Title: Bleach Official Character Book 2: Masked
Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 2 (in that it’s the second character book; otherwise it’s sort of a one-shot), $14.99
Vintage: 2010 by Shueisha in Japan, March 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Fanbook, action, shonen
Bleach fans, rejoice. Viz Media has published the series’ second character book to compliment the manga series. (The first one was called SOULs. There was also another fanbook called Color Bleach.) Masked covers the period of time immediately following Ichigo’s assault on Soul Society to save Rukia (when Aizen reveals himself to be a traitor, in volume 20), and follows the Arrancar story lines, including the Visored chapters, and on up to the Turn Back the Pendulum chapters (which end in volume 37). This means that Masked matches up with the current printed run of Bleach in America, so if you’ve been keeping up, you don’t have to worry about spoilers. The book opens up with a small color pull out poster of the Thirteen Court Guard captains and assistant captains of the past (matching the Turn Back the Pendulum characters). About sixteen full color pages follow, featuring mostly Weekly Jump covers. The rest of the book is broken up into seven major sections filled with character profiles and story information – Karakura town, Soul Society, Arrancars, Visoreds, Turn Back the Pendulum, and historical facts (including a time table of events and a term glossary), and an in depth interview with Tite Kubo.
The character profiles are filled with detail, though it mostly focuses on the more recent events. For full character profiles, pick up a copy of SOULs (for details on early volumes of Bleach) or Color Bleach. Rather than spend time repeating information that has been published in the other fan/character books, the book focuses on the paths the characters take during the battles against Aizen and his Arrancar. Everybody involved in that battle gets spotlighted, which is a lot of characters. Some of them are even spotlighted more than once. For example, Kisuke Urahara, who shows up in the Karakura town section, and again in the Turn Back the Pendulum section. Same for the Visoreds, who of course have their own section, and appear again in the Pendulum chapter. There’s plenty of artwork from the series strewn about the pages, though occasionally one will suffer in quality as if it was blown up from a smaller image. There are also some useful charts, like a list of common kido spells used by Soul Reapers, an Arrancar ranking chart, and a chart of the current Thirteen Court Guard companies (including captains, assistant captains, and other officers of note, organized by company).
If you’re a hard core Bleach fan, you’ll appreciate having all this information neatly organized, as well as the extras (like the Kubo interview), and the chance to see some of Kubo’s stellar cover pages in color. If you’re a casual fan (like me), you’ll appreciate having a solid reference guide at your fingertips to help keep all of the characters straight and lay out the story’s progression. It’s especially useful for keeping the Thirteen Court Guards straight, as it lists all of the captains and assistant captains, past (110 years ago) and present.
A final note. This week marks the Jiro Taniguchi Manga Moveable Feast hosted at Manga Worth Reading by Ed Sizemore and Johanna Draper Carlson. Be sure to check it out!
Review copy provided by Viz Media.