So recently it was announced that a favorite anime of mine, Bleach would be brought back to the television screen. It brings delight to my friends and I. We waited 8 years since the conclusion of the anime to be brought to the screens. Bleach was on the television from 2004-2012 and originally ran for 366 episodes. Now people can say what they want about the show’s run. (Mostly it will be bellyaching about filler episodes, which are still awesome if not in the some of the worst places lol.) but this has been my favorite anime from recent years for several reasons. I waited for the announcement of the rest of the show for as long as I could. I admit I lost faith every day. But a friend of mine who had been pointing out that I need to read the Thousand Year Blood War arc since I bought the whole manga collection and then I would know how the story ends… finally convinced me to do so. It is funny… because I was just holding onto it because I didn’t want it to be over. I was so satisfied with the last arc that it only renewed the vigor in my heart for the final arc to be brought to life on screen. As far as holding on to my favorite story… there is good news on that end as well. Tite Kubo announced that his one shot… Burn the Witch will be serialized so that gives me new characters and a new story to fall in love with. I trust in Kubo.
Bleach follows Ichigo Kurosaki who at the outset of the show can see ghosts… It was so funny to me because it reminded me of Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense. But I will say it was refreshing to see a main character that just wanted to be a regular high school kid. But such a thing was never in the cards for Kurosaki. He obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper (死神, Shinigami, literally, “Death God”) from another Soul Reaper, Rukia Kuchiki. His newfound powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife.
So now to my countdown…
- Bleach was the first thing to bring me out of my depression. I started watching Bleach in 2013. Well after it went off the air but that was a rough time in my life. I lost my job and my relationship ended. Both of which caused me at the time to feel super down. The issue being that I couldn’t focus on anything. I found nothing entertaining at all. I was just kind of going through the motions. What is funny is that I watched anime for many years. (Dragonball Z, Speed Racer, and Sailor Moon as a kid before and after school.) So I met up with an old friend and he was telling me about shows that he watched that he thought I would enjoy… the first being One Piece… (maybe I will do a post about that some other time.) While I enjoyed One Piece… it was Bleach that struck a chord with me. The Main Character just wanted to be a normal teenager and protect his friends and family.
- Standout Characters: You know that story has hooked you when you are interested in every character and every character’s back story. Some people comment that the side characters are more interesting than Ichigo. And while I love Ichigo, I have to point out dynamic characters which also made it easier for the show to suck me in. The mysterious Urahara, Uryu, Kenpachi, and Byakuya. I loved each and every character that was introduced. They all had their dynamic personalities and each had something different that they brought to the table as well as their stories all tie together.
- Each character story ties together… and the reveals are breathtaking. The thing that comes to mind here is the backstory of Urahara. When we first meet Urahara, he seems stupid. (But that, of course, is his thing, as you find out later on.) My first thought when learning that he was a soul reaper was Why in the world, is he in the world of the living and not in the Soul Society? Besides being the trainer to my beloved Ichigo… what was his deal? Well as is Kubo’s way… that story is told in a way that left me speechless. A tale rooted in events from 100 years ago… the battle of geniuses… Urahara is a scary dude though… you never know how much of the truth he is telling and he never lets on how much he actually knows. There are other cases like this…the other one that stands out to me is Ichigo’s father being the leader of the Shiba clan (which everyone Ichigo meets in the Soul Society knows… but never says a word!) as well as his mother being a Quincy. Such epic story telling and not a thing introduced that doesn’t have a reason for being there.
- Ichigo deals in real emotions. This is normally what I debate with other people about especially on twitter. When we meet Ichigo, he is 15. As most kids his age, he is a bit rough around the edges. I attributed that to his mother’s death. But the introduction of the Grand Fisher solidified it for me. The guilt that he feels about his mother’s death drives his need to protect his family and friends. Looking at a situation, more things appear the older you get. At 9, he felt bad because he should have been the one to protect her but also he didn’t get the whole story. He learns that he was sucked in by the Grand Fisher.. and he carries the weight of his role in her death. It drives him to get stronger. This weight was sad for me to watch him carry as he had no idea what was going on at the time. There are periods when he attempts to push away the people that care about him for their safety which is SUPER ANNOYING. Let people love you, sir. (I love him anyway.) He loves his friends dearly and doesn’t ever want to be the reason that someone else close to him loses their life. Sadly though he misses that they care about him because he is too busy trying to keep them at arm’s length. He even struggles with letting them know about his own inner hollow because he is worried that they will turn away from him. A 15/16 year old that suffers from feelings of doubt, inadequacy, etc touched close to home but him constantly learning that his friends and family cared about him no matter what touched my heart.
- Isshin Kurosaki is badass and a damn good father. There are a lot of discussions online about who in anime wears the crown for the worst father. Or the joke that the kids in these shows have almost no parental supervision. Isshin is a very hands-on father… when attacking Ichigo to keep him on his toes… maybe too much so. The discussion Isshin has with Ichigo at his mother’s grave made a real impression on me. Ichigo finally asks his father why no one blames him for Masaki’s death. Isshin asks why would they? His wife died protecting her child and to not be so glum and waste the extra time given to him. (I was annoyed to know that Isshin was a Soul Reaper and that there were things he kept from Ichigo… for the longest time… but everything happens for a reason. I always thought maybe Ichigo could have been more prepared for the things he was expected to do if people told him things upfront but eh.) Isshin gave up his powers for Masaki. He helped Ichigo get his powers back when he lost them… He helped extend the time Ichigo had to learn the Final Getsuga Tensho… He was another character that used goofy humor to mask what he really knows.
- Aizen… I mean really… The villain for much of the story is my favorite to love to hate. He systematically dismantled the Soul Society. First by blaming Urahara for testing out hollowification on others and getting the smartest man that could oppose him sentenced to death. Creating the Vizards, creating and mastering the Hōgyoku, staging his own death, and so on. While maintaining his cool and calm demeanor, he wins everyone over or lulls them into a false sense of security before striking. He is super intelligent and has planned everything out 100 years prior to us meeting Ichigo. He is the villain others should strive to be. He is great in his terribleness but also I couldn’t believe when it was revealed that he faked his own death (which I thought prior to the big reveal.) His speech to his subordinate Hinamori blew my mind… JUST BEFORE HE STABBED HER!
- QUINCY…. and their rivalry with the Soul Reapers. When we meet Ishida, he has the pride of being the last Quincy and hatred for helping the Soul Society and Soul Reapers in general. It is soon revealed why he harbors resentment. The Quincy (Kuinshī; Japanese for “Monk of Destruction“) are Humans that have the ability to detect the existence of Hollows. It all started when they began training to confront Hollows in order to defeat them, the same as Soul Reapers do. However, because of the way the Quincy dispose of hollows… a war erupted between the two groups. (I found this to be fascinating.) The biggest difference between the Quincy and Soul Reapers, since ancient times, is whether or not to kill Hollows. The Soul Reapers purify Hollows with their Zanpakutō and send them to Soul Society, while the Quincy killed the Hollows. The idea can be seen as comparing justice and vengeance: “Hollows devour souls of Humans, so why must it be that those who harm and kill friends and relatives get sent peacefully to Soul Society?” Soul Reapers felt that the Quincy would bring about the collapse of the world. Soul Reapers govern the souls between the Human World and Soul Society, which maintains a balance that if not kept would result in the mutual destruction of both worlds. All souls, including Hollows, are subject to maintaining the balance. Since Quincy completely extinguish Hollows, the souls that come to the Human World do not return to Soul Society. Therefore the souls increase only on the side of the Human World. As a result, the Human World becomes heavy in souls, causing Soul Society to spill over into it, mixing life and death together. Chaos and Destruction ensue. Hypothetically. To the Soul Reapers credit, they attempt on several occasions to have discussions with the Quincy about leaving the treatment of hollows to them. However, the Quincy cannot be reasoned with. Or maybe they refused to care. As time went on, the number of Quincy increased and the cycle of souls became more unstable, forcing the Shinigami to reluctantly wipe out the Quincy in order to maintain the balance of the world. The remaining Quincy end up being Ishida who learned his powers from his grandfather who is killed by hollows. (He hates the Soul Reapers because he felt that they did not show up to help and did so on purpose.) A long sordid history? Let me tell you I was here for it. It is especially dark but I love a good backstory and Bleach was filled with them.
- Female Representation. Now Shonen is not normally the best at female representation, I chalk this up for the target audience being boys from the ages of 12-18. They generally want to see the girls being rescued by the boys that they can see themselves being and winning the girl’s heart. A bit old fashioned but it is a selling formula for a reason. (Now this is not something I am going to debate about… I will just say… each genre plays to things that it’s target audience enjoys whether you like that or not. Romantic Comedies drive tropes about dating and men that aren’t necessarily true but people – women still eat it up, so say what you want but these tropes happen for a reason.) I will say that as the years pass representation has been getting better. Although, I don’t believe that it is going to change dramatically as boys and girls are different and what they want to see differs. Bleach offers a cast of strong female characters. They have epic personalities, epic fights, and command respect from their male counterparts. These female characters help Ichigo and build him up for his impending battles. Rukia and Yoruichi take no bullshit. Orihime being a healer… (I don’t know what is wrong with people… being a healer will never be useless to me. But people don’t like her because much of her mind was occupied by the boy she liked… and while that is the case in middle school and high school the world was divided on her.) She was essential to Ichigo in the Espada arc… Neliel and Harribel are bad ass espada. It was enjoyable to have female characters that didn’t annoy me.
- Sometimes the good guys don’t win. I found that this was one of my favorite things about the series. It lends credence to the villain or in this case villains. It shows the villains as legitimate threats rather than just fodder for the good guys to show off their new abilities against. It was never believable to me that a boy who was just beginning to learn and understand himself and learn about soul reapers, in general, would defeat those who were hundreds of years older than him in the first go-round. If that had happened, I would have been disappointed. Bleach put its heroes through harrowing losses which made the victories all the more badass to watch.
- Fillers. The only complaint that I had about the fillers was that they were stuck in the worst possible places. Since I was watching after it finished airing I was able to skip them and jump back into the main story. I understand the need for longer running anime to have filler (If you do not, look up Gintama where Gintoki talks us through filler.) However, people will say that these lack a good story or failed to hold their interest. Well… that is because we wanted to know what was going to happen with Aizen. But all of the filler arcs I found to be interesting when I went back and watched them. I wonder what I must have been craving to have gone back and watched the filler episodes. But the Zanpakuto Unknown Tales Arc & Gotei 13 Invading Army Arc I really enjoyed. The Bount Arc wasn’t as terrible as people made it out to be and the Fullbring arc is NOT filler.. lol. (You have no idea how much people claim that it is.
- The 4 Bleach Movies. I enjoyed these very much. They shed a spotlight on other characters… I think about Urahara in action in the Soul Society or the issue with Tōshirō and having the same Zanpakutō as another soul reaper and how they deal with that. These were animated well and had stories that were just as interesting or compelling to me as the show which never happens to me.
In the end, I was intrigued enough by the story of Ichigo and company to find out what happened to all the characters. This intrigue kept me interested enough to focus on something else during my depressive state where nothing else seemed to work. There was just enough action to satisfy my need for fights as well as emotional moments. Another thing that I enjoyed was the fact that there was a meeting between a male and female character in the beginning and is the basis for an extraordinary friendship that doesn’t end in a romance between the two characters… (I know I will get a lot of flack from people on this.) I will say… men and women can be friends without there being a need to enter into a relationship so that was also refreshing.
Anyways, that is all I have for now. If you are interested, read the manga… and watch the anime. In the meantime, my friends and I are looking forward to the last arc being animated and it’s a long time coming. I’m 1000% sure that I will love it too.