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So it took a bit, but I made it through both the manga and anime versions of the second and most highly-regarded arc of the series - I'd read the arc a few times before, but it was my first time watching it all the way through. So does it hold up 15 years on? Yes - but this reread/watch also served to deepen my conviction that the later arcs are unfairly criticized.
Let's start with the positives. The pacing is unquestionably the most solid of any arc in the series - no battle drags on too long or feels too short (well, sorta - we'll address that in a minute), every single fight serves to develop its participants in an interesting manner, there's a healthy amount of "breather" chapters between each conflict in the first half of the arc prior to when shit really hits the fan, and the story has a very Book-Ends feel to it with how it sets up and answers questions at the beginning and end, in a manner that no other arc manages to replicate. Of course, the rematches with Renji and Byakuya, Uryu vs. Mayuri, Ichigo vs. Kenpachi, and Renji vs. Byakuya are all still incredible, memorable, brutal and powerful - special mention goes to Ichigo's Bankai reveal, which STILL gives me chills 8 years after getting into the series, in both the manga and anime. During this read, I also noticed that Aizen's betrayal somehow remains pretty fresh, even though the twist that sets it off has been done to death since; I'm chalking this up to most other series not having the balls to have the main antagonist dunk on the good guys for literally 10 chapters in a row and then succeed in his plan without any real issues along the way. That was HORRIFYINGLY awesome to re-experience. And it goes without saying that the emotions setups and payoffs are still pretty raw to this day - Rukia's depression and guilt complex feels surprisingly real for "just" a shonen series, Renji and Sui-Feng breaking down/crying and asking their opponents for help once they lose is something you almost never see even nowadays, and of course the arc Byakuya goes through to proceed from a total asshole to a brother who would readily sacrifice his life to save his sister hits hard. This arc is highly-rated for a reason.
All that being said, however, it's not without flaws - or more accurately, it's not the "golden age" before Kubo's writing went to shit, or whatever it is some people will tell you. To be clear, the later arcs in the series are not perfect, but aside from pacing issues, this arc has a lot of the "problems" people will point to as reason to degrade everything past chapter 182/episode 63. Let's run down the list, shall we?
And here's the thing - none of those are complaints, at least not from me, because they're either not problems specific to Bleach or not problems period (like the background thing). It's just that this arc is so often held up as a holy grail of perfection on all fronts, yet seeing it again has convinced me nostalgia filters truly are real.
Okay, didn't quite mean to turn this review into an anticipatory rant against the rest of the fandom, so I'll leave it off here: this arc is real good. Is it the best in my opinion? No, that would be the final arc, actually. But it's tied for second with the first arc, and there's a reason it catapulted Bleach into the Big 3 for a time.
Having just finished re-reading and watching (for the first time) the first arc of Bleach, I've determined that the two versions are such different beasts that they deserve separate reviews. Let's start with the manga.
I've read through this arc a few times before during my first read and subsequent re-reads of Bleach when I was a kid/teenager, and each time I enjoyed it well enough but was mainly looking forward to all that Soul Society/Arrancar stuff that really kicked the series' popularity into overdrive. I never really understood why a certain portion of the fandom loved it so much, some even to the point of ignoring every arc that came after it, because to me it was just okay. That changed with this read, where I read each chapter multiple times to really look at what was going on rather than just skim through the pages.
This arc, and the initial setting of the story by association, really is unlike most past, contemporary, and present shonen stories. Ichigo doesn't have the ambition of becoming the strongest there is or attaining some lofty title - he just wants to protect the people he cares about and the residents of his town. There's no big journey the protagonists are embarking on (well, yet) - everything's confined to Karakura Town, and so everything feels grounded with lasting consequences as a result. Rukia's a pretty groundbreaking female character (for the time this was coming out, 2001-2002) - there's no UST between her and Ichigo, she can hold her own despite her weakened state and doesn't take shit from the pervs in the story, she's got realistic emotional struggles and flaws as she adjusts to the human world. And most notably, this is really the only arc where Ichigo's non-powered human friends (y'know, the ones that don't get people to buy merchandise) get a proper spotlight, mainly due to the complete lack of the money-maker Shinigami for 95% of the arc. While pretty much all shonen is about escapist fantasy, the first arc of Bleach offers a different kind for the genre - rather than focusing on power and training and being a badass and the POWER OF FRIENDSHIP, it's about teenagers dealing with spiritual weirdness alongside their own day-to-day issues and having quirky, memorable friends and dealing with personal trauma and so on. Reading it as an adult, it really makes me nostalgic for the simpler days of middle and high school, when I didn't know how comparatively small my problems were. Honestly, reading it made me sad that Kubo was pressured to cut it short in order to get to Soul Society; for one, Tatsuki was clearly gearing up to get her own powers, and never getting to know what that would've been like hurts.
It's also funny. Really, really fucking funny. Way more than any of the later arcs, due to the aforementioned increased focus on fighting and being a badass and so on. That doesn't make them worse by default, but I'd forgotten a lot of the great gags Kubo wrote into this first arc (like Sado's affection for cute things and Urahara's "message" to Ichigo and his friends) and how much of a fiendish troll Urahara was before his intellect and experience started getting more focus - the page where he brags about his underground training area to a completely unimpressed and critical Ichigo is perhaps the greatest summation of his pre-SS character. Even if I somehow forget everything else I've read here, I'll always remember the comedy.
In summation, this arc is good. Not my favorite arc overall, but definitely ranked pretty high after my thorough evaluation, and Kubo's character writing and ground-laying for future revelations shines through on review. While I don't quite fall into that camp, I now much better understand the faction that prefers to think of this as the first and last of Bleach.
I've already given my thoughts on the manga below, but while reading that, I decided to watch the corresponding first 20 episodes of the anime, going back and forth between chapters and episodes as they synced up in material covered, because I'd only ever really watched the later seasons covering the FKT/Zanpakuto arcs and wanted to see what I was missing. Turns out...not much.
Background for anyone unfamiliar: around the time the anime was greenlit, the Bleach manga was in nearing the end of the massively popular Soul Society arc. As anime adapted from manga serve chiefly to promote sales of the manga and related merchandise, it was basically decided to cover this first arc of the series as fast as possible (in 20 episodes, which amounts to an average of 3.5 chapters covered per episode compared to later episodes covering maybe 3 at most per) so they could get to the much more financially lucrative Soul Society arc and take their sweet time there. Not a surprising decision for something designed to make money. What could go wrong, you ask?
For starters, the pacing gets...kinda ludicrous at points. Remember that 3.5 chapters per episode thing I mentioned? There are two episode, 9 and 20, that cover 6 episodes worth of material - as you can imagine, this leads to a LOT of stuff being skipped in both. The manga has a pretty consistent pacing throughout, even once the shift toward Soul Society starts 20 chapters before the arc ends - not so here. Every single fight has something cut from it or changed (and I'm used to that in most instances, censorship for prime time television and all that), but bizarrely enough, two of them actually have stuff ADDED - you heard that right, in the only season of Bleach being rushed through its storyline to get to the popular stuff coming later, Studio Pierrot STILL added filler. And, of course, what they add is just...okay. Entertaining enough, but not at the level of quality of what they cut, which mainly consists of character development and moments that become important in later arcs (which can lead to anime-only viewers being very confused when an episode down the line references an event they never saw).
But that's not the only confusing decision that persists through the entire 20 episodes of the show. For whatever reason, the anime basically butchers Orihime's character. Now, I'm not going to pretend that she's the best character in Bleach or that Kubo himself didn't make mistakes when writing/using her later on down the line, but in this part of the manga, she's portrayed pretty groundbreakingly as far as female characters/potential love interests go (for 2001/2002) - she's goofy and ditzy but also smart, she makes mistakes and apologizes for them, she's got a well-developed friendship with another female character that doesn't involve them competing over the same boy toy, and most importantly she's got agency and goals of her own. The anime, both in cutting content and changing scenes, manages to remove pretty much everything that makes her unique, memorable, and likable, basically leaving a shell for the audience to lust after. This is most notable in the leadup to Ichigo's group leaving for Soul Society: in the manga, Orihime starts by asserting that SHE will protect Ichigo while he saves Rukia, so she seeks out Sado and Yoruichi to train with of her OWN ACCORD, manages to access her powers through HER desire to protect Ichigo, and is finally treated as an equal by Ichigo when she shows up during the rendezvous at the Urahara Shop and simply tells him "I'm going with you". Meanwhile, in the anime, YORUICHI is the one to find Orihime and Sado (just standing around after Ichigo ditches them, no less), Orihime accesses her powers just by remembering the last time she used them, and when everyone shows up at the Urahara Shop, Orihime comes second-to-last after Ichigo and Sado and asks them to protect her. Holy SHIT. That's not even getting into how little care it shows for her friendship with Tatsuki (to the point that what was a very poignant final scene between the two of them before her departure in the manga is reduced to a nonsensical "I like dragonflies" "Come back at some point" in the anime), but that should tell you everything about how the anime treats her. Honestly, I'm shocked they didn't just cut out the fight that gives her the Shun Shun Rikka entirely and instead have her awaken them during a cooking session or some crap, it's that bad (as it is, it's visibly the episode with the lowest budget in the entire season, so way to rub salt in the wound).
It's not like this arc of anime is all bad. The OST starts what becomes a tradition of consistently excellent music for the series, with tracks like "On The Precipice Of Defeat", "Noting Can Be Explained", and of course "Number One" all making their debut here. And even with the cut content, the fights are still pretty memorable thanks to the voice acting and generally decent-to-good animation - I particularly enjoyed Ichigo vs. Shrieker. And, thank goodness, Old Man Zangetsu is done perfectly. But to anyone looking to watch this anime for the first time or rewatch it front to back, I would highly recommend reading the manga for this one, then going to episode 21 after you finish chapter 70. That's the most complete viewing experience you'll get if you're a stickler for anime > manga, because this arc really, REALLY got the (shattered) shaft.
Many claim Bleach used to be good or original. I honestly believe these people have never seen another Shounen work. It already takes a lot of ideas from fellow supernatural fighting series Yu Yu Hakusho and Ushio And Tora, including the Mac Guffin gem in YYH's second movie. The parts that aren't "homages?"
Flaws in the plot like going nowhere, shoveling in characters, and shameless fan-whoring are all present as early as Ishida's introduction. A Menos Grande appears only to walk off. Orihime's powers themselves are pointless characters. The initial tension between Ichigo and Ishida is rather unsubtle, as being in the presence of Ichigo's massive sword gives Ishida a 6ft bowner. Ichigo is in pain until Ishida shoots off his excess energy. Really, Kubo? Why don't you just have guys smearing translucent sword-goo on oh god he did.
It continues in the Soul Society arc where every other time there are two characters, they practically scream "You can ship us! This exchange is nothing but fanfic junk food. Let's flashback to more inconsequential material just to see who else hung out with who." The arc is a long crawl as it dumps in more characters and cheap possibilities. It doesn't help that 90% of the humor goes "Casually say something absurd," "ANGRY SHOUTING!" rubbing in just how interchangeably shallow the cast is. In fact, Aizen has a power that specifically negates planning and storytelling. Not that I look for those in a fighting series.
Unfortunately Bleach isn't very good at fights. Most shounen battles have choreography and something resembling strategy, even when it's wacky like One Piece. The three times strategy has come up in Bleach, it was immediately shown to not matter. If a character keeps fighting monsters with steel-like skin they can't scratch, but has fire and ice attacks, they will never think to apply them. Instead Bleach prefers as many fights be an endless haze of clashing downward swings and cheesy flash steps until one side reveals a power of instant victory while striking an effortless pose. Or end indecisive. In its 48 volumes, good choreography has happened maybe four times.
While the pacing has worsened and it keeps re-recycling its plot, Bleach was never actually decent or creative to begin with. Luckily I always enjoyed it for how terrible it is. In that regard it is aging well.
I'll try to make this an actual review guys.
I personally think that the first few chapters and episodes of Bleach were better than most of the series in my honest opinion. This is because the cast was more focused than it was now (So many pointless characters), the characters were likable, and they all actually had their own decent motivations. It could have been a good Slice of Life action anime/manga.
But noo.....we go full shonen. All the flaws in the series were taken Upto Eleven from here. This is one of the many issues that I have with Bleach cause I felt that there was so much wasted potential in doing this.
Oh, and remember when Ichigo randomly got a burst of power when fighting hollows in Bleach's early stages? After the series takes this route it becomes FILLED with these moments. A clear example is when he was fighting Grimmjow and he clearly states "I don't have much power left" or something along the lines of that and then a few scenes later, we are then treated to a Curb-Stomp Battle while STILL IN HIS BANKAI STATE!
And that's not even the biggest asspull in the series. In my opinion, one of the biggest asspulls was when Ichigo almost died fighting Ulquiorra and transforms into a Vastro Lorde to protect his friend (with no foreshadowing whatsoever). We are then treated to another Curb-Stomp Battle in which I still firmly believe that he wasn't even trying when he was fighting ulquiorra. Plus, when Ichigo finally gets the chance to kill the bastard, Uryu stops him and says "If you kill him, you won't be human anymore." What? Didn't he kill most of the other arrancars in his hollow form already? Nice attempt at trying to make them seem like nice people Kubo. Then after that bullcrap, Ichigo reverts back to his normal state and after seeing Ulquiorra in his beaten state, he then asks for him to "cut off his left arm and leg" *facepalm*. This isn't heroic, this is just stupid.
And don't even get me started on how many times the plot is reused and rehashed with each arc.
But on the bright side, the animation is very good in the anime, especially in the later seasons. I actually like the art style (but some characters look artrocious) and it's entertaining to see these characters act like idiots but it's nowhere near as bad as "Shit Farts Online"
Basically, turn off your brain when watching this.
Oh, Bleach, where do I begin with you...?
The first major arc's quite good, the spoiler of Aizen being the Big Bad was a really good one! There were some issues with focus on certain characters, but overall, t'was a good arc.
Then the Arrancar arc started. Oy...so. MUCH. PADDING. This arc DRAGGED (but to be fair, it wasn't Kubo's fault, and he might've dragged it further than necessary to prevent the editors from doing anything like this again). I won't go any further with this, for everyone and their dog has already.
Fullbringer arc. Thankfully it's short, but the villains are...pretty weak. :( Still, a fair amount better than what preceded it. Didn't kill my interest in the series when the previous arc nearly did.
And now we're here, the Vandenreich Arc.
And...well...I'm absolutely in LOVE with it. It's not perfect, but damn, there's so many plot points being brought up and addressed, so much closure, so much...entertainment! I feel the stakes here, I feel like people COULD die at any moment (although no one really has...whoops), and that really brings the seriousness up to a new level, something that Naruto never reached...but that's a rant for another day.
Overall, started strong, got weak, became GREAT, and now it's the only manga I take time out to read (besides One Punch Man), especially since its head isn't up its own ass with plot like One Piece tends to do (seriously, Dresarosa was awful, no matter how you slice it, and it made me give up on the series).
GG, Kubo, GG.
As everyone knows, Bleach started off, up until the start of the Hueco Mundo arc, as a great series. It had sharp writing, likable characters, a wicked sense of humor, and one of the greatest plot twists in recent memory, in the form of the series Big Bad, Aizen.
But none of that matters anymore, because Bleach has so thoroughly Jumpedthe Shark, that there's no possible way to rescue it. What is the problem? As the Memetic Mutation indicates, NOBODY DIES IN BLEACH.
Now, as we all know, most stories are motivated by who has sex with who, or who kills who. Seeing as Bleach is a shounen manga, the ladder is the primary focus of plot development for a good series. If you want to make people care about the future of your story, particularly when it goes on for as long as Bleach, you have to kill people in order to increase the suspense. It doesn't matter if they're popular, they have to die in order for people to care about the future.
A lot of people don't want to see their favorite characters die, but I'd be happy to see any of my favorite characters die in Bleach, because I need fear in me that someone could die in any moment, and that the big bad is a credible threat. There have been Over 9,000 fatal injuries in Bleach, and not one of the people who's received them has died, unless they were an unsympathetic villain.
This also leads to Bleaches other big problem, mangaka Tite Kubo has a tendency to create new characters when he starts to get writers block, regardless if said characters will advance the plot. Which leads to an enormous cast of characters who contribute nothing to the story, and will never, ever die. At least 70% of Bleach's cast has done absolutely nothing useful in the story, and unless a character contributes, they should either be Put on a Bus, or Killed off for Real.
Bleach is a story of a shounen manga that could have been great, but succumbed to the worst aspects of the genre, winding up in a permanent limbo of bad writing, a revolving door of death, and too many useless characters taking up ink to focus on the ones people actually care about. Now, I can only recommend Bleach to people as a cautionary tale as to how far a story can fall from grace.
Bleach, despite what many have said is a wonderful show. It's every character is interesting and complex from the Shingami captains to Ichigo's human friends. It has great fight scenes that make you scream and squeal and great emotion that make you smile or cry . It has many twist and turns that make your heart race. It is a show that is just too easy to fall in love and get obsessed with. It great openings, endings, and background music are just icing on the mutilayer cake.
So I just saw Bleach Episode 63, the last Soul Society Arc episode, and I decided to do a little review on it right here. So here it is:
This arc was a blast!
To start off, it introduced loads of new characters collectively known as Gotei 13 of the Soul Society. Each and every captain and lieutenant was memorable enough for me to know their personality like a glove, my favorites being Kenpachi and Byakuya, the former due to how much of a fight-loving badass he is, and the later due to how much he pissed me off, before totally redeeming himself later for how much Rukia means to him. The fights? Ichigo vs. Kenpachi. That fight kicked so much ass. And then we got Uryu vs. Mayuri, which felt oh so good when I saw Uryu power up. And of course, Ichigo vs. Byakuya. After he dominated everyone else, seeing Ichigo go full-on Bankai mode was awesome, and slightly cathartic. Of course, there were other kickass moments too. Ichigo saving Rukia like that alone justified this being a Rescue Arc. Not to mention, Yamamoto is the most awesome old dude, period. And in terms of the Aizen side stuff, I first didn't care about him. Then it's revealed he pulled the strings on the whole mess. The hype regarding him is real. Finally, the openings. When this arc began with the second Bleach opening, I couldn't care. And then opening 3 happened. Ichirin No Hana. In my opinion, Ichirin No Hana is quite possibly the best anime opening ever conceived in my opinion. So yeah, huge points there.
The only minor problem was the Aizen stuff. I was like, "We get it! This Momo chick has a thing for Aizen! Shut up about it!" But that problem was rectified by several things:
1. There's this white haired Hiei-looking captain called Toshiro Hitsugaya. For you YuYu Hakusho fans out there, he is indeed that awesome.
2. It always goes back to whatever Ichigo does before we get bored of the Momo loving Aizen stuff.
3. Again, the scene where he shows his true colors and reveals that he planned everything that happened made me actually hype for the villainy he'll pull off later.
So my arc score would be this: 4.5/5
Here's to Bleach!
Considering that the sensibilities of the shinigami organisation largely essentially breaks down to a mixture of the, in Japanese society still romantisised and revisionist history-obsessed, wartime fascism of Japan mixed with samurai and Shinsengumi choreography.
My impression of the entire organisation is that it is callous, social-Darwinist, amoral, nihilistic, and bloodthirsty, with the defining shinigami captains making recurrent viewpoint quotes along these themes.
Or at least that's my impression when, for example, Joseph Mengele... err Mayuri is allowed to run free with his atrocities, ditto for Jack the Ripper... err Kenpaichi marketed as an ideal. And when the enemies to be slaughtered include horribly bastardised, vilified, and distorted versions of YHWH... err Yhwach... and his squadron of light and angelic themed Christians... err Quincies. Or when another enemy is the X-men... err X-Cution, which consists of crazy disaffected outsiders/essentially much of the audience ... err aberations to be cleansed. Whereas the hollows might be even more cruelly distorted versions of people who simply feel empty and despairing inside. And then combined with the ongoing slaughter, moral nihilism, and bile fascination... Well, the sum total picture isn't pretty.
It is probably mostly unintentional reminiscing of being on the Nanking perpetrating side during the war, but combined with the offhanded slaughter it ends up lecturing children everywhere in how being an amoral, psychopathic, nihilistic, or darkness and death-mongering Social Darwinist is the ideal state of being.
At the very least there is very heavy ongoing imagery.
Then again, Ichigo and his friends are mostly perfectly nice people, and the craftsmanship of the storytelling is okay, warranting a 4/10 on those merits.
I came into Bleach partway around the Fullbringer saga. I was well aware of the series flaws, and I was able to accept the bad parts because I was prepared for them. At first, the last arc seemed strong, and it looked like Kubo might finally have worked past his worse flaws. But towards the end of the initial invasion, things started falling apart again, and the usual problems reared their ugly heads.
One of the things I liked is that Ichigo could finally challenge the new bad guys without getting his butt handed to him the first time around. I was hoping that maybe his power would finally be more consistent. But then we're told that his broken bankai can't be perfectly restored, and it proves that no matter how many gains the characters make, Kubo will just end up downgrading them because he has no clue how to have characters win by strategy instead of brute force.
The Vandenreich seemed cool at first. They were powerful, and seemingly much more intelligent than their predecessors. But they lost any claim to being smarter when four of them thought they could take the Head Captain, the guy who beat their leader. I also find it irritating that after all Ichigo has done, they only see him as a weapon to be used (BECAUSE THAT WORKED OUT SOOO WELL FOR GINJO, DIDN'T IT?) Let's face it: Bleach villains are stupid. They'd underestimate God almighty himself if they fought him.
The conversation between Kukaku and Ganju made me realize...I'm just sick of all of the conspiracies in Bleach. Everyone's hiding something, and as soon as you find out one thing it turns out they're hiding three other things. I'm tired of Kubo adding more questions then he answers, and he has quite a backlist by now.
Ultimately, I'm worried that while Bleach might have moments of greatness, in the long run I'll just be disappointed. What happens if this arc ends as anti-climatically as the Arrancar arc? At least when Deicide was over you could hold out hope that the series would get better, but this is all we're getting. I hope the series can finish strongly, but it'll be dogged by the problems it's always had until the end.
I really liked Bleach, maybe because I have tremendous tolerance for arc-fatigue, but during the soul-society arc it was my favorite thing to watch. That said, its bad, really bad. But its bad in a way that I feel is worth discussing. I feel like many anime have similar problems to Bleach, but Bleach turns them all Up to eleven, and that really disappointing because even now I see flashes of awesome in the middle of the mess that is Bleach.
1) Scatter-shot focus: This is largely a function of the characters, mainly that there are far too many of them, and they continually show up way after their relevance has come and gone. Namely the Gotei 13, they are more or less pointless after the Soul Society arc. There are some that are important enough to warrant further appearances. However the story continually invents reasons to drag the ENTIRE Gotei 13 EVERYWHERE, which means that screen time gets spread so thin no one really gets a chance to shine. The main cast really should be reduced to Ichigo, Rukia, Chad, Orihime, Ishida, and Renji. With Yoruichi because I like her.
2) New powers invented for the purpose of not having a point: New Powersasthe Plot Demands isn't really a new phenomenon, but this is particularly weird. Kisuke has an ability that lets him put his spirit energy in his opponents and ignite it if they touch him, causing massive internal damage. This is actually a cool ability, and in a better manga it would have involved characters thinking and planning their way around it. In Bleach it was brought up and used against Aizen, just so he could shrug it off. That's the main problem with Bleach's fight scenes, they suffer from DBZ syndrome, where certain people are just more powerful than others and that's the end.
It also shares the problem with DBZ where a lot of abilities are just the same generic energy beam with a different appearance and name, but no distinguishable functionality differences. Some abilities like Kira's Wabisuke, and Gin's bankai are notable and refreshing exceptions.
3) A never ending Climax sounds nice but: It honestly gets really bland, most fights are dull because they just don't stop fighting EVER. There are no puzzles or really any breathing room in the story at all.
If Bleach exists solely to make money, then it needs to address these issues anyway, good stories also sell.
People say that the height of Bleach was the rescue arc and that it's all been downhill from there, and they're right. But if you examine the rescue arc, you start to see signs of what would become the fall of Bleach kicking in.
First there is the issue of Aizen. The reveal is considered to be one of the best moments in the series, but it makes no sense. With Aizen's complete hypnosis ability, as it is explained, there is no reason for him to do any of the things he did that entire arc, including faking his death. There is no hint that Hitsugaya would start an investigation without hearing his planned conversation with Gin, and after all the trouble he went through it seems it was just to kill Hinamori. He wanted to get out of Central Forty Six before Hitsugaya got back, so why exactly did he do all the things he did? A mysterious bad guy, like Gin was, is great. A bad guy who is supposed to be the great mastermind but never acts logically is not. I feel that people were so impressed with Gin as a villain that they imposed his greatness in that role on the man he was revealed to be working for.
Another overlooked failure of logic is the role of Unohana. She supposedly figured out that Aizen was up to something days earlier, and did absolutely nothing about it. She told no one, did nothing to stop the execution, and only decided to go to central forty-six AFTER the s*** hit the fan and all of the captains were fighting. Why did she wait so long to do something? It makes no sense and ultimately serves only to take away from the Hitsugaya plot of the arc. It seems to me that it was a last minute move by Kubo because he realized that every other captain had been involved in an incident or fight of some importance, even Kommamura while fighting Kenpachi, by then except for Unohana and he needed to find something important for her to do. Whatever the reason it was an act of lazy writing, and I would go so far as to call it a deus ex machina.
This lack of logic and ridiculous use of characters, while primarily only recognizable in hindsight, would eventually come to be to prevalent in Bleach to ignore. And Aizen in particular would never grow beyond this portrayal.
(Currently reviewing(ed) Bleach, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, and One Piece)
Ahhhh, Bleach. How far has it come since I started reading?
Bleach is a manga by Tite Kubo about a teenager named Ichigo Kurosaki who gains the power of a shinigami (death god; Soul Reaper) from another shinigami named Rukia Kuchiki. That's pretty much it until the Soul Society arc where things get good. Well, after you add Shonen Upgrades, Xanatos Roulettes, and (oh crap) Loads and Loads of Characters (at this point, the Other Wiki lists 147; I kid you not). All righty then, what are the good things?
A little sidenote is that this happens to my personal favorite out of the other shonen series, Another thing is that I would actually prefer the anime over the manga.
Whew. That's all. Like I noted, it's my favorite series.
Bleach is fun and that's about the most anyone can say about it. The fights can be cool and nearly all the characters have an intriguing aspect to them but if you start to think about it too deeply, there are few reasons to watch it at all.
Overall: Bleach can be fun if you are willing to turn off your brain and watch the nonsensical chunky updraft fights pan out. If you watch it with your brain turned on, it can be exhausting. Bleach can try to take itself too seriously and just go down the badass or awesome road without caring what issues will be encountered story-wise. This creates too many situations where an ass pull has to occur for the main character to survive. Many characters are shallow, despite quirkiness, and can seem annoying, the human body contains upwards of 12 gallons of blood, arms can be regrown, and being thrown through a wall without injury is commonplace.
In brainless mode, I rate the manga an 8.5/10 and the anime 7/10. With my brain turned on, the manga drops to 6/10 and the anime less than 5/10. It manages that much by having a few interesting characters and concepts that redeem the series for its BS.
Oh boy, Bleach. I don't know where to begin where I don't sound like a fangirl, but... hey. It was fun, but I stopped around Ulquiorra's death. Mind you, I did read past it... but lord, it was STUPID. Bleach is fun, and like most people, I can't see what's wrong with it. It's how characters act in a natural environment(In RP), but it's all to one's own. However, I do have SOME complaints;
Apart from that, Bleach is fun if you don't intend on taking it seriously; I love pointing things out about The Lust episodes. If Tite did these things(or we got at least 4Koma's about them), then I'd like Bleach again... save the Fullbringers.
It definitely has its good aspects, from well-executed Character Development and unique takes on archetypes, to well-choreographed fight scenes and interesting abilities. It's bad parts? Often times, the characters' development as characters are shafted or delayed, to the point where it comes off as Character Derailment.
As an example, Zommari Rureaux first appeared as a calm, silent assassin of sorts, who had something of a pride issue, but none to different from his opponent. Once he went One Winged Angel, he devolved into a loud-mouthed Large Ham that panicked at the first sign of losing momentum. Sosuke Aizen, the Big Bad, went from a calculating, resourceful tactician, into a Smug Snake that gave all of his smarts up for raw power, and went into a similarly whiny Villainous Breakdown. Yasutora Sado went from a calm, quiet Gentle Giant into a Satellite Character whose utterly dependent on, and obsessed with pleasing, the main character. Orihime Inoue has a crush on the main character, but she's almost always shafted as a fighter, and her priorities often switch from "do this myself" to "must please love interest". A large majority of tertiary characters have personalities, but nothing really solid in the depth or development issue (most of the Fraccion and the Lieutenants).
It dragged on a lot back in the day, but it seems to have picked up the pace in the latest manga arc. For example, three simultaneous story arcs (Hueco Mundo, Fake Karakura and Deicide), collectively taking up less than five years real-time and comprised of over 300 chapters, were all set a single day. The current arc went through six days in-universe, 40 chapters real-time. Certain characters have even went through some change in personalities, like Hitsugaya becoming more mature and collected, or Byakuya showing an honorable side as a fighter.
Another major critique is the bad placement of music themes in the anime; it's so bad that it can kill the atmosphere of a scene because of it. For example, Episode 349 is one of the few times where the music fits perfectly, in each scene, but the following episode is... far less worthy of such praise.
There are few emotions like betrayal. Few things that can sour you so completely to a person, ideal or work of art than betrayal.
Bleach is a betrayal of the grandest proportion.
You see, the problem not that Bleach is a less interesting more style obsessed (and quite stylish if I do say so myself) Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball Z filtered through the lense of Rob Liefeld for sure, but still essentially Dragon Ball Z.
It has the same screaming fanbase, it has the same infinite wasteland of plotless combat. It has the same obsession with 'power overwhelming' to the exclusion of all intelligence, and it has the same Deus Ex Machina of my powerup is more throbbingly erect than your powerup.
This is what it is. There is no use in obsessing over the fact that it is a shallow waste of time. Especially since it wastes so little time. I still read the manga because it takes me less time each week than a prince valiant 6 panel on the Sunday Funnies, though Prince Valiant will certainly fit roughly the same amount of dialog and between 2 and 3 times the plot development. I have as the doctor recommended, learned to stop worrying and love the bleach.
The problem comes in that it was not sold as such. The first 150 chapters hinted at the possibility of a grand story. Of meaning and double crosses. Of depth and complexity. The earlier works of Kubo Tite (see the sadly , though perhaps in retrospective, thankfully short lived zombie powder) showed that he has a darker mind and a tendancy to cthonian artistic choice when given his head. If bleach had devolved into an obtuse clusterfuck like D-Grayman, I would have been happy. That is not the end I would prefer but it is an end that would allow me to put down the manga and consign it to the memory hole. Instead it has become an ongoing catastrophe of morbid dimension. It is a thin gruel being impossibly stretched, and stretched, and stretched.
Welcome to Bleach. Were there is lots and lots of baking soda but no cocaine. Where after four hundred chapters of an increasingly dry and lazy blowjob, the climax comes, and instead of a thunderous orgasm promised by its early excellence it squelches weakly and dribbles lopsidedly down the shaft in volume that wouldn't impress a pigeon.
F*** you Bleach.
Thank god Soul Eater is what bleach might have been.
As to be expected from not all, but most Shonen Manga, Bleach will frequently have chapters in which characters stand around and just talk. Perhaps a chapter of witty battle dialogue. And of course, the series has about a million characters, making for some confusing moments as some disappear straight off the face of the Earth. (Cough NEL cough)
AND YET: It is awesome.
I liked where the series was going at first, with Ichigo being a substitute reaper and chilling at school with his bros. It went off the deep end, and the Soul Society arc lasted approximately forever, but it still is a series worth reading. Can't speak for the anime, i've only seen clips, but I assume that with ~20 minute episodes, they actually have time to make stuff happen.
Seriously. Read it.
Yo, Shonen King here! I'll be reviewing Bleach overall. First let's talk about the story. In Bleach there doesn't seem to be any indication of a core plot and the story depends on what the current arc. The one consistent part of its plot is that the protagonist, Kurosaki Ichigo, has a strong desire to protect his loved ones and often the arcs revolve around that characteristic of his. Now onto characters, the bread and butter of a story. Bleach has broad cast of likable characters with very varying personalities. Another example of variety among characters are the various powers and abilities each has, from healing to techniques that could rival nukes in power. However the powers are also a flaw a times. So many characters and their abilities had so much potential but were often pushed to side and even forgotten. Then there's Shonen Upgrades. It's cool that Ichigo has several Shonen Upgrades, but it's a shame that the other characters don't get the same treatment. Even when other characters do get them, they become useless in the next fight. Next up, we have art. At first, Bleach's art is a little blocky but with the Art Evolution, the art vastly improved, looking more realistic in a way. Next is presentation. At first Bleach, was more Slice Of Life than Shonen but it quickly grows into its Shonen category. One of the most interesting thing about the protagonist is that Ichigo is different from the standard Shonen Idiot Hero, he's actually pretty smart, he's just a bit single minded. Finally, to end it all, we have the world. Tite Kubo has created and interesting world with interesting areas, races, and overall concepts. That's all for this review.
Keep it cool, keep it Shonen!
I read Bleach expecting parts of it to drag. After all, it was 400+ chapters with not that much happening. Parts of it did drag, though. This isn't to say I didn't enjoy it.
Here are the pros:
And the cons?
The series was overally entertaining, but it's not a series meant for those with little patience! The characters are mainly certified badasses and will stick with me for a while. I liked it. But it's not my favorite series. I will continue to look forward to the new chapters.
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.
The reason why I split this off from the main part is to explain why it fails to recreate the originalâ€™s success.
This time, Ichigo and his friends are fighting against the rogue Soul Reaper captain Aizen and his accomplices, who are trying to take over the world. Eventually, Orihime is abducted and Ichigo and his friends go to rescue her, despite the Soul Society declaring her a traitor. The plot is more straightforward and has less mystery, basically making it a long battle against Aizen's forces that is not as interesting.
The Arrancar make for exciting foes, but often lack the depth of personalities and interactions with each other the Soul Reapers had. While the Soul Reapers had a variety of relationships, from personal vendettas to rivalries to friendships, the Arrancars rarely interact with each other, and can barely stand each other when they do. Some of them come off as virtual expies of Soul Reapers, and while they often have interesting similarities (the narcissists Yumichika and Cuulhorne) or differences (the arrogant, violent Avirama and the humble, pacifist Izuru), they are often unoriginal and underdeveloped.
Ichigoâ€™s friends are pushed further to the sidelines, often in favor of the Soul Reapers. Orihime, whose role expands in the arc, is arguably both the exception and the worst case, as while she is the center of the Rescue Arc, she is frequently denied chances to prove herself or get closer to Ichigo, particularly when after Ichigoâ€™s death, which should be a chance for her to act, she screams for his help rather than trying to do something by herself. Characters often enter battles they are unable to win, and often another character bails them out and finishes the fight for them, rendering their efforts moot. One of the worst cases is Neliel vs. Nnotira, as having Neliel defeat him would have been an effective end to the backstory between the two. This cheats some characters out of the opportunity to show their true strength, disappointing their fans.
Several of the plot twists, like Ichigo getting a new Hollow form and Yammy being the 0 Espada come with very little foreshadowing and are largely unbelievable.
The second part of the series is by no means bad, but you shouldnâ€™t expect it to live up to the first part.
Many other people have done an excellent job of summarizing the plot, so I'll just cut to the chase and go straight to the review. Bleach was an excellent anime/manga through the SS arc. It had everything a great story should have—humor, action, drama, an excellent plot, and unforgettable characters. Just about every character in the series had a backstory and internal conflict, making each one an individual who stood out from the rest. The plot was just as impressive; it was compelling and original, filled with tons of clever plot twists and subtle foreshadowing. Not to mention it was brimming to the rim with an abundance of themes and excellent symbolism (you have to look closely, but it is there).
Notice the use of the word "was."
After the SS arc ended, Bleach began to spiral downhill. What made the series so compelling in the first place is now lost amidst nothing but pointless fighting, chapter after chapter. The plot, which was shaky enough to begin with at the start of the HM arc, has not advanced at all since then due to all of the monotonous battles. This is one area Bleach has truly stumbled in; what made Bleach such a unique Shounen series before was that the plot didn't exist for the sake of the battles, unlike many others in the genre. Rather, the battles were carefully constructed in order to advance the plot and lead to new developments in the story. Now, battles have little to do with the plot itself and exist solely for the sake of there being fighting. Characterization has also been pushed to the sidelines; many of the arrancar have little to no backstory whatsoever. The few that do are overshadowed by the endless supply of minor characters Kubo keeps throwing in. This also goes for all of the Soul Reapers; most of the original characters were extremely complex and dynamic, changing throughout the course of the story (such as Rukia and Byakuya). Now, they've become as static as the arrancar they're fighting, which sucks out the last redeeming quality of the series. The end result? A story with poor characters, no plot, and an endless supply of pointless battles that kill the series. My advice to anyone wanting to watch the series is to stop after the SS Arc; though it does end on an apparent cliffhanger, the arc itself is standalone and deserves to be watched separately from the other arcs, which only serve to drag it down.
Bleach was a good anime and a good manga for a little bit. Seriously, it had its own distinctive style despite telling a story that is very familiar to a shonen veteran (i.e., for a while it was Yu Yu Hakusho with better fashion sense). There was just something I enjoyed about the series when it was still ghost hunting in Karakura that just disappeared as soon as they entered the Soul Society. Don't get me wrong, I actually liked the Soul Society arc; it introduced a lot of very interesting characters and ideas. But it just wasn't the same show anymore. They went to this new location and introduced all these new characters and never really left. What I had hoped was a fun-filled vacation was a full-scale relocation. And everything changed about it; the characters (which ones are focused on, particularly), the scale, the scope of the stories... It just wasn't the same. I loved Bleach for the first 20 or so episodes and the first 7 volumes, but it up and changed from a familiar story with a refreshingly new style to a familiar story that I didn't like that much the first time.
I liked Bleach when it was Yu Yu Hakusho. Then it turned into Dragonball Z.
My concern for the story has been concisely summarized above, so I shall not go into it. It is, however, my main point of dislike. What I find the best aspect of bleach is the variety of great characters; if you have a preference, rest assured, you will find it. From Blood Knight Kenpachi Zaraki, to Badass Grandpa Yamamoto, the characters are well fleshed-out, realistic, and very interesting, with excellent backstories for mosti f not lal of them. Admittedly, Aizen can seem broken at times, and some of the characters do carry an Idiot Ball at times, or are subject to the Worf Effect, but they are a minority.
Now this was an excellent movie. :D At first I was worried that I would doze off while watching it as I had a tiring day of work beforehand (fortunately, that didn't happen - my midnight snack might have had something to do with that). The action and well-thought out story kept me enticed the whole way. Plus there was one part I especially liked. As we all know, Rangiku likes to make jokes at TĹŤshirĹŤ's expense whenever she can, but she still is indeed one of his best friends in addition to being his best lieutenant. In the movie, on the other hand, it seemed a little different. Looking at all the things she did and went through to help out TĹŤshirĹŤ, one could get the impression that she's in love with him. As a matter of fact, towards the end, I was hoping that she would have kissed him. Besides that, this is a superb movie and I can't wait until it comes out on DVD. :)
Like I said in the title, Bleach starts of on the right foot, and keeps it going for a while. Unfortunately, it starts to lose steam as it goes on.
I decided to do this review in two parts because it would be more accurate to judge the series pre- and post- Soul Society.
The characters are well-developed, with each getting a short arc in the first part of the series, and each bringing out different sides of Ichigoâ€™s personality. Even minor characters have interesting personalities and backstories. Ichigoâ€™s development is especially interesting, as he comes to understand what it means to be a Soul Reaper over time, and his own reason for fighting.
The Soul Reapers are interesting antagonists with a variety of personalities and motivations. While many try to prevent Ichigo from stopping Rukiaâ€™s execution, others oppose it, others donâ€™t care and still others are more concerned with other issues that eventually prove to be relevant to the execution. Byakuya is an excellent example, as while he appears wholly devoted to the law, he is inwardly conflicted. Kenpachi serves well as a terrifyingly powerful enemy and later as a surprisingly useful ally of convenience. The revelation of who is responsible for Rukia being sentenced to death is quite surprising and effectively helps resolve unaswerd questions.
The fights are often intense, but unfortunately, Ichigo has few abilities beyond sword slashes and occasional energy blasts, limiting the strategies he can perform. Despite this, the battles are well choreographed and include a variety of foes, keeping things interesting.
There are some flaws to the story. Ichigoâ€™s friends do relatively little that impacts the mission in the Seireitei, as they mostly end up separated from him and struggling to meet with him. The anime removes a fair amount of material from the manga, especially scenes hinting that Orihime is developing feelings for Ichigo, and some of the new scenes, particularly those in Episodes 8 and 9, cause plot holes. However, it tends to be somewhat quicker-paced than the manga, and often covers as many as three chapters per episode.
The manga has a surprisingly good amount of bonus content, like sketches between chapters providing background information, or showing what other characters are doing, as well as flashback chapters that reveal more about characters.
This series is quite good. The manga is better than the anime, but the anime is still good at putting the fight scenes into motion.
Bleach overall is a series that tries its hand at making stock shonen norms a little fresher and more unique. Take for example the lead character Ichigo, who while at first glance would be your ordinary shounen lead, instead was portrayed from the start to be actually quite intelligent. Or Rukia, who isn't the standard for the main female, or even Orihime, who isn't quite a secondary interest. This even extends to values shounen series seem to love, placing more emphasis on instinct for battle over protecting others.
However while uniqueness is something many should aspire to, the problem lies in its execution. While Ichigo is portrayed less standard, he still becomes part of scenes that make him look like a moron, and much the same with Rukia which can be jarring. Nevertheless it's this, in addition to the varied and interesting characters, that helps create the great pull of the series in the beginning, lasting well into the Soul Society arc. With the interesting villain being established in the end too, it created enough of a pull for long time in its run.
However lately the biggest conflict of Ichigo placing more emphasis on love of battle as the motivation to fight has lately gone to the extent where he makes choices that either would place his friends in grave danger had they been allowed to pass or ignore them entirely even when they are in grave danger. His 'Cut off My arm and Leg' bit for a fair fight and when he had an opponent healed to get a fair fight when he knew two of his friends were dying at that very moment being the worst examples. The interesting villain making questionable choices about his 'allies' and various other shenanigans certainly haven't helped, to say nothing of Power Level issues.
Were this not bad enough, the incredibly slow pace the story has grinded to for this current arc makes things even harder to bear with. Fight after fight for the last year, no end in sight, and with not a single one of the heroes dying any tension that could have been helped cope with this has long since been lost. All in all Bleach tries to go about many different cliches differently, but while that gets it off to a good start that alone doesn't make it last to the critical eye in the long run.
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.
Like the title of the review implies, I've got mixed feelings.
I largely agree with what the previous posters have said - up until the end of the Soul Society arc(and the supremely well executed reveal of the Big Bad) it's an excellent manga/anime. The problems start appearing once the Hueco Mundo arc begins, but even then, it's still a fairly good read.
The real issue appears once the Fake Karakura Town arc starts. What's the problem, you may ask? The HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE pace of the story. This one battle has already lasted 59 weeks(over a freaking year).
The reason is simple - the sheer number of characters and battles occurring simultaneously slows down the pace to a crawl. The Fake Karakura town has already had at least a dozen battles between various opponents and nobody even landed a scratch on the Big Bad yet! Most of the fights will have five or six(or more) issues devoted to them so we're still stuck in the same point that we were a year ago.
This is not helped by the fact that nobody ever dies(on the good guys' side that is). This really ruins any sort of suspense and battles turn from exciting to â€śso, could we just end this please and you know, do this whole plot thing?â€ť.
Not helped either by the author's tendency to solve his writer's blocks by introducing new characters en masse. This and the above complaint mean that unless we see some mass killings soon(which will not happen), the pace of future chapters will slow down even more.
Further compounding the issue is that nobody goes into battles with their full power from the start but rather they follow the Shonen tradition of revealing(agonisingly slowly) how they're not left handed or how their kung fu is stronger. This can be forgiven since it's a staple of this type of manga.
There's also a list of minor sins that the writer has committed(mainly asspulls and plot holes) but I'd rather not lengthen the review(already almost at the word limit). Suffice to say that I complained about them in the Just Bugs Me section already.
So, overall, if you can stomach the slooow pace of the series, I can recommend it. At the very least, you should enjoy it up until the end of SS arc.
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