Bleach (Episodes 1-109)

Bleach (and Naruto for that matter) is an anime I swore I would never get into. After all, serious anime fans tend to look down upon both series. And yet here I am, writing about Bleach (while wearing a Naruto shirt), and life is good. Bleach is fairly flawed, yet it certainly have this magnetic factor to it that is hard to fully explain.

For me, the thing that attracts me to anime and any other form of media/entertainment is usually the characters. If I can connect with the characters, then it is a big win in my opinion. For me, plot can be a part of the enjoyment but I have enjoyed long books with just about no plot to be found (see Martha Grimes’ The Old Silent and Madeleine L’Engle’s The Severed Wasp) as long as the characters are interesting and, in a way, become a kind of friend for me. It is in this way that Bleach became interesting.

The first 109 episodes cover the first two main arcs in the series, as well as the necessary introductory episodes to bring everyone into the picture and allow the story flow to be brought into focus. The initial catch is fairly standard: slightly uncommon boy (Ichigo) who doesn’t view himself as overly special suddenly gets powers to bring his life into focus. In fact, the plot is quite bland and derivative, so the series sole attraction for me is the characters.

The first major arc is the Soul Society adventure (what I fondly dubbed “Go Save Rukia! Yes!”). Rumor has it that it follows the manga pretty closely. The second major arc is the Bountou saga (which I call “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along, Huh?”) is from what I hear basically filler (aka, non-manga material). Unsurprisingly the first arc is the most consistently interesting as we get to know characters, see them battle for the first time, and see them grow in their skills. The second arc starts off really slow, with the first 20 or so episodes (of around 45) being pretty tedious and uninteresting, but eventually hits an interesting stride which it then builds upon.

The basic plot format seems to be to thrust fairly predictable situations upon the various characters and battle ensues. Both arcs follow that pattern, so why does the Bountou arc feel especially bland in comparison? Sure, the Soul Society arc has a lot of interesting firsts to it to give it a natural advantage, but there is more to it than what I listed in the prior paragraph. The biggest problem is how in Soul Society we get to know many of the captains and lieutenants, whom are interesting and very enjoyable characters. All of a sudden, after that arc ends, it is as though they no longer exist since Ichigo and clan leaves Soul Society. There is this sense of emptiness within the first half of the Bountou arc since it feels like half of the necessary players aren’t in play. This is fixed when the Bountou transfer to Soul Society and all of the characters can come back into play. But that doesn’t make the earlier Bountou episodes any easier to deal with.

While both Bleach and Naruto are flawed series, and highly overrated by those who merely dabble in anime, it seems a bit rash to totally write off the series and pretend like they don’t bring anything of interest to the table. Particularly those like me who judged them before watching them.

Title: Bleach
US Distributor: Viz
Number of Episodes: 195 (and counting)
Availability: While the series is still in production in Japan and, thus, can’t all be in the US, Cartoon Network is airing the dubbed episodes and will soon be to the point covered in this review. Still, the first two “seasons” (however Viz decided to designate a season) are available in reasonably priced box sets, although the singles stretch further than that.
Links: ANN Encyclopedia
Rating: 80

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One Response to “Bleach (Episodes 1-109)”

  1. Joe Says:

    I’ve never watched this or Naruto but chances are that I’d probably get hooked on both if I did. In the interests of my personal freetime, not to mention the other series I’d like to get around to watching instead, I simply can’t allow this to happen.

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