I have not yet had the pleasure of having an anime so brilliantly executed as this one, be tarnished so wholly by the filler thrown into it. This is the reason that I attempt to stay away from many anime of extraordinary length. Seasons One, Two, Three, Six, Seven, and Eight minus a couple episodes and a few more brief references to the episodes I've left out. This is Bleach. All the extra filler nonsense doesn't exist in my review because I don't believe it a real portion of the anime itself.
If I were to rate the show as a whole I may be able to give it a 4, maybe. That is why I am excluding the filler for my review. I am reviewing this from the standpoint of the English Dub as it has been released thus far ending at episode 167.
Now that I've explained where I am coming from let's get on with the review!
Bleach, where on earth does that name come from? Well I suppose we may never know for sure whether it is from the creator’s passion for Nirvana or Ichigo's bright orange carrot top but in the end does it really matter? It may as well be named Yu Yu Hakusho 2. Throughout the series it is undeniable, much of Bleach has roots in YYH, whether intended or not, it is far too similar for me to let it go without saying. The fact that it's coming from the same production team doesn't help their cause much either. The mangas were not written by the same person thank God. If they had been, I'd be critiquing this series for redundancy much more than I am. Perhaps Tite Kubo is simply a raving fan of the Yu Yu Hakusho series.
Despite the similarities, Bleach has a lot to offer in the realm of creativity, and as the show progresses, the Yu Yu Hakusho 2 feel begins to wear off, resurfacing periodically throughout the rest of the show.
I was disappointed by the main character, Ichigo Kurosaki, or rather in Tite's ability to slowly build his character's skills. Many anime have an insane exponential skill/power curve, for example, Dragonball Z. But Dragonball Z at least gave the impression that a lot of time has passed and the characters have all been doing their best to train and get better. Ichigo does in 63 short episodes the equivalent of a Super-Saiyan 2 (which took Dragonball Z 170 episodes!). 8O HOLY SHIT is right! Because of this unnatural feel of skill progression I felt distracted at many times.
I was thoroughly entertained in the end. Bleach has a good enough amount of character development and flashbacks to display the character's individual drives and such without smothering the viewer in self reflective nostalgia. There is a delicate balance of progression and development that makes viewers feel for the characters deeply. The 167th episode left me at a peak of excitement that I have not often felt; I happened to be watching it on my portable device at the time and ended up yelling amongst a crowd...hehe oops. So the story is GOOD considering the time to acquire great power!
Wow..Just Wow. haha ok, maybe that's not all I'll say but I'm not entirely sure what to say in length! This show is about as fluid an anime as I've ever seen! I praised Black Cat for its amazing animation and such, and don't get me wrong here, but Bleach has much more effectively blended the traditional anime style with the flashy effects. Bleach is a computer animated masterpiece in that it doesn't make the fact that it is such blatantly obvious! It keeps the drawn feel to it.
The other area that I wanted to touch on is the way the characters, props, and settings are animated. The hair. Yes, the hair. Excellent!! For the most part no outrageous hair! Virtually all the hairstyles in Bleach are realistically attainable and I feel that non-anime fan crowds can better adapt because of shows with more natural styles. A certain something that I've noticed though is that they aren't shy about Orihime's bust... Many anime feel that all women should be animated with gargantuan proportions and Bleach keeps it limited to a select few! Another plus in my book. The weapon designs are all very interesting and creative and still able to keep the same style of Black with a silver edge. This was very cool and gave the Soul Reapers' weapons a sort of uniformity. The settings are all pretty standard until the Hueco Mundo which has a nice perpetual night desert look to it.
I fell in love with the soundtrack to this anime as well, which is not something that is easily achieved. The introductory tracks for the most part are excellent and the conclusion tracks are no exception! But that's not all! And that's why I love it so much! There are some very heavy industrial elements in the fight scenes that set the vibe high above most other anime, if not all that I've seen before. On the flip-side during times of peace and/or relaxation the soft melodies keep the feeling constant and accent the emotions of the scenes perfectly.
The characters in Bleach were similar to Yu Yu Hakusho in many ways here as well especially in the main character Ichigo. But Yusuke Urameshi is such a likable character I don't care what he looks like or what new title he goes by! The only thing that makes Ichigo his own person is his voice, one of my favorites due to his talents in Code Geass as Lelouch vi Britannia, Johnny Yong Bosch does a splendid job keeping his characters from being too similar, even when his raw voice doesn't seem to change much. It's really all about delivery and Johnny excels at making Ichigo(Yusuke) his own. Justin Cook can never truly be replaced as Yusuke Urameshi but that is where Johnny salvages Ichigo and keeps him from being a carbon copy. I take my hat off to Mr. Bosch for his outstanding performance. Uryu Ishida is a mutual enemy of Ichigo's and hits hard like a Kazuma Kuwabara/Kurama combination. He has the swift and cold wit of YYH's Kurama and the competitive friendship of YYH's Kuwabara. The other characters are, for the most part, original enough to avoid further comparison. The diversity of character roles in this anime without overlapping psyches is spectacular.
Overall....AMAZING!! It has just as much plot as Yu Yu Hakusho and hits just as hard as Dragonball Z. It has earned its rank among these legends and perhaps even surpassed them in its own way. I highly recommend it to all and if at all possible avoid the filler!