I think Bleach will be a little divisive but overall respected as a live-action adaptation. It finally came to Netflix so that people outside of Japan could watch it and see if it’s a decent adaptation. It wasn’t a perfect adaptation and it definitely made some changes that were interesting, but overall, I enjoyed watching it. Some of these changes will be shared throughout.
One such change that is not huge, but a little confusing is that for some reason, they could only afford hair dye for Sota Fukushi since he was the only one with non-black hair. Orihime? Nope. Masaki? Negative. Young Ichigo? Who needs continuity? Yuzu’s brown hair? Not going to happen. Urahara’s blonde hair? Not an option. This was a pretty insignificant change in terms of story (except maybe Masaki and young Ichigo), but it would’ve been nice if they had gone the small extra mile.
What did I dislike? I am a huge fan of Chad and so while I did like his portrayal by Yu Koyanagi, I was sad that he didn’t have “El Brazo Derecho De Gigante” by the end. There are hints though that we may see it in a sequel. I also was not a fan of the new dynamic of Rukia, Renji, and Byakuya. In this adaptation Renji was also adopted by the Kuchiki clan which effectively makes him and Rukia siblings which is just awkward when the canon says that they end up together. It also changes his helping Byakuya from trying to impress to simply being a loyal brother.
Speaking of Renji and Byakuya, I didn’t like how early they were brought in. In the anime, they are present for 2 episodes and it’s just long enough for them to beat the crap out of Ishida and Ichigo before taking Rukia back to Soul Society to await her execution. It helps establish that Ichigo is way out of his league and is a weak Soul Reaper. In this film, they show up much earlier and serve as more of a looming presence to constantly drive the plot. It just wasn’t as cool in my opinion.
One more thing that felt off was Urahara. In the manga and anime, Urahara is a kooky character who can be serious. In this adaptation is always solemn and not the kooky guy I fell in love with when I first watched the show. I understand them reducing the kookiness to keep pacing, but I don’t remember a single goofy moment with him.
Many of the things done in Bleach were brilliant. If it’s not listed in this review, it probably either didn’t bother me at all, or I liked it. For starters, I loved the casting. Everyone except Urahara was well portrayed and looked great. That’s not to say that Seiichi Tanabe did poorly, but that Urahara wasn’t written well in my opinion. Even Keigo was fantastically done, so why was such a big character not up to snuff?
I also loved how they showed Rukia training Ichigo. This helped show the creation of the strong relationship between the characters and it helps us understand that Ichigo didn’t magically master sword fighting. This especially pays off in the final fight between Ichigo and Renji which was amazing! The choreography felt like it came from an anime without being too over the top. It was perfect.
Another good part of the film was the song “MILK” from Alexandros that says, “All you gotta do is drink all your milk.” The song sounds freaking boss and then it drops that lyric and I lost it. Is it silly? Kinda, but I did enjoy it.
Bleach did a decent job utilizing Grand Fisher, too. Grand Fisher is promoted from Hollow of the week to an overarching enemy. This makes it more rewarding when Ichigo figures out that Grand Fisher murdered Masaki. The main downside in my opinion is that because Grand Fisher was made bigger, he replaced the Menos Grande which meant that he was defeated via a team effort. For me, this took away from the catharsis that was felt in the anime when Ichigo defeated him alone. It also meant that Grand Fisher was killed which means we won’t get to see Isshin make his Soul Reaper debut exacting revenge on the Hollow that murdered his wife. So, it’s more of a double-edged sword (or should I say zanpakuto).
The biggest departure from the anime was probably how Rukia would regain her powers. In the anime, she simply uses a gigai to help her recover her powers over time. Or, that’s how it would’ve been if Urahara hadn’t used the Hogyouku to prevent her from recovering her powers. In the movie, Ichigo has to transfer the power back to her the same way she gave the powers to him. The problem is that Ichigo is too weak and the transfer would kill him. This is a really big change since it affects the whole dynamic between Ichigo and the other Soul Reapers we meet. It’s not the worst idea in the world, but when she takes the powers back at the end of the film, it does make you question what they’re going to do if given a sequel. The film was wrapped up pretty well for a standalone, but I’m not sure how they’re going to adapt the Soul Society arc without Rukia being in the same kind of danger as her anime counterpart.
I know it may look like I didn’t like the film, but Bleach was a fun adaptation. It doesn’t get things 100% right and definitely takes its own liberties. However, these changes don’t take the film out of the Bleach universe we know and love. Most of these changes actually help the story be told in less than two hours. If you’re a purist, look for a different adaptation. If you don’t mind some changes, this one is worth a shot.