"Bleach" is a pretty decent series. It's got a large cast of characters, a unique universe, a well recorded soundtrack, and a hell of a lot of fast-paced, action-packed battles that will keep you on the edge of your seat, from time-to-time, it's got pretty much every essential that a shounen anime needs.
Except, for some reason, none of that has never been enough to save the show from continuously falling down an endless spiral of ass-pulls, plotholes and lack of entertainment that, on occasion, ruins the fun at times.
What starts off as a wonderful, colourful and very intriguing series, eventually develops into something that becomes bland and uninteresting, with a severe lack of the charm it started off with in it's early days, which sadly, makes "Bleach" not as good as it should be, or could have been?
What are the reasons for this? Allow me to explain from the beginning, on an arc to arc basis:
"Bleach" starts off in the quiet little town of Karakura Town, and follows a young orange-haired teenager named Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo, for some reason, is able to see and communicate with ghosts, and often converses with them when he's alone, feeling sorry for them, but sometimes pestered by them. Eventually, the town is attacked by some invisible beast, which Ichigo is able to see because of his spirit seeing ability, the beast however is eventually cut down by an unknown woman, wielding a sword. Later at night however, the same woman intrudes his room, Ichigo being able to see her, although he shouldn't be able to. The woman is Rukia, a Soul Reaper (Shinigami), she explains the whole thing to him, and eventually another creature appears, attacking his family this time, Rukia on the verge of death from battling the beast, lends Ichigo some of her powers, but he absorbs too much, and becomes a Soul Reaper, like Rukia, and now has a big FECKING SWORD. The series then chronicles Ichigo's life as a Soul Reaper, battling the creatures, known as Hollows and a whole bunch of other nonsense, which is too long to explain... Now to break down the series arc-by-arc:
First Story Arc:
The series begins as a simple shounen series, with Ichigo and some of his high school friends gaining supernatural abilities, and battling Hollows to save the town from their infernal wrath. This first arc was excellent, it opened up a huge fantasy world of possibilities and the characters were all unique and well developed in their own way, with mysterious back stories that could have been interesting. Even the Hollows themselves, while being mindless monsters, were portrayed as having a reason for their monstrous forms, most of them, being humans who were nothing more than vengeful spirits who became monsters. It began as a very interesting series here.
Second Story Arc:
Rukia is forced back home to the Soul Society, and is to be executed for the crime of giving her powers to a human, Ichigo. Ichigo, enraged by this, decides to go after her, along with his high school friends, to save her from death, battling many Soul Reapers that stand in their way. Despite dragging on quite a bit at times, this is by far, the best arc in the entire anime, when the series was at it's high. A huge cast of characters were brought into the fray, there were a ridiculous amount of fast-paced and well choreographed battles between the heroes and the Soul Reapers, and the arc ended with a massive plot twist, that set up the stage for the story's main plot, as well as revealing Soul Reaper Captain Aizen as being the Big Bad Villain of the entire series, who's introduction as a villain, was very unexpected and dramatically done. The most epic and best arc in the series, it gave me high hopes for the show, perhaps too high.
Lots and lots of Fillers:
Okay, so like most long anime's it caught up with the manga material, and had to throw in some filler episodes. That's fair enough, and I can accept that. What I cannot accept however, is the length of this filler arc. "The Bount Arc" as it's called, is horrible. It's incredibly slow, and for the most part, pretty boring, but it IS unrelated to the storyline, so it isn't essential to watch, but some filler characters do remain in the canon story, which can be pretty confusing if you never watched the filler... Any way, this was when the series began to show it's weaknesses, even if it was filler, that doesn't excuse the fact that the entire plot of this filler arc was plagiarised from the Chapter Black Saga of Yu Yu Hakusho (which Bleach has stolen ideas from many times), but I was still able to ignore this fact, and carry on watching. It's filler, so no big deal eh?
Third Story Arc:
Ah yes. The good old Arrancar Saga, when everything went to hell. So now there's a main plot, the Big Bad Aizen starts to set his plans into motion and creates an army of Soul Reaper-Hollow Hybrids called Arrancars. Basically, they're Hollows with Soul Reaper abilities, which is pretty cool I guess. So what's the problem here? The story is. It begins to drag way too much for starters, and that's not including the endless amount of filler that's thrown in-between major story sections. The filler makes no effort to even fit in with the main plot, and is more of an annoyance than anything else, especially when thrown in during a battle sequence. Back to the main plot, Aizen, the Big Bad who seemed like a super, evil genius after revealing his plan to the entire Soul Society, becomes a complete idiot, making moves that make little to no sense, that do nothing to advance his plans and bring him closer to his goals. In fact, some of these moves are made simply to be of convenience to the plot and allowing it to continue the way Kubo wants it to, without even trying to disguise it. Eventually, when Aizen does get off his ass and does something, he still insists on taking his time, flying around, curb-stomping all of the main characters in short, quick, battles.
As for the battles in this arc, they're the only thing that really keep the show watchable and interesting. There are some amazing moments here, like Ichigo battling Grimmjow THREE times, all of which are some of the best fights in Bleach. But even still, some of the battles become rather repetitive and are often very one-sided, until a sudden shift in the power balance of the two opponents causes the other side to prevail. This happens an endless amount of times in Bleach.
Character development also begins to die here, as many main characters are dropped into the background or forgotten about entirely, with the plot focusing mainly on Ichigo, The Arrancers and Aizen, the rest of the characters end up on the same bench as Yamcha and Tien from Dragon Ball Z. You know, the bench of forgotten characters?
This story arc is also full of many, many, many plotholes, which are so noticeable it's embarrassing... I have nothing else to say here... Seriously...
In fact, scrap that last statement. The ending to this story arc is the most downer ending in an anime I have ever witnessed. Seriously. What happens to Aizen after he is beaten? Is he executed? Is he destroyed ultimately in a final decisive battle? Is he sent to another dimension?
He's put in jail.
Yup. Jail. That's how they defeated the main villain who kept the show running.
Fourth Story Arc:
What's that? Aizen's been defeated? The Arrancar's are finished? Ichigo's lost his powers as a Soul Reaper? Well, that seems like a great way to end the show.
Wait? What's that? There's another story arc? Really?
Yup. That's right.
Tite Kubo realised he's making so much money from this series that he continued the story after the main plot for the past 200+ episodes was resolved.
Only this time the enemies are weak as anything, all being defeated rather quickly, and suddenly, without so much as a struggle from the main characters.
It seems the show could go on forever here at this point.
However, all is well, as the animation studio for Bleach decided to end the show after this arc, due to low ratings and sales from this latest arc.
And the manga is about to end too it seems, as it's on it's "Final Arc" which is apparently, not so bad. But I have no interest in this, it is quite frankly, of no interest to me.
However, "Bleach" is by no means a bad series, it's just not a GOOD series either. It's decent. Okay even.
The character development gets off to a good start, but eventually goes down, and down, and down, until we just simply don't care any more.
The animation is pretty good, like everything else, it starts off amazing, especially for something from 2004, but there's one problem here... The art and animation do not EVOLVE as the series goes on, and still looks the same in 2012 as it did in 2004, which is unacceptable. There are also some parts when it appears they just got lazy and started to do a Dragon Ball Z reincarnation, and having millions of swords fly at characters at once, in an almost cartoon fashion. Only Dragon Ball Z and One Piece may do this. Bleach is not allowed to.
The story is horrible. It starts off interesting and mysterious, but eventually it devolves into an endless pile of tiring shit. And I'm not kidding around here. My reasons for this are stated above. It's full of plotholes and inconsistencies and it's very annoying.
The soundtrack is superb though, the whole way out, it's brilliant and fits in well with what's going on-screen, and the sound-effects and voice acting (particularly the english dub) are top-notch.
The main protagonist also starts off as a likeable, decent, level-headed character. He'll never give up no matter what, and he'll do anything to defeat his enemies and help his friends. However, this eventually, like everything else, goes to hell, as he starts to become nothing more than angry, angsty teenager who kicks and screams after every defeat he gets handed. It's so childish that it's almost painful to watch.
Characters also never seem to die in this show, unless they're on the evil side. This creates an emotionless experience, because you know the heroes are never going to die, or make heroic sacrifices. I have no idea why Kubo won't kill a character, I really have no idea, but it's stupid. Even NARUTO kills off characters...
Overall, this show is filled with fast-paced battles and brain-dead action. If you don't care about characters and plots, this is the anime for you.
But compared to the other shounen anime like Naruto, One Piece and Fairy Tail (which has usurped Bleach's place in "The Big Three" of anime, for obvious reasons), it's got nothing. It's not deserving of it's acclaim and it's certainly not the "better than Naruto" as many Bleach fans claim continuously. And it can't even compare to One Piece, don't get me started on that rant.
Anyway, it's about time I wrapped this up so:
Story: 3/10 - Starts off good, but ends up getting nowhere and becomes brainless and stupid.
Art and Animation: 6/10 - Starts off good yet again, but doesn't evolve as time goes on, which is annoying.
Soundtrack and Voice Acting: 9/10 - The soundtrack is amazing, the voice acting is amazing too, save for a few characters which is why this isn't getting a 10.
Characters: 5/10 - Some, like Aizen are bad-ass. Some like Ichigo begin to get annoying. A very mixed cast of loveable and hateable characters.
Overall: 6/10 - It starts off really good, and promising, and then turns into an absolute atrocity. Really. It's not unwatchable, in fact I find it very entertaining at times, but it's brainless and full of plotholes and that annoys me. A lot.
So yeah... I'm done. Comment and stuff.