This is mostly going to be a massive fanboy post, so I want to get some things out fast. Fuck everyone who says that Bleach ‘gets worse’. If you never liked Bleach, that’s fine with me, but if you think it only started sucking after the Soul Society arc, then fuck you. Why? Because Bleach has not changed ONE FUCKING BIT since the Soul Society arc. Maybe you dropped it too soon afterward to notice, or maybe you simply forgot what had happened in the first arcs, but either way, you are dead wrong if you think that anything has changed. The next arc has all of the same characters, the same character development, the same focus on battles, and the same attitude… what the hell has changed? How could you say that it could have ended after Soul Society when the whole arc was spent setting up for the betrayal of Aizen? The whole story is a cohesive narrative, so how could you just cut out half of it?
That’s all I’m going to say about Bleach naysayers here – I know that if you have strong feelings, you’ll just bitch about them in my comments section anyway, so I’ll wait until you bitch there before offering counter-arguements.
And now, a public apology. The last time I had to publicly apologize about a series was Higurashi (and my apology was accepted on behalf of the population by Baka-raptor), but this time I have an even bigger apology to make, and I may not even be able to make up for what I’ve done until I’ve really made some kind of contribution to the Bleach fan community as a whole. I apologize with all my heart for thinking of Bleach fans as inferior or with disrespect, and for treating the series itself as inferior or with disrespect. I’m sorry for making fun of anyone for anything they did in relationship to the series, and I am sorry for generally being an ass. I hope you will accept this apology and allow me to be a part of the Bleach fan community.
Now, it’s time to fanboygasm, because I just finished reading all of the 383 currently available chapters of Bleach, and you may now color me a fanboy. I definitely love this series, and could safely call it one of my favorite manga. I am really just glad that I gave this series another chance, and the fact that it ended up so good makes me feel a lot better about giving many other series a second chance as well. I can’t really think of a way to talk about everything I liked cohesively, so this is just going to be a big-ass post of fanboying.
The Reading Experience
I wasn’t really into the story yet for the first three volumes because they moved pretty slowly and dumped on truckloads of exposition, but I can see that the purpose was to lay down a groundwork for a story as large as this one to stand on. I also felt that the fights weren’t all that good at this point, and I have concluded over the course of my reading that Kubo is just a lot better when it comes to drawing fights between humanoids than he is at drawing fights that involve beasts.
I started to get more interested after the Quincy Archer Hates You mini-arc, though I thought things got a little too chaotic when the team first entered the shinigami world during the Soul Society arc. I think the exact point that I started to really take a liking to the story was during Ichigo’s first fight with Kenpachi Zaraki, because he was the first villain who I really liked and knew I wanted to see more of later on.
After that, the rest of the Soul Society arc was badass. Things got a little chaotic once again afterwards, as I had then pretty much come to expect, but the story gathered it’s bearing and the Hueco Mundo arc onwards has pretty much been a nonstop train of badass. I feel as though the story can only keep getting better – the more we learn about the characters, and the more we get to see them in awesome fights, the cooler they become, and the more invested in the story I become. Sure, some characters and fights can seem a little pointless (that guy whose obsessed with beauty and his fight against the random hard-gay espada was pushing it just a little) but in the end, all of it just adds to the fun of the series. As Anime Kritik often says, ‘all a rich tapestry.’
Now, into the meat of it! I love pretty much all of the characters in Bleach. Not so much the enemies, especially so far as the more hollow-like or less cool ones, but pretty much anyone who has you rooting for them by the end is one whom I take a liking to. I’ve organized them more-or-less in order of favoritism, but the order shouldn’t be taken too literally.
First of all, best. name. ever. Grimmjow is a true badass in the greatest sense of the word. He is ruthless, brutal, and always ready to show his shit. His character design alone could have made him one of my favorites, as he grew in coolness with each fight against Ichigo, but the moment that really sold me on him was the one where he gets his arm back and immediately uses it to horribly murder the girl who had taken his place as the sixth espada and had been making fun of him for it. Totally badass.
Grimmjow’s final battle against Ichigo was my favorite yet, because it was the best rivalry in the manga. While there are plenty of people who want to fight Ichigo (like all of division 11), Grimmjow was the only one who would purposefully avoid other battles with the only interest of fighting Ichigo and had to be dragged kicking and screaming from their past encounters. It was clear that he had dedicated the whole of his present existence to this fight to take down the man who dared to look down on him. His backstory was also pretty damn cool. I know that Grimmjow will be back, because any character who isn’t shown disintegrating into nothing in Bleach is bound to arrive once more. I can’t help but wonder if he’ll be an ally, or the final boss.
Kenpachi Zaraki (and Yachiru Kusajichi)
I’m sure you’ll notice a trend in my favorites that they tend to be the most crazy and badass characters, but this is natural because a large part of why I love Bleach is it’s ability to create these characters. Zaraki is just a ton of fun, doing anything to make his fight more interesting. Of course, those things, such as the eyepatch and the hair-bells, also serve to just make his design that much more hilarious and great. His first fight with Ichigo sold me on the manga as well as his character, especially at the end when he realized that he needed to become much, much stronger.
Yachiru is the perfect compliment to Zaraki, because she shows you that he isn’t an evil or uncaring man, he just loves fighting more than anything else. Zaraki doesn’t even bother to fight opponents from the instant that they become too weak to be any more fun, rather allowing them to heal, get stronger, and come back to fight him once again, as part of his way of guaranteeing himself an endless number of battles. I also think it’s funny that Yachiru is even more of an asshole than he is XD.
Yoruichi is HOT, and damn is she cool. I really can’t wait for her to show up in the Arrancar arc, because we haven’t seen her in a long time (excluding the ‘turn back the pendulum’ arc) and you just know that she and Urahara are going to bust in at some point to kick some serious ass. Anyway, what I love about Yoruichi is generally her chill demeanor, extreme skill, and constant awesomeness – she is all of what it means to me to have a badass female character. Did I mention she was HOT? I love her character design to no end. I think what I like best about her is just that I always feel like she has much, much more to show us, and that she’ll never become boring.
(It’s a pain to try and organize all of these guys, so from now on their in order of how they are listed in this list.)
Ichigo is a great main character, even if he gets a surprisingly low amount of showtime for being one. He can mostly be seen as a symbol for all of the other characters, telling them what they should do themselves. Ichigo was raised and taught to protect, and as such he gives everything in the name of others. His power grows ever onward from his desire to not die, to take down the enemy, and to protect, and while these things are true for most shounen manga heroes, I never get tired of seeing them, because they are true for myself – I feel that my greatest strength is in my confidence in my ability to succeed, and that is Ichigo’s as well.
I also think it solidifies his character that he didn’t always have such confidence. He had to build this over the course of the series, and it was only after many battles taught him how to be strong that he was able to keep up a constant fighting ability. Now he’s a badass to the max, constantly getting stronger as he comes into possession of more powers. You just gotta love the hollow Ichigo’s mask and especially the incredibly awesome full transformation.
I’ve loved, loved, loved Karin from the beginning, and I attribute it entirely to my being an older brother. She really reminds me of my youngest brother, who acts just like me, but would never admit it. Karin puts up a very thin act of disdain for her family that does nothing to hide her immense love for them. The Kurosaki family is incredibly close, and it reminds me of my own hyper-close family to a tee. In many ways, I feel like a brother to Karin myself, and I have to say that she is one of the characters that I am a little sad to not see more of, though the story doesn’t really lend to her being important. I do, however, wonder what cold come of her ever-increasing spiritual power.
Man, what is there not to love about Urahara? To sub in lyrics from a Protomen song “An eccentric and brilliant man, Kisuke was a loner, a thinker, a man of ideas! Ideas forbidden in the Gotei’s society – The society in which he worked, the society in which he lived, the society which he would set free! And so Kisuke worked, far into the night, when the watchful eyes of section 2 weren’t upon him. 100 years Kisuke worked and on a cold night, in the year 200x, Ururu was born! I perfect girl! An unstoppable machine! Hell-bent on destroying any hollow standing between man and freedom! Ready! Willing! Prepared to fight!” …Sorry, I got too into it!
What the hell is the deal with Ururu anyway?! Will we ever learn!? Every time she shows up, she shows herself to be more insanely powerful than we last imagined, and I believe we last had an arrancar stating her similarity in power to that of a hollow, so WTF is she?! Anyway, Ururu makes me laugh my ass off with every appearance, being as she is so powerful but has such a defeatist personality. And I’ll admit, she is the cutest loli in the series~
Ordinarilly, I don’t tend to like the overly serious type, but Ishida is a perfect example of the serious guy who slowly turns into as much of an irrational badass as the main character, and he makes for perfect tsukkomi material. He’s also a perfect rival-cum-pal, mostly because he is always seen leveling up alongside Ichigo. Sure, that’s true for the whole gang, and it’s also true that the others are usually so far behind Ichigo that it’s hard to see them as true rivals, but I think it’s Ishida’s confidence and pride that makes him just the right parallel. This is greatly exemplified by his appearance during Ichigo’s most important fight against Ulquiorra, and his actions therein.
My favorite element of Ishida’s personality, though, is his hilarious girlishness. He’s a skinny pretty-boy with an extreme knack for sewing and an increasing love for designing clothes, namely for women. I think it would be awesome to see Ishida in the future opening up his own clothes line wherein the Quincy style ends up becoming the biggest trend in fashion, wwww.
Chad is made of pure win. He’s a big, cool dude, and hard not to love. I’ve always thought that the big, silent dude with a heart of gold was a cool character type, most likely because my cousin, Funeral, is exactly that type. I also see Chad and Ichigo’s relationship as being similar to Funeral and mine. The thing I want most from Chad is to see him grow stronger. His fight against the afro-headed arrancar was great, but since his utter defeat at the hands of the fifth espada, he hasn’t been given a chance to really show his strength, and I want nothing more than for him to keep rising as Ichigo does and be able to truly fight back-to-back with him again.
This is actually the character I am the most sad about, and the thing I want most from Bleach is to see her somehow come into her own. I know that it probably can’t happen during the arrancar arc, but I also think that I wouldn’t mind seeing Bleach go into another arc later (perhaps a time-skip beforehand? Bleach Shippuden where all of the characters who had started to show powers become shinigami?) The “Princess and the Dragon” fight wherein Orihime discovered her powers while helping Tatsuki was quite emotionally involving, and I had always felt like Tatsuki should eventually gain powers as well, because no one was more deserving than her to protect Orihime. Tatsuki appeals to my love of tomboys and kickass girls, and she has a great fashion sense, so I’ve always wished she could be a bigger character.
Hirako Shinji and Sarugaki Hiyori
When I first saw these two, my impression was ‘who the hell are these ugly-ass bastards?!’ Because they were pretty damn ugly, but I gradually came to enjoy them, and I felt they both really came into their own due to the ‘turn back the pendulum’ arc, where they were given more personality and reasons to love them. It also helps that I learned that they weren’t a bunch of random kids but, in fact, former shinigami who were mostly captains, explaining their sheer level of power. Shinji especially got more awesome as Kubo started to give him more epic moments and cool poses, as well as dressing their whole group in great outfits. Hiyori is fun and I can’t help but imagine her voice as Rie Kugimiya.
Of course, I would not be able to live with myself if I didn’t include one of Bleach’s lesbian-tendency characters on my list. Soifon has the best facial expressions because you really get a sense of a girl who wants to prove her strength and has great pride, but is far weaker on the inside. She’s totally emotionally unstable, looking up to Yoruichi with all her might, and I just think it’s cute. Plus her hand-to-hand combat is a blast to behold.
Ah, Rukia. It’s somewhat unfortunate that in spite of being one of the main characters and the focus of an entire arc, when it comes down to it, we haven’t seen much of her since the beginning – she was captive through the whole soul society arc and was probably the most useless member of the team during the arrancar arc, being the only one to fall along with her first opponent (though it was a great fight). I like Rukia most in her comedy segments, as she and Ichigo make an excellent comedy duo, and her personality lends to hilarious situations. She’s also really cute and looks damn great in a pair of pajamas~ I have to say that my favorite Rukia moment was when she shows up to beat the fuck out of Ichigo and snap him out of his funk.
Starkk showed his biggest potential for awesomeness in his dying moments. It’s a true shame, because while he did all that he could in the story, I could tell that his backstory would have been truly interesting. I’m honestly tempted to even do a fanfic about his history, just because there is so much potential in it. I love Starkk’s laid-back attitude, his great character design, and the fact that he duel-wields sawed-off shotguns to fire off thousands of ceros with. It sucks that he’s one of the few enemies that has definitely died, but once again, I think his potential could only really be explored through backstory.
The powerful espada of unpronounceable nomenclature was another great character who died just as he was showing his stuff. His final battle with Ichigo was definitely my second-favorite the series over, being another that had a ton of build-up, and it was certainly the most epic. I honestly felt like I wanted him to live in the end – just as he came to understand ‘heart’ and appreciate it – but that kind of hugely sorrowful death also made him into a character who left quite an impact, so I definitely think his memory was strengthened through it. Ulquiorra’s death alone could be said to compensate for the entire general lack of death in the series (which I’ve never had a problem with anyway, but this at least lets us experience a character death in some way.)
Characters With Potential to Become Favorites
Kuna Mashiro – She cracks me up, and I love that she seems to think she’s a lost Kikaider character or something. Too fun not to see more of~
Yadoumaru Lisa – Another who is just too much fun~ A girl who’s obsessed with porn! I really want to see more of her potential relationship with a certain captain who is the only one that matches her in perverseness…
Ichimaru Gin – More than any other character in the series, I think Gin is just waiting to show us some kind of interesting part of himself. he’s shown no shortage of signs of a soft side and ulterior motives, and learning that he was only a kid when he first met Aizen makes things only more perplexing. I wonder where the truth of his ends and the lies begin?
Kuchiki Byakkuya – He’s all kinds of badass but I am not much a fan of those with a cold demeanor. It is actually his relationship with sister Rukia that interests me most, and I would love to see his soft side fleshed out more.
Kyouraku Shunsui and Ikitake Juushirou – I love the chemistry between these two and the way they react to situations. They offer age, wisdom, and a sense of mental stability to the series, acting as sort of pillars for the Gotei 13 with their positions as the ‘old guard’. I would love to learn more about their exploits over their long lives.
Kurotsuchi Mayuri – This guy is scary and an utter bastard, which is exactly what I love about him. He’s like a Soul Eater character who got lost and found himself in bleach – an awesome and scary dude, who like many others gained more depth in the ‘turn back the pendulum’ arc. I’d love more of him.
Shiba Kuukaku – Love at first sight! She’s amazing, love the eyepatch, the one arm, the huge tits, and her generally evil-big-sister attitude. She almost feels like an older, female version of myself! Especially in her great eccentricity. I was surprised by how little she really does, though. I’d love to see her come back many more times~
Nel – Nel was a really cute kid, and then she was an incredibly sexy badass with a somewhat interesting backstory, and then she dropped off the map with Pesche and the, uh, other guy. I’m sure she’ll show up again for the final battle, so I’m waiting to see her chops in action again.
…And that about covers the characters! *PHEW!* I like plenty of others like Toushirou and Kira, but none I feel like talking about. Moving on!
1. Ichigo vs. Grimmjow – Aside from being quite epic and well-choreographed, this fight had the most emotional gravity behind it, for the reasons mentioned above in my discussion of Grimmjow. In particular, my favorite moment is when Grimmjow is cursing Ichigo for the fact that he is still always thinking that he can win when he is being defeated, and, in Grimmjow’s eyes, looking down on him. Ichigo responds by saying that he doesn’t just think he will win, but that he HAS to win.
2. Ichigo vs. Ulquiorra – The most recent major fight and easily the most epic fight to date. This fight had the coolest location change and Ulquiorra’s resurrection form was easily the coolest out of the espada. Slamming Ichigo through pillars and stuff was all great, and then Ichigo went into his awesome full-hollow mode. The entire fight was just amazing, but the most touching moment was the actual event of Ulquiorra’s death and his solidification as a great character.
3. Mayuri vs. Szayel Apporo – This fight was just a conglomerate of shocking moments, which seems to be the case as always with Mayuri – I can’t help but wonder if Kubo created him for the sole purpose of being able to have him bring a darker side to the story. It wasn’t enough that Szayel Apporo impregnated Nemu with himself and then drained her of life to be born from her mouth (!!!) but then Mayuri killed him in one of the most brutal ways I’ve seen in quite a long time by making the moment of him stabbing his sword through the espada’s heart be felt by him as taking hundreds of years to occur. Fucking brutal.
4. Renji vs. Byakkuya – Renji’s fight with Ichigo was also pretty great, but his fight against Byakkuya was stunning. There was a ton of emotional pressure resting on it, and it began to explode with the first appearances of both of the captains’ bankai. The last chapter of the fight was amazing, having taken place almost completely without words. Superb.
5. Kenpachi vs. Ichigo – Such a great fight, and it’s a real shame that Kenpachi’s fights since then haven’t been as good because of the fact that he can’t fight Ichigo. Kenpachi’s strength is so completely overwhelming that it’s hard to feel like he’ll even come close to defeat. What made that first fight so great is that you knew Ichigo would live because he was the main character, but it became increasingly difficult to believe as Kenpachi utterly demolished him and became more and more frightening and great.
6. Ichigo vs. Dordonii Alessandro Del Socacchio – I loved this fight because Dordonii really put the pressure on Ichigo – he wanted nothing less than the opponent’s best, and he’d make sure that the opponent fought to full capacity. This fight really sold it home that Ichigo wouldn’t be able to skate by the lesser arrancar until he reached the espada, but would really have to give it his all against every foe. I also couldn’t help but imagine Dordonii sounding exactly like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.
Well, since characters and fights are generally the most important things in Bleach, those are most of what I’d like to talk about. I’d go over more review-like things such as the art and maybe pull some kinds of things I noticed, but those would probably better suited to have their own posts. So I guess I’ll cap it off with this…
Things I’d Like to See
(leaving out things I explained in the ‘potential favorite characters’ list)
– Ichigo’s dad on the battlefield, and maybe Uryuu’s as well. I don’t mind if it’s just through backstory, but I also wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them show up for a place in the final battle, either.
– Ichigo’s friends and relatives coming into full realization of their powers. I know this would probably mean another arc, but I wouldn’t mind that. I’d really like to see it done as a second story, perhaps with Karin as the main character even.
– An explanation of what the hell Ururu is!
– Chad becoming stronger or getting a more serious opponent to fight. Uryuu got plenty of time to show his stuff throughout the arrancar arc, but I think Chad has been somewhat shortchanged. I really want to see him grow to be able to fight alongside Ichigo.
– Hinamori confronting Aizen
– The special abilities or bankai of anyone we haven’t seen yet
– Yachiru actually fighting and her or Kenpachi learning to use their special abilities/bankai
– Whatever other crazy story elements Kubo has in mind!
I think that about does it, I can’t think of more to say, and if there’s something I forgot, it can wait – this post is well over 4000 words already, anyway. I’ve greatly enjoyed reading Bleach and I think I picked probably the perfect time to read it since it’s already coming up on the epic final battle. I predict anywhere between 5 and 8 volumes left in the Aizen arc, depending on how many plot twists or backstory elements arrive. While I do think this would be a fitting end to the series (which, by the way, is already one of the longest stories ever to have been published in Shounen Jump, though it is still outdone by Naruto and One Piece) I wouldn’t mind seeing it go on longer, possibly with some changed-up elements.