An initially promising franchise, Bleach jumped the shark with the speed and grace of an Olympic athlete. I could only watch with awe and admiration as initially interesting themes and characters gave way to power rankings and dozen-chapter standoffs. As the series energetically shed the core tether to reliability essential to quality fantasy (let alone competent character development), I realized I was witnessing something special. I was watching an entity implode, while the numbers only went up.
Needless to say, I was entranced by the reader reaction. The series attracts a certain breed of fan that is just self-aware enough to be a great case study: they can see the cracks in the armor, but seem to believe all it needs is a coat of paint. Think of it as the animated equivalent of an abusive relationship. As the Soul Society slowly put Namek to shame, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. A sound that only got louder at the climax of the Arrancar nonsense, as the series slipped ever-closer to the dubious award of “Dragonball with fashion sense”. Unless Naruto’s creator suddenly starts attending fashion school, I expect Bleach to take home the gold.
The fascinating thing is that it got worse from there.
The main villain has evolved into a hilarious caricature of himself. It’s flanderization at mach speed. One can only stare in amazement as the somewhat-likeable master plotter/illusionist gradually shifted into omniscient master of gambits inconceivable by the theoretical lovechild of Batman and Xanatos. I suspect that the man may have found reality’s cheat codes.
There are two scenarios in my view. The first is that the author simply doesn’t care, an idea that I can certainly respect. Far be it for me to criticize soaking in the disposable income of the easily entertained. The second is that the man takes himself and this work with deadly gravity, in which case I can only imagine the cognitive dissonance. Either way, it’s become something of a weekly circus, which I might recommend for all the wrong reasons.This, my friends, is how to go out like a supernova.