Anime Film Review: Bleach the Movie: Fade to Black

Bleach the Movie: Fade to Black is the third film for the Bleach anime franchise. The film was directed by Noriyuki Abe, and it was released to Japanese theaters on December 13, 2008. VIZ Media holds the North American distribution rights for the film, and the company released it on DVD and Blu-ray on November 15, 2011. This review focuses on the DVD pressing, since that’s the version that I watched.

Bleach the Movie: Fade to Black
Directed by: Noriyuki Abe
Written by: Natsuko Takahashi
Starring: Masakazu Morita, Fumiko Orikasa, Kentarō Itō, Ryōtarō Okiayu, Romi Park, Shin-ichiro Miki, Fumihiko Tachiki, Tomoko Kawakami, Aya Hirano, and Hiroshi Kamiya
Run Time: 95 minutes

This film introduces a pair of mysterious siblings who wreak havoc in Soul Society. The brother has a scythe that erases memories, which he uses on Mayuri while he’s in his laboratory. Mayuri becomes so panicked and frightened that he damages a machine. This causes a massive reiatsu explosion that covers quite a bit of the Soul Society in a milky layer of reiatsu and freezes many Soul Reapers. During the chaos, the two siblings go to Rukia. The brother uses his scythe to erase her memories, and he and his sister take Rukia with them. At this point, everyone in the Soul Society appear to lose their memories of Rukia.

In the World of the Living, Ichigo briefly forgets about Rukia, but then recalls her after having a dream. Troubled by this, Ichigo and Kon go to the Soul Society to find out what’s going on. It turns out the Soul Reapers have forgotten Ichigo and believe he is the one responsible for the reiatsu explosion. Ichigo finds himself having to fight with people he thinks of as friends.

Rukia has a past with these siblings, who don’t have names. Rukia was supposed to give them names, but something happened that prevented this. And during his search for Rukia, Ichigo receives some unexpected help from Byakuya. I appreciated getting the reminder that Rukia’s older sister, Hisana, had been married to Byakuya, since this connection played an important role in this film.

Urahara actually ends up playing an important role in the story, and he actually goes to Soul Society wearing his captain’s uniform. It was cool to not only see Urahara dressed this way, but to also get to see him in action. Urahara actually participates quite a bit in one of the battles that takes place near the end of the film.

The story ultimately climaxes with Ichigo finding Rukia but being forced to fight her after the siblings possess Rukia. Without spoiling the ending, I will say that in some respects it was touching. However, the way it was played ended up coming off a little “over the top” at times.

Of course, as I’ve come to expect of these Shonen Jump films, everything is “reset to zero” at the end of it. This means that any character growth or progression that takes place here won’t be part of the story of the television anime series. Anymore, as I watch these films, I find myself wondering how exactly they’ll “reset to zero” in order to try and not cause any inconsistencies with the anime series.

Since this film focused so heavily on the Soul Society, we didn’t get to see many of the characters from the Land of the Living. Honestly, though, I didn’t see much of a reason to have included Kon in here, because I don’t think he added much to the story in the long run.

Animation-wise, it wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t quite up to the level of the first two Bleach films. There were occasional shots in this film where some of the computer graphics were more noticeable with some of the characters’ movements because these particular movements didn’t look entirely natural.

But to be honest, Bleach the Movie: Fade to Black isn’t too bad for a Shonen Jump film. There was an interesting story being told, and it was interesting to see many of the characters act in a way you wouldn’t expect, especially when they interact with Ichigo after they’ve forgotten about him.

When VIZ Media released Bleach the Movie: Fade to Black on DVD, it was released as a single disc instead of a two-disc release. Because of this, there aren’t nearly as many bonus features for this film that the previous two films received for their DVD releases.

The first bonus feature is “Movie Trailers,” which is split into Japanese trailers and English trailers. There are a total of eight Japanese trailers included, and they all have Japanese audio without English subtitles. There are two English trailers included.

For “Production Art,” there’s 16 pages of line art of the characters and locations that appeared in the film. The final bonus feature is “More From VIZ Media,” which only includes the trailer for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Bonds that appears at the beginning of the disc when it first starts playing.

The bonus features on this release are more on the “bare bones” side, but at least getting these bonuses are better than getting nothing. I’m not going to complain about this, since it could have been a lot worse.

If you’re a fan of Bleach, I think you’ll enjoy Bleach The Movie: Fade to Black and will want to add it to your anime collection if you don’t own it already. From what I can tell, it appears that the Blu-ray has the exact same bonus features as the DVD release, so it really would come down to a matter of preference as to whether or not you’d want to own this film on DVD or Blu-ray.

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