Friday, January 29, 2021

#IReadsYou Book Review: BLEACH: Can't Fear Your Own World


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

AUTHOR: Ryohgo Narita
TRANSLATION: Jan Mitsuko Cash
ISBN: 978-1-9747-1326-4; paperback (July 2020)
256pp, B&W, $14.99 US, $19.99 CAN, £10.99 UK

Bleach is a shonen manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo.  Bleach was serialized in the Japanese manga magazine, Weekly Sh┼Źnen Jump, from August 2001 to August 2016 and was comprised of 686 chapters, which were collected in 74 tankobon (like a graphic novel).

Bleach focuses on Ichigo “Strawberry” Kurosaki, a teenage boy born with the ability to see ghosts.  Joining the “Soul Society,” Ichigo becomes a “Soul Reaper.”  He dedicates himself to protecting the innocent from a kind of malevolent lost soul known as a “Hollow,” and also to helping these tortured spirits find peace.

Bleach is also a media franchise, spawning a long-running anime television series (“Bleach”), four feature films, OVA (original video anime) episodes, video games, stage musicals, merchandise, and spin-off novels.  After the manga ended, Tite Kubo and various authors began producing novelizations of the Bleach series.

Kubo and Japanese novelist and manga writer, Narita Ryohgo, also produced a new Bleach novel, Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World, with Kubo providing the story and Ryohgo writing the novel.  It began serialization in Japan in April 2017, and it was collected in three paperback “light novels,” published between August 2017 and December 2018.  VIZ Media began publishing an English-language edition of Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World as a series of paperback novels under its “Shonen Jump” imprint in July 2020.

The central story line of Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World opens almost a year after the end of the Quincie's Thousand Year Blood War, in which Ichigo Kurosaki and his allies defeated the Quincy leader, Yhwach.  The embers of turmoil still smolder in the Soul Society, and incidents in the past threaten to worsen the unease.

The story focuses on Shuhei Hisagi, the assistant captain of the Ninth Company, who loves guitars and motorcycles from the world of the living.  Hisagi was once a reporter for the newspaper, the “Seireitei Bulletin,”and his late mentor, Kaname Tosen, was the editor-in-chief.  Now, Hisagi has been made the newspaper's provisional editor, and he is confronted with a mystery Tosen left behind.

Tosen once had a confrontation with Lord Tokinada Tsunayashiro, a minor aristocrat in the Tsunayashiro family, one of the “Five Great Noble Clans” and a clan said to be involved in the creation of the Soul Society.  Tokinada has recently become elevated to head of his family after a slew of assassinations take out every other claimant to the title of head of the clan.  Now, he has a grand plan to create a new “Soul King,” and it involves a very powerful child named Hikone Ubugino, who worships Tokinada so much that the child is practically his slave.

Tokinada's dark ambitions are sowing the seeds of disquiet throughout of the Soul Society, and may lead to a new total war.  The one Soul Reaper who unknowingly holds the key to stopping Tokinada is that very assistant captain and reporter/provisional editor, Shuhei Hisagi.

[This book contains spot illustrations, drawn in Tite Kubo's style; a four-page illustrated character guide; and a full-color mini-poster insert.]

THE LOWDOWN:  Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World is a strange novel.  Technically, readers don't have to have read the Bleach manga in order to read the novel.  To understand and to comprehend the story, plots, characters, and settings, readers will have to understand the world of Bleach, with which they will be familiar via the manga and/or the “Bleach” anime series.

So I write this review in that context.  If you understand Bleach, you can understand this novel and also enjoy it, to one degree or another.  Ryohgo Narita delves deeply into the personalities of the characters and explores the motivations of some of the characters.  That tends to slow the narrative, but I get the sense that this novel was written to tantalize Bleach fans and not to offer impressive prose.

The main story is linear, mostly, but the entire novel jumps around between many pasts and the present so much that I want to call this a non-linear narrative, although it really is not that.  Also, this novel is just the first volume, and it reads like one long prologue that introduces the central conflict (Shuhei Hisagi vs. Tokinada Tsunayashiro?) and the supporting players, of which there are way too many, as far as I am concerned.  Still, I have to admit that I am intrigued enough by Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World that I want to read “Volume II.”

This book contains several spot pencil art illustrations that are either drawn by Tite Kubo or by an assistant in Kubo's style.  I love that beautiful illustration that is the book cover art and is also used for the mini-poster insert.  The cover art is eye-catching, and it may tempt Bleach fans that have never read a Bleach light novel to give this one a try.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Bleach will want to read the novel, Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World.

7 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2020 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.


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