Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bleach 167

Remember last time I mentioned how would be filled with drawings of Grimmjaw? I was right. Just go over there, search under his name (or “Grimmjow”), and be filled with horror. Some people trace other pictures, some jerk spasmodically with a pencil in their hand. Some draw Grimmjaw and Inoue in love (oh my Gawd) without regard to anatomy or perspective. Sure, there is an occasional quality piece, but just imagine all the people sitting out there, thinking, I must draw Grimmjaw. That frightens me.

So after what seems like a five minute recap of what’s been going on, we return to see Ichigo slashing Grimmjaw. But good. Grimmjaw falls to his knees, and Ichigo starts to relax, but Grimmjaw curses him. Does he really think this is the end? High up above, Inoue calls out for Ichigo. Watch out! We see blood splatter through the air. There is so much blood that it covers the whole screen, and that serves as a nice little transition to the next scene.

Seems that it’s lecture time on Bleach. Here’s how this works: Hollow eat human souls to feed the emptiness in their own souls. However, some Hollows have a greater thirst, and they start to feed on other Hollow. These cannibalistic Hollow all tend to gather together, and then they do, they all naturally meld together to form Gillian. Gillian are powerful, but have no consciousness. On occasion, though, there are Gillian formed from Hollow with exceptionally strong personalities, and the resulting Gillian might rarely retain its sense of individuality. Now, the narrator is explaining all of this the animation on screen shows, you know, Hollow and then Gillian, but then pans to a weird Gillian with a gate for a face. That could be kind of creepy. I think I saw a guy like that in an alley once, but I was pretty drunk.

These smart Gillian will eat other Gillian, and in turn become Adjuchas. Now we see a leonine Hollow leaping up from the sands of Hueco Mundo. It shakes its head, roars at the weird moon. Adjuchas eat each other, just like everything else in this wretched realm, and if they don’t continue eating, they regress back into plain ol’ Gillian and can never evolve in Adjuchas again. We watch the leonine Adjuchas chasing down other Adjuchas without mercy and eating them. It’s covered with green blood.

A shadow suddenly covers it, and it turns to face a whole slew of bigger Adjuchas. One threatens to eat the lion thing, and we pan over the new group, and they look distinctly familiar, maybe like some of the Arrancar who’ve been wiped out previously. The leonine one pauses for a second, and then attacks quickly, biting three of them in quick succession. They scream in agony. Like little girls.

One of the Adjuchas asks his name. It’s Grimmjaw, naturally. The other introduces himself as Showlong, who did, indeed, die a little ways back when Captain Hitsugaya froze him to death. Showlong and the others are on their way to becoming Vasto Lordes, the very highest level of Hollow, and they need a strong leader, like Grimmjaw, to lead them. They want him to be their king.

End flashback, and we see Grimmjaw skewering Ichigo with his claws. He pulls out his hand and they jump apart. Grimmjaw glowers at Ichigo. He hates Ichigo, especially the way he looks at Grimmjaw, for, no matter what’s happening, no matter how badly Grimmjaw is beating him up, Ichigo always looks like he knows that he’s going to win in the end. He attacks again, but Ichigo blocks his hand with his sword. Ichigo says that maybe Grimmjaw is upset that, he, a mere human, is fighting on equal footing with him.

Too bad that Grimmjaw has two hands! Ichigo looks surprised when he gets stabbed again. Grimmjaw drop kicks him like a football. Grimmjaw doesn’t care who he’s fighting. He’ll kill anyone who looks down on him. I think that Grimmjaw has deep, deep insecurity issues. He pulls back and his claws start to glow blue and…lines appear out of them, stretching up into the sky. They look strange, and not that scary, but this is apparently Grimmjaw’s greatest attack: Desgarron. That means laceration, in Spanish.

Flashback again, back to Adjuchas Grimmjaw and his merry band. Showlong says that they’re giving up. Even after eating three thousand other Hollow, they can’t feel themselves becoming any more powerful. Hence, they have evolved as far as they can. Grimmjaw scoffs and invites them to die in a ditch somewhere. I wasn’t aware that Hueco Mundo had ditches, but okay. He starts to leave, but Showlong begs him to eat them. They can go no further, they accept that, but Grimmjaw can continue to evolve.

In the now, Grimmjaw fires off desgarron. It mainly consists of those shiny blue lines dashing toward Ichigo. It’s not that impressive. Overall, the animation for this episode is of poorer quality than the last one. Yawn. Ichigo blocks desgarron with his sword and gets pushed way back. Grimmjaw laughs and thinks that he’s going to win! He recalls the flashback we just saw, and he says, fine, he’ll eat his companions. They’ll know what it’s like to evolve as part of his own flesh. He’s the king, after all.

Too bad Ichigo interrupts his thoughts, because he sticks his sword into one of the desgarron blades and breaks it apart. He tells Grimmjaw that he wants to win too, and he opens his eye and we can see that it’s his normal, human eye (by now he only has a quarter of his Hollow mask left, mind you), and he moves in to attack! Grimmjaw fires off another desgarron, but Ichigo sticks his sword in it and rides the wave like Mary Poppins riding through the sky with her magical umbrella. Ichigo shouts something about defeating all his enemies and saving his friends as Bleach’s determined-to-win music plays. The desgarron blades all fall apart and Grimmjaw just stands there as Ichigo stabs him.

Grimmjaw stares at Ichigo as he withdraws the blade, and he topples backwards. We see leonine Grimmjaw again, walking alone along the wastelands as he stops to look up at the moon. Mournful cello music plays. Blood pours from Grimmjaw now and he falls to the sand but Ichigo catches him by the arm. Ichigo’s Hollow mask falls away completely and he slowly lowers Grimmjaw to the ground, where he lays on his side with his eyes closed. Ichigo looks at him for a long time before finally turning away.

Frankly, I’m not sure how to feel. On one hand, this is just a cartoon, and these people aren’t real. On the other hand, you look at Grimmjaw and you think, he’s nothing more than a victim of circumstance. He’s vicious and angry because, if he’s isn’t, he dies; but he does have some noble qualities. He thanks Inoue for healing his arm. He doesn’t eat his companions, because they all become arrancar together. In the end Grimmjaw is a pitiable figure. So powerful, yet still terrified of being condescended to, and all he knows how to do is lash out. Point is, complex characters are good characters, and sometimes Bleach does things right. And Ichigo catching Grimmjaw as he falls? Very nice.

Ichigo goes up to Inoue. She’s happy that he’s back to normal; Nel is just happy that Ichigo is alive. Ichigo and Inoue hold hands and look into the sky. Everyone is waiting for them.

Next episode: Seems to feature someone who is decidedly not Ichigo. And the “Shinigami Golden” has Nel saying goodbye for some reason. Rumor has it that we are facing terrible, horrible filler episodes for a prolonged period. I’m sure this will be fantastic.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bleach 166

Last we reviewed Bleach, the gang was heading into Hueco Mundo to rescue someone from Aizen and his evil Spanish guitar music. Maybe Inoue. I’m not sure. I am sure that she has huge breasts. They fight some big Hollows, they meet Nel and some insipidly annoying sidekicks, Rukia and Renji join them and they crash into Aizen’s massive fortress.

Then they start fighting. And fighting some more. Everyone powers up, and powers up again, and it’s kind of like Dragonball Z where everyone yells for half an hour before unleashing a discombobulatingly devastating attack. Now, that doesn’t mean that any of this is very good. It’s entertaining though.

So Ulquiorra stabs Ichigo, our very favoritest protagonist, right in the chest. Grimmjaw frees Inoue, takes her to Ichigo, and tells her to heal him so that he can beat up Ichigo properly, and not in the half-assed manner that is Ulquiorra’s preferred idiom. They exchange tentative blows, and Grimmjaw fires off the greatest cero ever, but it’s not actually aimed at Ichigo. It’s aimed at Inoue and Nel, right behind him. Ichigo has to put on his Hollow mask to save the gals, which is exactly what Grimmjaw wanted all along. Everyone freezes; Grimmjaw has a menacing sneer; Inoue doesn’t know what the hell just happened. Ichigo looks at her, she’s scared, and he tells her not to be afraid, to relax. He’ll end all of this soon.

Grimmjaw is like a kid in a candy store. Do kids still go to candy stores? I assume so. With a cry of “Grind, Pantera!” he unlocks his sword. A huge windstorm whips up, and Ichigo tells Inoue to put up her shield, which she obediently does. The sand blows away and we see Grimmjaw, transformed into a some kind of feline antelope thing with a great mane of blue hair and fantastic eye makeup, and I'm pretty positive that an entire generation of amateur anime artists have been inspired to draw this handsome guy. Deviantart or whatever it's called is going to be overflowing with crudely drawn pictures by fanguys and -girls of this Pantera thing. Whatever. He roars, shaking things up so much with the sheer power of his vocal chords that even Ichigo is impressed.

Grimmjaw goes right on the attack, jumping up and kicking Ichigo through the landscape. Now, mind you, the landscape here consists of massive red columns rising up from the sand, so being kicked through them probably hurts a lot. Grimmjaw meets him at the other end and kicks him some more, and then slashed down at Ichigo with nasty nasty claws, sending Ichigo straight down through a big gray column. There’s a lot of smoke and Grimmjaw floats above looking for Ichigo, and they actually animated his eyes moving around, which is a nice touch. Usually people just blink on this show, or their eyebrows move a bit, and that’s about it.

Before the dust even clears Ichigo flash steps right behind Grimmjaw and fires off his GETSUGA TENSHOU! Grimmjaw just laughs. He hates Ichigo’s eyes, and, now that he mentions it, so do I. Who likes yellow eyes?

Cut away now to a ledge over on the fortress. We see one of the Espada, the large breasted one, and if you read the manga (and I know you do), then you know that her name is Halibel. Three of her hot arrancar lieutenants, Mila Rose, Apache, and Sun Sun, are yapping about the battle they’re watching between Ichigo and Grimmjaw. A huge blast of wind unsettles them all, and Halibel steps forward and says that’s it’s understandable that they’re afraid. Mila Rose and Apache look at each other and pretty much admit that it’s true. Halibel goes on some more about their fear, telling them to remember it, and then muses on how powerful Ichigo is, with his mightly reiatsu and evil aura. It’s almost like watching two Espada fighting.

Back to Ichigo and Grimmjaw. They’re flashing around, explosions abound, huge shock waves rattle the air. Grimmjaw slams Ichigo into one of the big red columns and notices how Ichigo can keep his Hollow mask on for longer now. Much longer. Remember how at first he could only use it for eleven seconds? I’m pretty sure more than that has passed, even in cartoon time. Grimmjaw wonders why, but doesn’t really care. He just doesn’t want the mask to break off in the middle of the fight. He thrusts a razor sharp hand at Ichigo, but our guy catches it and says that he doesn’t want Grimmjaw to release his own form yet. Then Ichigo slashes Grimmjaw right across the chest, and blood spurts all over. Ichigo presses the attack, but Grimmjaw parries his sword with little arm blades, and then flies into a whirlwind of kicks. Ichigo avoids them, but it’s just a feint, and Grimmjaw smacks him right back to the earth. Seems that Ichigo can’t really keep up with Grimmjaw’s speed and agility. Too bad.

He dives down to finish Ichigo off, but Ichigo is waiting for him with his sword. Grimmjaw manages to avoid it, but still manages to get a sword dragged along his arm. They attack and slam into each other and throw up a huge atomic bowl of sand.

More fighting, kicks and blows, and Grimmjaw dashes around to outflank Ichigo. The animation is really much better than usual. The producers should take more time between episodes (there was a two week gap between the last and this one), if this is the kind of quality they can produce when they’re not being rushed. I wouldn’t mind the wait, and neither should you. More blows are exchanged, and Ichigo gets knocked up along a column but manages to skid to a midair stop.

Grimmjaw snorts and aims his elbow and fires off a quintet of weird missiles. Ichigo avoids them, but realizes that (again) they’re heading toward Inoue and Nel. He corrects his mistake and intercepts the projectiles with his back, and they must really hurt because he spits up blood. Ichigo says he’s fine and looks directly at Inoue, who starts freaking out because she has a sudden vision of her brother as a Hollow, from way back in the second episode of the series. Remember that?

Ichigo flies down to face off with Grimmjaw. He notes that Ichigo is breathing prettily heavily. He jerks up his elbow and casually fires off an elbow missiles at a big red column behind him, and it sort of breaks in half. Five of those in Ichigo’s back? He must be hurting, and to prove the point, his Hollow mask starts to crack a little. Ichigo says he’s not even close to his limit. That pleases Grimmjaw to no end, but then his own mask starts to crack! Can’t anyone find a non-crackable mask here?

Inoue watches them fight some more and continues her freaking out. The eyes are the thing, you see. They remind her of her brother’s terrible, terrible Hollow eyes. Down below, Ichigo’s mask is really starting to go to pieces and Grimmjaw finally gains the upper hand, kicking him into one of those big red columns, and it falls apart too. Nel starts to mutter something that I don’t care about, then she begins to cheer Ichigo on, because what he really needs now is a cheering section. Then she starts to yell at Inoue, something to the effect that Ichigo’s using a terrible, ominous power, and being cut and thrashed because of you, Inoue, so the very least you can do is cheer for him. Inoue has an epiphany, naturally, and starts to talk about her womanly feelings. Point is, everyone came to save her. How could she be afraid of Ichigo?

By now half of Ichigo’s mask has fallen off. Grimmjaw makes like a spinning top (awesome) and slams right into him. They even animated the very moment of the hit, with Ichigo grimacing in agony. Grimmjaw says that this is the end, and he even looks a little sad for Ichigo. Ichigo pants and pants some more.

But, “Don’t die!” Inoue shouts from above. “You don’t have to win. Just don’t, you know, get hurt anymore.” Gee, thanks. Ichigo looks amazed, however, but doesn’t have much time for that, as Grimmjaw dives toward him with a cry of “Kurosaki!” Ichigo, I suppose inspired by Inoue, suddenly grabs Grimmjaws hand, says that he can’t afford to take any more hits, and cuts the Espada, but good.

Next week: More Ichigo and Grimmjaw action. Grimmy does the voice over, and his voice is just full of anger and hatred. He's not evil; he's just sad and misunderstood. I feel like I'm the only one who understands that.