The Diamond Dust Rebellion is the second animated feature based on Tite Kubo’s very popular manga series, Bleach. It won’t leave you as completely at sea as did Memories of Nobody if you’re not familiar with the series, but the more you know, the more fun you’ll have.
The Ouin, the Royal Seal of the Soul Society, an object of great and somewhat mysterious power, is being moved to a new location, as happens every few decades, when it is stolen in a surprise attack. The Tenth Guard Squad, tasked with guarding the procession, is taken completely by surprise, and its captain, Toshiro Hitsugaya, pursues the thieves. And then he disappears. In the World of the Living, Substitute Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki discovers the unconscious Hitsugaya and takes him home. Hitsugaya sneaks out, and when the Soul Reapers sent to apprehend him finally catch up, he draws his zanpakuto and offers battle before making his escape. Shortly thereafter — very shortly — someone attacks the captain of Squad Eight, Shunsui Kyoraku, leaving him severely wounded. And it looks as though the weapon used was Hitsugaya’s zanpakuto. It looks bad for Hitsugaya: the zanpakuto are unique to each Soul Reaper, with highly individual powers. Hitsugaya is now suspected of treason.
A word about the zanpakuto: each one is bonded to the soul of its user, which becomes a critical element of this story. There’s an amazing scene in which Ichigo, trapped in ice, actually has a conversation with his zanpakuto, which appears as a tall, gaunt man in black. Each has a set of unique abilities, and a large part of the fun in this one is watching the various Soul Reapers call forth the powers of their zanpakuto.
It’s a good, coherent story line, and we get a lot better picture of who’s who than we did in the first movie. The graphic elements are superb, and the animation is of a high order. Character designs, once again, are highly individual and very well done.
That said, I can’t say this one caught me as fully as Memories of Nobody did. It might be due to the split focus between Ichigo, the main character of the series as a whole, and Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya is not a particularly sympathetic character, and although he’s the center of most of the action, it’s hard to get into him. There’s also not as much revelation of character — everyone seems to be somewhat surface in this one. One character who deserves special mention: Rangiku Matsumoto, Hitsugaya’s lieutenant. She is perhaps the one character who remains clear-eyed and steadfast, ready to do her duty even if it means killing a commander she admires and respects.
On the upside, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I am tremendously impressed with the seiyuu, the voice actors, in this film, as well as most other anime I’ve seen. They all seem to have a tremendous range — Hitsugaya, for example, is voiced by a woman, Romi Park, whose voice is perfect for the youngest Squad Captain in Soul Society history — she really sounds like a boy, perhaps in his late teens. Akira Ishida, as the villain, Sojiro Kusaka, manages to make Kusaka a powerful and forbidding presence and yet in the flashbacks, we see Kusaka as an open, enthusiastic Soul Reaper trainee. The seiyuu are the main reason, I think, that I prefer to watch in Japanese with subtitles rather than an English dub, even though the English-language actors are more careful about synchronizing dialogue to the animation. Even if you think you prefer the dub, listen to the Japanese dialogue for a while.
Like the first DVD, this set contains a second disc with the special features: interviews with the director, Noriyuki Abe, and character designer, Masashi Kudoh; with the heads of the animation studio; the background artists at Studio Wyeth; the composer of the score, Shirou Sagisu; and with Sambomaster, the band that created the title song. There’s some nice insights from behind the scenes here.
(Viz Media, 2009)