It’s both a blessing and a curse that Bleach is the kind of show it is. With its non-stop action and a vast array of characters it’s little wonder it’s so popular; after all, when you practically have every possible character type covered – from the rebellious hero with the heart of gold to the comical and lucky bumbler (and so on and so forth) – you basically have something that will appeal to everyone. But the very things that make Bleach the series great make Bleach the budding OAV franchise somewhat frustrating.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the second OAV, The Diamond Dust Rebellion. Whereas the first Bleach movie at least focused mostly on the main character of the series – Ichigo Kurosaki – The Diamond Dust Rebellion chooses to instead explore one of the supporting characters, and in a cast of hundreds, I’m personally wondering how they decided it would be diminutive 10th Division Captain, Hitsugaya Toushirou. Maybe they threw a fifty-sided die? As I understand it, as many people hate him as like him, but maybe that was enough for decent box office sales.
Division 10 is tasked with the very important responsibility of guarding the transfer of the ‘King’s Seal’ from one secret location in Heaven to another. The party is attacked by unknown assailants, and during the fight, Hitsugaya has a moment of recognition. In true-to-form style, he abandons his post without explanation (he’s far too short and cranky to actually share his problems, right?) and embarks on a very personal mission of revelation and redemption. The Soul Society is then naturally forced to brand him a traitor and order his execution (!?). Cue Kurosaki Ichigo, unofficial Soul Reaper, to the rescue. Sort of.
On the whole, The Diamond Dust Rebellion delivers in its 92 minutes exactly what you’d expect – fighting action, slightly above-board production values, a rockin’ soundtrack and pretty much little else. Sure, it ticks all the boxes, and the mystery surrounding Hitsugaya’s past is passably interesting, but there’s something missing. Maybe my ability to care? Soujirou is a typical Bleach filler villain (yeah, that’s a formal position description), and isn’t really charismatic or likeable enough to inspire much sympathy in a single session. Neither is the insight into Hitsugaya’s character through his connection to the villain particularly enlightening. What is interesting is Central 46’s dictatorial (and illogical?) decision making process, and the political cover-up revealed as the story progresses. Perhaps if the writers had focused on that aspect a little more, it might have been a great OAV instead of just an Ok one.
That seems to beg a deeper question – exactly what is the point of an OAV? What I would have liked to have seen was something that changed my reading of the character or an aspect of the show, something that perhaps foreshadowed something to come or filled in something that had already happened but that the series didn’t have the time to explore. What I got was… well, I’m not entirely sure. It’s not really a bigger, glossier episode of Bleach because Bleach doesn’t operate in episodes; it operates in story arcs. Was it really a decent showcase for the show to acclimatise new fans? Well, if that was the intention then they’re probably going to assume Histugaya is the star. Maybe it was just all about making a nice juicy wad of money in the first two weeks of the box office, then.
Sure, the bar was set with the first OAV, Memories of Nobody, and the expected ‘everybody in on the action’ approach won’t fail you here (even Ichigo has a chance to say something deep and meaningful, and it wouldn’t be a Bleach episode – sorry, OAV – if he didn’t, right?). But that’s almost the problem. With Bleach’s something-for-everyone approach, and knowing how good the show can be, trying to cram its considerable bulk into The Diamond Dust Rebellion, and ultimately having to dampen down what makes it so great, is a vaguely frustrating thing to watch.