Bleach

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TV Tokyo (ended 2012)

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deershadow

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Bleach Fan Reviews (521)

8.8
out of 10
Average
6,583 votes
  • A very good Shonen work, yet ruined by its genre

    4.2
    Last time I gave Naruto a 1/10, and some people was offended. So this time I’m giving Bleach a 4.2. Before you guys call me an idiot again, let me just say that the highest score I’ll ever give to a Shonen work is 5. Therefore, 4.2 is like a 84%. I also want to say that I feel bad for Kubo the mangaka. This guy has the skills, yet he chose to go for Shonen and by doing so Bleach lost a lot of its potentials. The last thing I want to mention before getting into the review is that this might be my last long review on Shonen works therefore I’ll use it to explain why I despise Shonen in general.
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    1 Same as last time, this review will focus mainly on the manga since I only watched the first 10 episodes of the anime but I’m still following the manga. Besides, everyone knows that the manga is better than the anime. I’ll start with the storyline first. Even though the series is not finished yet, the story itself is nicely divided into two major arcs. The first arc is the Soul Society arc (the SS arc), and the second arc, which is still ongoing, Hueco Mondo arc (the HM arc) which will be considered to start right after the SS arc in this review. The SS arc is where Bleach shines the most because of its originality. Most Shonen stories are about a group of teens either starting a journey for stupid reasons (like Battle B-Daman…I feel embarrassed even mentioning its name…) or beating endless bad guys to save the world. Not for the SS arc. The story is straightforward: Rukia was about to get executed by her comrades and Ichigo tried to save her by going into the society and challenging all the Shinigamis. There is no “growing-up” journey, there is no world to save, yet to me saving a dear friend is more captivating and realistic than all the other Shonen stories I’ve encountered. The best part is that Kubo is able to create about 180 chapters for this arc and the word “confusion” is nowhere to be found. This is what I call a good story planning. A good mangaka knows how to plan ahead and knows, even before he/she starts the first chapter, where the story should go for the next 179 chapters. Allow me to take you through what happened in this arc. It started off with Ichigo absorbing Rukia’s Shinigami power due to an accident which I’m sure you are all familiar with. The subsequent few chapters served as fillers and were mainly revolved around Ichigo helping Rukia to kill off Hollows since she lost all her power. The purpose of the fillers is clear: to introduce the world and all the main characters in the hero’s group. The fillers didn’t last very long, which is very good for a Shonen manga, and the main storyline soon kicked in. Byakuya appeared and Rukia was taken back into the Soul Society. The real arc started from here. Ichigo decided to go into the Soul Society and to save her. Once he was in the main city, Kubo prepared four fights for him: first with Ikkaku, then with Renji, then with Kenpachi, last with Byakuya, each one stronger than the previous. Now I’m not here trying to praise on how great or how complicated this story is. You have to realize Bleach is still a Shonen, it is no E7, and the story IS pretty simple. What I’m trying to get here is that the story is laid out in a very organized manner. Instead of dragging the story on and on and on like Inuyasha, Kubo clearly knows where he wants the story to go and he loyally followed his plan. And the story flows beautifully accordingly. This is no easy task if one really thinks about it. The story itself is not some typical Shonen stories you can drag on forever. We are talking about Ichigo challenging the entire SS, that’s it. How to keep the story going for 180 chapters, at the same time not to bore the readers a bit, requires a lot of creativity and planning ahead. You have to give credits to Kubo at least for what he did with the SS storyline.

    Then comes the HM arc, where the series started going downhills. Seriously, if Bleach ended right after Rukia was saved, I might have given it a higher score say 4.5. It would be a great saga about friendship packed with not the best but still very very good actions. Instead Kubo decided to prostitute himself, and we have the HM arc. Now what else can I say about HM arc except it’s a rip off of the SS arc? Sure, the action is getting more intense, and Ichigo is getting stronger and stronger. But it is still the same story, with Ichigo trying to save another friend of his—Orihime this time. The group is also going into another foreign land, this time instead of the Soul Society we have HM which hasn’t been mentioned at all prior to the arc and I was like “huh…why would hollows have a mansion…?”. What about Ichigo’s fights? Well, so far it is still pretty similar to what we had in the SS arc. The first fight he had in the SS was with Ikkaku, the third seat in the 11th division, in other words a weakling. So now in the HM arc he fought with a loser from the 3-digit division first. The second fight he had in the SS was with Renji, Lieutenant of the 6th division. The second fight he had in HM is with Grimjow right now, the 6th espada. I bet the next fight is going to be him Vs. Ulqi, because the third fight he had in the SS arc was with Kenpachi, not the strongest but still very very strong. Then Ichigo is going to fight with the top espada who corresponds to Byakuya in SS arc and then finally Aizen. Also note that in both arcs Ichigo always had a traitor beside him. In the SS arc was the guy from the 4th division and now we have the little hollow. Thus basically it’s the SS arc all over again, and at least for me, I’ve lost not all but most of my interests in Bleach these days. The only thing that still keeps me going is that I like the hollow Ichigo character and would like to see him fight again. I also like Orihime but for different reasons (see the character discussion part). Besides that, I don’t really care about what’s going to happen next.

    Another thing I’d like to comment on is the change in the fighting styles going from the SS arc to the HM arc. It’s not really included in the storyline but I don’t know which aspect this thing belongs to so I’ll just write it here. I mean, the best action scenes to date are still those in DBZ. So nowadays what people usually do is to avoid what’s already been done in DBZ and think about other ways of physical fighting. Sure it’s not going to be as spectacular as DBZ but what it lacks it makes up with innovation. Kubo did a good job in Bleach, at least in the SS arc. The most important aspect of the actions in the SS arc is that different people have totally different forms of power, which is demonstrated in the various Bankai releases. For example, Ichigo can either have superior speed or superior power but never both at the same time in his Bankai (I’m not talking about HM arc here). Byakuya’s bankai is more focused on ranged attack and cookie cutters with speed. Sure there might be some overlap but overall each character has his or her own distinct skills. All these are lost in the HM arc. In this arc, power and speed is everything, which basically contradicts what had been set up in the first arc. Tell me one thing that is unique about Ichigo’s Vizard state except it’s faster and has higher raw power. The most ridiculous thing in Bleach was when Ichigo outsped by Grimjow yet Ichigo was supposed to be the fastest in his Bankai form, at least that’s what I got from reading the SS arc. I mean, I don’t mind Grimjow beating Ichigo, but surpassing him in speed just doesn’t make any sense to me after Ichigo spent all that time finally achieved his Bankai state. These days in Bleach, speed and power have become the only determinant on who is stronger. With the loss of the variety of the skills, the fights themselves are getting more and more boring because we already have this in DBZ with much better actions. Also speaking of the similarity between HM arc and DBZ, doesn’t Grimjow’s released form look a lot like SuperSaiyin 3 in DBZ, with the eyes and the long hair and everything? I was practically laughing when I saw him like that.

    One more thing before going into the characters. The power of the arrancars seemed to be a little too strong. The non-espada arrancars are OK. It makes sense that only the Shinigamis with Bankai are able to kill them since they are indeed transformed from Menos which are usually handled by captains. I’m talking about Espadas here, especially from Ichigo’s perspective. During the SS arc, Ichigo defeated Kenpachi in his normal state. When faced with Byakuya, he still did very well in the beginning, and he only lost that battle (yes he did lose that battle, no question there) because at that time he couldn’t last his bankai very long. The conclusion is that if Ichigo can manage to increase his Bankai duration, he should be able to defeat Byakuya, who was portrayed as the final boss of the SS arc and the strongest Captain. However, Ichigo got his ass kicked by Grimjow even in his Bankai form during their first battle, and GJ didn’t even release. Later on Ichigo became a Vizard and greatly increased his power, and it’s true that he was stronger than released GJ in this form, but only a little as shown in Chapter 256. Therefore I wonder if SS even stands a chance against Espadas. Ichigo can beat Byakuya in his bankai form, yet he barely beat the 6th Espada in his Vizard form. There seems to be a huge power gap between the captains and the Espadas. I’m sure Byakuya, Kenpachi, and Hitsugaya will make their appearances later on in the series due to fans’ demand, most likely fighting an Espada as well, but how is Kubo going to pull it off when the Espadas are already being portrayed this strong? 1
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    Now characters. This is what sets Bleach below 5/10 and is the main reason why I despise Shonen in general. To create characters with a certain depth, one must have a lot of life experience in order to understand the meaning of life, at least to some extent, otherwise you end up with Naruto. As I said many times already in this review, Kubo is no 20-year-old amateur mangaka. This guy has the skills to portrait realistic characters. You can tell that he really wanted to add real souls into his characters, yet these characters don’t fit in the Shonen genre so he basically gave up. Same as the storylines, I’ll discuss the two arcs separately because there are some changes in the characters between the two arcs. For the SS arc, all of the characters are still very close to the stereotypical Shonen characters that are not even worth discussing because there is nothing to talk about. We have a male lead who always makes rash decisions. We also have a cutie who has a good heart but kinda slow (Orihime in case you don’t know). The male lead has a rival too, who competed with him for cheesy reasons. The problem with all these characters, and this is also what I meant by characters with no depth, is that they often have less than five personal traits. The excessive appearance of this type of characters in Shonen works is because the mankaga wants to make their characters more heroic and more appealing to younger readers. What’s lost in doing so is the human touch which is what connects the characters with readers like me. I hate to reiterate this again and again, but if we can’t see ourselves in the characters and the things he/she does, then we won’t be able to make that connection. What makes us human is that we have a full range of emotions, and by having a character with only a few personalities, the connection is lost. Now the characters in Bleach are not the worst I’ve seen, but it’s nowhere near good. For example Ichigo, he makes rash decisions and sometimes behaves irrationally, he cares a lot about his friends and family, he is also arrogant, and that’s probably all there is to this guy. See what I meant by “nothing to talk about”? I would love to go deep into the characters and talk about their personalities but I just can’t do it with Shonen. Kubo did try to make him more realistic using all the fillers, you have to give him credits for at least trying. But he failed. The personalities that are supposed to come out of those fillers don’t have anything to do with the Ichigo later in the series, and I feel really sorry for Kubo because some of the fillers actually have some great potentials. For example, one filler chapter introduced Ichigo’s past and how he lost him mom. This one actually touched me a little considering it is a Shonen work. Ichigo’s fear of facing his past and him blaming himself for his mom’s death is well portrayed. Yet Kubo decided to drop this, along with other traits in those filler chapters. Indeed, we never see his connection with his mom ever again, and it’s such a good story to explore. I’ll tell you why Kubo did this though. He wanted to add depth into his characters, but he is afraid that by going too deep the readers won’t be able to understand what’s going on (thanks to the general stupidity of todays’ anime fans btw). So he hesitated, and ended up with these half-developed characters. 1
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    However, there is one person in Bleach who does seem to have a soul and who started to shine right after the SS arc. I was really surprised by this, considering her role in the SS arc was her big breasts and her stupidity, and I already stated that I don’t really like the whole HM arc. I guess you readers have already figured out who I am talking about here. That’s right, this special person is Orihime. In the HM arc, Kubo did a very good job in portraying Orihime’s feelings towarda Ichigo yet not begging for sympathy. And this time, he didn’t hesitate on adding depth. Orihime clearly loves Ichigo, yet she is too shy to confess. More importantly, Ichigo obviously cares about Rukia a lot, and Orihime is afraid that she might ruin the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia by revealing her feelings, which again illustrates how much she cares about Ichigo. Yearning for love yet afraid to love, this is her role in HM arc, and a great personal conflict this is. From the look on her face when she was healing Rukia and seeing how worried Ichigo was, to her confession to the unconscious Ichigo on the night before she went to HM (perhaps the most touching moment in Bleach, I almost cried when she didn’t kiss Ichigo), Kubo has certainly shown that he does have the skills to develop realistic characters. The reason why she appears so real is that Kubo used a completely different approach to develop her character compared to all the others. No flashback, no inner world, but all from her facial expressions, her decisions, her thoughts, her behaviors, and her dialogues. And really, that’s how we get to know another person in real life. Rarely do we know a person’s past or his/her inner world, yet by observing the person’s appearance we start to make connections. However, this is why I hate HM arc. We have such a beautiful and well-developed character here, yet the story is not even focused on her. I mean, if I were Kubo, the relationship between Ichigo and Orihime would be the central theme of HM arc. Then Bleach would probably become the greatest Shonen work in history, or maybe even go beyond the Shonen genre. I’m not saying to turn Bleach into a romance story, fights should be retained, but more importantly the emphasis should be place on the characters’ emotion and interactions. Yet besides these shining scenes reserved for Orihime, the entire arc so far seems to be irrelevant to her at all. The focus of the HM arc is still about Ichigo’s group and all these mindless fightings. What I can’t accept even more is that we still don’t know how Ichigo feels about Orihime. Just exactly why is he going through all these troubles to save her, and don’t tell me it’s for the same reason when he tried to save Rukia. I can tell you guys right now there is absolutely nothing going on between Ichigo and Rukia, they are just good friends, even a blind guy can tell this. Yet Kubo still hasn’t revealed any of Ichigo’s feelings or thoughts toward Orihime. It would suck totally if it turned out to be a one-sided love as a conclusion because not only all the effort on developing Orihime but also the only potential of HM arc will be ruined.

    The art style is pretty decent in the manga. True, it’s not the best one I’ve seen. It also lacks some details in terms of shadows and textures. What it lacks in details it makes up by offering a very crisp style which I find enjoyable. For anyone wishing to go into the anime/manga business, the art style in Bleach is certainly a good place to start imitating. The anime somewhat lost this crispness. The graphics isn’t that good either. Some details in the background are missing. The characters sometimes seemed to be moving on a still hand-drawn background too. It also seems that they tried to integrate some 3D cells into the background design but the thing with 3D is that it can look amazingly good in a pro’s hand, but it can also look awkwardly uncomfortable if the person is not a pro. And whoever doing the background design for the anime is certainly not a pro. However, I only watched the part before they entered the soul society and I did hear the graphics was getting really good later on. Therefore I won’t judge this work in terms of its anime graphics. Same for the music.

    Other technical stuff about Bleach. First the humours. I don’t find the ones in Bleach as annoying and disgusting as that in Naruto. However, they are still not very funny to me. I can tell that Kubo does try to make the humours more mature, but since he chose to create a Shonen work, inevitably they still belong to those traditional Shonen gags. Examples include Orihime sometimes talking like a 2-year-old, Hiyori’s beating on Shinji, Ichigo’s spontaneous and rash decisions in the beginning of the series, etc. The good thing about these gags in Bleach is that they are not as exaggerated as in other Shonen works such as Slam Dunk or Dragon Ball, which helped to keep the characters more realistic and which also shows Kubo is doing his best to keep Bleach as mature as possible even in Shonen genre. The dialogues are definitely another shining spot. Some of the lines are really beautiful and actually have a certain depth in them, which are rarely found in this genre. The one I liked the most is the one about how people are similar yet dissimilar, and he used the analogy of magnets and water. Orihime’s confession in front of the unconscious Ichigo is also touching too. The problem with these lines is that they don’t really fit in with the characters because the characters still belong to those stereotypical Shonen types. Sometimes it feels a little fake seeing these lines coming out of those characters’ mouths. However that’s the problem with the characters. The lines themselves are perfectly fine.

    Overall, Bleach is a good Shonen work. The SS arc is certainly very intereting and even though it is getting more and more boring , also more and more repetitive these days, it still beats other Shonen works out there. Some depth can also be associated with this work thanks to Kubo. I will follow Bleach to the end, and if you are into this genre, Bleach is definitely something you should check out.
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