Bleach is back, and the series is bringing out its Soul Reapers in a whole new way. Tite Kubo's popular shonen finally has a live-action film thanks to famed director Shinsuke Sato, and the impressive adaptation bodes well for the genre's future.
Bleach stands as the latest installment of live-action anime, following the heels of projects like Ghost in the Shell and Fullmetal Alchemist. However, this action-packed movie manages to strike the core of what makes Bleach — well — Bleach.
The film, which premiered in the U.S. at Japan Cuts 2018, covers the first arc presented in Kubo's manga as it introduces fans to Ichigo Kurosaki. Played by Sota Fukushi, the protagonist feels like a replica of the one introduced years ago in the manga. Bleach nails its take on Ichigo's hot-headed personality, but his character is diversified later on with some softer moments.
In fact, all the casting done for Bleach is nearly flawless. The film's take on Rukia is wholly refreshing as it frames her as a heroine heroine between loyalties, forcing her to find independence and choose a side. Every character from Isshin to Renji brings a solid performance, but the film's huge roster does house one of its faults.
At just 108 minutes, Bleach moves really quick — almost too quickly to do all its characters justice. In order to churn out an original story, the movie can only pop in on characters such as Urahara, and it is Orihime and Uryu who suffer the most from this brisk pacing.
While Bleach may be well-known to many, this live-action film is approachable to both new and old fans. Its action sequences are top-notch thanks to stunt coordinator Yuji Shimomura, and the film's final 10 minutes feel like they were ripped from an anime. The framing, the shots, and the frantic energy imbued in Ichigo's battles are stunning... and seeing him train with Rukia is a true treat
Bleach may not the one-to-one adaptation some might have hoped for, but its original take on Kubo's series still feels authentic. The series' spirit easily shines through, but Bleach's big story is a bit much for its runtime. In order to flesh out its leads, the movie is forced to skimp on a few fights, and Bleach's modest budget also required such conservatism.
Still, the live-action adaptation proves even the most fantastical anime can be translated into real life. Bleach does what many other adaptations failed to do and that is keep the original series' core intact. Sato's vision take its liberties, but Bleach manages to bring Ichigo to life in a real way all the same. The self-contained take may not replicate all of the Bleach's blockbuster moments, but its carefully crafted story gives a template to future live-action adaptations. So, if you can deal with its few changes, then Bleach better be on your radar.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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