The desire for resurrection–or at least bodies–animates, so to speak, the main stories in this volume, which is bringing back all the memories of the compelling parts of the Bleach anime.
This volume focuses on two main stories: the continuation and conclusion of the parakeet story from the end of Volume 1 and the origin of Kon–a “defective soul.” The first story, about the parakeet, is so far the most fighting-heavy plotline, with many of the standard shounen fighting setups: enemies powering up with a “secret weapon” (the leechbombs in this case), the hero Ichigo coming in near the last minuet etc. The heart of the story, the boy trapped in a parakeet’s body because he wanted to see his mother brought back to life by the Hollowed-out serial killer, almost seems like an afterthought in the way it’s portrayed, at least compared to what I remember from the anime. It becomes an opportunity for the Hollow to show off his sadism more than anything else, and perhaps to introduce the idea that there is, in fact, a Hell in this universe. For some reason, I remember the anime being more poignant and moving at the point where they perform the konsou on the parakeet; it’s supposed to be another metaphor for being able to move on with death. It reminds me, of course, of the initial setup for Fullmetal Alchemist, though that story is far darker and more detailed in working out the implications of trying to resurrect mothers.
Kon’s story, of course, is mostly humorous, but even there the subtext of a cast-off soul looking for a body is present. It’s why Kon ultimately can’t stand killing even ants, because he’s acutely aware of the position he himself is in–unwanted, an accident who was supposed to be slated for elimination. He’s thus the first character who faces actual annihilation, not merely death and passing into the Soul Society or to Hell. His soul is saved, literally, by the end–only to be transferred into the most unlikely of bodies (as I and anyone who’s gone further into the story knows). Bleach presents a fairly dualistic world here, with a sharp division between soul and body, especially as this story also hinges on Ichigo himself having “out of body” experiences in order to boost his spiritual power as a Soul Reaper–and watching his actual physical body taken over by someone else. The identity crisis is handled in a funny way, of course, but in a way it’s a natural issue that comes up when one considers death and dying: is the body all there is?; how do we live on if we do;, etc. Metaphysical matters.
The next volume deals with some of the most personal and trying aspects of death, on an intensely personal level for our protagonist. So the march continues.