If you had told high school me that two out of the three animes from The Big 3 would still be running in 2022, I am not sure I would have believed you. One Piece has sailed on through the years, gaining even more popularity decades later. Even the legacy of Naruto still lives in Boruto. However, Bleach‘s lackluster anime conclusion in 2012 left many fans, myself included, let down after the build of so many arcs ended in so many missed opportunities to bring the famed anime to a close. Now, 10 years later, anime fans get to see Ichigo Kurosaki one last time and boy, are we off to a great start in Karakura Town with Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 1.
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War, airing on Hulu, covers the Thousand-Year Blood War arc from the manga. Many readers commend the arc for answering many of the questions left in their minds following the unceremonious end. The hype of the manga always adds to the hype of the anime, but after a 10-year absence, there was definitely a different kind of anticipation pressing play on episode 1. From the first frame, it is clear that Pierrot, the animation studio for Bleach‘s original run, is back to do this anime right.
What jumps out immediately is how stellarly the animation is blended to be reminiscent of the original but in a more modern fashion. It is as if we are getting the movie-style animation that every fan would have loved to see happen in a weekly format. The choice to stay more in line with the original style with a few 3-D elements used more for flavor, certainly sets Bleach‘s return apart from what fans saw the direction Dragon Ball Super: SUPER HERO takes with its animation.
The fight scenes are clean and crisp as action is found within the first minutes of runtime. The animation of the larger hallows, energy blasts, and auras fit well enough that Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War feels like a true HD upgrade in animation.
As Bleach is coming after such a long layoff, many were concerned about how friendly the series would be to new fans. In the past, Bleach did a fairly good job of adding exposition and flashbacks to get fans caught back up. With the action kicking off within the first few minutes of episode one’s runtime, Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War at least at this point in the anime, expects you to be caught up. Or at the very least, have a vague memory of how the Bleach universe operates.
Phrases like the Soul Society, Soul Reaper, Bankai, and Quincy are thrown around without the normal reminder exposition that Bleach often uses. If it has been a while since you have engaged with the franchise, it might be a good idea to do a quick refresher on YouTube.
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 1 wastes no time pulling you in. Familiar faces abound as see how far our heroes have come. Seeing Ichigo, Orihime, Sado, and Uryu in fresh designs and hearing their voices again was a thing of beauty. The scope of Ichigo and his friend’s power level is established in an explosive way and it is only enhanced by the use of a more modern animation style. When the crew was all together, even briefly, it felt like 10 years hadn’t even passed as the normal dynamics were very much present. When the new foe reared its head, our heroes were cool and collected as ever.
If I had one gripe with Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 1 it was just the overall length. The episode’s outro was a beautiful montage of some of Bleach‘s best moments. It showed the series and its journey through all of the arcs and acts as a nice way to remember how far Ichigo has come as a Soul Reaper. However, I think I would have preferred to see more of our new protagonists. In a more modern era with as many episodes that are planned for this arc, having episodes this short may make it hard to watch week to week.
As someone unfamiliar with this arc in the manga, I’m bought in on the initial premise. The animation from Pierrot is top-notch. The OST is chilling. The action is exciting. The enemy Ichigo and his friends look to be facing is one I have always wanted to see more of. The group’s leader already appears to be compelling enough to be different than Aizen and Ulquiorra. After Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 1, I am ready for more and officially on the hype train.
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War is streaming weekly now on Hulu in the US and Disney+ outside of the US.
'Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War' Episode 1 - "The Blood Warfare"
As someone unfamiliar with this arc in the manga, I’m bought in on the initial premise. The animation from Pierrot is top-notch. The OST is chilling. The action is exciting. The enemy Ichigo and his friends look to be facing is one I have always wanted to see more of…After Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 1, I am ready for more and officially on the hype train.