Substitute [1996]

Director: Robert Mandel
Stars: Tom Berenger, Raymond Cruz, William Forsythe, Luis Guzmán, Richard Brooks (VI)
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 114 minutes

As Bleach continues, the tone careens from farcical to surprsingly poignant, and director Noriyuke Abe makes it all work. Chad, Ichigo's musclebound ox of a pal, parts with his cockatiel, as Ichigo helps the soul of small boy pass over. Rukia gives Ichigo a magic pill (from a PEZ-like dispenser) that should create a place-holder soul to manage his body while Ichigo's real spirit battles soul-devouring Hollows. But the pill contains one of the last surviving "Mod Souls"--and Ichigo ends up fighting himself to get his body back. He sticks the pill into a plush lion toy, and inadvertently creates the pesky sidekick Kon. The mood darkens when Ichigo faces the anniversary of his mother's death, which he believes he caused. While he grieves, Rukia confronts a stealth agent from the Soul Society and a Hollow attacks Ichigo's sisters. This singular mixture of pathos and slapstick has made Bleach a hit in Japan and America.(Unrated, suitable for ages 13 and older: violence, grotesque imagery) --Charles Solomon

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