The fourth season of the hit fantasy-adventure Bleach begins the first story arc not based on Tite Kubo's original manga. After returning home from their battles in the Seireitei, Ichigo and his friends Chad, Orihime, and Ishida find themselves tormented by Lirin, Kurodo, and Nova, three nasty, game-playing spirits. As the plot begins to thicken, Urahara tells Ichigo he must grow stronger to face the challenges that await him. Ichigo and the gang, plus Rukia, Renji, Kon, and the three new spirits (now housed in stuffed animals), face off against the Bounts, deathless vampirelike creatures who feed off human souls. Kyoraku, their staggeringly powerful leader, plans to use Ishida's Quincy powers to reach the Hueco Mundo, the realm of the Hollows, for some nefarious purpose. Ichigo charges in to aid Ishida, who lost his magical abilities during the conflicts in the Soul Society, and the usual swordplay and slapstick ensue. Ichigo and his friends remain as entertaining as ever and Noriyuki Abe directs with his customary panache, but season 4 of Bleach lacks much of the excitement and humor of the previous adventures. The first story lines pitted an increasingly formidable Ichigo against monstrous Hollows and the flamboyant captains and lieutenants of the Soul Society. The new continuity spends too much time on the less-interesting Ishida, the effortfully comic Kon, and the rather obnoxious new characters. Bleach fans will want to add this set to their collections, but even hard-core otaku will notice the drop in quality. (Rated "Teen," suitable for ages 13 and older: violence, violence against women, grotesque imagery, alcohol and tobacco use, risqué humor).