Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: August 3, 2004
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
After the strange encounter with the Hollow, Ichigo takes Chad to his family’s clinic to be treated. But the next morning, to his dismay, Chad has disappeared! Ichigo questions his friends but no one has seen him. Rukia is helping Ichigo search, but she has no sense of any Hollow presence. Ichigo has the idea to feel for Chad’s parakeet’s spirit presence, although Rukia claims it is too faint to detect. When Ichigo manages to detect it, she is rather taken aback and greatly surprised. Chad and the parakeet are in hiding, and the parakeet, whose name is Yuichi, tries to get Chad to leave but he refuses. He runs into Rukia and Ichigo at the same time as Ichigo’s sister Karin appears, drawn by something she can’t explain. When she faints, Rukia tells Ichigo to take her home and she’ll chase after Chad.
Unfortunately, the Hollow finds her first, and she’s in no position to fight him, not without her powers. When she throws a spell at him, not only doesn’t it work, but he realizes she’s a Soul Reaper. Yuichi tells chad that Rukia is being attacked, although Chad can’t see the Hollow. Chad puts Yuichi in a safe place then runs to help Rukia. He punches him, which takes the Hollow aback, but he decides it was a lucky punch. Working together, maybe Rukia and Chad can defeat this Hollow, or at least not die before Ichigo has a chance to return. When Ichigo learns what the Hollow has done to Yuichi, it only infuriates him all the more.
Rukia realizes she needs to stock up on a few supplies, so she makes her way to an innocuous-looking shop—Uruhara Shoten. A boy and a girl are sweeping in front of the closed shop, and they admit her. The shopkeeper, Kisuke Uruhara, sleepily greets her. Obviously he is acquainted with the Soul Reaper. Not only that, but he seems to carry supplies such as a soul reaper might require. When Rukia inquires about an order she’s made, Uruhara sends Ururu to get it. To Rukia’s dismay, it’s not the one she ordered. He tells her that was out of stock, this is the second most popular choice, so she is forced to accept it.
The next day, Rukia presents her purchase to Ichigo – a dispenser of sorts marked Soul Candy. The dispenser has the head of a duck, although Rukia had wanted the bunny. She explains that when he takes the candy, in order to perform soul reaper duties, his empty body becomes animated by a proxy soul. Back at Uruhara’s shop, however, the shopkeeper realizes, to his dismay, that a terrible mistake has been made. Can it be rectified in time, even as Rukia demonstrates to Ichigo how it works and they suddenly receive an order to fight a Hollow. Or will the defective soul Uruhara inadvertently sold Rukia ruin Ichigo’s reputation for good?
In the second volume of Bleach we meet Kisuke Uruhara and the people in his employ—Tessai, Ururu, and Jinta. Remember them, you’ll be seeing a lot of them. We also discover how stubborn Rukia is, very much her own woman who does what needs to be done. She still isn’t sure what to make of Ichigo, who is like no one she’s ever encountered before. For a human, he has some pretty amazing skills. For his part, Ichigo seems to be taking to being a soul reaper—even a substitute soul reaper—like a duck to water. Since he’s used to seeing the dead, he doesn’t think twice about being able to see Hollows, and doesn’t even question their existence, as some might. Someone else to remember for future volumes is the defective soul who’s taken Ichigo’s place and doesn’t want to give it up. (It helps that I’m also watching the anime).
Tite Kubo uses humor well in his manga, but he is also capable of dramatic, more soul-intense moments which will bring tears to you eyes. He’s good at manipulating emotions. Rukia’s annoyance at not getting the “chappy” she ordered (the bunny dispenser) not only pegs her as pretty human and far from perfect, it’s also damn funny.
Looking forward to more of the same in future volumes of this popular series.