Recovering from his epic battle with the monstrous Kenpachi Zaraki, Ichigo is faced with the prospect that he has to step up his game if he is ever going to rescue Rukia from her prison. To become a soul Reaper captain, Bankai needs to mastered. Bankai is the ability to enhance the power of the soul Reaper's Zanpakto (weapon), making it change form. (An analogy of this could be the transition to super Saiyan in the Dragonball series in which appearance is changed and power is increased). Having only just survived his encounter with Zaraki, Ichigo soon starts his training to unlock the Bankai power in his own Zanpakto.
Meanwhile, there is chaos in the Seretei (soul Reaper HQ) of the Soul Society as the Soul Reaper Captain Aizen has been murdered. Now, not only do the Soul Reaper's have to worry about Ichigo and his gang, but there is also a traitor within the ranks. As trust starts to dwindle, the Soul Reaper's soon begin to turn on eachother in an explosive start to series 3.
Series 3 of Bleach continues the Soul Society story arc and is known as 'the rescue' section of the story. If you have enjoyed the plot and characters so far then you will be happy with this installment as this series carries the style and likeability of the previous two series' over seamlessly. You will get a chance to see some more of the Soul Reapers such as the Menacing squad 12 captain, Mayuri Kurotsuchi who faces up against the quincy, Uryu Ishida in order to capture him and use him as a guinea pig in his despicable experiments. If there is one character up to this point that you will hate, then it is this guy as he is as disgusting and dislikeable as they come. Another new character is the mysterious Kaname Tosen who shows off some cool Zanpakto powers that make it's victims enter a world where their sense of sight and sound are rendered useless.
Once again there is the usual Bleach humour which grounds the series a bit and adds a lighthearted layer to the story and characters. Unlike many other anime, Bleach is often laugh out loud funny with the feline turned sexy female, Yoruichi causing some awkwardness for Ichigo due to the fact that she often forgets to put on clothes after being a cat for so long...A fair amount of blushing and speech loss ensues on Ichigo's part.
The animation continues to be of a high standard, with some nice CGI in the action scenes, coupled with some lovely traditional artwork. The studio who created Bleach is the acclaimed studio Pierrot who created the Naruto and E's Otherwise animes
If you have never seen Bleach, you are missing out one of the most enjoyable and addictive Japanese animes of recent. The style and entertainment value that each episode offers is of such a high quality that it is difficult not to watch several episodes in one go. I got the same feeling as previous releases once series 3 part 1 finished. This feeling was excitement and also disappointment at the realistaion that I have to wait for the next release to continue the rich and entertaining story that is Bleach. This 3 disc set contains a further 12 episodes (42 - 53). The next release will be a 2 disc set and will finish off the soul society arc. After that, there is the movie and the start of series 4 to look forward to. But until then, enjoy series 3 part 1. It's brilliant!