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Bleach Complete Series 14 [Episodes 266-316]

Ichigo and his friends resume their battle with the Arrancar in the 14th Complete Collection of the adaptation of Tite Kubo's hugely popular Shonen Jump manga Bleach. Ichigo fights to rescue Orihime, while the rest of the Soul Reapers try their best to protect Karakura Town from Aizen's  Arrancar Army's invasion.

Any fan of long-running anime adapted from still on-going manga is very familiar with the idea of filler. In order to allow the original creator to get ahead in the story, the producers of the anime will insert stories that are not in the original source material. Although these episodes- or often entire arcs- may be perfectly entertaining in their own right, there's no denying that they don't move the main story forward, which can leave fans feeling peeved.  Bleach is no exception. In fact, the timing of the filler material in this series can be particularly frustrating, sometimes even leaving you hanging mid-battle. Luckily, however, season 14 (previously released in two half-season sets) gets us right back into the main story arc.

This season features the culmination of a long-running storyline that started all the way back in season 6. So to say that fans have been waiting for this for a long time would be something of an understatement.

We're glad to say that it doesn't disappoint and this season features some of the most spectacular action set-pieces seen in the series to date. Bleach can always be relied on to deliver on the action front, so this is not really surprising. However Ichigo's ultimate showdown with Aizen has been a long time coming, and it feels suitably epic. The stakes feel appropriately high as this particular storyline heads to it's long-awaited conclusion. Thanks to some excellent character work throughout the show's run, the action isn't just flashy and shallow, but feels dramatically engaging too. And as with the best shonen anime, it's not just action for the sake of it- but actually drives the story forward.

It wouldn't be Bleach without lighter moments as well. The heavier, dramatic world-in-peril stuff is balanced with much lighter, funnier moments that makes sure it never gets too dark.

By now fans will know what to expect from the show visually. The action looks awesome,(and is accompanied by an excellent soundtrack as always) and the designs- based on those found in Kubo's original manga- are pretty great across the board. At other times (particularly in quieter moments) the animation can sometimes look a little wonky, and character's off-model, but this is par-for-the-course in long-running TV anime. But the story and characters all carry it through.

It's not core story here all the way though- as this set does also contain a handful of standalone filler episodes- including the traditional New Year special. However most of them take place after the story proper wraps up- and after the hugely dramatic events of this particular volume, the light-hearted more comedic stories that make up most of these episodes actually come as a welcome change of pace. Taken on their own these episodes are highly watchable in their own right, and give you a chance to have fun with characters you love.

Overall then it might not be quite a case of "all killer no filler", but what's here is more than enough to make it a must watch for any Bleach fan. Easily one of the best Seasons of Bleach so far.

BLEACH COMPLETE SEASON 14 is available now on DVD from  KAZE/MANGA ENTERTAINMENT in the UK and VIZ in the US. Also streaming on CRUNCHYROLL.