Of course, it isn’t long before trouble scouts him and his friends out, and nothing sets Ichigo into action quite like his friends in danger. The Lost Agent arc sees Ichigo crossing paths with the insistent Kūgo Ginjō who claims to be able to restore his soul reaper abilities. He’s at first suspicious, but increasingly attracted to the idea, especially after Uryū Ishida is hospitalised by a deadly new foe. On top of that, Ichigo’s dad is far from what he seems.
Series 16 makes a stylistic shift after the Gotei 13 Invading Army filler arc, re-affirming character and intent. Setting the final series almost 18 months after he was consigned to human status proves particularly effective. Sure, Ichigo’s a bit lost without the duty and duplicity of Shinigami life, but he’s come to terms with his situation and is getting on with it. Strawberry has finally grown into his image as a world weary cynic. His sister Karin, on the other hand, takes over as top of the soul energy totem pole, packing an apathetic attitude to rival her big brother.
The soundtrack and action, which have remained pretty consistent throughout the entire run, are as every bit as good in the final outing. This many episodes into the show, Ichigo is as much Johnny Yong Bosch in the English dub as Masakazu Morita in the original Japanese, making the best way to watch the series switching between both. The strange training methods, which involve Ichigo shrinking down to fight plushies, work both on a humour level and that much needed dose of action. Even the throng of new characters, led by Kūgo Ginjō, have unique fighting styles which makes for a departure from the usual soul reaper verses hollow formula.
It’s a real step up for its last huzzah, and there’s a definite sense of finality to the plot, with Ichigo getting retrospective and reminiscent. Following the extravagant action of the previous series, the change in pace is a plus. There’s still the usual flashbacks and recap, but as it’s again based on Tite Kubo’s manga, it’s altogether tighter and funnier.
Special Features: Opening animation / Closing animation
BLEACH SERIES 16 PART 1 / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: NORIYUKI ABE / SCREENPLAY: MASASHI SOGO / STARRING: JOHNNY YONG BOSCH, FUMIKO ORIKASA, MASAKAZU MORITA, AKIO OHTSUKA, ATSUKO YUYA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW