I have a lot of nostalgia for Bleach. It was my first venture into the world of both shounen anime and manga, and was what got me started on a journey that – even today – has me devouring whatever I can get my hands on. As such, it pains me to repress my inner fangirl and actually look at this series critically. At the time of writing this review, four hundred and twenty-three chapters have been released, the story thus far has reached a definite conclusion, and mangaka Tite Kubo has announced that a further two arcs spanning the best part of another four years will follow. It doesn’t bode well that I will openly admit that I wish he’d instead sat back, realised that he’s had a good eight-year run and called it quits while he was still ahead.
Bleach follows typical teenager, Ichigo Kurosaki, and his not-so-typical ability to see spiritual beings. One day, the high-schooler finds his family under attack by a giant creature known as a Hollow, and while attempting to protect them, he meets a shinigami (soul reaper in the English translation) named Rukia. She then ends up transforming him into a shinigami and now Ichigo is adjusting to his new life of protecting spirits from Hollows before finding himself thrust into a series of events that puts both his and the spirit world at stake.
Without a doubt, the Soul Society Arc is Bleach’s strongest. With Ichigo et al barging into the spirit world and raiding the very heart of the shinigami government, this section of the narrative has far more direction than anything else that follows, demonstrating clear goals, twists, intrigue, and a good progression in the protagonist’s power and prowess. This arc shows what shounen manga is all about; grippingly awesome fights, engaging new characters, fun comedy, and a kick-ass plot. However, no matter how well a formula works, Bleach suffers from one fatal flaw: Tite Kubo has a nasty habit of taking all the good points of his manga and beating them within an inch of their lives.
While the Soul Society plotline triumphed, simply re-hashing the entire thing in a new setting just ain’t gonna cut it. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens with the Hueco Mundo (land of the hollows) arc that follows, but instead Kubo replaces the Seireitei with Las Noches, slaps a few Espada in place of the Gotei Thirteen, and cuts out any of those quieter moments of plot development in favour of producing a string of progressively more difficult battles. Focusing on a sequence of action-packed fights isn’t dissimilar to basically any other shounen manga and the plot does continue to develop a little – albeit in the fine tradition of characters stopping dead in their tracks mid-combat to have an in-depth conversation about death and power; however, the recycled storyline and Kubo’s over-reliance on awe-inspiring conflicts means that, as a self-contained arc, there isn’t really all that much fresh content. The whole plotline feels kind of like a pair of hand-me-down jeans that you’ve always wanted; they may look all new and sparkly on the outside (ooo look fun new land, funky new enemies, Ichigo kicking ass), but then you get them out into the cold light of day and that’s when the problems begin. Under the glaring sun you quickly realise that actually, they look a bit grubby (what happened to all the intrigue of the Soul Society arc…), there’s a gaping hole in the pocket (convenient power ups pulled out from nowhere/the mangaka’s ass), and… wait… what the hell is with that suspicious looking stain in the crotch area?! (oh look, they’re off to rescue someone trapped in a strange world with pretty much zero chance of success AGAIN)
Unlike the likes of Kishimoto and Oda who have embarked on their behemoth series with what seems like a clear game-plan and a full understanding of their worlds, Kubo appears to just make it all up as he goes along, changing rules to suit his every whim. Often this leads him to abuse the ongoing mystery behind Ichigo’s powers to the point where watching his “development” as a fighter throughout the series feels like playing Monopoly with a blatant cheater. Every time the carrot-haired shinigami finds himself in a tough situation and winds up in the slammer, Kubo either miraculously powers the teen up using the stash of “Get out of jail free” cards hidden up his sleeve, or completely ignores all restrictions placed on Ichigo’s abilities and continues to traverse the board while collecting triple his two hundred pound share each time he passes “Go”.
As the strongest aspect of this manga, Kubo makes great use of varied mark-making from precise angular lines for detail and atmosphere, to freer and thicker calligraphic inking to emphasise atmosphere or grandeur. He also makes good use of different shaped panels and full-page spreads to express the gravity or sheer awe of the situation at hand or the intense determination through smaller more concentrated imagery.
When it comes to his character designs, mangaka Tite Kubo demonstrates solid technique, though not quite at full on pagegasm level. At times it seems that many individuals’ faces could be interchanged and no one would actually notice. Granted, this isn’t particularly out of the ordinary – all artists have their own facial vocabulary – but in comparison to other long running shounen franchises, a fair portion of Bleach’s cast feels re-used. Oda’s wacky designs for One Piece all look different; likewise Kishimoto’s subtler, more muted visuals in Naruto show distinct variations between all of the primary, secondary, and even tertiary players. The similar facial designs scattered throughout, affect not only the likes of Grimmjow and Hisagi – who essentially appear to be Ichigo clones with different hair colours and added accessories – but also makes less prominent personalities in the Bleach universe, such as many of the female Fraccions from Hueco Mundo, meld into one big Kubo-drawn blob.
This isn’t to say that the characters in Bleach are completely unimaginative in their appearance, as that’s far from the truth. Kenpachi’s craggy facial features, Kurotsuchi’s increasingly twisted appearance, and Chad’s shaggy-haired, large-lipped façade that only a mother could love all stick out for their bold designs. On top of that, Kubo also ideally matches a character’s visage to their personality, such as the harsh and pointed features of Byakuya that mirrors his icy and proud mannerisms, or the doe-eyed and curvaceous figure of the irritatingly “nice”, caring, and fluffy Orihime.
It would be impossible to say that Kubo’s creations are dull, as there are plenty of characters that grab attention for their bold personalities. When it comes to varied individuals Kubo shines and their various differences not only means that there’s something for everyone, but their interactions also contribute to the majority of the humorous content. However, for every deranged Kurotsuchi and glacial Byakuya, there’s at least one lacklustre Orihime, and for each time a cheeky Urahara and flirtatious Matsumoto take centre stage, a vapid Hinamori waits in the wings to bore or irritate the reader to sleep. As for Ichigo himself, he sinks into the role of standard shounen hero like it were a comfortable armchair, though at the same time he doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.
When it comes to development, Bleach is a bit of a mixed bag. Some protagonists evolve nicely and receive an admirable amount of exploration, allowing the reader to become invested in the individual. Others make for more compelling reading by remaining fairly mysterious all the way through with mere hints at their personality or intentions gradually bubbling their way to the surface. Then there’s the murkier end of it all where there are those whose entire evolution falls completely by the wayside reside, or those whose development is either rushed, half-formed, or completely bungled (Kubo’s recent attempt to make Gin more than just a creepy slimeball springs to mind here) – I like to call it the land of those the mangaka forgot. With such a huge cast it would be silly to expect every last minor character to have a fully fleshed-out personality, but in certain cases – more noticeably in the series’ antagonists – any kind of development happens so quickly, that it appears to have come out of nowhere. At times it seems like the individuals in question have done a complete one-eighty with little to no explanation, which makes it difficult to relate to their actions or even care about what happens to them.
I want to genuinely like Bleach, I really do, but that simply isn’t to be. Instead I have a weird love/hate relationship, in that I hate loving it. While sheepishly admitting that I enjoy reading it, every cell in my body screams out that I shouldn’t because – while it can be thoroughly entertaining if you immerse yourself in its world – it just really isn’t that great, especially in comparison to what else is out there. When it comes to the “Big Three” of shounen manga, Bleach is more like the retarded cousin to the two shining idols of Naruto and One Piece – or more appropriately, the Wonderweiss to their Ulquiorra and Grimmjow.
Note I have seen over 80 episodes of the anime.
I read 1 chapters
I own 4 volumes
Story:Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn't change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family; but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia—who is slowly regaining her powers—it's Ichigo's job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.
Volume 1: Read 1 ouz of 7 chapters
Chapter 1:Death & Strawberry "4.5/5"
Volume 2 (Not yet read)
Volume 3 (Not yet read)
Volume 4 (Not yet read)
*THIS REVIEW IS BASED ON CHAPTERS 1-581*
***THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW***
In the world of action manga, most people have attributed 3 titles as the "big 3" or various names. Of these three manga, one really stood out for me by starting out truly spectacular but unfortunately losing a lot of steam.
Agent of the Shinigami/Soul Society Arc (10/10)
Arrancar/Hueco Mundo Arc (7/10)
Turn Back the Pendulum Mini-Series (8.2/10)
Fake Karakura Town Arc (2/10)
Fullbring Arc (0.1/10)
Current Chapters (6.9/10)
Since this is an ongoing manga (as of this review being posted), I feel that it is appropriate to give some sort of numerical value to each of the arcs. I normally shy away from rating individual arcs of stories but Bleach is quite the unusual case.
So Bleach is somewhat of a rollercoaster of a ride. It starts out so hyped up, lives through that hype for awhile, then steadily makes the fanbase angry by dragging on too long. Then, as a follow up throws in a very boring arc only to be followed by a interesting "ending" that is still ongoing.
To give you an idea of why most Bleach fans praise the start of the manga is because the story does literally everything right. In fact I am bold and confident enough to say that all action/adventure manga/anime should take the time and pay respects to both the manga and anime versions of Bleach's beginning arc(s). The Agent of the Shinigami and Soul Society arcs was filled with everything you need to have a perfect action packed story. These aspects are, a main character that must become stronger in order to overcome ____ challenge, a person (usually a female (also sometimes a weakened female)) that needs to be saved, and of course sub-plots that work in tandem towards the climax of the main focus of the story. The Soul Society arc has all of this tied neatly in a bow with cherries on top. You had interesting characters, a fast moving plot, and multiple ideas of who the real antagonists were.
The arcs that follow; The Arrancar and Hueco Mundo arc were not per say bad; they just had no chance to live up to the hype that the first arcs had brought to the playing field. The mini-series arc that occurs before the Fake Karakura Town arc was very interesting since we got to see said characters of the arc pasts which made them more likable. The downfall of the manga though is universally the same for all bleach fans, the Fake Karakura Town Arc. Without spoiling anything, this arc has such a huge build up with so many fights going on only to end with the main "bad guy" wanting to lose. It was so pitiful to see all this buildup, no what was supposed to be the CLIMAX of the manga fall so hard on its face. In all honesty though due to the events leading up to this arc conclusion, the manga could of ended here and been good. But it doesn't.
Instead of leaving on a somewhat decent note, we get the Fullbring Arc which confused us all in wondering what the hell is going on and why the author ever thought it was worth putting in the manga. You get antagonists that are bland and idiots and on top of that, it's just plain boring to read. Thankfully the arc that follows (the one currently going on) seems to have put the manga back on track (somewhat) for hopefully an ending that Bleach deserves.
Overall I cannot give the manga a rating yet since endings are so important for closure purposes so until the manga ends, this category will be left blank.
The artwork in Bleach has always looked and felt unique even through all the noticeable changes. The action scenes look great, characters look unique, and the settings are very nice and feel relevant to what is going on. I feel like it gets better as the manga goes on which is something I cannot say for a lot of other manga I have read.
This category also shouldn't be rated since more characters will undoubtedly be added later on but I have a feel on everyone that has been presented so far. Basically you have a lot and I mean a lot of characters that do feel unique and spectacular. You also have a bunch that really drag down the show and really hinder the flow of the story. Ichigo is though a really good action character since he usually can keep his composure, he is compassionate, and he has such potential to grow due to his circumstances. The supporting cast in most of the arcs do a pretty good job of moving the story on but there are some cases where some characters that get introduced really seem useless. The villains of the middle arcs are what really let me down in this manga. They had everything going for them but become bland and uninteresting.
Overall (so far): 6.3/10
This manga has problems and these problems unfortunately taint a perfect start for any manga that has ever existed. It also has a specific problem that most people have grown tired of seeing; a main character that has to "power up" or "level up" in order to face some sort of challenge. If you do not like this (IE: Goku's leveling up) then go away. If however you want a really engaging manga that stays interesting for quite some time, then by all means pick this up. Even though we all bit#@ about the failings of the middle arcs, we would still go back and re-read this manga. It has too many good moments to be ruined by the failings of the troubled arcs.
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I really love this manga, but i wish they continue with the anime the story is getting better each chapter, and is at the climax point... if anyone has new on whats going to happend with the anime please share....
This is a good manga because it has a good story line to it. The art of this manga is really good and well drawn and has amazing details in both the scenary and in the character details. I love most of the characters because they are really awesome people and have good personalities to them and most of them also like to help other people no matter what might happen to them selves. Also some of the main characters will go to any length to keep their promises no matter what. Overall I think that this is a good manga that people might like to read if they are into the supernatural types of mangas or if you have seen the anime this is also another reason to read this manga.