Kubo Tite is perhaps the most brilliant character creator in his racket. A genius that is sadly eclipsed, however, by his utter ineptitude in the creation of a cohesive central plot. Indeed, were Mr. Kubo asked to write a short story about a train robbery, the finished product would likely tell us everything there is to know about the conductor's favorite food, a random passenger's philosophy on life, and the romantic history of the old man sleeping in the corner, but would ultimately fail to tell a proper story of robbery. So it is that we have his opus, Bleach, which is, perhaps, the most "love it or hate it" title in all of shonen jump. Its core storyline has gone through a number of evolutions, which I will try my best to recount, based upon my own observation of the events. There was a first storyarc, which centered around a supernaturally powerful teenager named Ichigo, who becomes roped through a twist of fate into becoming his town's guardian from a race of malevolent ghosts known as hollows. The events of this arc were light and episodic, introducing readers to what it means to be a shinigami (as the hollow hunting guardians are known) in a slice-of-life style. the second storyarc explored the world of the shinigami, told a story of betrayal and power, and left readers at an emotional peak. It was followed by the third and current arc which, as near as I can understand, is all about how cool the shinigami are, and how adept they are at giving morally ambiguous speeches when they slaughter foes who never really stood a chance against them. The single error Kubo commits as a writer is to prioritize character development over motion of the plot. With smaller casts, this would only result in a small drawing out, but considering the legendary size of Bleach's universe, it means that the plot typically freezes for dozens of chapters at a time while the same span of time is shown from multiple character's views, a'la "A tragedy of errors." How you'll react to Bleach depends mostly upon how you read manga. If you read to follow the exploits of a few quirky favorite characters, then Bleach could quickly find its way to the top of your weekly reading list. Enjoying the rich cast of characters may force you to endure a plot that moves slowly and contradicts itself on occasion, but rule of cool may save it in the eyes of some.
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