Anime DVD Review: Bleach Season One: The Substitute

Bleach Season One: The Substitute box set is a five disc set that contains 20 episodes. Each disc contains four episodes and bonus features. The episodes are available with both an English dub and the original Japanese language track with English subtitles.

Bleach Season One: The Substitute
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: March 31, 2009

15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki is the main character of Bleach, and he is able to see ghosts. After seeing a girl attacking a strange creature in his neighborhood, the girl visits him in his room one night. The girl says she’s a Soul Reaper, and is surprised that Ichigo can see her. At that point, another creature, called a Hollow, appears and terrorizes Ichigo’s father and sisters. The Soul Reaper, who introduces herself as Rukia Kuchiki, is injured when she tries to protect Ichigo. When things look their bleakest, Rukia says she will transfer some of her powers to Ichigo so he can protect his family. However, Ichigo unintentionally absorbs all of Rukia’s power, and he himself becomes a Soul Reaper. With his new powers, he is able to destroy the creature. Since Rukia has lost her powers, she must pose as an exchange student at Ichigo’s school while in an artificial body.

We are also introduced to several of Ichigo’s classmates, including Orihime, Tatsuki, Mizuiro, Chad, and Keigo. In the episodes that are included in this set, Ichigo has to help Orihime, who is being followed by a Hollow who wants to eat her soul. Chad also ends up with a parakeet that has the soul of a young boy sealed away in it, and the bird is being chased by a Hollow. The concept of a mod soul is also introduced, thanks to Rukia buying soul candy from the Urahara Shop. By using a soul candy, Ichigo can transform into a Soul Reaper when Rukia isn’t around, and the mod soul stays in Ichigo. Unfortunately, this mod soul is rather mischievous. Later, Ichigo places the mod soul in a stuffed lion and names it Kon.

We also get the backstory about Ichigo’s mother and her death, and how Ichigo must face his demons from the day of her death. Then, the story introduces characters such as Kisuke Urahara, the proprietor of the Urahara Shop, and a Quincy named Uryu Ishida.

Two more Soul Reapers are introduced: Renji Abarai and Byakuya Kuchiki. They have come to take Rukia back to Soul Society so she can face punishment for giving her power to Ichigo. Ichigo fights against Renji; unfortunately, as he’s gotten the upper hand, Byakuya steps in and easily defeats Ichigo. As Ichigo lays dying, he is saved by Urahara who will help him rescue Rukia since she is now facing the death penalty. However, Ichigo must agree to train with Urahara.

In the last few episodes in the set, Ichigo trains with Urahara, while Orihime and Chad train with a talking cat named Yoruichi.

The anime is based on a manga by Tite Kubo, and I have to say that the series really captures Kubo’s art style and brings it to life. Also, Kubo created compelling characters for the Bleach universe, and these characters translate well to the screen. I find myself emotionally invested in both the characters and their stories. By the time I finished the episodes in this set, I wanted to go on to the next set in order to find out what happens next.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the first disc includes four extras. The first extra is “Production Art,” which is 27 pages of line art of the characters and items that appear in the episodes on the disc. The second feature is “Manga Preview,” which is a preview of the first volume of the Bleach manga; however, you have no control over the speed that the feature goes through the pages. You also cannot rewind the feature, which is rather annoying if you can’t read the text on the screen fast enough. While this feature was an interesting idea, the execution could have been better. The next feature is “Clean Ending,” which is a textless version of the first closing theme, and the final extra on the disc is “Shonen Jump Home Video,” which contains previews for other properties that Viz Media was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

The second disc has production art, which includes 23 pages of line art of the characters and items that appear in the episodes on the disc. The “Manga Preview” is simply ads for Bleach and other Viz Media manga titles. The Clean Ending and the Shonen Jump Home Video features are the same as on disc one.

The production art on disc three includes 25 pages of line art of the characters and items that appear in the episodes on the disc. The manga preview is the same as what appears on the second disc, and the Clean Ending and the Shonen Jump Home Video features are also the same as on previous discs.

The fourth disc has the same manga preview and the same Shonen Jump Home Video features that appear on previous discs. However, the production art includes 24 pages of line art of characters and items that appear in the episodes on the disc. The Clean Ending is the textless version of the second closing theme for Bleach.

On the fifth disc, the manga previews and the clean ending are the same as what appeared on previous discs in the set. The production art on this disc includes 23 pages of characters and items. Also included on this disc is “Bonus: Behind the Scenes of Bleach.” This is a roughly 20 minute long documentary that includes interviews with the English voice actors for Ichigo, Uryu, Orihime, and Tatsuki. For a Viz Media release, this documentary bonus feature is probably one of the better extras I’ve seen on one of the company’s releases.

Even though the bonus features are a bit on the redundant side, I would still recommend this box set to anyone who is a fan of the Bleach anime series in order to include the series in their anime home video library.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of the Bleach Season One: The Substitute box set that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

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