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Bleach: Memories of Nobody is the first animated movie based off the long running manga series. Bleach's anime adaptation is one of the more popular modern day shows from the genre rivaling the likes of Naruto and One Piece. The cartoon has been broadcast on Japanese TV since 2004 and concluded earlier this year, shortly after surpassing the 350 episode milestone. The franchise's popularity was so strong that this particular movie even received a limited theatrical release in the States and is now available to buy on DVD, in the UK, courtesy of the wonderful chaps at Manga Entertainment.
As with the TV show, Memories of Nobody follows the exploits of Ichigo Kurosaki, a teenage boy who has been conferred with the powers of a Soul Reaper (think of him as a Grim Reaper, in Samurai garb, tasked with whisking off lost souls to the afterlife whilst fending off the threat of rogue phantoms named Hollows.) The movie starts off with Ichigo and his diminutive companion Rukia getting down to business taking down one of the aforementioned Hollows who is running amok. After dispatching the beastie their attention turns to the park were a large group of ghosts has assembled.
The spirits in question are called Blanks (not to be confused with the game show offering a cheque book and pen) who are searching for an item called "the Shinenju" which stores their combined lost memories. Also seeking the Shinenju are The Dark Ones (who with a name like that are unsurprisingly the villains of the piece.) The malevolent warrior group wants to harness the power of the Blanks to exact revenge on the Soul Society (the Soul Reaper home world) who banished them years ago after a failed invasion. Channeling the might of the Blanks will allow them to summon a dimensional bridge capable of destroying both the Soul Society and Earth.
Ichigo is naturally not amused by the Dark Ones' scheme and sets off to foil it by joining the race to locate the Shinenju. Aiding him in his quest is Senna a fellow Soul Reaper who can unusually remember fragments of her previous life as a human. It all culminates in a showdown at the sinisterly named Valley of Screams. Can our tangerine hair coloured hero save the day? Let us hope so or else many businessmen from the Orient will be disappointed at their inability to sell Bleach Merchandise on a scorched Earth.
The movie's story is told through Ichigo's perspective, which is to be expected given that he is the anime's main character. In terms of appearance he looks like an imposing teenage delinquent, but he actually has a heart of gold which forces him to do what he feels is right (even if it may put him in peril, such as defying the orders of the Soul Reaper council if he deems their decisions to be unjust.) Ichigo takes his duties seriously, but he can also be a goofball, which provides the movie with some comedic moments. One such example is when he pays no heed to Rukia's warnings that he should take better care of his human body (which he has to abandon whenever he goes incorporeal to battle Hollows.) This leads to an amusing scene were pedestrians stumble across his unconscious flesh body and try to cart if off in an ambulance.
Ichigo's voice, in the English dub, is expertly handled by veteran voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch whose impressive resume includes playing the lead character in big projects such as Akira and Trigun. His partner in crime is Senna, a new character created specifically for this movie. Given that this is Senna's debut she is given the most character development of the entire cast, which includes brief flashbacks of her human life. She's a likeable lass, if a bit scatterbrained and easily distracted. Early on for example we see how she is more interested in riding a Ferris wheel or helping the lost soul of a child find his dad rather than the more pressing matter of saving the world.
Although that may make her sound irresponsible, the above mentioned moments show that the character has a deep love for the human world making it believable that she would do her best to save it when crunch time comes. A good chunk of the Bleach character roster also make an appearance in the film, but it is hardly worth mentioning as they are restricted to muttering a couple of lines or featuring in a quick fight before vanishing. Good fan service for diehards of the show, but as someone less enamored with this anime I cannot help but wonder if whittling down the cast to a more reasonable number would have been a better direction to take. Focusing on a few meaningful players is better than a laundry list of cameos in my opinion.
Bleach: Memories of Nobody is a decent action movie that is clearly targeted to fans of the manga and anime. For better or worse no effort is made to explain the Bleach mythos to potential new viewers. With my limited knowledge of the franchise (I've seen season one and played a couple of video games based on the property) I barely managed to follow what was going on. Anyone not as acquainted with the series is probably going to struggle to follow a plot that gets rather convoluted at times, laden with exposition about dimensions, mythical weapons and what not. If you are curious about Bleach you are best served investing your time in watching some episodes as opposed to using this flick as a shortcut introduction to the cartoon named after a cleaning product.
In terms of exciting fights it certainly delivers, especially the sword fighting finale, which will appeal to the Dragonball demographic who jizz over super powered beings flying through the sky. Part of Bleach's charm is however lost when you condense it into a ninety minute movie. Although I often deride the show for being full of filler, the extensive episode count makes the duels seem more epic as they can span for several episodes as opposed to being squeezed into sort skirmishes. The TV show also has room to hype up the villains, whilst the antagonists of this film get little screen time and therefore suffer from being uninteresting, as they aren't fleshed out.
Although the story isn't exactly deep (and downright predictable at times) it did have a touching ending, which unfortunately gets soiled at the last second when it is revealed that anyone affected by the events of the movie will suffer a mind wipe. This is a convenient way of explaining why no one will ever mention this particular crisis during the TV show run, but it also feels like a cheat. As a viewer I cannot help but question what the point of going through it all was given that it won't be acknowledged in the anime's canon. I can recommend the movie for Bleach fans, but for anyone else dare I say that Memories of Nobody ends up being a fun, but ultimately "forgettable" experience.