To call Tite Kubo’s Bleach a massive undertaking would perhaps be understating things. The manga clocks in at 74 volumes. The anime has 366 episodes. It also is going to get a new anime series in 2021. It’s a lot to take in and, given that the story started back in 2001, people might have forgotten some of the earliest adventures of Ichigo and his crew of humans, Soul Reapers, and Vizards. Enter Bleach: Immortal Soul, a mobile, turn-based RPG that attempts to retell the story.
Bleach: Immortal Soul starts from the very beginning of the series. Ichigo is an ordinary human who is sensitive to the spirit world. He ends up running into Rukia, a Soul Reaper, as she is fighting a Hollow. He gets involved for the sake of protecting his sister, taking some of Rukia’s abilities and becoming a Soul Reaper himself. What starts as him doing her job for her ends up setting the course for an ordinary guy becoming one of the most extraordinary figures in his world. (What a shocker, right?)
Maybe it’s just me, but the thing about Bleach is that I always seemed to come into it when arcs I had already seen were airing or streaming. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the Soul Society: Sneak and Rescue arcs or the Hueco Mundo Entry arc, but I continually missed everything in between. The plus side is, Bleach: Immortal Soul is a very truncated retelling of Ichigo’s story. Think of it as a Cliff Notes adaptation. You aren’t seeing the full storylines for each segment. Instead, you watch 2D versions of characters run along paths to different battles or bits of exposition, automatically of course since you tap a button to take you to the next part, and get the details that really matter.
Which is nice, in a way. Bleach: Immortal Soul makes it easy to speed through the earliest portions, like the Substitute Shinigami opening arc. You have skip options for the dialogue, which frankly isn’t all that great and doesn’t capture the same nuance as the original series even when it parrots its lines. It’s a quick overview to get you to the turn-based battles and unlocking new characters. (For example, the game will give you characters like Orihime and Chad, but the others are locked away in a gacha that will “occasionally” give you one fully unlocked character but typically only gives you pieces you can put toward unlocking or upgrading others.)
The downside is, the production quality isn’t great. Bleach: Immortal Soul isn’t a mobile game along the lines of Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia or Love Live: School Idol Festival. When it tells its story, we see the same 2D characters talking at each other against the same backgrounds you move and fight along. Occasionally, a still image from the original anime adaptation will appear, but it’s a standard definition image that can honestly end up looking really blurry. Which means… it probably isn’t the best pick for diehard fans who might be expecting a higher quality overview of the series with iconic battles interspersed throughout. Also, it has a habit of cutting to black with a brief sentence saying things to the tune of, “Later, after Ichigo was at school…” or the like.
If anything, I’d say Bleach: Immortal Soul is the sort of mobile game people play for a handful of reasons. Some might give it a try because they love Kubo’s work and want to give an adaptation of a series they enjoy a chance, which is fair. Others might go in hoping to remind themselves what happened in the earliest days of Ichigo’s adventures, which works too. But people shouldn’t go in expecting high production values or an extensive retelling. Bleach: Immortal Soul focuses only on the facts, with a few cherry-picked screencaps from the anime that may or may not be the best picks from each episode to help advance the story.
Bleach: Immortal Soul is available on Android and Apple iOS devices.