Bleach for Dummies, Vol. 3
Memories in the Rain
It’s going to be hard to present this volume with a chapter by chapter blow by blow. I’m going to, but only because I know some of you are reading online and if I cover the volume as a unit, it’s difficult to figure out which chapter scan I’m talking about. However, this volume is very fluid; it’s almost hard to believe it was first published as a weekly serial. This series of chapters is about how Ichigo found his frown and then became a hero, 6/17 (op. 1-9).
6/17 is the date Ichigo’s mom, Masaki, died and the events in chapters 17 thru 25 show the anniversary of her death. What I loved most about this story was the tangled weave from past to present. Flashbacks can be so badly done, but this was handled beautifully, information dribbling out from the right person at the right time. My first kudos to Tite for this one, up til now his writing seemed very by-the-numbers. These chapters dug down into some painful places (at least for me), and he did it with a great deal of control.
If you’re a noob or a person who skipped certain chapters, I recommend THESE as homework. In a few short chapters Tite peels away all those defensive layers around Ichigo. But it isn’t a wallow. And he ends it by slingshoting the kid into a whole new perspective. THIS is character driven story writing. So I was impressed with the writing in this, and I’m going to reveal a little of why as we go along. Hope my writer geek doesn’t bore you.
See, it isn’t enough to have the story flow organically from character, there must also be evolution and change and the desire to DO something. Kishi does this with Naruto in the first chapter, dattabayo, and again in chapter 2 and chapter 3. Tite focused on one thing at a time (world building and character introduction, THEN the character’s motivation). This is why this series is SO painful to start, but I’m guessing the pace picks up from here, because Ichigo just started driving the story.
Until these chapters, Ichigo and Rukia have been making the best of unfortunate circumstances. It makes a good story, but not a compelling one. In this volume, Ichigo evolves from likeable protagonist to hero. I mean hero in that now he owns his shinigami duty and wants it…now he is no longer a passenger in the back seat of the plot, but actively moving toward a desired goal. Now he is working to accomplish something. Now, 25 freakin’ chapters in, he has decided to drive the plot bus…up to this point he has been the character equivalent of a dishrag, useful and all, but not compelling because he wasn’t in charge of his fate. Now, things are going to get interesting.
Introduction to a very serious story starts with the comic relief from teh Pedo Bear. Yep, this is where Kon, the animatronic teddy, comes in. The ethical dilemma of what to do with the modified soul from the soul candy took some thinking to solve and provided some laughs. They couldn’t put it in a live body without driving out the soul. Waiting for road kill and a fresh corpse also didn’t go so well (thank goodness…), so they tried a teddy bear. So the mod konpaku is now called Kon, still a bit dorky and he’s still a perv (cool!).
This chapter has a lot of gags because it’s a set up for the seriousness to come. We learn Ichigo is anticipating something, there is the display of the future me assignments at school. Orihime as a robot with missile tits made me lol. Tatsuki…that girl…well, let’s just say there are gonna be tears when she finally realizes who she is and who she thinks Orihime is. Seriously. I want to buy her some comfortable shoes and a flannel shirt and try to break it to her before she has an identity implosion.
There’s a big family meeting at home; Rukia seems a little wistful about it. Ichigo drops the big news. The family picnic is really a memorial for his dead mom, and he lets slip that he thinks she was offed.
18: 6/17 Op. 2 Doesn’t Smile Much Anymore
Tatsuki tells Orihime about Ichigo before he lost his mom, and this was a great use of a different perspective to develop both Tatsuki and Ichigo while dropping in the necessary backstory. See, if you can do more than one thing with a scene at once, re-write it. I think that goes double if you’re doing flashbacks, because when you’re in the past, the story isn’t really moving so you need to make up for it with other goodies.
The Kurosaki family climbs the hill to the cemetary and Dad cheers everyone on and walks on his hands. He didn’t say to do 500 push ups, but I expected him to. Rukia shows up. Awkward. And after a moment of assitude, Ichigo goes off to talk with her. She’s afraid his mom was actually killed by a hollow who had come after Ichigo’s powerful spirit energy. There is a lot of angry denial, and a mysterious shadow of a little girl sets Ichigo running. Hmm. Tite does a great job building momentum here…having Rukia’s thoughts, Tatsuki’s reminisance, the mysterious girl figure and Ichigo in the fetal position on the ground all run together rapidly in about two pages. Clip. Clip. Clip. Then Ichigo admits it wasn’t a hollow who killed her…it was him.
19: 6/17 Op. 3 memories in the rain
Of course the next chapter starts with family games around the tombstone and dumbass comic relief. Smart. And one of the main things that tell me this was a serial is this little dip into teh funneh before getting back to that very uncomfortable place. This chapter is all about the flashback. Rukia tries to figure it out. Ichigo pays his respects. Mom’s death scene plays out, and we see that mysterious girl figure again.
Ichigo’s heroic heart, even at 9, takes him from the safety of his mother’s side and down to save some girl he doesn’t know. Mom chases after him, gets sliced by something from behind and dies on top of him. (Okay, if you want me to make jokes right now, you’re a cold, cold motha…it ain’t gonna happen…I’m having a hard enough time with this.)
Karin and Yuzu are off by themselves, and Karin sees the same girl Ichigo say back then. This isn’t good, especially since Yuzu who can’t see much in the way of spirits can’t see her. Dad’s blowing on his strange whistle collection trying to pack up to go (WTF? Whistles?) and sends Ichigo after his sisters (thank goodness).
20: 6/17 Op. 4 A Face from the Past
The mysterious girl appears to be working with a hollow, and it attacks Karin who is protecting Yuzu. Rukia and Ichigo meet up and have a bonding moment, she agrees to not pry until he’s ready to talk about it. Kon provides more comic relief…and that worries me because that means the story is about to shift into a higher gear of pain.
Yep, sistas are getting their asses handed to them by the evil little hollow girl. Ichigo leaps in and frees them. Once they are safe he recognizes the girl and confronts her.
21: 6/17 Op. 5 A Fighting Boy
Poor little gigai Rukia is left schlepping the bodies around. She finally gathers up Ichigo and finds Yuzu with Karin passed out against a rock. Ya evah have one of those days? She’s got bodies to caretake and knows Ichigo is really in the shit. And all she has on her side is the stupid, freakin’ Teddy. She slips off to give Ichigo the downlow on the lowdown hollow.
The little girl? She was a lure, fishing in the unsuspecting, but nothing but a fancy looking appendage on the hollow. Mmm…fishing. Wonder if a human is a wet or dry fly?
So this hollow is a survivor, been around a long time evading the shinigami, and Ichigo realizes it killed his mom. He kinda loses it. Rukia tries to talk sense but he tells her to stay out of it, it’s personal. Now, that’s a problem right there. When you start saying stuff like that, you generally start acting dumb, because it isn’t about reason and it isn’t about being careful. It about by any means necessary…and that leads to teh dumb.
22: 6/17 Op. 6 Battle in the Graveyard
Rukia knows she’s got to get the bodies out and away or things are only going to get worse all the way around. Think Ichigo is dumb now? He’ll be a slobbering moron if something happens to the girls. Comic relief kicks off this chapter as she exorcises Kon from the Teddy and drops him into Ichigo’s empty body.
Action, action, beautiful action. Yeah, Ichigo is being rash and the hollow wounds him in the chest, draws blood. Hmm. Blood without a body. Is it really blood? Why didn’t he just pop? I’m hoping for more stuff on this, because this is the part for me where logic kicks in. It needed to happen, we needed to see a wound and what it does to him…particularly when he climbs back into his body.
Kon takes the girls to shelter and tries hard to frown like Ichigo. Rukia is deep in thought and unsure what to do. Karin is starting to piece together a muddled version of what just happened. And the hollow uses that little dip into Ichigo’s wound to dredge up his mother’s form as the new lure.
23: 6/18 Op. 7 Sharp Will, Dull Blade
We know we’re getting to the heart of this because this chapter doesn’t open with comedy, but goes right to the hollow/mom vs. Ichigo confrontation. This has got to be a mindfuck and a half. Ichigo can tell himself all he wants that it isn’t her, tell himself what he needs to do…but that doesn’t mean his body will listen. Sometimes that shit goes deeper than logic and rational thought. And no, I’m not gonna be funny about that, either.
Kon begs Rukia to go save Ichigo because he doesn’t want to have to be him for the rest of his life. Rukia goes but realizes she can’t interfere. Ishigo is fighting for his own honor this time, which makes it his fight. She has a flashback, probably back to the days when she was first learning to be a shinigami…perhaps further back than that. I want to know who that is. And…damn if I don’t wonder if that profile isn’t a clean shaven Urahara…? Ah…could be someone we haven’t met yet, but I do want to know. See…it’s the mystery that pulls me in.
The Grand Fisher, and I wish his waders would fill with water because this hollow MUST DIE, stabs Ichigo through the chest. WHAT?! Now how the hell does that work? But Ichigo slices him with that bigazz snickersnee and calls him annoying. Yeah. That’s the stuff.
24: 6/17 Op. 8 One-Sided Sympathy
Orihime appears to have been evicted, but comically tries to turn it into a joke. Yeah, I bet she got thrown out when the landlord blamed her for the ginormous hole in his wall. Anyway, she leaves Tatsuki’s…probably best not to sleep over there anyway Ms. Inoue, not without a chaperone. She leaves in the rain contemplating her understanding for Ichigo as they have this deep loss in common.
Ichigo and the hollow are both staggering, and Rukia shows up to tip the scales. He’s actually glad she interferes…er, mans up…er, has his back. The hollow appears to die, and then conveniently slips into a second body (Mom’s) and slips away.
Ichigo drops like a ton of bricks even as he says he’s going to keep fighting. Now, friends. Now we have a hero. He was just along for the ride, but now he’s actively in this. And the next chapter proves it.
25: 6/17 Op. 9 A Fighting Boy 2 (The Cigarette Blues Mix)
This chapter is a lynch pin. I think I need to read it another 10 times to fully take it in, but let me try to give it a decent go. Rukia does explain that wounds Ichigo takes out of his body with hurt terrible one he gets back…and they appear to manifest on the body. He was seriously wounded this time, so she didn’t have enough juice to restore him all the way.
Ichigo’s pissed and feeling like he lost because Fisher’s still out there; Rukia talks sense, but sometimes heroes can’t see beyond the goal. Kon is happy to be back in the Teddy.
Ichigo pays respects to Mom and apologizes for not avenging her. Then Dad comes along and they have the weirdest conversation. This is the bit I’m still struggling with. Dad says she’s been dead for 10 years. Wha? Then plays it off as a mistake.
That’s not a mistake you make. How did a dead woman give birth to…twins? And are they twins? ‘Cause Karin, like Ichigo, seems to be more of a fairy changling than normal kid. You guys know what a changling is, don’t you? It’s when the fairies steal babies and replace the with another foul-tempered, magical and irreverent fairy. The imposter baby raises hell in your house until it is discovered.
Dad’s speech to Ichigo about being a lucky punk (on onemanga, dad says he hates it) because his mom died to save him…that’s some complex stuff. And, if it’s doing all that I think it’s doing, it’s some really tight writing. I’m thinking it’s about Dad’s conflicted emotions, foreshadowing that there might just be something more intense going on here…and that he in on it, then it also works to help Ichigo through his own angst. Duh. Kid. You weren’t the thwarted hero, it wasn’t about you…it was about her, and she accomplished her goal.
Complex and delicious…and I’m starting to trust Tite.
Ichigo asks Rukia to let him be shinigami even if she gets her powers back, because he’s going to kill that hollow. And now he’s driving the bus.
I’ve got Volume 4 read, and hope to get it up soon, mainly so I can read the next one. I’m trying to get these write ups done before I’ve had too much of a look ahead.