Ah, Tite Kubo's Bleach. The delightfully popular shonen with many interesting characters, abilities and factions of soldiers. Considering the sheer bureaucracy of the groups, you'd expect there to be impressive strategies and tactics incorporating the great variation of abilities in series, would you not?
In a word, no.
In Bleach almost every sword fight will end with one character severely injuring or incapacitating their opponent. You'd Expect: The winner would finish off the loser, or at the very least, check to make sure they're actually dead. Instead: The winner will always make some snide comment about how badly the loser was beaten, and leave them for dead.
Early in the manga, before Aizen's treachery was known, he faked his death and left his lieutenant Hinamori a letter claiming that her childhood friend Hitsugaya had turned traitor and was planning to use the Sokyoku to destroy Soul Society. The letter ends with Aizen claiming that he intends to confront Hitsugaya and if he dies he wants Hinamori to stop Hitsugaya herself. You'd Expect: Hinamori, being someone intelligent and competent enough to make lieutenant, to realize the following facts. The letter was given to her by Matsumotonote Hitsugaya's lieutenant with Hitsugaya's permission even though if Hitsugaya was the murderer he would have destroyed the letter. In the letter Aizen never mentions sharing his fears with the other captains and allegedly is about to confront some at captain level on his own. No one noticed the kind of power that two captains fighting would have released. Aizen was asking someone at lieutenant level to fight someone at captain level when he should have known she would have no chance of victory. What Aizen claims in the letter is not remotely within Hitsugaya's character, which Hinamori should know from the long time she's spent with him even before he became a shinigami. Ultimately Hinamori should have concluded that even if the letter was originally from Aizen there was a good chance that it had been altered. She would then go to the proper authorities and report all of this. Instead: Hinamori not only concludes that the letter must be genuine but also decides to attack Hitsugaya on her own without even warning anyone about the contents of the letter. While believing that Hitsugaya is a casual murderer planning to destroy all of Soul Society and having no reason to believe that he would hold back against her. The Result: She accomplishes absolutely nothing except to give Hitsugaya a headache and to further Aizen's plans to convince Hitsugaya that Gin was responsible for everything.
Aizen has escaped into Hueco Mundo and subjugated the numerous and powerful Hollows there to do his bidding, bringing with him knowledge of Soul Society due to his tenure as Captain. You'd Expect: The Arrancar to smash the Soul Reapers with their superior numbers and abilities, exploiting the weaknesses of Aizen's former comrades. In turn, the Soul Reapers, who we are told got stronger since last time they fought Aizen's goons, would fight together at once and not let their pride hold them back. Thus, both sides would trounce each other at full strength before the other becomes a major threat. Instead: The fights are all one on one; the strongest Arrancar just sit and watch their enforcers fight the Soul Reapers, and don't even step in till they're all dead. Meanwhile, all but one Soul Reaper draws out their fight for nothing more than pride. They nearly die because of it. Head Captain Yamamoto, meanwhile, who could likely wipe out almost all enemies in one strike, only steps in in after he lets FIVE straight Lieutenants nearly be killed, and complains the entire time. With the exception of the Magnificent Bastard, each side seems to be doing every possible action to lose this war.
Yamamoto is apparently the strongest shinigami in existence. You'd Expect: Yamamoto destroying all Arrancars instantly before focusing all the Gotei 13's power on Aizen. Instead: Yamamoto decides to do nothing at all getting five lieutenants almost killed before showing his superb power. He then proceeds to do nothing again until all captains were curb-stomped by Aizen. Actually, Yamamoto could have easily annihilated all the Arrancars before Wonderweiss arrived and he could have then proceeded to defeat Aizen. Granted, he did not know that Wonderweiss could seal his power so there was no reason for him to fear his arrival but there is also no reason for him to do nothing at all.
Some of the characters in Bleach are rididulously overpowered. You'd Expect: Yamamoto could have single-handedly defeat all of the enemies. In Hueco Mundo, Unohana should just kill all the Espadas in the shortest time possible. During times of war, quick victories are important. Instead: They don't do anything. Seriously, why would you send out lieutenants to fight any of the Espadas when they are clearly inferior? What is the purpose of letting Rukia and Renji go to Hueco Mundo? Wouldn't it be smarter for just Mayuri and Unohana to go? Unohana can kill everyone with ease while Mayuri opens the gate for Ichigo. Why even bother letting Byakuya, Kenpachi, and Mayuri fight when Unohana could have curb-stomped all of them to the ground? Is there any reason for Isshin, Urahara, and Yoruichi to show up so late in the fight against Aizen? Why why why would you waste time watching people far weaker than you fight for so long when you could have easily ended everything?
Yamamoto orders Byakuya and Kenpachi Zaraki to bring Rukia and Renji back to the Soul Society with whatever force necessary when Rukia and Renji wanted to go to Hueco Mundo. You'd Expect: Byakuya to do so. Instead: Actually he does take them back but then makes some stupid line about there's no order about them leaving the Soul Society again which means Rukia and Renji are free to go to Hueco Mundo. While the sentiment is nice, the strategy is incredibly stupid. Renji, being a lieutenant, and Rukia, not even a lieutenant, are completely outclassed by the Espadas. Rukia manages to kill one but ends up almost dying anyways while Renji completely got curb stomped. In the end, Byakuya, Kenpachi Zaraki, as well as Mayuri and Unohana had to go save them. Byakuya letting them go to Hueco Mundo, a place where there are captain class Espadas, is literally the equivalent of sending them to death.
Aizen and Shinji, among others, have Superpower Lottery abilities that basically make them impossible to beat without knowing what the mechanism behind their skills is. You'd Expect: These people would shut their mouths and exploit their advantages. Instead: They explain, in needless detail, exactly what their abilities do, essentially telling their opponents how to get around them. Oftentimes they will do this entirely unprompted, and Shinji gets bonus points for doing it before attacking (he did leave out one detail, but then explained that, too). In Shinji's case, he got a decent sword wound for his idiocy.
Then there's two Arrancar, Loly and Menoly, whom Aizen assigns to bring Orihime to an audience with him. The two develop an instant dislike of their captive and attempt to kill her, but are thwarted by Grimmjow's Kick the Son of a Bitch moment. A little while later, Orihime shows them some mercy by bringing them back to full capacity... You'd Expect: That the two of them thank Orihime for her kindness by swearing off their vendetta against her. After all, both are deathly afraid of Aizen, and would not like it when he's angry. Or even if they don't thank her, since her power makes her look like a monster in their view, they could still keep themselves away from her if only to avoid trouble with Aizen. Instead: The two wait until Grimmjow's not looking, and during Ichigo's battle with Ulquiorra, attempt to kill Orihime again. In case the previous sentence did not fully compute, it must be emphasized that they do this during the battle when the two are literally in the same room. This earns them scorn from Ulquiorra and Yammy, the latter of whom beats them to a pulp just for being there. Anyone else sense a round three coming up?
Let us not forget the infamous incident early in the "Rescue Orihime" arc, where Ichigo and friends come to a series of different passageways in Las Noches, and have to decide where to go. You'd Expect: them to pick one pathway (since they don't know where any of them lead), and stick together. After all, they're in the middle of an enemy hide-out they know nothing about, the enemy has superior numbers (and superior firepower on a one-to-one basis), and since it's a rescue mission, they need to get Orihime and get the hell out of dodge—which would be delayed if they had to go tracking down scattered team members. Instead: They split up due to comments from Rukia and Renji about "warriors not fearing death" (never mind that they're on a rescue mission, not to get into Epic Fights... in-universe, that is), something that is so idiotic that Ichigo (of all people) points out how stupid an idea it is. Yet everybody goes along with it, and the exactly predictable happens - they get split up, and attacked separately. The only thing that saves them is that Aizen, instead of simply overwhelming them with his superior numbers and firepower, sets them up in one-on-one battles, most likely because his motive is to draw other Soul Reapers into his trap using Ichigo and friends as bait.
Urahara knew Aizen would take an interest in Orihime's powers as a means to activate the dormant Hogyoku. You'd Expect: Mister Hat And Clogs would explain to her up front what Aizen no doubt has planned for her and insist that she stay at his shop where, if Aizen's mooks come to get her, they'll first have to contend with him, Yoruichi, Tessai, Ururu, Jinta, Renji, and Chad. Instead: He makes her feel useless because her one and only means of attack broke, prompting her to go off to one of the Vizards to get it repaired, go to the Soul Society to train with Rukia, and then get kidnapped on the way back to the world of the living. All the while, he didn't so much as keep tabs on her whereabouts and/or status.
Shinji's idiocy in revealing his powers deserves a double mention. Shinji reveals his shikai, which Aizen has never seen and can screw with senses as much as Aizen's can. Oh, he also gets probably the first clean hit on the Big Bad in the series. You'd Expect: Shinji to use this fact to his advantage, say nothing about what it does, and attack Aizen the second he releases it. Then in the few seconds Aizen is trying to put two and two together about Shinji's abilities, Shinji cuts his head off and ends the series. Instead: Shinji merely explains every last detail to Aizen, which lets the guy figure out how to counter Shinji's powers and grievously injure Shinji in return. Also, when Shinji gets the first blow on Aizen, having at least had the common sense to leave out one detail of his power, he aims for the freaking shoulder to screw around with Aizen a bit!
Shinji's stupidity in revealing his powers deserves a third mention. He has just hit Aizen and has explained the only thing at the moment that Aizen didn't know about his powers, and the only thing keeping Aizen from beating him. But as we learn later he has another ability he has yet to use, that he can pick and choose what sense is reversed. You'd Expect: He use that third ability, Aizen just showed he adapts quickly to change, but only if he knows about it first. By using this ability he could Mind Screw Aizen and kill him before he catches on. Instead: He doesn't use the ability at all, because he assumes Aizen won't be able to adapt to the change to his senses. He thinks this although not but a page before, Aizen had correctly guessed where Shinji was and the only reason why Aizen didn't cut Shinji down was the trick that he had just went out of his way to explain.
Aizen has Story Breaker Power illusion abilities. He can control your sense to any degree. You'd Expect: Blind everybody with pain/deafening noise or just blind them then lop their heads off. Instead: Aizen goes about plotting to send other people to try to lop their heads off, and he doesn't even use his abilities on a regular basis.
During Byakuya's fight with Zommari You'd Expect: Zommari to simply attack Byakuya, kill Rukia, kill Hanataro, and leave, right? Instead: Zommari explains each of his attacks to Byakuya, including the total number of items/body parts/whatever he can control. What a freaking idiot!
The treatment of Orihime upon the discovery of what her powers are in a nutshell and that relate to her emotions being all that separate her from being a Physical Goddess. You'd Expect: Every allied group be they Ichigo's crew, the Soul Society, Urahara and/or especially the Visored since Hachi outright states their powers are similar despite their racial differences would consider her the utmost valuable person in existence and work with her to develop her powers, and help her overcome her own pacifistic mindset to be able to help out her friends in battle, especially since Orihime swore that she wouldn't be a burden to her friends. Instead: All of the characters do everything in their power to keep her out of battle, and she remains stuck on the sidelines for most of the series, all the talk about how powerful she could be amounts to nothing more than super-healing and defensive shields.
Another idiot moment during Zommari's fight: Zommari's 2nd form allows him to control anything he marks with one of his eyes. He states that if he marks someone's head, he gets complete control of their body. You'd Expect: Zommari simply nails Byakuya in the head with the ability at the start of the battle, for a one hit kill. Instead: For no adequately explained reason, he aims for Byakuya's arm and leg first, giving Byakuya time to figure out a way around the technique.
Ichigo and his allies have just found out where Orihime is being kept and which Espada is guarding her. This Espada, Ulquiorra, is one of the strongest in Aizen's army and previously killed Ichigo without breaking a sweat. You'd Expect: That Ichigo would stay as far away as possible and have the four captains and four vice-captains with him attack Ulquiorra eight-to-one while someone else sneaks in and quietly steals Orihime away. After all, they are here to rescue her. Instead:Ichigo charges in by himself after telling everyone to stay out of it, boasts to Ulquiorra that he's going to win despite all the evidence pointing elsewhere, and upon finding the guy's Berserk Button, proceeds to stomp on it. And gets killed again. Also of Note:Nobody even tries to stop Ichigo from going through with this, even though he's one of their best chances to stop Aizen; instead they advocate his "plan", because Ichigo's The Hero and is thus automatically entitled to win the fight. Heck, even Ishida comes to assist Ichigo but he just lets him continue fighting one-on-one while Inoue and him are... No idea.
Fourth Espada Ulquiorra has a second release that would be an invaluable weapon against the Shinigami. You'd Expect: That he would tell Aizen about it, show off, and get the war over with. Instead: He hides it from his commander, potentially putting his life in danger for lying. This is one of the many things that screws the Arrancars over, not to mention the jarring fact that out of the entire army of hollows that Aizen commands, Ulquiorra is arguably one of THE smartest (so far only inferior in brains to Szayel) hollows.
Zanpakuto FillerArc Villain Muramasa comes to the world of the living. Orihime sees him there and goes to him, and not only does she reveal in the ensuing conversation that she knows he's Ichigo's enemy, but Uryu and Chad are backing her up in the shadows. CLEARLY they've been expecting him. You'd Expect: Orihime to call Chad and Uryu over, or them to tell her to get out of the way, leading to them coming out and finishing Muramasa then and there. Instead: Orihime heals the man she knows is the enemy, and Chad and Uryu don't even come out until after he's gotten up and attacked her. The Result:A complete asshole is freed from a stabbed and chained coffin.
In the same filler arc Byakuya knows what Muramasa's goal is almost from the start. He is one of the only two Shinigami in Soul Society to know what it isnote the other, Yamamoto, is currently imprisoned by Muramasa and incapable of telling anyone. He also knows that Muramasa might be able to get the information he needs to find Koga from Yamamoto very soon. You'd Expect: At the very least that Byakuya would take the chance to warn the other Shinigami what Muramasa's real goal is and that Byakuya is only pretending to be a traitor. Instead: Byakuya doesn't tell anyone (not even the Shinigami in charge of intelligence) what's going on and so not only prevents Soul Society from putting guards in place but also runs the risk of getting himself killed by his allies, meaning that no one opposed to Muramasa would have a chance to stop him. The Result: Muramasa finds Koga unopposed when it would have been simple for Byakuya or a Shinigami like Yoruichi or Suifen to just lie in waiting and kill Muramasa (who was very weak at the time) and the entire town of Karakura is nearly wiped out. All because of Byakuya's pride and inability to remember he's part of a larger military organization and not supposed to be a loner.
Ivan Azgiaro unleashes an onslaught against Ichigo, attacking him relentlessly and stating the only way Ichigo could ever hope to beat him is by using his Bankai. It's so blatantly obvious that he's goading him that even Ichigo himself realizes that Ivan is goading him into using his Bankai for some reason, so... You'd Expect: Ichigo to tell Ivan to screw off and continue to fight with his Shikai, not falling in Ivan's plan. Instead:HE FREAKIN' USES HIS BANKAI and almost has the damn thing stolen from him. The Result:It is not stolen because of unknown factors, and Ichigo tries to find answers from Ivan before he transports himself away.
Minor example: so, you are a foot soldier for Vandenreich and your leader tasks you with very important job—deliver the war declaration to Soul Society. Well, it's dangerous mission, but hey, you got mooks to back you up. You'd Expect: Do your job and get the hell out. Instead: You set the date for invasion, even though you weren't told to do so. Yeah, lowliest grunt makes essential decisions for his boss. Although it doesn't change much at all, and could even deceive Yamamoto, if he wasn't genre savvy, it still gets Luders killed by The Emperor.
Chapter 496: Now that the invasion is full force, a few of the Captains (Byakuya, Toshiro, Soi Fon, and Komamura) now are getting involved in the battle, knowing full well of their anti-bankai abilities. You'd Expect: They would take Sasakibe's warning to heart and fight with a combination of cunning, kidos, and skill. Instead:THEY USED THEIR BANKAIS!!! Not only they made the mistake in assuming it seals them, but they get their powers stolen from them, making a few of the villains more powerful than they already were given some were One-Man Army strong and wiped out half of any given division. This is the most crowning What an Idiot moment in Bleach given who in particular was involved. Sorry, you aren't Ichigo.
They recognize the enemy has an unknown Anti-Bankai ability but that Bankai is needed to be strong enough to win. You'd Expect: They'd use careful strategy to understand the enemy's powers, using weaker or conventional bankai (like Renji's or Komamura's) to draw out the enemy's powers while saving stronger bankai as their ace in the hole after coming up with a counter strategy. Or using Bankai one at a time to allow more time for observation, using multiple captains against strong enemies, using Kenpachi who's strong without Bankai as their ace, or any other strategy. Instead: Multiple captains use their Bankai at the same time without any attempt for communication, depowering several captains at once. Also while Renji's Bankai is significantly weaker than Byakuya's, and Byakuya being more skilled in combat, an able Kido-user, and a far more intellectual fighter, and thus more likely to get an advantage from observing an opponent's tactics, it's he who sacrifices his bankai to allow Renji to observe the fight.
Chapter 497: Renji has just seen that the Vandenreich can steal their opponent's bankai. You'd Expect: Him to not use his bankai. Instead: He uses his bankai. Why are you a lieutenant again, Renji? Also of Note: Thanks to Byakuya, Renji averts this trope in time, but he then argues with Byakuya for stopping him from using it and asks how they can win without bankai, because apparently shikai and kido don't matter anymore. Not only was Renji considering his bankai, he doesn't seem to pay much attention to Byakuya's lack of stoicism behavior as a cue that he should really pay attention.
Chapter 502: Byakuya's bankai has been stolen and is now being used against him. You'd Expect: Renji to do what Byakuya told him to do and try to figure out a way to get it back. Instead: He not only tries to interfere, he tries to use his bankai. The sheer idiocy he displays here is even lampshaded by their opponent.
Here's one for the whole of Soul Society. The Soul Society is, for all intents and purposes, a military organization. Over the course of the series, they have faced three separate invasions (Ichigo and his friends in the Soul Society Arc, the Winter War, and now the Vandenreich Invasion). In the first two cases, they faced a small invasion force made up of a few strong warriors instead of a full army. It seems that every major invasion up to this point has been preparation for the Vandenreich Invasion. You'd Expect: The Soul Society would learn from its past invasions, establish a real chain of command, coordination between the captains, and reorganized the Court Guard Squads into a real professional army that can operate together as a combined unit. Instead: The Soul Society remains one of the most ineptly run military organizations in manga. There is no coordination between the captains (according to background info, its a rare occasion that all the captains even attend their meetings), they lack any coherent chain of command outside their squads, and even their squads seem to have inconsistent command, each battalion is treated more like their captain's personal bodyguard rather than a military unit, and even when they have time to prepare, their forces completely fall apart when pressed too hard and they seem to lack even the semblance of a plan. This lack of coordination culminates when four captains USE THEIR BANKAIS, when it is known that the enemy can nullify them in some way, when only one sacrifice would have sufficed. Their bureau on research issues all of their orders and information and Yamamoto, their leader, didn't issue one order.
Chapter 505: Yamamoto goes to save Shuuhei from one of the Vandenreich, Driscoll, who was also the one who killed his lieutenant. You'd Expect: Driscoll would keep his mouth shut and either run away or fight Yamamoto as cautiously as possible. Instead:He boasts about killing Chojiro, then tries using his bankai to kill Yamamoto. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle.
Chapter 506: Yammamoto is about to confront Yhwach. You'd Expect: Everybody stay the hell out and let the big guys do their thing. Instead: Bazz-B, Nanana and As Nodt try to ambush Old Man Genocide. No points for guessing how it works out for them. It's especially painful in Nodt's case, who earlier proved to be capable and cunning villain. In the end, he doesn't even bother using Byakuya's Bankai or his Scarecrow style powers against Soul Society's most dangerous man.
Soul Society appears to get dumber as the series continues. Kyoraku decides to make their best healer Unohana train Kenpachi Zaraki for an upcoming battle, since it turns out she's the person he admired the most as a boy AND a powerful Dark Action Girl. You'd Expect: Her to train him to properly fight and unlock more of his power, then take to the battlefield alongside him so that she can back up the other Shinigami and provide healing support. Instead: They make it a Duel to the Death''. This costs Unohana's life meaning that the Soul Society is out one powerful captain replaced by a slightly more powerful captain, instead of two super combatants that few of the Quincies could match in battle. Unohana's healing skills are also gone, meaning the Soul Society is more likely than not screwed if they get massacred again.
Another one for Soul Society! After being defeated like the idiots they are for using Bankai despite warnings, Soul Society's Shinigamis prepare for the next fight against the Quincy. You'd Expect: People to follow Hitsugaya's example and practise the basics. Instead: Kensei forces Hisagi to use his Bankai. Looks like the blood loss really affected him.
Bazz-B is not happy with Yhwach's choice of successor. Specially because he is friends with Haschwalth, whom everyone thinks as the biggest candidate of You'd Expect: Eager support of your Emperor's choice while imagining all sorts of nasty things. Instead: He shouts at Yhwach and rushes to the podium, only to be stopped by Haschwalth. Thankfully for Bazz-B, he's still in one piece when Yhwach just shuts him up. Later, Bazz-B is still mad and tries to enter Emperor's chambers to bitch about how Uryuu is not good enough to lead Vandenreich. Again, Haschwalth stops him. Also of note, this is the guy who tried to ambush the late Old Man Genocide. So yeah.
Nanao develops a kido that prevents Quincy powers from working in a given area, albeit temporarily. You'd Expect: Her to have taught this to literally every Shinigami capable of using kido with any skill. Instead: She teaches absolutely no one this perfect counter to their current enemy. The Result: The Sternritter are rather easily curb-stomping them again!
Shinji activates Sakanade, skewing Bambietta's senses, and even reversing his words so that she can't understand him. You'd Expect: Him to take the chance to kill her, considering she's getting hit with Sakanade far worse than Aizen was, and can't make so much as a counterattack. Instead: He proceeds to sit there and talk to her, despite even saying he's reversing his words. The Result: She, as well as the rest of the Quincy, proceed to activate their Quincy: Vollständig, while Shinji could have finished her off and removed one soldier from the fray. In the next chapter, she hits him with an explosion.
In a similar vein, Komamura is there when Shinji activates Sakanade. You'd Expect: Him to be smarter than Shinji and attack Bambietta while she's vulnerable. After all, she had killed numerous redshirts in front of him during the last invasion, and he knows how dangerous she is. Instead: He just stands there, does nothing and says nothing. The Result: Once Bambietta has activated Vollstandig, she takes out Shinji, a captain and one of Gotei's strongest fighters, with a fireball. What could have been a 2 vs. 1 battle is now 1 vs. 1.
Shuhei recovers enough to try attacking Mask De Masculine? when he is about to leave to go see what fell from the sky. You'd Expect: Him to attack Mask's smaller companion due to Mask being invincible if he has a supporter cheer for him. Instead: He wraps a chain around Mask and is pulled in to get stomped before Kensei and Rose show up and prevent him from getting stomped, leading to him failing to warn Kensei and Rose about Mask being invincible just as Mask is being restored by his fan. The Result: Kensei is launched into a tower while Rose is the only person around capable of fighting Mask, making Mask pretty much unbeatable instead of a Zero-Effort Boss as Rose and Kensei could've taken Mask and his fan out at the same time if Hisagi had spoken up earlier.
Rose activates Bankai and is genuinely about to win, as Mask de Masculine has no idea how his powers are working. You'd Expect: Rose to keep his mouth shut, continue his little concert and destroy Mask de Masculine, ridding the Soul Society of another Quincy headache. Instead: Rose completely rebukes Mask's fears of him possessing a dual-element Zanpakuto and outlines exactly how his powers work and what he controls (music). The Result: Mask crushes his eardrums, rendering him deaf, and this allows him to overpower Rose, leaving him with a giant hole in his chest.
Gremmy vs Kenpachi. Gremmy has the ability to alter reality just by imagining it. He has displayed the ability to alter his opponent if he wants. You'd think: He'd imagine Kenpachi's brain was made of cookies or something. Instead: He just tanks Kenpachi's attacks and gloats about how awesome his power is while trying to stall Kenpachi with physical obstacles. End result: Gremmy starts to believe Kenpachi is an unbeatable monster and decides to try and match him physically by imagining himself to be stronger. Because he can't imagine something stronger than what he believes Kenpachi to be, he dies in a Superpower Meltdown. Bonus points for Kenpachi literally saying "What an idiot."