Reviews: Hogyoku ex Machina

A time-travel pemise that, by virtue of creativity and originality, actually works

It's difficult to really say what makes this fic so good - in a clear manner - without a great risk of spoiling the plot. The story is crammed with twists and turns, which when combined with excellent characterisation and meticulous plotting make for a surprisingly compelling read.

First of all, sending both the hero and the enemy back throws things completely out of whack. There's no pretending or Stealth Mentoring - Ichigo reveals everything to Soul Society and his friends from the start and prepares to fight Aizen himself to avoid the coming Winter War. Oh ... and he gives details about the anime fillers too, but in a good way.

The characterisation is a major draw. The way in which Ichigo rebuilds/strengthens/re-invents his friendships with others is often unexpected, but never bad: for instance, his interactions with Toshiro (which involve the 2nd movie) are really well done; and on the other hand, his convos with other characters like Soifon, Yamamoto, Nemu, etc. really add to the characters' depths and development, in often unexpected ways.

Be prepared for Wham Episodes galore - Chapter 2 may be one of the best examples ever, anywhere (I'm not exaggerating). Not everything goes according to Ichigo's plans - partly due to Aizen, but also (mostly) because of things he doesn't know. But his presence sets in some great changes - for example, Gin Ichimaru does a Heel Face Turn, and also Muramasa's fate. Not to mention how the author actually comes up with explanations for many some plot aspects Tite Kubo never bothered to answer - and they goddamn WORK.

The author is a master of Mood Whiplash, as evidenced by some surprise endings and the seemlessness with which the overall emotions changed. The are plenty of Awesome Moments, interspersed with Heartwarming Moments, Funny Moments and Tear Jerker moments, and not one feels out of place in context.

Most importantly, this story simply feels like Bleach. Rather than focusing on Token Romance and Ass Pull plot twists, everything works in the context of the show (at least up until Chapter 422, but that's irrelevant). The fic elicts a myriad of emotions in the reader, and every second is worth it, not one wasted.

Whole-heartedly recommended - never has a Time-travel fic been done so well or - for that matter - so right.