Bleach Live Action Movie Review: I Loved The Anime But What About This?

Bleach Live Action

There’s always some trepidation when hearing about a live action adaptation of a beloved anime. It’s a feeling that I might try to push to the side because I want to give something a go on its own merit rather than lumping it in with predecessors that may have failed to leave much of a positive impression. But just like with video game adaptations, while there are certainly a fair share of truly dreadful ones to be found there are also adaptations that have worked and given a fairly satisfying watch. So the question becomes whether or not Bleach survived this adaptation? There’s no way I’m not comparing as I go given how much I love Bleach but hopefully you’ll join me as I look at this movie.


I’ll get to the point fairly quickly and then explain my reasoning, but I found myself incredibly engrossed in this movie while watching it. I pressed play with that same sinking feeling of trepidation, wondering if I should put it off and wait until more reviews were out and wondering if I should possibly just forget it was even available rather than risk the feeling of disappointment that would come from a poor movie. I didn’t want much from this film, but what I absolutely needed it to do was to be fun to watch.

Netflix Live Action Bleach

Bleach was my ultimate pop-corn viewing anime that swept me up in its grandiose (albeit overly stretched out and bloated) story and cast and just its sheer brazen silliness at times. In short, it seemed the kind of thing that absolutely would not translate very well to real actors because anime fans have kind of learned to cope with the hero losing more litres of blood than that human body holds and still managing to stand up whereas when it happens on screen it kind of makes you wonder what is wrong with the writer.

However, Bleach actually managed to defy my expectations in a lot of ways as I watched this live action unfold on Netflix. The characters were not attempting to copy exactly the look of the anime (or if they did they clearly gave up for practicality’s sake). As a result Ichigo and Rukia look pretty awesome in their roles (and thank-you for someone having enough sense not to put that stupid fringe down the middle of Rukia’s face). Orihime and Chad are likewise altered so that while they retain some of what makes them distinct in the anime they come across looking fairly much like the belong in the setting rather then looking like they escaped a cosplay convention. My only real disappointment with Orihime was the look of her hair-clip which seems like it is missing a few petals which kind of means they are going to have to do some modification later on with how her power works, assuming of course they go there at all (which they definitely should).

Actually, the only character who really came across poorly in appearance was Urahara. Possibly I’m just being overly critical because I really like Urahara’s look in the anime, but to be honest I found his human counterpart here to be the only character who just looked out of place and garishly cosplay like rather than a real character. Even Renji’s hair came out fairly believably (at least within the context of the movie) so I was a little disappointed with Urahara.

Netflix Bleach Live Action

Outside of their appearances, I really liked the way these characters interacted. Again, they weren’t identical to how they behaved in the anime. None of Orihime’s silliness is on display nor does she get countless scenes eating bizarre foods. Karen, Ichigo’s sister, is certainly toned down and while I appreciate the need for that from a time point of view I kind of missed the spunky anime Karen. But these changes all make sense and with the plot having a much tighter focus on Ichigo and Rukia the changes are necessary.

And that was probably my favourite part of this adaptation. Scenes from the anime were merged and pushed together or deleted entirely for the sake of having a coherent story that felt like it was well paced in the time given. We meet Ichigo and very rapidly move to his meeting with Rukia and the transfer of her power to him. However, we then rapidly move on to Ishida confronting Ichigo at school (so no Chad and bird story, no Orihime and her dead brother, and no random encountering Hollows) and we see the Hollow bait getting used. This doesn’t spark a full on fight in its own right though as they combine this conflict with a later one and we see Ichigo and Rukia being confronted by Renji.

The upshot of this is we are dealing pretty much entirely with Rukia’s transgression and need to get her power back with other events that are crucial for introducing characters for later occurring but in a way that feeds into this main plot. Anyone who has watched the anime of Bleach will know how regularly the main plot gets kind of put on hold while the characters run around and do other things or get diverted by other issues, or just how long some of those fight sequences last as you deal with each and every person involved. This movie is well aware of its time limitations and maximises what it can show us through some fairly deliberate modification of the narrative.

However, if you think I’m just going to sing the praises of this movie I’m about to turn this around. There are two points that really stop this from being the truly excellent experience it was pretty close to becoming.

The first is the ending. We get to essentially the end of the first season where Rukia returns to Soul Society and that is a great place for the movie to end. But the fight sequence against the Grand Fisher is… well I hesitate to call it bloated given compared to most of the fight scenes in the Bleach anime it is pretty succinct. Yet, we have Ichigo running from the Hollow through crowded streets (wasn’t he just in a graveyard) and fighting the Grand Fisher in a fairly public space.

Bleach Netflix Live Action

I get that partly this is because they combining events from the fight in the park in the anime where Ishida and Ichigo team up, with the Grand Fisher fight, and then they are transitioning to the fight against Renji, so there were going to need to be some fairly major adjustments to this sequence to make it work. However, it doesn’t fit with Ichigo’s character to lead a Hollow into a public space where others might be put at risk. It also shows off the CG Hollow for far too long. Its first appearance in the graveyard is pretty amazing and in short bursts it could have looked exceptional and had real impact. But, because of the length of the screen time, it ends up looking pretty cheap by the end.

I’ll also point out through the whole chase sequence I was just reminded of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the totally unnecessary dragon chase across the rooftops that ate screen time, wasn’t in the book, and totally wasn’t needed. Yes, we get your wind effects look cool and you are damaging a lot of buildings. We’re at the climax so big boom. And yet, this scene could have been so much tighter and had so much more impact.

The second complaint I’ll raise is the music. Bleach has one of the best soundtracks ever – I’m totally not biased. Every single OP is amazing – again, not biased. The fight music that accompanies Ichigo as he gets geared up to take down anything is unforgettably cool – alright, fine, I’m totally and completely biased when it comes to Bleach music. I’m not going to say the soundtrack to this movie is actually bad… it’s just kind of forgettable. There isn’t one track which just made me sit up and take notice or drew me into a scene. And that was probably my biggest disappointment about this entire movie. The music.

Right, objectively the acting isn’t amazing though it certainly isn’t dreadful. The script is fairly average with dialogue serving its purpose but not doing a lot more. I’m not entirely sure how caught up in events non-Bleach fans will be because I can only watch this film from the perspective of a major fan of the series.

But, this movie was fun to watch. At no point did I feel bored or like I was wasting my time. I didn’t have a single moment where I considered stopping it (Full Metal Alchemist on the other hand I had several moments where I wondered if I should cut my losses and move on).

Do I recommend this movie? Certainly. If you are a Bleach fan but open to necessary changes to accompany the changed format, you’ll have a great time. If you’ve never watched Bleach, this movie will give you a good taste of the plot of season 1 though I’d still recommend watching the anime. That said, if you already jumped in and watched the movie, I’d love to know what you thought of it so leave me a comment.

25 thoughts on “Bleach Live Action Movie Review: I Loved The Anime But What About This?

  1. Thanks for this detailed review! I did see it was being released on Netflix and I was worried that it would turn out to be really bad, but reading your review gives me hope! Maybe I’ll give this version of Bleach a try over the weekend 🙂

    1. Yeah, it’s not a perfect movie, but they’ve done a pretty decent job of capturing Ichigo and Rukia and their story. I had a lot of fun with this.

  2. Saw this last week with a group. My only familiarity with the Bleach anime is random episodes one of my friend made me watch with him with no context. So I basically went into the live action practically blind to everything. I found it to be a solid flick.

    It has the issue I have with a lot of Japanese movie with it tends to drag in the middle, but I didn’t find it too bothersome. I felt for the most part it was entertaining, and the relationship between Ichigo, and Rukia was handle well.

    The ending I also have an issue with. Mostly with how it’s basically a reset. Sure Ichigo learned something like Rukia did, but it just felt like the ending was written in case it flopped, and wouldn’t make sequels in the future. I did find that fight between Ichigo, and Renji to be pretty awesome, even in goofy in psychics.

    I actually dug the music since it’s more of my taste. However, I found the song used in the second Hallow fight in the playground very distracting. It took out of the moment when I notice the singer was just talking about drinking Milk. I laughed when I noticed that. The CGI was generally better than expected overall. Agree the Grand Fisher stayed on too long making it look more fake.

    Unlike the Rurouni Kenshin live action movie which got interested in checking out the manga, and anime the Bleach live action didn’t have the same effect on me. If the movie gets sequel to improve that might change. For now, it’s nice watching a solid adaptation of a anime/manga.

    1. That ending definitely seemed to be hedging its bets as to whether or not there would be a sequel however they have set up the necessary parts so they could easily go on with the story if need be. Part of me kind of prefers this because it means if they don’t make a sequel we still get a ‘finished’ movie even though anime (and manga) fans will know there’s plenty more to go.

  3. Hmm, interesting! Based on yours and Raistlin’s screenshots, this doesn’t look like a bad adaptation at all (I think I like the way Urahara looks).
    And it’s too bad the music doesn’t match up to the godly OSTs and OP/EDs – you totally aren’t biased on that (coming from another biased person).

    1. I guess part of me just couldn’t feel like it was Bleach without the standard music in the background. Then again, they didn’t do a bad job, they just weren’t ever going to live up to the music expectations of the anime without just using the anime soundtrack.

  4. I saw this pop up on Netflix and I honestly usually just write off live adaptions. I think I should try more since I really did enjoy Erased but that one fit really well with live action.

    1. Erased kind of lent itself to live action given it doesn’t have the over the top and fantastical sequences. Still, they did a reasonable job on this and I enjoyed it.

    1. I know, the colours they did use they tried to find a way to make semi-realistic so even Renji’s red hair didn’t look too crazy. I just remember how distracting I found Edward’s hair in the FMA movie and I’m glad I didn’t have the same issue here.

  5. While I am completely unfamiliar with this anime (that is of course I have heard of it, and know it’s a fan favorite) I knew next to nothing about the anime itself or it’s characters. That said: I quite enjoyed this film myself. I had nothing to compare it too, so it’s nice to read your review and learn that for the most part it did a pretty good job of recreating the anime itself. I agree with the ending by the way. That final fight sequence for me was a bit ridiculous and I felt myself frowning upon it quite a few times. But for the most part the CGI was pretty good, and overall I really had a great time with it. Thanks for recommending it to me 😊

    1. It is rare for me to walk away from an a live action movie from an anime with so few complaints and while the fight was a little ridiculous the anime it is based on is legendary for overblown and overly long fight sequences so I really can’t say that the movie was wrong to take this approach when it was combining multiple fight sequences into a single one. Glad you enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure how accessible it would be for people who weren’t familiar with the anime as I couldn’t put myself into those shoes being very familiar with this story.

      1. Yeah, I think I was in a rather unique position with this one, as pretty much everyone I know that watches anime has seen this series.
        But I thought it was very accessible, and I really did enjoy the movie.
        It puts the final fight scene into a better perspective when you put it like that 😊 I’m glad though that the film was also enjoyable for someone who loved the anime 😊😊

        1. Hopefully we can have more adaptations that feel like they capture the spirit of the anime even if they aren’t directly following the script.

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