Way back in the early 00s when I was still in the early stages of getting into anime, three big battle anime started airing that everyone in the community was watching. There was Naruto, which I watched a few episodes of and stopped because I found the main character really annoying. There was One Piece, which I watched a bit of and stopped because the main character was really annoying. Then there was Bleach, which I actually watched all the way through. This was before I’d started doing reviews, mind. But yes, I watched all 366 episodes about Kurosaki Ichigo and his comrades. And whenever anyone brought up the old Bleach vs Naruto vs One Piece discussion, I always had to side with Bleach because it was the only one where I found the protagonist decent enough as a character to watch it.
One thing I actually never did was watch the films. Even though I liked watching the anime, it wasn’t a franchise I was super into. But, lately I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic for the franchise and I’ve seen way too many bad OVAs lately, so it seems an opportune time to watch the first Bleach film. This one came out in ’06 when the series was still pretty early on. Since it ran from ’04 to ’12.
We open with Ichigo and Rukia dealing with a Hollow that’s gotten loose in a park. Rukia criticises Ichigo for not making use of Kon since just leaving his body lying prone could be dangerous. Someone could think he’s dead or touch his bum. The pair responds to another situation, this time Ichigo makes proper use of Kon. This time, they encounter a bunch of strange, white things instead of Hollows. They watch an unknown shinigami dispatch them. Rukia goes to report to Soul Society and leaves Ichigo to talk to the girl and figure out what she knows. Little do either of them realise that the fates of both Soul Society and Earth could be tied to this strange girl.
The biggest issue with the film is that the whole plot and its twists are pretty predictable. About the most surprising thing is the Soul Society decision of how to deal with things once they get going. I get it, it’s a battle anime and they aren’t known for being super original with their story-telling. But it’s like how using too much stock footage is a frequent weakness in magical girl anime. Every time I see it become an issue, I’ll bring it up. It doesn’t help that whenever it brings up something that’s meant for foreshadowing, they make it really obvious. Like, to the extent that they might as well throw in a little marching band at the bottom of the screen with a banner that says “this is foreshadowing.”
I am also a bit confused by the way Orihime and Chad are told they can’t enter the climactic area because “it’s a spiritual area like Soul Society. Humans can’t go there.” I seem to recall both Orihime and Chad going to Soul Society with Ichigo to rescue Rukia but maybe they had to use something special to do it and I just don’t remember that part.
That being said, the story is well-paced. It has some comedic moments that work well. I also do think the lore it adds is compelling and, even if the story is predictable it has some decent emotional moments.
We get to see a lot of major characters from the franchise proper. It’s definitely set up for people who have seen the franchise since there are multiple characters who show up in the background or for very brief moments. If you were to watch the film on its own, you would have no idea who they are or why they’re significant. We do see characters like Ichigo, Rukia and Renji showcase their best qualities. I do also appreciate that the antagonists are given proper motivations, though they could have been better extrapolated upon. I do quite like Senna. I think they did a good job of developing her as much as they needed to without making that aspect of the film overpowering.
The film looks pretty good. Bleach has some strong character designs. And that is on display here. The action sequences also flow pretty well. They have some nice intensity to them. I also do like the backgrounds for Earth, but when they get to the spiritual world where the climax takes place, the backgrounds pretty much become variations of every desolate wasteland ever. Which is a bit boring.
The regular Bleach cast is really good. Paku Romi, Orikasa Fumiko and Morita Masakazu stand out in this film since they all have fairly significant roles. In terms of the original film characters, both Saito Chiwa and Ebara Masashi give strong performances as Senna and Ganryu. The music is mostly quite good. I didn’t really care for the ending song, but aside from that it was a strong element.
I guess I could say it has a little just because it has Soi Fon in a supporting role and she’s blatantly not straight in the series proper. However, there’s really no indication of that in this film. Yoruichi doesn’t show up and she’s the character who really brings out that aspect of Soi Fon. So, the film has a not straight character, but no actual ho-yay.
Areas of Improvement:
- The film could have done a better job using characters like Ishida, Chad and Orihime. There’s almost no reason for them to be here, as is.
- The film could have benefited from being a little longer and showing some of Rukia’s interactions when she went to Soul Society. It could have helped establish some of those relationships for people who aren’t all that familiar with the series.
- Be more subtle with the foreshadowing. Yes, it’s important to introduce elements that will come into play later, but there’s also a point where you draw so much attention to it that it just makes everything that’s gonna happen far too obvious.
Bleach: Memories of Nobody is a pretty enjoyable film. For me personally, it’s nice to see these characters again and I thought that, in spite of its shortcomings, Pierrot did do a fine job with it. It may not be a masterpiece. It may not be subtle. But it’s good fun with some strong pacing, action sequences and well executed emotional parts. So, I’m giving it a solid 7/10.