Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bleach: Memories of Nobody

Every year, there is a tradition that three of this blog's contributors share, myself included, which we refer to as "Movie Day." Every year on December 26, the day after Christmas, we do nothing but watch movies in our collection that we have yet to see on home video. These usually come from the ones that we got at Christmas, but we sometimes do manage to see at least one acquired from another time. This year, along with several Pixar shorts, we watched six films: Bleach: Memories of Nobody; Labyrinth; Magical Mystery Tour; The Artist; Finding Nemo; and Hugo. This review will cover the first of these films, Bleach: Memories of Nobody.

In case you didn't read my review of Bleach: Soul Resurrección, I am a fan of Bleach, the anime/manga franchise created by Tite Kubo about a high school student who becomes a substitute Soul Reaper who has to send souls to Soul Society as well as cleanse Hollows (evil spirits) so that they may be sent there as normal spirits. I personally have a love/hate relationship with Bleach, since there is a roller coaster of quality in Kubo's writing and there is so much that's both good and bad about it (ex. Interesting characters and ideas are introduced only to go nowhere or be taken too far). Regardless, I'm catching up with everything from before the Arrancar Arc and reading the Thousand Year Blood War Arc in Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha. More recently, I received some Bleach stuff for Christmas thanks to my interest in the series, and becoming more serious about it, including this movie, which was first released in 2006 and then brought stateside in 2008. As the first movie ever created for the series, Memories of Nobody is surprisingly self-sufficient.

After Ichigo (Johnny Yong Bosch) and Rukia (Michelle Ruff) eliminate a Hollow in a park, and the former escapes from paramedics, mysterious beings known as Blanks appear in Karakura Town. Before the two of them can do anything about it, a mysterious Soul Reaper named Senna (G.K. Bowes) arrives on the scene and eliminates them. However, another mysterious figure named Ganryu (Troy Baker) arrives on the scene, but disappears as quickly as he came. Ichigo later learns that the Blanks are souls without memories that have been detached from the normal cycle of souls, and that they are naturally attracted to one another, creating something called a Shinenju in the process. With no other leads, Ichigo decides to try and work with the unknown Senna to find the Shinenju and prevent a mysterious clan known as the Dark Ones from getting their hands on it and destroying both Soul Society and the World of the Living.

With the movie lasting a mere 93 minutes, its plot is a little simple, which actually works in its favor for the most part. It uses that hour and a half to its advantage by introducing newer as well as existing elements and expanding on them as much as it really needs to to create a surprisingly good story. For example, the Blanks aren't explained very well, but in the context of the movie and going by the fact that we never see them again, they really didn't need to be, since there is a reasonable amount of exposition that discuses what they are, where they are from and what they do. The plot also takes advantage of a theme of protection, which, while one of the more basic themes of movies, is expanded upon to apply to Ichigo, Senna and even Ganryu, which helps with understanding their motives. It can also get pretty emotional at times, especially as we learn more about Senna. I ended up getting pretty attached to her and feeling pretty sad about her, and her emotional range got me to like the character.

If anything though, the only real problems I actually have with the plot are both the fight with and a lack of expansion on Ganryu. Beginning with the latter, I was able to understand why he was trying to manipulate the Shinenju to his advantage, but after the credits had rolled, I realized that I still didn't know that much about the character, including how his clan ended up the way it did or why he became the man he is. As for the fighting, which ties into this, I actually felt that the fight between Ganryu and Ichigo was a little too short, since I never really got to know just how powerful the former is, which took a little of the edge from the climax away. While the interactions between Ichigo and Senna help to balance it out, I still feel like there could have been just a little more with Ganryu.

As for its animation, this film has a really good quality that looks like the show but with a much higher budget. By that, I mean that it looks better than the parts of the show that aired before it and certain things look beautifully done. The designs of the new characters also seem like ones that would actually come from Bleach and everyone looks consistent with how they are in the source media.

The score is also pretty good, with a combination of existing music from the anime and new music created for the movie. Every piece is used appropriately, enhancing and complementing each scene well. I also liked the voice acting, which is consistent with the show, allowing the new characters to have voices that match who they are. I don't really have any complaints here.

What I was most surprised by however was the movie's ability to make sense even to non-Bleach fans, hence my "self-sufficient" comment earlier. Among those in my immediate family watching the movie with me, one is getting more familiar with the series, one knew a little about it, and one knew absolutely nothing outside of me explaining who each character on the DVD menu was. The movie was able to explain characters and basic concepts in a way that even someone who knew nothing about the series was able to follow along and keep track of what was going on in the story. This I appreciated, since it allows the movie to stand up more as a separate entity than a film that is dependent on familiarity with the original source.

Bleach: Memories of Nobody is a surprisingly good movie. While not perfect, its plot and characters help to make it really enjoyable and worth watching. Fans of Bleach will like this film the most, but even outsiders might consider giving this one a try if they're looking for an animated feature with a good sense of what it is and what it's trying to accomplish. I'm glad I watched this feature, as it shows that a film based on a franchise can be written so even an outsider can get into it. If you're going to watch this but are unsure how much you'd need to know, fear not, for there is a handy theatrical program included with the DVD that will tell you all you need to know; be sure to read it before or after your viewing.

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