher: Viz Media
Story & Art: Tite Kubo