I owe a lot to anime. Through joint love of the medium, I have forged friendships and experienced more variety of storytelling that I could ever have imagined. But the day Japanese animation changed my life for good was a bright spring afternoon when I first encountered a tale about a teenage messiah exorcising the evil from our world with his great sword of justice. Many people may dismiss Tite Kubo as little more than a derivative punk, doling out sub-par shounen every week. Such heretics however, should be ignored, for Kubo offers up far more than entertainment, he gives us the gift of salvation in the form of his epic fable, Bleach.
The fictitious Karakura Town runs rife with sin, with delinquents resorting to frequent acts of vandalism and bullying. While it seems that there is little hope for humanity, one orange-haired boy named Ichigo Kurosaki stands up to the immorality of the world, forcibly extracting apologies and repentance from the worst of the sinners. One day, he meets a shinigami (death god) called Rukia who reveals a hidden world of malevolent beings known as Hollows who consume innocent souls to satiate their own rampant hunger. When Ichigo finds his family under attack, Rukia lends him her power and awakens him to his true identity: the saviour of mankind. With new powers, the teen begins to fight against the hollows and purify them in order to rid the world of evil.
In the midst of its awe-inspiring fights depicting Ichigo’s divine retribution upon each wrongdoer, Bleach helps to assure us of how we should live and what awaits us in the future. Soul Society offers up solid proof that there is an afterlife, while the ghosts that linger in the human world teach us not to fear taking the next step on this journey. Likewise that the series still carries on to this day after a definitive conclusion, only gives more evidence to the fact that there is something more beyond the seeming finality of death. By ending the central story yet continuing the narrative, we simple men and women can clutch onto the knowledge that our human lives are but a chapter in a novel, and our souls shall continue to endure for many years to come, defying the laws of both mortality and plausibility at every turn.
There are several moralistic parables aside from the main story. While many heathens often refer to this as pointless filler, these hellions are indisputably wrong. Bleach’s side stories are integral to the series’ teachings, and guides its followers on the correct path. The cleverly scattered fables train us not to lose our tempers, but to have patience and faith that accepting the mundane or the downright terrible will ultimately make us appreciate the greatness all the more. After all, if we can endure episodes of the cast playing football for no logical reason, then we can certainly control ourselves when faced with rude individuals, bankruptcy or bereavement.
Likewise odd recurring jokes give us further guidance on the path to enlightenment. For example, one of the series’ most pitiful characters is that of Kon. That this pathetic being not only lacks a physical body of his own, but also fails to succeed in any of his endeavours proves that his depravity towards the female form – and particularly their ample bosoms – is not admirable, but deplorable. From this we learn that such infatuations will only lead to our downfall and utter ruin.
Bleach’s divine artwork is a thing of beauty. In terms of animation, the series excels. From showers of shimmering sakura petals and billowing clouds of dust amidst a heated clash to Ichigo speeding across the screen, each slash of a zanpakutou effectively pierces our apathetic hides and enlightens us to the show’s teachings.
Meanwhile, the variety of different character designs from the attractive to the downright ridiculous pertains to the diversity of society and that we should accept everyone no matter how they look. While the natural reaction to meeting someone like Kurotsuchi in a dark alley may be to run for the hills, we should look past his bizarre appearance and instead give him a great big hug. After all, he is just as deserving and in need of love as the next person.
With any long series, a large number of opening and ending themes is to be expected. What I had not anticipated was that each and every one of these harmonious melodies would resound within my heart like a heavenly angelic chorus. Whoever doesn’t find their soul uplifted by the enthusiastic yell of “HEART HEART” from the show’s twenty-third ending theme, Stay Beautiful by Diggy-Mo’, must have very little humanity left in their hollow shell of a body.
Ichigo is a true inspiration. His single-minded motivation to uphold good, bring justice to wrongdoers and protect those he cares for shines like a guiding light for all the lost souls scrabbling about in the dark. Likewise, his mass appeal to those around him shows the strength of his leadership as well as the truth of his actions. From taming the reformed delinquent Chad and earning the respect of haughty Ishida to charming the saintly Orihime, Ichigo gathers his disciples from all walks of life and does not discriminate between anyone, instead accepting everyone’s strengths, weaknesses and abilities.
As if Ichigo’s beacon of goodness were not enough, Kubo gives us another gift in the form of Orihime. This pure maiden’s heart is thrice as large as her sizeable bosom and twice as warm. Her unflappable belief that there is good in each and every being and that with a little love no soul is beyond redemption teaches us to have faith in each other no matter the situation. Perhaps, should we rule with our hearts, we might one day lead as fulfilling a life as this flame-haired goddess and stand side by side with the saviour crying “KUROSAKI-KUUUUUN!” in exaltation.
On the other side of the hollow mask Kubo urges us away from the path of darkness and demonstrates what will happen should one stray from the path of the righteous. While the hollows themselves explicitly show how lingering hatred, regret and despair can consume a soul, the true danger of our sins lies with the series’ primary antagonist. With a true fallen angel leading the charge against goodness, Bleach warns us not to be seduced by power and selfish desires lest we rip an irreparable hole in the core of our very beings.
More than simple entertainment, Bleach is nothing less than this generation’s holy text, and should be used as a guideline to living a wholesome, pure and righteous life. We all strive to walk the correct path, and Tite Kubo shows us the way in the most entertaining and engaging approach possible. That I can only rate such a work of true importance and purity on such a small scale is simply offensive; can one’s salvation really only be worth ten points?
Fifteen-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki is a typical teen with fighting skills, two caring sisters and a special trait: he can see ghosts. However, when Ichigo and his family find themselves under attack by a huge beast, Ichigo discovers that there’s more to the supernatural world than the everyday specter. Vengeful spirits known as Hollows roam the world in search of devouring souls, and Shinigami – soul reapers – work tirelessly to defeat them and guide normal ghosts into a place called Soul Society. Ichigo valiantly fights the Hollow that threatens his sisters, but on the verge of defeat a Shinigami named Rukia gives him her powers, turning him into a Shinigami himself. Ichigo must now adjust to his new life of both vanquishing and saving souls for the sake of Soul Society.
While I like a variety of different genres, if you give me comedy or slice of life, I'm bound to be happy – and if it's dark humour, all the better! I'll review whatever takes my fancy at the time, and whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop me a line.