Andrew Osmond wants to see Japanese cartoons really grow up.
Xam’d Lost Memoriesis a young person’s story. Typically for anime, its leads are a teenage boy and girl, at first school friends, who are forced to face their deeper feelings when their world goes mad. But one of the most heartening things about this standout BONES series is that it gives plum roles to characters no longer in their teens or twenties. Xam’d’s cast includes a female sky-captain, Ishuu, whose expression of disdainful nonchalance is more memorable than a hundred simpering schoolgirls. We see her as a soldier, but also glimpse the other roles she’s taken: an adoptive mother, a woman who has loved and lived through loss. The most sympathetic characters in Xam’d are arguably the boy hero’s separated parents – no cartoon hate-hate couple, but people with as much pent-up passion as their offspring, with more style and dignity. There’s at least one moment in the second Xam’d box-set that may make younger viewers go “Eew!” but seasoned anime fans should be cheering.
Let’s admit the obvious: anime has far too many youngster heroes, now more than ever. Vast though the anime medium is, it often seems imprisoned by high-school desks, chiming school bells, and shy teen boys and girls melting into goo. This is often put down to the audience – many of these shows are aimed at kids or teenagers, or at the notorious “moe” geek audience in ever-arrested development.
But surely anime can do better? Pixar’s CGI cartoons draw huge audience, children included, with what are essentially adult characters (including a flying pensioner in Up). Wallace and Gromit aren’t cute kids; the star of The Simpsons is Homer, not Bart. And anime of yesteryear had grown-up stars: the master thief Lupin III, the muscleman Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star, Osamu Tezuka’s maverick surgeon Black Jack. Other heroes were boyish but hardly schoolboys: Joe Yabuki (the boxing champ of Tomorrow’s Joe),Amuro Ray (Gundam), and Hikaru Ichijo (Macross, aka Robotech’s Rick Hunter). Where have they all gone?
Well, they’re still around, of course, but you have to look hard. The most iconic is probably Motoko Kusanagi, cyborg heroine of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, and that’s been going for the best part of twenty years. You can add Hayao Miyazaki’s pig-faced pilot Porco Rosso, who’srumoured to be returning in the director’s next film; swordsmen like Ninja Scroll’s Jubei (and his doomed love, Kagero); bounty hunter Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop; medieval vagabond Ginko in Mushishi; the titular superheroes of Tiger and Bunny; the questing Doctor Tenma in Monster;the wonderful middle-aged transvestite Hana in Tokyo Godfathers; and Daikichi Kawachi, unprepared father of a little girl in Usagi Drop. But these characters – and of course there are many others – still feel like exceptions.
Today the most vivid adults in anime are often supporting players in adolescent dramas, like the parents in Xam’d. Van Hohenheim, the mysterious Elric patriarch in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, is an example, as are many of that show’s other characters. You could add theindomitable great-granny Jinnouchi in Summer Wars;racing manager Don Wei in the French-Japanese Oban Star Racers (who’s blissfully unaware that his truculent new recruit is actually his own daughter); and old flames Misato and Ryoji in Evangelion (but we ask - will they get it on in the films like they did in the series?)
But come on Japan, let’s see more of them. Heck, let’s have an anime Desperate Housewives; let’s see a Japanese programming block like Noitamina (Fuji TV’s late-night anime slot, aimed at truly mature viewers) take on more manga like Kenshi Hirokane’s Shooting Stars in the Twilight, which is about passionate widowers and pensioners. Don’t worry about the “Eew!” reaction from the otaku. Anime is hyped to the West as adult animation, as clinching proof that cartoons aren’t for kids. So let’s see it grow up!
Xam’d Lost Memories 2 is out on 5th September on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
Tom Smith examines the band behind the Nabari no Ou opening theme.
Veltpunch reversed their way into the world of anime. While other groups struggle to get festivals, conventions or tour dates until they have landed an opening or closing theme in the next big animated series, Veltpunch were already out there, upper-cutting their way into America some eight years prior to any involvement in anime.
In the time between, they released a paltry three singles. The latest, ‘CRAWL’, stood its ground as the opening song for J.C.Staff’s ninja romp Nabari no Ou and has been the alternative rock outfit’s only tie-in to animation so far. So what exactly does a band do when, after eight years, they only have a trio of singles to their name? A lot more than it initially sounds.
Veltpunch is, and always will be, a band all about the albums. Originally starting life by performing Smashing Pumpkins covers, they went on to record seven original albums, with the latest, His Strange Fighting Pose released in August this year. Even their singles are more like full-blown EPs in disguise. Their first release was at the turn of the millennium, entitled ‘Repeat 2000 Times’. It earned them a spot at America’s largest music festival, SXSW.
On their return to Japan they started a new project to boost Tokyo’s indie music scene, named ‘Noise of the Underground’. Based in the university town of Sangenjaya, it was situated next to the music hotbed of Shimokitazawa (home to the likes of BEATS CRUSADERS, Bump of Chicken and many more) and five minutes from the trend-setting Shibuya. Here, the band continued to modestly fill live houses. In the spirit of underground music, their second single was released during this period but only available to buy from the band directly at gigs.
It wasn’t until their third single ‘CRAWL’, which came bundled with a DVD containing five live performances, that the band entered the consciousness of the mainstream. Yet, despite the lead track’s use in Nabari no Ou, Veltpunch remained relatively underground, which may not be the greatest path for their yen-craving wallets, but it is fantastic news for overseas fans. Why? Simple: they’re signed to an indie record label. Worldwide digital distribution is handled in-house with no confusing, music-blocking licence mumbo-jumbo getting in the way – the main reason that so much music from Japan doesn’t make it to these shores. As a result, five of Veltpunch’s seven albums can be purchased in the UK digitally through iTunes, and they even have a rack of titles on Amazon.
Even so, the band still can’t get enough of the indie lifestyle and spend any spare time they have working on their respective side projects. Vocalist and guitarist Hidenori Naganuma makes electro-pop tunes from his bedroom under the moniker CAMELLIFE; female vocalist and bass player Aiko Nagajima has teamed up with Veltpunch’s other guitarist Seiji Himeno to form the four-piece emo project mpjbd; and when Seiji’s not playing in either of those bands, he’s fronting his own new wave unit ENMANOVA. And to be honest, I reckon that when they’re giving their fingers a break from melody-making, they like nothing more than to chill out to episodes of Nabari no Ou and wonder what new places their music has travelled to because of it.
Andrew Osmond commends Fullmetal Alchemist for going out in style.
Today it's time to wave goodbye to the characters of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, as the series comes to an action-packed, battle-heavy, cosmic-apocalypse conclusion in its fifth boxset (*). Nobody will be really spoiled by the news that the unflappable King Bradley is back and kicking the good guys’ arses – heck, he kicks a tank’s arse at one point. There’s also a return for another presumed-dead character at a vital point; see if you can work out who it’ll be.
This grand finale has assorted alchemists of different stripes and generations, and monster homunculi of strange shapes and sizes. We have soldiers and commanders, foreigners and wild cards, friends and families. Watching FMA: Brotherhood, you realise it has one of anime’s big advantages over screen fantasies elsewhere; the way it can handle a crowd.
Compare the series to another screen fantasy epic that’s just thundered to an end, Harry Potter. Even fans of the Potter films agree that they struggled to fit all the cast in as the novels got fatter, and any actor not called Daniel, Emma or Rupert had to fight for elbow-room. By the last few films, distinguished British thesps like David Thewliss (Professor Lupin) and Maggie Smith (McGonagall) were being slammed in to and out of brutally truncated scenes, as the writers relied on the fan audience to fill the missing bits. Even Dumbledore’s big gay backstory got cut.
Taken together, the Potter films aren’t much shorter than FMA: Brotherhood, but TV shows benefit from very different rhythms. They may have an epic story-arc, but the individual episodes don’t have the same pressure to keep the viewers focused on a few main characters and the hero’s journey. It’s easier to slow down for, for example, a conversation between supporting characters that fills in their nuances, motives and history (and history is very important in FMA: Brotherhood).
Granted, even Brotherhood’s extended climax gives one or two characters short shrift, but the majority get a proper payoff. Maybe in a few years this kind of storytelling won’t be so special. America has just had the live-action series Game of Thrones, a hugely popular epic fantasy brought to the small screen by HBO, home of The Wire and The Sopranos. Maybe Hollywood has realised that a Potter or a George R.R. Martin-sized story needs a TV length and pacing. Are you listening, executives? There’s a rather popular Japanese saga out there that could work wonders in live-action. It’s about two brothers, one of whom is a suit of armour…
(*) Okay, so it’s not quite the end of FMA: Brotherhood. A feature film opened in Japan this summer, subtitled The Sacred Star of Milos. However, Milos is technically a “midquel,” showing a previously untold adventure of Ed and Al, set around episode 20 of the series.
Fullmetal Alchemist 5 is out now in the UK as a DVD boxset from Manga Entertainment.
Tom Smith investigates the evolution of Japan’s best-loved fast food.
Sushi is serious business. Thought to be healthy, fresh and hip, the combination of vinegared rice with various toppings (notably fish) has become the food associated with Japan, and its history there stretches back almost as far as the country’s writing system. But if you thought the iconic delicacy was Japanese in origin – or even fresh for that matter – hold on to your chopsticks.
Sushi was always “fresh”. An early form of it was invented as a way to preserve food, allowing the storage of fish and meats for any time between a few days to a couple of years. The clever folk of Southeast Asia realised that this happens when fermenting rice extracts the lactic acids from protein-rich food, and thus developed an invaluable way of storing.
But this method resulted in the rice being inedible by the end of the process – sacrilege to any Japanese. Rice is central to Japanese culture and is enjoyed with nearly every meal – even the Japanese words for breakfast, lunch and dinner directly translate as morning-rice, midday-rice and evening-rice. Soon after the dish was introduced to Japan, local cooks started modifying it. It became less about preservation and more about fast, delicious fish served with that all-important rice. And sushi as we know it today was born.
Despite its long history in the east, the west has only been introduced to sushi in recent years – the first sushi restaurant only appears in the United States a mere 50 years ago. And, much like when sushi was first introduced to Japan, changes are, and have, taken place to make the dish more appealing to western palates.
Perhaps the best example of this changing of the sushi-formula is with the humble California roll. With such a tight and competitive sushi market in 1960s Japan, some ventured to pastures new – particularly America – in order to explore the possibilities of sushi abroad. However, these chefs were faced with one problem that they perhaps underestimated; the majority of Americans were not ready to contend with raw fish.
Noticing the universal problem, they started toying with sushi to create something essentially Japanese in style, but appealing to American tastes at the same time. Ichiro Mashita is widely credited for finding the solution. By using cucumber, crab meat and replacing tuna with avocado in a reverse roll, where the seaweed which would traditionally be on the outside was now on the inside, he found that customers were now happily indulging themselves.
While I was in Okinawa this summer, locals pointed me in the direction of one such chef who owned a restaurant in America during this period; Yoshio Maekawa of the Yoshihachi sushi bar in Chatan. According to local legend, it’s him, not Mashita, who was responsible for creating the California roll and that he even reached celebrity status during his time in America. While I couldn’t find any evidence to support the California roll claims, his humble restaurant was decorated with evidence of his status – photos of him with State senators, actors and famous musicians took up every available space. The tables were also packed with Americans, many of them top military personnel, drinking and eating merrily. Maekawa-san was busy behind the bar, preparing food. A look on his menu confirmed why this place was so popular; amongst 200 choices of sushi were some of his certified original concoctions; for the health-conscious there’s the vitamin C-enriched Sweet Potato roll, plus three trademark creations made especially for Okinawa’s American population. Perhaps one of them the next big thing in international sushi. The United Kingdom has a lot of catching up to do.
Sushi has nothing to do with Manga Entertainment. Although here you can see our Head of Acquisitions “acquiring” some.
Tom “2-tone” Smith takes a lesson in music with Oreskaband.
The sixth series of Bleachhas been packed with great music, from its opening tracks, ‘ Rollingstar’ by singer-songwriting starlet YUI and Aqua Timez’s upbeat ‘ALONES’, to pretty pianist Mai Hoshimura’s ‘Sakura Biyori’ as the closing to the first half of the episodes. Now, with the second half of the series recently released on UK DVD, we’re introduced to the final closing theme of the series, ‘Tsumasaki’ from Osaka’s high-energy, brass-blowing schoolgirl ensemble, Oreskaband.
Long before K-on! set Japan’s teenage girls rushing to take up an instrument, this group of middle schoolers already out there rocking their hometown’s live houses. They hadn’t even got changed out of their uniforms. Well, that’s not entirely true. They did change their uniforms. They swapped their sailor tops and pleated skirts in exchange for the shorts and ties worn by male students.
The gender-bending outfits may seem initially odd, but then, Oreskaband aren’t exactly conventional. A look at their name may suggest to the average English reader that they are a band, and they possibly like ska, but the ‘ore’ bit is a distinctly butch, macho pronoun.
The first word for "I" learners of Japanese are introduced to is "watashi", a middling polite and neutral word. "Ore" on the other hand, is at the gruff end of the polite-o-meter and is extremely informal masculine in its use. So in other words, while a direct translation of ORESKABAND into English would read simply as “We’re a Ska Band”, in Japanese it carries a masculine, casual tone and matches the band’s penchant for donning boys’ school uniform.
It was at one of their local shows that the girls caught the attention of Sony Music’s A&R. By 2006 Oreskaband was signed, had collaborated with ska legend Rico Rodriguez MBE on a cover of the 1969 classic ‘Monkey Man’, and still attending high school.
Their first mainstream opportunity arrived in the form of an advert for the popular chocolate snack Pocky. It featured the girls performing the above song ‘Hana no Ska Dance’ to a bus full of Pocky wielding teenage girls. 2007 was a huge year for Oreskaband. This was the year they started their first tour with a date at the SXSW music festival in Texas, followed by the release of their first single in America, PINOCCHIO. While whetting the appetite of US fans, the girls returned to Japan and finished a nationwide tour with a sold out show back at their home city of Osaka. It was also the year of their first full length album in Japan, Ore, as well as their first album release in the States with an exclusive self-titled compilation album. Meanwhile, back in Japan series six of Bleach was airing on TV with ‘Tsumasaki’ every week before the girls returned to the States for the 2008 Vans Warped Tour. Will we ever see them at the Reading or Leeds festival in England? Well, their step into Britain does start here... let’s hope their success follows!
Matt Kamen on different versions of Sacred Blacksmith
In Sacred Blacksmith, it’s been 40 years since the terrible Valbanill War ravaged the world. Mortal forces were left helpless as humans forged Demon Contracts, allowing their bodies to be possessed in order to gain power to use in battle. That was, until the contracts were banned, by those who realised that the dark magic was destroying the very land the factions were fighting over.
Fast forward to the present day, and we meet Cecily Cambell, heir to one of the founding families of the new trade cities that have developed since the war. A knight of the town of Housman, she acts as something between police officer and community worker, controlling rabble rousers within the city. When Cecily is rescued by the strange blacksmith Luke – who wields a katana in a land of broadswords – she strikes up a loose friendship, hoping the reclusive smith will forge her a weapon like his own. As the pair becomes closer, ever more dangerous threats assault the city and remnants of the Valbanill War threaten to rise again.
Sacred Blacksmith began as a series of short novels by Isao Miura in 2007. While the prose books continue to this day, with ten in print at present, Miura also launched a manga series in March 2009 as a precursor to the anime debuting in October of that year. Drawn by Kotaro Yamada, the manga Is still running in Comic Alive, with Miura splitting his time between writing both versions.
However, while differences between anime and manga are far from unusual, director Masamitsu Hidaka’s 12-part adaptation of Sacred Blacksmith really does become a very different beast, in tone if not in content. Both print and screen versions are full of high fantasy adventure and epic battles, but for the anime, Hidaka opts for a more comedic take, chiefly at Cecily’s expense.
Miura’s heroine is a competent, earnest young woman, striving to live up to her family’s reputation and her role as defender of Housman. She’s a skilled swordfighter, though not perfect, and a born leader. Hidaka paints her as more accident prone, and while both versions see Luke coming to her aid in their first meeting, it takes the animated Cecily far longer to become a proficient warrior in her own right. She also gets something of an augmentation in the chest area, which leads to more than a few cheap jokes. Luke himself is a far more stoic figure in the anime, blunt and taciturn with little interest in becoming close to anyone, largely due to the dark secrets of his past.
Hidaka accentuates each of the characters most defining character trait, be it Cecily’s desire to improve and evolve or Luke’s reluctance to make connections with people. It’s a different take to Miura’s original, but one that deserves equal consideration from viewers.
Sacred Blacksmith, the complete series, is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment
With the hit sci-fi action comedy Birdy the Mighty: Decode drawing to a close this week, we bid farewell to super-powered space cop Birdy Cephon Altera and Tsutomu Senkawa, the everyday high school student who share the same body. As the pair head into their final confrontation with Birdy’s old friend Nataru, a battle sure to set your eyes on fire with hot-blooded action and pluck at your heartstrings with bittersweet emotional moments, the Manga UK blog focuses on Birdy’s original creator.
Born plain old Shuji Sato on 19th December 1957, Masami Yuuki made his first manga sale in 1980 with The Rival, to Out magazine. For the next two years, he continued to draw manga in his spare time, while still holding down a day-job. By the mid-80s, he had hit his stride, with a scattergun of serials including Birdy the Mighty, which first appeared in 1984. By 1985, Birdy was running in Shonen Sunday alongside Yuuki’s Ultimate Superman R, an outlandish high school comedy focusing on a photography club with more weirdos than Haruhi Suzumiya could shake her SOS Brigade at. Back then, it was Superman R that caught readers’ imagination, running for three years and nine collected volumes. Meanwhile, Yuuki’s parody of Japanese pop culture, Assemble Insert, began its short run in the pages of Out magazine. The series pitted super-strong teen idol singer Maron Namikaze against Demon Seed, a bothersome terrorist organisation with an army of mecha. As you do.
But Yuuki is probably most famous for his work on another SF project. The story was born from many long sessions in a Tokyo coffee house, where a bunch of sci-fi fans gathered to lament the state of modern media. They were particularly annoyed with the 1980s penchant for post-apocalyptic wastelands, and instead hatched an idea for a story in which Japan suffered rising sea levels and climate change, but somehow muddled through with the aid of a new invention – towering bipedal construction machines to help with the sea walls and dams. But new technology meant new crimes, leading in turn to the formation of a special unit designed to deal with it: Mobile Police Patlabor.
Patlabor was credited to the five-person collective “Headgear”, comprising director Mamoru Oshii, screenwriter Kazunori Ito, character designer Akemi Takada and mecha designer Yutaka Izubuchi. While Yuuki’s colleagues worked on the video, and subsequently the TV series and movie spin-offs, he spent six years from 1988-1994 drawing the manga series, racking up an impressive 22 collected volumes.
But although he’s known abroad for sci-fi, Yuuki’s incredible versatility back home has given him a varied career. Following Patlabor’s conclusion, he launched the 26-volume Grooming Up!, depicting a high school student moving to a horse ranch in Yuuki’s own native Hokkaido, while series such as Kunie, Daughter of Pangaea offered a playful take on young romance – all without a giant robot in sight. Meanwhile, a side project with fellow creator Tori Miki notched up nine years of a gag comic: Murder on the Saturday Variety Show.
Today, Yuuki is back drawing Birdy. The series that originally finished in 1988 sprang back to life in 2003, and continues to run in Japan. This means that, stealthily, the Birdy manga has now outstripped both Patlabor, Grooming Up! and even Murder on the Saturday Wide Show in terms of sheer longevity. With a personal best-of collection published last year, Masami Yuuki is still doing mightily well. Long may he continue.
Tom Smith voyages into Yukinobu Hoshino’s TO: 2001 Nights.
Yukinobu Hoshino has had a long history of penning science fiction. He dropped out of university in the mid-seventies in order to focus on his debut manga, one of his defining features ever since has been a penchant for futuristic twists on some of mankind’s oldest stories and mythologies. As the name implies, his manga series 2001 Nights crashes the scattered stories of the Arabian Nights into the epic tale of human evolution to be found in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Starting with near-future stories of space shuttles and satellites, it eventually expands into vignettes about the outer solar system, mankind’s first off-world colonies and beyond. But although Hoshino’s tales often have an exuberant sense of wonder, they also introduce a sense of foreboding and humility. His characters might spout the same confident dialogue as their counterparts from the American Golden Age of SF, but the artwork tells a different story. Space dwarfs them. It turns them into insignificant specks. In Hoshino’s future history, man doesn’t conquer space; space conquers man.
In his computer-animated adaptation of Hoshino’s work, director Fumihiko Sori (last seen here helming Vexille) selects two of Hoshino’s stories: ‘Night 12: Symbiotic Planet’ and ‘Night 14: Elliptical Orbit’. Although released in Japan as “TO” (Distant/Faraway), a change in name can’t hide the powerful influences of the original inspirations. Like Arabian Nights, it’s a collection of stories – some loosely related to others. 2001 Nights is a melancholy look into the future as man gradually migrates from Earth – or, you could say, as the human race begins its ‘space odyssey’.
The stories selected for TO: 2001 Nights have no direct relationship to each other in terms of plot or characters. Elliptical Orbit follows the crew of a deep-space mining vessel, the Flying Dutchman, as they return to base after a 15-year excursion. Their mission: to transport a valuable energy source that has the power to answer all of Earth’s energy needs for the next decade.
Due to time dilation, the ship’s captain Maria has remained youthful, aging a mere two years, while her lover back at base is now middle-aged. The sudden age gap less of a problem than the argument they left unfinished 15 years, but when terrorists try to steal the newly-arrived cargo, their relationship is stretched to breaking point.
Symbiotic Planet, the second story on the disc, contains a much heavier romantic theme: forbidden love. Ion and Alena are star-crossed lovers from opposing outposts locked in a territorial dispute that’s about to explode into all-out war. This owes more to 2010 than 2001, with humans bickering over petty disputes from Earth, surrounded by far wiser and nobler aliens.
With the 2001 Nights manga out of print, and a month to go before another Hoshino manga title is released in the UK, the TO: 2001 Nights disc is your best chance to catch an introduction to the work of this incredible creator. At least for the near future.
TO: 2001 Nights is out on 26th September on UK DVD and Blu-Ray from Manga
Matt Kamen talks to Hiroshi Matsuyama about the Naruto game
“Every time we have a Naruto project we try to keep fresh the idea of control, design, everything,” says Hiroshi Matsuyama, director and company president at the Japanese Cyberconnect2. The developer has been responsible for some of the best loved entries in the Naruto gaming franchise, notably combat heavy Ultimate Ninja series.
One of the core elements that separates the Naruto beat-em-up games from their peers is the huge number of playable characters on offer. In Generations – as if the subtitle weren’t clue enough – players can play as their favourites from different points throughout creator Masashi Kishimoto’s series. “You can pick characters from the Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden series.” Matsuyama explains. “We have the maximum amount from all the series, so that is a good thing. You can enjoy any of the characters you have seen. Young Naruto, older Naruto, everyone.”
The game will also boast both a single player story mode – though Matsuyama would only carefully reveal that it’s set to be “totally different” to earlier Ninja Storm games, but “will be totally faithful to the original anime and comics.”
As Naruto’s core audience has grown up, so have the games. “In previous Naruto games, maybe we were targeting the hardcore Naruto fans,” Matsuyama says. “In this game we are trying to focus on the fighting elements rather than the Naruto elements, so maybe as a game it’s more for fans of series like Street Fighter or Tekken. Those are for people who like to play fast action games, so maybe this game is good for them. Of course, it is also still for Naruto fans!”
And as for where Matsuyama would like to see the game series go in the future? “Our passion is in video, because the cel-shaded CGI [that the Naruto games use] fits the Japanese vision, especially from the anime. We are trying to hit the same quality in the graphics of our video games and we think we are still halfway to achieving the art quality of the Naruto style, so we are trying to hit that. Also, I have a strong interest in the PSP Vita. I’ve been approaching it and am now always thinking of what we can do with it.”
While Naruto’s manga adventures are presently continuing under Kishimoto’s pen, rumours are growing that the famed creator may be winding down the epic story. How might this affect future Naruto games? “Actually, we have no idea when the manga is going to finish, it’s still very much depending on Masashi’s direction. But we are fans of Kishimoto and we are the biggest fans of the series, so we will keep releasing Naruto video games because we love Naruto!“
Naruto Shippuden – Ultimate Ninja Storm: Generations is due out Spring 2012 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Meanwhile, the Naruto anime is available in the UK from Manga Entertainment.
Ichigo is a Resurrección Man, in the latest Bleach game
With fast-paced combat, an engaging story mode, and tons of unlockables, the PS3 game Soul Resurrección is an absolute must for Bleach fans, and a top-class action game for everyone else! It’s an experience that’s authentic to the series and genuinely fun to play.
The game pits you as heroic soul reaper Ichigo Kurosaki, playing through the events of the Arrancar and Hueco Mundo arcs of the popular story. For those unfamiliar with the series, this means a descent into hell itself, in pursuit of an intractable enemy who seeks to upset the very balance of life and death!
A mix of real-time action and role-playing, Soul Resurrección sees you progressing through 3D worlds, defeating swarms of monstrous Hollows. Intuitive controls and a basic but satisfying combo system see you unleashing iconic moves from the series, while a slowly-charging power gauge allows you to access even more powerful moves, best saved for boss encounters. Each enemy that falls to your blade earns you points, used to upgrade your skills and powers, and those of you familiar with Final Fantasy X’s ‘sphere grid’ level-up system will be immediately at home. As you progress through the chapters of the story mode, other fan-favourite characters are unlocked – spiritual archer Uryu Ishida, supernatural sorceress Rukia, and more – each with their own set of abilities to be explored.
While that alone is enough to keep you going for hours, extra modes extend the game further. Mission Mode – available after the first chapter of the story – has 28 challenges for you to complete. These can be attempted with any playable character you’ve unlocked, and dish out special rewards for completing them. Elsewhere, the Soul Attack multiplayer mode allows you to team with friends to defeat near-endless hordes of enemies.
Best of all for fans, Soul Resurrección drops you right into the heart of the series, with visuals ripped straight from the anime – locations such as arch-villain Sousuke Aizen’s castle in Hueco Mundo or even the streets of modern Japan have are spot-on, and the numerous characters you’ll control or fight against are gorgeously recreated in cel-shaded form. You’ll even get a chance to explore those lush character models in a bonus Collection Mode, showing just how accurate to the show they are.