Bleach is one of the three so-called "mainstream shonen animes"; together with Naruto and One Piece these three are immensely popular, and the topic of endless comparison among their fans set out to prove that their favorite is the best out of them. They simply refuse to exit their fanboyism to view the series in an objective light, which is a shame, because they are probably missing out on great adventures, which is the case of Bleach in many ways. If you want my review short and good, give Bleach a try no matter what people have said, as it, despite a lot of shortcomings, presents a most interesting and enthralling universe.
The concept seems pretty basic at first; there's the Soul Reapers (Shinigami), empowered souls who guide departed human souls to Soul Society, the afterlife deimension, formed after a Feudal Japan. They also fight Hollows, evil and malevolent spirits, to protect living humans and souls alike. So, I assume you have read the plot summary, which covers the basics of the first story arc, which is basically the arc where we are introduced to the main main cast of Bleach; the standard, headstrong, rash and protective teenage shonen hero, his voice of reason in the form of a girl, his arrogant beglassed rival, the ditzy klutz girl with big boobs, and the large, stoic type.
Towards the end of said arc however, a real plot appears, events are set into motion, and before long, it has escalated into an assault on said Soul Society a rescue mission from our team of 4-5 heroes, who fight their way through shinigami of all kinds trying to reach their goal, conveniently placed in the middle of this Society. In this arc, you'll get lots of great action and meaningful fights, bottled together with an extremely large and colorful cast of characters, flashbacks and an interesting plot. It all builds up one hell of an end to the arc, 60 or so episodes into the show, where a most intersting twist takes place. And said arc ending is in each and every way the climax of Bleach.
Which is its problem. From there it goes steep downhill to two arcs of slow-paced filler, which lowers your excitement a great deal of levels, and from there the show never manages to get you hooked as much as it did during the Soul Society arc. It does get some interesting new aspects and revelations durign the following Arrancar arc, but it never gets really exciting, nor does it get that much greater during the Hueco Mundo arc. It's just too much fighting, and a re-used "save the damsel in distress" plot. The colorful cast is not seen as much anymore, and aside some interesting emotional developments courtesy of the former klutz girl, there's not a lot to it, and most fights don't have the same enthralling depth to them which made the fights in SS so unique. Now it's more a display of unique powers, and whatever motivations the bad guys had for their fighting is revealed only after the actual fights, which in ways ruins things. Also, there's a few plot holes to speak of, but nothing large.
However, aside the completely random filler arc (which re-used several plot elements from the story), Bleach has shown potential for improvement lately, and it keeps expanding its cast endlessly, which makes the universe seem living in many ways, so we can all only hope that Bleach will improve gradually. However, I sincerely doubt that it will ever be restored to how great it was at its peak, namely the Soul Society rescue arc.
It does have a lot of shortcomings, yet it is a most enjoyable watch still. Now, why is that? The answer is the unexpectancy factor it has. Due to its vast cast and great universe, you can't really know what comes next, only make qualified guesses. What kinds of powers will that character have? What is the villain really up to? And what's with that guy? What will happen next? Who knows, who knows. So one could say that the true strength of Bleach lies in its cast, which can bring about mysteries, plot twists and other aspects of awesomeness, and cover up for a somewhat lacking storyline.
So what about the asesthetics? there's plenty of people who believe that the visual and auditory aspects of anime are just as important as any plot or character development. And Bleach delivers here, in many ways.
The animation quality is quite the hassle to discuss, because it is so varying in quality. At its worst it has low frame rates, offset character designs and framed action, while at its best it is vivid, meticulous and full of soft motions and beautifully animated special and lighting effects. Most of the time however, it is decent. Not average, but not in any way anything bragworthy. Expect some ups and downs in this department.
The soundtrack however, is very great. It is greatly varied, and is renewed per story arc, introducing new tunes often whilst keeping the old ones around too, and this variation is intrinsical of any above-average soundtrack. It stays perfectly in tone and atmosphere with the current events, and feature everything from upbreat, adrenaline-pumping electric guitar pieces to melliflous piano pieces, and standard comedic moment tracks. The opening and endign themes feature a lot of types and genres, from the serene and sentimental to rap and rock. And pop, of course.
I said it in the beginning, and I'll say it again; try out Bleach at least once, desptie what Narutard, shonen haters or anyone else have said. It's pretty enjoyable despite its lacks and faults, mostly in thanks to its great cast.