Okay... I need to get my thoughts down on this series. I've been a Naruto fan for the past six years and only this year, 2013, did I decide to sit down and read the Bleach manga. I thought "Now I'd be the biggest goddamn hypocrite if I said Bleach sucked ass without ever perusing the source material". Never mind that I had been saying that the whole time I had been a Naruto fan.
I won't be divulging and "explaining" what the story is about in this review. That's what the synopsis on its official A-P page is for.
Okay, here are my views on Bleach (here we go o_o )
The story is originally compelling. It lays down the groundwork in the beginning and sets itself up to be a supernatural/action/comedy sort of thing. Truthfully the explanation of things such as "reiatsu", "reishi" and such are vague and not well-explained, despite Rukia's shitty drawings to teach Ichigo about the world of Soul Reapers. Despite this, the plot continues on, with me still trying to figure out exactly what the hell they mean. Maybe I'm too slow to pick up on things like that, but explanations are not dwelled upon in this manga, just expected to be accepted by the reader and the characters as fact before moving on.
Anyway, the story moves on and the characters are forced to move to a new location, which is Soul Society. There is a tragedy and a betrayal and a new enemy rears its ugly head. For some reason this "danger" is very vague, despite staring you right in the face. It's so all-powerful that one cannot help but feel almost immune to said danger because it's almost like being a defeatist germophobe living everyday life. "I'm going to get sick some day so...come get me, I don't care."
Let me skip to my observation of the characters for a sec:
Like Naruto and One Piece, Bleach boasts a HUGE cast of characters numbering in the hundreds. Tite Kubo has said that when he doesn't know where the plot should go he creates more characters to break his writer's block. My friend has told me that that's a good thing, but here's how I see it:
If you don't know where to go with a story with the characters you've got, then you should take the time to fill in the characters and give them even more depth, not hope that you can slip in some "self-growth" down the road as an after-thought. There are scores of characters and frankly they're almost all flat.
The only ones that are "blessed" with any sort of multi-facetedness are --in my opinion--Ichigo, Orihime, Rukia, and Nelliel, among a few others. Everyone else is stuck in First Gear because
A) They have only one goal in mind
B) Are stock characters and therefore are incapable of changing,
C) Are very minor characters and therefore just say their lines and are on their way
D) Are not given the time to develop because they are killed off or overpowered by Tite Kubo's desire to make them look cool
Another thing about the characters that I have a HUGE problem with: Their powers.
What drives me up the wall are the ass-pulls-galore. When a character is introduced, there is NO baseline of what their abilities are. There is no introduction of any sort that says "Hi, my name is Teddy Munchkins, and my Zanpakuto can suck the blood out of you." You as a reader must wait until they are engaged in battle and THEN they'll unveil their "special ability". Now sometimes that's all well and good. For villains especially, that is good, and the odd "Ally" who is more secretive with their powers (Izuru Kira, for example). What it is NOT good for is an everyday ally.
And I know that you cannot immediately introduce a character and their ability like that; I think I'm deviating from my main point.. My main point is the POWERUPS are absolutely ridiculous.
9 times out of 10 (9/10! 9/10!), the new character unveils a super-special ability of theirs and apparently I'm supposed to be wowed by it.
I'm not. These special abilities are pulled out of thin air! How am I supposed to know they have that ability? Am I supposed to be mesmerized by the power I didn't even know they had? There are never any establishments of basic abilities and powers for new characters until they're in battle, and when it's in battle there is no time to really revel in that special ability because it's in the blue and you weren't expecting it.
In Naruto, the titular character has his Shadow Clone Jutsu and relies on it a lot. When new characters are introduced, like Rock Lee, it was revealed he uses only Taijutsu. Later on in the Chuunin Exams, Kishimoto revealed that Lee uses leg weights as a means of increasing his agility. Once they're taken off, he's a green Flash.
And I guess I should even these examples out, but in One Piece, Luffy has the ability to stretch like rubber. And...that's all I know. I'm sure there's a special "reveal" of a new power or technique he learns that is in a similar vein to Rock Lee.. Moving on!
How about I put my complaint in better terms: The abilities of the characters are never set up beforehand. The scope of their powers are never established. Because of this, everything seems like an ass-pull, and everything they do seems to be almost like an "intervention of God/Kubo" to keep the ball rolling. As a reader you have NO IDEA what a character is capable of, and so when something completely unfounded and baseless happens you feel a little cheated. For me there is no excited shock because I never knew what the abilities were to begin with. It's one thing if the abilities were hidden for a long time and then only unveiled at some moment, like Urahara's. It's another thing when the abilities are revealed just as they are happening, like Sui Fong telling Yoruichi that her "stings" will kill a person if they're struck in the same spot, and then her big-ass missile thing during the battle with Baraggan. I had no way of knowing she had that ability! It's not cool, it's cheating!
I'm much better at explaining my ranty complaint above verbally than in writing.. Fuck.
Moving onto this..
Tite Kubo has a very unique art style. It's skritchy in a way that you can see all of the pen marks. It's something that belongs in a seinen manga rather than a shonen one, but it really helps the mood. The character designs are varied but at the same time banal. It's almost like he's having a contest with himself to see how many different "OCs" he can create before they start looking like each other. After awhile the faces blend into the exact same structure, just with different hair, outfits, and expressions. Probably to cut down on time drawing them..
I do have to give Tite Kubo enormous credit for his trendiness. The chapter title pages are always unique and the outfits and styles he has for them change almost constantly. He has a real eye for fashion and what is "in" and popular. Shonen mangakas rarely attempt to mix it up as much as he does. He goes above and beyond in terms of "artistic experimentation" to make something different and cool. The fact that he has "theme songs" picked out for his characters also proves that he's determined to personalize each character according to their personality, looks, and abilities.
A problem I have with his art is that there have been many times when he has done little to nothing on a page. I've read something on TV Tropes that said that he "didn't want people to be distracted by the background and not focus on the story" or something like that. There have been times when all he had was a word or two on a single blank page. "The Heart". Fuck that! That is so..asinine and egotistical of him to do that. Wasting a whole damn page. The backgrounds are pretty basic and not heavily detailed, especially in the outskirts of Hueco Mundo.
Speaking of Hueco Mundo!
I find Tite's rape of the Spanish language to be ... awful at times. It's just so .. out of place. The only Mexican guy is Sado! Why are there Japanese Shinigami and Hollows throwing out Spanish phrases and words for their attacks and weapons willy-nilly? Recently in the manga, as far as I know, the German language has been threatened by Tite's pen through something called the Vandenreich. Mein Gott!
If one wanted to be "culturally aware" they would use different languages fluidly instead of barraging the whole story with only one. I get it, you probably have a hard-on for the Spanish language, just cool it down a notch! Jesus.
Another thing. The gimmicks. Things like The numbering of the Espadas and Fracciones and all that jazz. As well as what each Espada "represents"... That is pure bullshit. Only after practically everyone has left Hueco Mundo and focused their attentions on the battle over fake Karakura Town did someone admit (Barraggan) that they are representatives of ways to die.
That is utter...crap. That is just something thrown in there that only JUST associates itself with the character it's assigned to. Just something as a "fun fact", not anything that really plays itself with the character, his/her struggles or abilities or whatever. Barely, but just barely revelant.
Also, characters seem to be made up just to foil another character whilst in battle. Masashi Kishimoto says he creates new characters that would be formidable and entertaining challenges against other characters. I'm not a hypocrite, my favorite manga does this.
But it's almost as if the enemies in Bleach serve no purpose other than to reveal a character's abilities that were forgotten about until recently. Szayel has no other reason for existing other than being beaten down by Mayuri, for example. And speaking of that battle!
Here's ANOTHER problem I have with the story and the battles: The pacing. It's not slow, I don't think, it's just wickedly fast at the end. Characters barely have time to power up, and even in the enemies' "Super Saiyan" forms it is not enough to beat the heroes. Obviously that's how it should be, I guess, but even after they unlock their last and deadliest form or ability, it is not enough to stop the bullet train barrelling down hill to the end of the battle. It's almost as if it didn't matter whether or not they did transform or powered up. In Naruto and One Piece, a power up by the opposing team means a prolonged battle with the allies or whatever trying to figure out how to beat them. Even with power-ups by enemies in Bleach, they're still going to get curb-stomped, and that's a shame. A special ability is wasted on an ass-pull or a certified win by the hero who was going to win anyways..
Examples would be Szayel's "Gabriel" ability. And my problem with this shit is perfectly expressed by Mayuri (paraphrasing here) :"That's it? Is that all you got? Surely there's something more..?"
Yeah as made obvious by Doctor Pharoah, it doesn't matter because your special ability is still shit.
So that's my rant/review. Don't take this seriously and say I don't appreciate the series. I do, a little. For a few of the characters and the art, but not the story as a whole. o_o