As a fan of the anime, I’ve been pretty excited when I heard that the studios were doing a live action version of the Tite Kubo series. I was even more psyched when I heard that Sota Fukushi, whom I simply loved on Strobe Edge, would be taking on the lead role. There were a lot of negative reactions about his casting but I didn’t bother to get into the details because I think the studios made the right choice. Imagine my excitement when I checked my Netflix account to see that it was already available for streaming!
Synopsis: Bleach Live Action revolved around the Agent of Shingami arc where the lead character Ichigo Kurosaki (Sota Fukushi), a human with an exceptional spiritual ability accidentally becomes a temporary shinigami (soul reaper) when a member of Soul Society, Kuchiki Rukia (Hana Sugisaki) gets injured in a battle with a Hollow. However, as Rukia transfers her powers to Ichigo, she accidentally gives him more than she intended and becomes stuck in the human dimension until he becomes strong enough to return it to her. Unfortunately, her brother, the ruthless Byakuya Kuchiki (Miyavi) gets wind of what happened and wants her to kill him and pay for her sins.
Its pretty difficult to compress an entire anime arc in the span of 108 minutes, especially with a complicated series like Bleach. More so when the first movie typically establishes the setting and the characters in the anime. Such was the case for Bleach Live Action and it understandably fumbles a few times in balancing its storytelling for anime fans and casual viewers. Good news though, it finds its footing soon enough and makes it well worth the fans’ time and support.
Personally, I thought it pretty much paid its respects to the anime by making sure that the settings and the scenes were as close to the original material as possible. Except for Rukia, they also nailed the casting by getting actors who looked close to the anime characters as well.
I had my reservations about Hana Sugisaki though, because she looked too soft to be the feisty no-nonsense Rukia. It turns out that my apprehension was unfounded because Sugisaki added a different flavor to the character. I liked that she was more vulnerable and therefore, she showed her growing affection for Ichigo more freely than her anime counterpart. Of course I was a big fan of Ichigo’s loyalty to Rukia until the very end. My #IchiRuki heart ❤ was so happy to see their interactions on screen, especially when they opened up to each other albeit awkwardly. That high five scene was the best throughout the entire training montage.
Sota Fukushi delivered on his role very well. He managed to portray Ichigo’s goofy side as well as his stubbornness which was part and parcel of his character. It was my first time to see him in such a role because I’ve only ever watched him in teen Japanese dramas or teen horror movies so it was refreshing for me to see him take up the challenge. I liked Chad’s (Yu Koyanagi) character too but he and Orihime (Erina Mano) were pretty much supporting cast members in this installment.
There was a spark of bromance between the Quincy Ishida (Ryo Yoshizawa) and Ichigo along with their rivalry so the movie succeeded to translating that relationship from the anime as well. Renji Abarai (Taichi Saotome) was a bit different in this version too because his anime would never lift a finger to hurt Rukia in any way but he seemed to have no qualms about executing Byakuya’s order here whatsoever.
I liked the graphics that they used in the movie too. It was seamlessly executed and blended well with the real life locations. Plus the fashion was pretty spot on. When I watch Jdramas, my usual complaint is why the Japanese dress so well in manga and anime but really don’t in live action dramas. This Netflix original made sure to stay faithful to trendiness of the anime so the characters all looked cool.
The fight scenes took up a lot of time and just when you thought that the Grand Fisher Battle was it, Renji had his moment unleashing his Zabimaru (which made me excited to see Ichigo eventually get Zangetsu). I thought they were quite edgy especially with the use of a great rock soundtrack which amped up the tension of each scene. It was neat to see how intensely Ichigo internalized as he dragged his zangetsu on the ground to battle Renji.
I was a bit taken aback by Rukia’s passiveness during these scenes though. I would have thought she could have stuck out her neck more, and done it sooner when her brother was on the verge of eliminating Ichigo. However, my bleeding heart forgave her when she approached Ichigo and gave her parting message that only the two of them understood quite well.
All in all, there was not enough time for Bleach to really tell its story but it did well enough with the time it was allotted. I think fans like myself would be satisfied with the approach but because we know what’s coming, we feel like there’s still a lot missing. Still, it was a good start — not yet an epic one, but it created enough excitement about what’s to come and that’s a success in my book.