feature film debut
end of the world
Bleach: Memories of Nobody plays June 11 and 12 in select theaters (Viz Media)
Seiji Horibuchi founded Viz Media to introduce Japanese manga (comic books) to American audiences. Now more than two decades later, the company has become a leading distributor of both manga and anime here in the U.S. The company's latest innovation is to bring anime movies to mall theaters for two-day engagements that allow fans to see their favorite anime characters on the big screen. The first Naruto movie, Ninja Clash in the Land of the Snow, effectively employed this strategy, and now the first Bleach movie, Memories of Nobody, opens in more than three hundred theaters nationwide on June 11 and 12 at 7:30pm (in San Diego it will play at AMC Mission Valley 20 Theaters, Horton Plaza Theaters and Edwards Mira Mesa). The film is designed more for fans than for newcomers to anime but for $1.99 you can download (legally) the first episode and have the basics to enjoy the first film.
Ichigo Kurosaki is a typical teenage boy. He fights with his dad, feels protective of his sisters, likes cool clothes... and oh did I mention, he also sees dead people. It's no big deal. Not like that kid in The Sixth Sense who's traumatized by his ability to see ghosts. On the contrary, Ichigo sees dead people all the time and it's never really bothered him. Until the night he meets a shinigami or death god that appears in the shape an attractive girl named Rukia. She's tracking down a Hollow, an evil spirit that feeds on the souls of the living and the dead. A dead soul can become a Hollow because it has lost its heart to despair; it has remained in the real world for too long; or because a Soul Reaper has not guided it to the Soul Society. These Hollows need to feed on souls to feel their emptiness. But Rukia takes on more than she can handle and is seriously injured. So as a last resort, she transfers her powers to Ichigo. Now Ichigo must perform the duties of a Soul Reaper, protecting good spirits and humans from Hollows. All that is basically laid out in the first episode of the anime and the first volume of the manga.
Tukia and Ichigo; Senna enters the fight; and Ichigo looks on (Viz Media)
The movie Memories of Nobody was promoted in the opening and closing credits of episodes 106 through 109 of the animated TV show. But the movie doesn't specifically play off of any plotlines in the series. In the opening sequence, Ichigo and Rukia are battling a Hollow, and dispense with it in typical fashion. But then they come across something new - Blanks. These Blanks are different from Hollows in that they've been separated from their memories. A new character emerges in dramatic fashion too, a rogue Soul Reaper named Senna. As Ichigo and Rukia discover that normal soul sending techniques fail to dispatch these new supernatural creatures, Senna arrives wielding the powers of wind and lightning. She's an impressive fighter but battling the Blanks turns out to be a big job so Ichigo assembles his team of Soul Reapers as the film heads toward a supernatural showdown. Along the way, Ichigo finds himself attracted to Senna.
Created by Tite Kubo, Bleach began as a serialized manga in Japan in 2001. Since then it has sold more than 40 million copies and spawned an animated television series, two OVAs (original video animations), a pair of animated feature films, a rock musical, and assorted video games. The show is already up to 173 episodes but U.S. audiences are only up to episode 68 on Adult Swim (airing this Saturday June 15).
Senna takes a walk (Viz Media)
As with the anime series, the Bleach movie mixes furious action, with bittersweet drama and goofball comedy. So Memories of Nobody begins with a slapstick gag about Ichigo carelessly leaving his human body lying around as his spirit body goes off to fight Hollows. But the film explores questions about what makes us human and ends with an achingly sweet sense of loss. In between, of course, the Soul Reapers get to kick some spirit ass. Memories of Nobody serves up two-dimensional animation that may strike some as plain compared to the state of the art, 3-D computer generated images typical of American animated films. Yet as with many of the Japanese anime, Bleach displays far more artistry in its character design and simple yet inspired means of depicting action. Plus, the story is more complex in terms of the ideas and themes it raises. As with a number of other anime series (such as Yu Yu Hakusho) and movies (such as Spirited Away), the real world and the spiritual one exist side by side in intriguing ways. The very notion of the Blanks, of souls who've lost their identities and are unable to remember who they were, conveys a deep spiritual sadness that provides unexpected depth to this supernatural action thriller.
Memories of Nobody (unrated but should be considered a PG-13) is only 87 minutes, but the event on June 11 and 12 runs just over two hours with Viz Media providing exclusive behind-the-scenes footage about the making of the film as well and a first time interview with director Noriyuki Abe. Memories of Nobody will be shown dubbed, which a shame because I think the anime plays much better in its original language. Only Cowboy Bebop excels in its dubbed version. But heck I'll take what I can get if it means getting anime on the big screen. And Bleach fans should take note of the fact that this summer they can meet Bleach creator Tite Kubo at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Companion viewing: Bleach (2004, anime series), Bleach Movie 2 -- The Diamond Dust Rebellion, Yu Yu Hakusho, Dead Like Me, The Sixth Sense