Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: May 15, 2005
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Rukia has been confronted by two Soul Reapers, newly arrived from the Soul Society, who have announced their intention to take her back to Soul Society—for her trial and execution—when unexpected assistance arrives in the form of Uryu Ishida. Ishida claims to just be in the neighborhood, going to a 24-hour dressmaking shop. No one’s actually buying that. Meanwhile, Ichigo comes across a trussed-up, smelly Kon behind the toilet. Once freed, Kon tells Ichigo that Rukia is gone and left a note, which they have to decipher. Once the message is read, Ichigo decides to go after her, but he has a problem—he can’t become a Soul Reaper without Rukia’s help! What can he do? Luckily help arrives in an unexpected form, and Ichigo is soon on his way.
He arrives just to time to find Ishida laid out flat. One of the Soul Reapers, Renji Abarai, can’t figure out who or what Ichigo is, and Ichigo isn’t exactly forthcoming on details. The other Soul Reaper is Renji’s Captain (or taichou), Byakuya Kuchiki, and he has heard of Ichigo. Renji has to laugh when he learns that Ichigo has no idea what his zanpaku-to’s name is! Renji has seriously misjudged Ichigo, though. In the ensuing battle, Ichigo is felled, presumably killed, to Rukia’s horror. But you can’t keep a good man down (and seriously, what hero dies at the beginning of a manga?), and Ichigo regains his feet, determined to keep fighting. Rukia has to act fast, so she does, announcing rather loudly that she will return to Soul Society with her brother and Renji.
Ichigo is saved by the same savior as before, who is none other than Kiskue Uruhara, whom Ichigo refers to as Hat-and-clogs. Ichigo expresses his frustration at not being able to get to Soul Society to save Rukia. The enigmatic Kiskue says he knows how, but he’ll only tell Ichigo if he agrees to train with him for ten days. Otherwise, he says, Ichigo will die if he tries to save her. Of course Ichigo agrees. Meanwhile, unknown to him, Orihime and Chad and Ishida end up together, also determined to go to Soul Society to save Rukia. They end up with a rather unusual mentor of their own.
Kiskue’s training isn’t easy. The question is, can Ichigo survive it, or will he turn into his own worst nightmare?
Watching the anime as well as reading the manga gives me a somewhat unique perspective, and lets me pick up on things in the manga that I don’t remember from the anime. This volume is a good example. At one point, when it looks as though Byakuya has killed Ichigo, he comments that he somewhat understands Rukia’s motives, that Ichigo does resemble him. Who’s him? And why wasn’t this in the anime? Or did I miss it? Hmmm, keeping an eye on that one.
I have to say that Rukia, at this point in the manga, isn’t nearly as doom and gloom as she is in the anime. I love how Tite Kubo sets up so many questions, many of which won’t be answered for a long time to come. To keep us wondering, I guess lol One such mystery is Kiskue Uruhara. He obviously isn’t just another shopkeeper, despite his attempts to appear innocuous and innocent. But first off, he knows about Soul Reapers and he sells their merchandise to Soul Reapers in the Land of the Living. So why is he there? What about his mysterious employees – the large Tessai, and the children, Ururu and Jinta? And a talking cat? I know there’s a story there.
This volume is the beginning of the Rescue Rukia arc (not sure what the official name is but that works for me). Forces are gathering, plans are being made, and everyone is preparing to fight the entire Soul Society if necessary in order to save Rukia’s life. This is our first glimpse of Renji and Byakuya. They grow on you, trust me. Especially Renji. The jury’s still out on Byakuya, ‘cause frankly he has a major stick up his backside and an attitude for days. Ishida grows on you too, although right now he’s something of a pain too. But Renji is a pretty good guy. Some of my favorite characters have yet to appear, looking forward to that.
All in all, a good volume, and a good set-up for what’s to come.