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Netflix’s live-action Bleach movie is a product of its time

The time is right for a live-action Bleach movie.

After rushing to an unnatural conclusion two years ago, the once-popular action manga’s resonance has flatlined. The anime adaptation came to a similarly abrupt close in 2012 and, despite 300-plus episodes, was unable to cover all the source material.

So while the Bleach heyday has long passed, nostalgia and curiosity make it the perfect discovery for Netflix, where Warner Bros. Japan’s live-action Bleach movie has now premiered. Bleach joins the Japanese Fullmetal Alchemist and the American whitewashed Death Note for questionable adaptations of good, popular franchises, albeit with a key difference: Bleach survived the conversion process.

Helmed by director Shinsuke Sato, who’s carving out a niche for these adaptations between this and Gantz, Bleach charts how red-headed, ghost-seeing high schooler Ichigo Kurosaki (Sota Fukushi) first becomes a grim reaper, of sorts. Draped in a black kimono and wielding a huge anime sword, he exorcises friendly spirits and fights malevolent beings called “hollows,” towering monsters in masks that manifest from the pain of a restless soul. Ichigo, however, is just a substitute, having received his powers from a real “soul reaper,” Rukia Kuchiki (Hana Sugisaki). Accidentally drained of her abilities, she’s stuck in the human world, attending Ichigo’s high school and camped out on a makeshift bed in his closet.

There’s a lot more to the story, of course; the Bleach manga ran for 15 years across nearly 700 chapters collected into 74 volumes, eventually going the way of Dragon Ball and Naruto, piling up a huge expanded cast of characters with a variety of outlandish powers. But the movie’s best decision is to stick to the early material, which happens on a much smaller scale and emphasizes character-driven plots rather than lengthy story arcs.

Early on, Bleach author Tite

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