View Full Version : Shounen Bleach by Kubo Tite

January 05, 2008, 01:38 PM
Title: Bleach
Genres: Shonen, Action, Comedy
Author: Kubo Tite
Artist: Kubo Tite and assistants(?)
Publication: Weekly Shonen Jump
Start Date: August 2001
End Date: Ongoing
Number of chapters at review: 305
Number of chapters read by reviewer: 305

General Overview: Bleach is the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, your average 15 year old kid, only he's not so average. One night, a female shinigami named Kuchiki Rukia invades Ichigo's life, when he takes her shinigami powers from her to save her life. The story revolves around Ichigo's struggle against the Hollow world and putting his newly found shinigami powers to the test.

Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)

Art: 8
Kubo's art is awesome. While bland, barren white backgrounds plague his manga, his character designs are part of the Bleach craze. Every character has a unique ability, allowing Kubo to further his awesome character design. And everyone loves his stylish color spreads. Right out of a fashion magazine!

Plot: 7
Kubo's plot is sort of a downside to his manga. Both of his major arcs have been rescue arcs, and they're pretty similar to each other. Fight a group of baddies, and save the girl. The plot also progresses at an odd pace, stretching fights like the Syazel Apollo fight over many chapters, instead of showing it in about 7 consecutive chapters.

Characters: 9
Kubo's strong point. Why do I read Bleach? To see my favorite characters do stuff. The manga is filled with awesome, manly badasses. While most characters are generic looking, there's a certain charm to them. And when your favorite character pops up, you're hooked to the manga for the next 3-5 chapters.

Of course, I'd give it a 10, but the main characters all suck. Except for Chad.

Themes: 7
Lot's of friendship themes in here. Ichigo constantly tries to prove that he's strong enough to protect his friends, and kind of shows in a corny way, like gaining random power ups cause your friend tells you to get up.

Originality: 6
Bleach isn't really original. Sure the zanpakuto concept is pretty good, but we've all seen guys with big swords, spiky hair and bulging muscles. Oh, and guys who control ice. There's something new.

One thing that is pretty original is his use of Spanish, which really contributes to Bleach's charm.

Overall: 8
Bleach isn't the best shonen out there (One Piece and HxH hold my heart.) but it's a good series. I rather enjoy watching the anime more than reading the manga, but I still enjoy Kubo's work. And there's still so many things left to look forward to, that Bleach still has a lot of steam left in it. Keep it going Kubo.





January 08, 2008, 06:26 PM
The reason I got into Bleach is because of it's darker theme of death. This wasn't something I had often seen in manga. The art is beautiful and I love it for that. The characters are engaging and I love them all though I must say, Chad is my favorite. I also enjoy the fact that Kubo has many strong female fighters. I am kind of glad he draws out the fights because that's basically why I keep coming back. Though he does seem to drag them on. I hope he can find a balance between a well detailed fight without making in too long. I also feel that there is much left to be done here and I hope my expectations aren't unfounded.

January 08, 2008, 06:53 PM
I think if Kubo could pull off something similar to Oda's Thriller Bark arc, we'd see a whole new side of Bleach (short fights, lot's of random interactions, and end it with a freaking epic battle.)

I just hope whatever Kubo has planned next isn't another rescue arc.

January 10, 2008, 09:11 AM
Nice ^^
I will give it a shot with my category ratings:

Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)

Art: 9,5
The art is just awesome. Characters are done in detailed way, and it's the main reason to say why it's so high in my opinion. Background, like background, I don't seem to think that other titles are lacking that either, so it's normal. But characters.. yeah, characters drawing is the reason for such high point.

Plot: 6
Hmm I give it 6, just because one of the arcs is just awesome <without spoiling, it's one from rescuing someone>. Other things are just common: bad guy and deafet him. Yes, defeat him. Why? In Bleach there is nothing like death of some character from the good side. For me its a minus, even the 4th plaved characters can die, but no in Bleach. Other than that, I don't think reapting things, just with other characters, is enought interesting.

Characters: 7,5
Man, I would give it 10, because there is multum of characters, and anybody will love somebody from that manga. But.. yes, there is so much characters, that more than half of them haven't even been introduced properly, or have enough background on them. So my points are just for showing so much interesting-looking guys and girls. Big minus for not enough background (space?) for each of them.

Themes: 6,5
Standard for shonen. But.. yes, another 'but'. I think there is no so big difference of themes in Bleach. I think compared to other shonen titles, manga lacks in themes section. Even if there is reapting it another way around, eveything resolves in gaining strength in order to protect firends..

Originality: 7,5
Like in previous review, Bleach is not so much orginal. The only thing which I found very interesting was the concept of zanpkautou and spiritual thingy with that. I think it's really cool.

Overall: 8
I sympathise with that title, because it was my first shonen title, when I begun to read manga. The art is fantastic, the plot in the begining seems interesting until certain arc, fights are good <but not always: Kubo recently tends to lengthen fights to the point, it's boring> and there is bunch of characters to like <and minuses of that>.

January 12, 2008, 12:03 AM
the only problem i find with this series is the slow pace it has taken in the plot i mean you wait one week and all you get is wallpaper material (though appreciated)and no plot, nothing happens for weeks

January 12, 2008, 12:08 PM
Plot is really the biggest downside to an otherwise brilliant series. Since none of the major characters ever die there's really no 'threat' of a character to lose in a fight which just kills the suspense. Also it seemed like the once meacing Hollows have become a meer footnote in the story and are nothing but meer inconviences...

February 02, 2008, 03:27 PM
Bleach is a series that started out with potential but went downhill after the first big arc. During this arc you get the feeling that this is all just a set-up for things to come. Unfortantely that didn't end up being the case as the story doesn't really seem to go anywhere (The main reason I stopped following it.) and it feels as though the mangaka is making it up as he goes along. Also the characters seem to have no real motivations outside getting stronger for the sake of it, beating the badguys and saving their friends from danger.

The biggest thing Bleach has going for it is the fact that fights with huge swords are undeniably cool and that it has a kinda weird sense of humour. Conclusion: Bleach is worth checking out you just need to know when to stop personally I gave up on this series after about 260 chapters. Still I intend to one day check out what happened to that manga with the Shinigamis and the huge-ass swords.

February 21, 2008, 08:26 PM

Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)

Art: 7
One thing I’ll always give Kubo credit for is his ability to make anything look cool, or at least aesthetically believable. There aren’t many mangaka who could take on the Arrancar and their releases. He’s also great at conveying emotion—the characters' expressions almost always look real in spite of their stylized facial features. You don't see that in shonen very often.

One thing I don't like is the fight choreography. The use of generic, formless blasts creates a sense of sameness, and the close range exchanges are sloppy looking all around. The lack of definitive backgrounds is another minus. His skill with pen and pencil is undeniable, but it's also unbalanced--even lazy at times.

Plot: 5
It's simple and repetitive. Ichigo finds enemies and beats them up, or gets beaten, doubts himself, and finds the inspiration from his friends to win. Worse still, Kubo often eschews his own rules and timelines, leaving any verisimilitude in tatters. This is no Naruto when it comes to plot consistency.

Characters: 7
In contrast to the plotting, the characterization is wonderful. Kubo does an excellent job of giving weight to his characters, even the most generic and archetypal. The ho-hum plotting stunts that development, however, and Ichigo himself is as bland as you can get. And the sheer size of the cast clearly exceeds Kubo's abilities now, resulting in tons of misallocated facetime and underdevelopment. Kubo also has a tendency of hiding behind the cast's likeability when he has nothing to write, which only makes things worse.

Theme: 6
When the series started, it did a very good job with this. The main theme of the story was death, something few shonen series tackle regularly, and it was handled in a caring, realistic way. That’s where the” heart” of the series lied, and that’s what separated it from the others.

Now it’s indistinguishable from every other shonen. The usual themes—angst, friendship, faith in others—are paraded here as if they were new. The human-scale look at loss and grief has long since been lost, so much of the series’ “heart” was lost with it. It feels empty now.

Originality: 6
Not much here, either. It’s the same clap-boom-bang shonen fare we’ve all seen before, with heavy influence from Yu Yu Hakusho in particular (demons = hollows, Spirit Detective = Shinigami Substitute, 3 realm world structure, and so on). Again, you’ll see lots of repetition in both theme and plot--when there is originality, it can border on laughable (Mayuri’s organs, anyone?). Only during the SS conspiracy was I pleasantly surprised.

Overall: 6.5
Bleach is unique in terms of its artistic style and the excellent rendition of its characters. However, the meat of the story—the writing—has withered into by-the-books farce, bogging down it’s good traits and reducing Ichigo's story to whimsy. Still, it’s good enough to check out, if only to take a break from more serious narrative investments.

Gold Knight
February 22, 2008, 04:26 AM
Just for the record, I agreed with gigantor21 on every point in his review and explanation.

February 22, 2008, 07:18 AM
I don't find the artwork of Bleach to be particularly good but character concepts are. I do agree that it started off a lot better than it is currently going.

I do like the Shinigami and only read for some of them, as previous stated - the plot is not that gripping but the humour is good.

Generally entertaining but I don't fret is I miss a week.

February 22, 2008, 03:15 PM
I agree with the plot being repetitive but on the other hand bleach is a brainless entertainment (and that doesn't have to sound negative)

February 22, 2008, 06:34 PM
well, it started off as something much better than brainless entertainment, that's what makes the long time readers kind of sad these days =/

Thank you for the review Gigantor. The only quibble I have is that I couldn't rate character as high as 8.5, simply because of how poorly the main characters have been (not) developed. I mean, really, has the main cast grown in any way aside from power since the first couple chapters? While I agree that his development of secondary characters is stellar, it's simply too much of a flaw for a high score in my opinion. Everything else you said is pretty much spot on though.

February 22, 2008, 07:52 PM
^ No problem. ;)

On the primary characters, I fully agree. Like many things in the series, they've been stagnant ever since the SS Arc ended, and later development looks very unlikely at this point. But the enormous likability of many minor characters helps to balance that IMO, as it shows he does have lots of talent with rendering characters. Fleshing them all out? Not so much.

I also agree that the drop in overall quality has disillusioned many Bleach heads, myself included. It's especially true in my case, because I've seen that same thing happen in other series and know where it leads. Prince of Tennis is an excellent example of that--by the National Semifinals, the writing became so odious that I couldn't read it regularly anymore. Most of the fanbase at StopTazmo only reads it for yocks now.

In TeniPuri's case, though, it wasn't that good to begin with so it wasn't as jarring. Bleach was. So if it gets to that point, too, it's going to be a lot worse for all of us. I really hope that doesn't happen.

February 25, 2008, 08:47 PM
I don't think we can judge the character development just yet because the way Kubo has the story going, there seems like certain things will happen or be revealed that will challenge some of his currently stagnant characters (particularly Sado). And I dont mind some of the other characters not being developed because after re-reading the entire manga recently, some of those characters are only meant to have those small roles and nothing else.

March 06, 2008, 08:43 AM
On Characters, I think I would actually rate Bleach higher than Naruto, a manga which is known for good characterization. Both Bleach and Naruto are chock full of interesting characters, the difference is that in Naruto Part II these characters have been stifled and regulated to the background. Bleach, on the other hand, has always done a wonderful job in giving all of the main and secondary characters an importance in the storyline.
I would give Characters a strong 8.5-9, even if the depth needs some working.

March 08, 2008, 09:30 PM
It feels as if the story is rushing by too quickly. Some plot development is needed inter spread between arcs to keep the story fresh and interesting. Really I think it would be nice if Kubo took a small hiatus and just planned out what he wants to do next.

March 27, 2008, 11:30 AM
^ Well, he's going into a Gaiden/Side Story arc, which looks to be WAY more interesting than anything we've seen in recent months. Thing is, it may well end up being shitty again once Kubo gets back into the main story--he hasn't given us much to look forward to, save the top Espada fights.

I think he should take a break, too. His schedule is fucking ridiculous--he works 7 days a week, and only has time to get a haircut when he's free. Not exactly ideal labor conditions. :p

April 04, 2008, 04:21 PM
well, like most people here i really like the characters. to me chad isn't my fav main character I like rukia much more.. Bleach has it up and down moment like i really like Soul Society's plots but fairly disappointed about the second major arc..

at once point i could give this series a 10 but right now maybe an 8.2

April 05, 2008, 05:10 PM
Bleach is an action blockbuster: cool characters, SPFX, action ... , no coherence, no originality. IMO, Bleach is the most overrated manga of the last 10 years. Not that the manga is bad, I just think that it gets more attention than deserved.

Bleach can be awful or very good. Tite kubo is probably one of the best mangaka to create cool characters and that's why bleach have so much success. Reading this can be really fun but the brain should be turned OFF.

But still, Bleach is by far less intesting than the 2 other big hits HITS (naruto,OP).

I'm just glad that tite kubo finally wakes up.

brainless entertainment
hahaha, it's exactly that.

April 06, 2008, 01:14 AM
I agree with the general consensus here. The characters is what I love the most in this manga. What other manga/anime shows there main characters in so many different outfits? That takes a certain level of skill and passion for what you do.

The artistic characterizations in bleach I would take as a testament to his literary capabilities, which makes it even more of a shame to see what has happened to the bleach storyline. Kubo just seems to get lost in all of the action and fight scenes among the almost innumerable amount of characters he's created, which at times makes the manga go at a snails pace (just like the last arc). The problem is we get all of this brainless action with very minimal plot development. At the least we recieved character development on the enemy characters of the last two big fights. Both were really good, but the last one in particular (consisting of flashbacks) was simply amazing. The setting, the situation and the flashbacks were done with an incredible level of skill. If only he would take that much care with the main storyline. I keep reading because I really think Tite Kubo is going to surprise me in good ways.

July 28, 2008, 11:26 PM
Art - Nothing overly special, but the art just looks so cool. Even if the it in itself is pretty plain.

Plot - Before & During SS - 8. After - 2. The plot has completely disappeared to the point that the current arc is the a horrendous recycling of a previous arc. Tite has no idea where he's going with the series and no idea what he's doing with the characters.

Characters used to interest me, but now with the horrible plot and the characters just being thrown around like rag dolls, they've become irrelevant. (See Plot for score)

Theme: Started out good, but the whole Shinigami concept was thrown out the window à la Naruto with ninjas (Don't make me believe there are actual ninjas in Naruto, you're delusional if you think otherwise). Now it's theme is fighting with no real goal to head towards.

Originality: A lot of them same. Started out interesting, then just turned to crap.

Overall: Before & During SS, a good 7. Very fun to watch/read. After, a 2. Horrible, horrible stuff.

July 29, 2008, 06:44 AM
After taking a second look, I docked the Art and Characters down to 7 and the overall score to 6.5. The drop in quality was worse than I thought.

Maxy Barnard
July 29, 2008, 09:22 AM
I wouldn't personally be over harsh on the series nowadays, though it's never reached that fantastic a point. Characters are probably the focus point of any score, if only by the sheer number of them, and the promise to focus on them, even if only a little bit, throughout the manga. The soul society arc's plot layout felt like a tired retread of ye olde damsel in distress/self improvement stories, and left me cold, much as the plotless previous arc did before this gaiden period.

where it stands now, the main protagonist's purpose in the story is to be mindless and boring, with the climactic events and focus on some beloved characters outside of that actually reviving my early love of the manga

August 02, 2008, 09:37 PM
im looking for a new Manga to read... im currently following Naruto and One Piece and love them both... i dont wanna read all these chapters out and not enjoy it... i only read the first chapter and it was whatever... is Bleach anything like those 2

August 02, 2008, 09:56 PM
Up to Volume 20, it's just as good as the other 2. You're pretty much up the creek after that. :p

August 05, 2008, 12:18 PM
What can I say?

I read a LOT of different manga, mostly seinen, but I also read shounen in WSJ.

I dropped reading One Piece a while ago - I felt the plot was going around in circles. I'm considering dropping Naruto for the same reason. But I'm still reading Bleach. Because Bleach knows how to do it's job - take your throat and keep you going with it. Lately, bashing this manga has become somewhat of a fad; yes, some things in Bleach had become somewhat fuzzy to understand, but I think that this massive bashing is more of a social thing, then actual relevancy to manga's plot.

August 05, 2008, 02:35 PM
What can I say?

I read a LOT of different manga, mostly seinen, but I also read shounen in WSJ.

I dropped reading One Piece a while ago - I felt the plot was going around in circles. I'm considering dropping Naruto for the same reason. But I'm still reading Bleach. Because Bleach knows how to do it's job - take your throat and keep you going with it. Lately, bashing this manga has become somewhat of a fad; yes, some things in Bleach had become somewhat fuzzy to understand, but I think that this massive bashing is more of a social thing, then actual relevancy to manga's plot.

I disagree. Social series bashing has been around for years and years--just look at Naruto--but the Bleach complaints have followed a very specific pattern.

When I first started coming to this forum, we were in the latter half of the Arrancar arc, and the tone was far more positive and forward thinking. But throughout the HM Arc, people became jaded, and all the fond predictions about the war gave way to bitching about when the arc would end. This can't be a strictly social phenomenon IMO--not with all the adulation Oda gets in the OP section whenever I go there.

People just don't like what they're seeing. :/

August 05, 2008, 02:59 PM
There are two major complaints about Bleach these days:

1. Lack of character development of the main cast, and
2. Plot repetition

I think that both are valid complaints. That's not to say that he doesn't have room to turn it around, and I think he's given us some faint hope that he will, but to say that the bashing is a purely herd-driven thing is a bit disingenuous.

The larger problem is, I think, that people are a little tired of mangakas (and writer's in general) starting out with so much promise and then slowly descending to mediocrity. The beginning of Bleach is absolutely brilliant, but it only serves to magnify the flaws of some of the later arcs in comparison.

But as I said, I think there's still hope for this one. A good ending can excuse a huge amount of flaws in the middle if done properly; so, we'll see =)

August 05, 2008, 08:05 PM
The larger problem is, I think, that people are a little tired of mangakas (and writer's in general) starting out with so much promise and then slowly descending to mediocrity. The beginning of Bleach is absolutely brilliant, but it only serves to magnify the flaws of some of the later arcs in comparison.

I know for damn sure I'm sick of that shit. No question. It's happened to almost all of my favorite series--Bleach, Yu Yu Hakusho, Naruto, Death Note...the list just goes on and on. Of those favorites, the only 2 that didn't lose that initial panache would be One Piece and RuroKen.

As far as Bleach is concerned...I don't know. Kubo has reduced the story to a series of duels and little else. There are angles that could make it something more--but Kubo had all the tools he needed to make the HM Arc cool, and look what happened. I don't know if I can put much faith in him anymore.

August 06, 2008, 05:03 PM
Death Note, you don't like the second part but it's nowhere near as bad as others please. You can be a huge L fan, you have to admit that M and N are cool characters. And the story is still of a high quality.

Plus, the end is excellent and it ends how it should ends from the beginning.

August 06, 2008, 05:25 PM
Death Note, you don't like the second part but it's nowhere near as bad as others please. You can be a huge L fan, you have to admit that M and N are cool characters. And the story is still of a high quality.

Plus, the end is excellent and it ends how it should ends from the beginning.

I agree. But the First Arc had me by the balls from start to finish; the Second Arc was far and away inferior. So much so, that I've yet to do a full readthrough. So it still applies IMO.

The important thing, though, is how Bleach's drop was so much more pronounced. Death Note was still better in the Second Arc than most Shonen ever get. Bleach doesn't even deserve that distinction now.

August 06, 2008, 09:30 PM
Yeah, see Bleach has sucked lately because lately it sucks, not because people think it sucks. It's not a social thing.

It really is a case of a story full of potential, and everything just going to waste. Over and over again, it seems.

I don't know where it'll go from here, but I don't think it's going to change from it's current predicament.

August 07, 2008, 04:17 AM
Yeah, see Bleach has sucked lately because lately it sucks, not because people think it sucks. It's not a social thing.

It really is a case of a story full of potential, and everything just going to waste. Over and over again, it seems.

I don't know where it'll go from here, but I don't think it's going to change from it's current predicament.

The problem has been self admitted. Kubu himself has said that he has some bits really well planned out and then the rest he sort of aimlessly tries too fit together. Problem i the stuff he plans out usually tends to be the really really good stuff and the rest is well....not.

February 12, 2009, 11:02 PM
I think someone needs to rerate this review...since the ratings are quite misleading atm :(

February 14, 2009, 01:01 AM
I think someone needs to rerate this review...since the ratings are quite misleading atm :(

probably no to this question.. since it the review it state how many chapters the reviewer has read.. and c305 it not really a recent thing.. as for misleading... Bleach's beginning and soul society arc does deserved the rating and to be read.. as from there on, the readers themselves will have to decide.. *it is only my opinion*

Kanzen Shinkiro
March 13, 2009, 11:26 PM
Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)

Art: 7
Overall, Kubo knows what he's doing quite well, and he has come quite a long way since he first started. There's a clear difference between Ichigo's appearance early in the manga and now, which is a nice way of showing Kubo's ever evolving style. The art is sharp and clean. While the backgrounds and overall cast design is genetic, it's all well done. Kubo has much room to grow and will probably continue on evolving for years to come.
Plot: 8
Bleach isn't without its flaws but it is overall quite nice. It's easy to follow and interesting at that, always captivating your interest. Doing manga isn't exactly easy due to how tight a schedule you're working with as it is, but Kubo is fairing quite well. Using elements that made manga like Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragon Ball famous, Bleach is working quite well.
Characters: 9
Perhaps Bleach's greatest strength lies in its characters. Bleach has various characters each unique even in their own genetic way. Not many manga right now have such a variety of characters as the one Bleach has. There's a character for everyone and every taste. While I personally wish all characters would get an equal amount of screen time, that isn't possible and when you have so many characters, fans may often feel as though their favorite isn't getting all the screen time it should.
Another great aspect of Bleach is its overall theme. While the current theme of friendship is strong in modern mainstream manga, feel do as great a job as Bleach. Even in its own cheekiness, Bleach's characters all offer a great degree of humanity and companionship towards each other, each possessing their own agenda and unique form of interaction. The shinigami theme is also fun and somewhat like another favorite manga of mine, Yu Yu Hakusho, while the battle driven plot reminds me of Dragon Ball, yet another favorite. Overall, Bleach's theme is fun and easy to follow.
Originality: 8
It's impossible to be completely original this day and age but Bleach doesn't exactly feel like anything also you've seen before and whenever you get a sense of deja vu, it is still done in a way such that it's unique and different. The shinigami and zanpakuto theme is quite original as is the hollow theme.
Overall: 9
Bleach is overall one of the current top manga. In my book, it is second only to One Piece. It's fun, and moves at a pace that is easy to follow. Everything is also quite orderly and it seldom disappoints you. Kubo seems to know well the direction he is going with the story and it is thus far pleasing.

April 15, 2009, 05:03 PM
Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)

Art: 7
Kubo knows how to make an interesting looking character. Many of the heroes and villains alike have very catchy designs. However, the backgrounds are all but nonexistent. Even when Kubo treats us to a rare panned out shot of the surroundings around a character, it's nothing but marshmallow buildings and generic rectangles for the most part.

Plot: 5.5
The overall plot is interesting. Unfortunately, the pacing the story uses to get to that plot is a killer. For every chapter we get of intriguing story advancement, we have thirty or more chapters of pure duels. Bleach is character driven, forsaking the overlying plot to show off its characters.

Characters: 7
Great designs, often interesting, and sometimes endearing. Some of Bleach's characters leave me wanting more, and seeing them pop up in a chapter is a treat. Unfortunately, none of the main characters have these traits.
Kubo threw together a cast that just feels gigantic and, for the most part, put most of the badassery of the series into characters who show up once per hundred chapters. The main team is never really given a chance to shine and make us cheer for them, and the secondary character list is so massive that trying to give them all screentime just takes away more from Ichigo and company, not to mention the story's pacing.

Theme: 5.5
While early Bleach may have had different themes, it's devolved into friendship and resolve. However, Kubo doesn't quite pull these off as well as I'd like. For some time now, the manga has completely forsaken any endearing friendship moments, with Ichigo even being nicer to his enemies than his friends at some recent points.

Originality: 7.5
While the zanpakutous generally have some originality in their releases, the plot itself never really moves too far away from mainstays like Yuyu Hakusho or DBZ (What with the constant fights and now energy blasts.)
Still, can't rate this one TOO low because at least the character designs are sort of unique.

Overall: 6
I see Bleach as a double-edged sword, as you might have noticed from the categories above. It has so many qualities that give it the potential for greatness, but it never quite reaches that. Countless repetition moments in fights, Kubo's unwillingness to trim his massive cast of characters, and terrible pacing leaves the reader feeling like Bleach is just wasted potential.

April 17, 2009, 06:59 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with the issues Danre raised. However, I feel that most of them are symptoms of a more widespread issue: that the plot, the character, growth, the development, the fight scenes...pretty much every important aspect of this manga is driven by gimmicks.

In my mind, a gimmick is a quick-make hook, a special bit of deus ex machina, used by the author to draw in readers and make the story appear more dynamic. This isn't always a bad thing. Take Naruto for example. He has a demon fox inside his belly that goes badass and shakes up the plot every now and then. It's a rare occasion that quickly makes things more exciting for the audience . Sex scenes, as they're often employed in movies, are definitely gimmicks. It's an easy way to interest the audience...and doesn't really entail any writing or plot.

When a work is overly reliant on gimmicks, however, that just smacks of poor quality and very little effort from the writing team. If your film is nothing BUT a string of rather ridiculous sex scenes, it's going to be absolutely terrible...and available only at adult stores. The devices in James Bond were very fun, yes...but they were also absolutely ridiculous, which is one reason that Casino Royal was widely considered much, much better than most.

We've established that a gimmick is often a quick and easy way to make things AWESOME without having to make them good. Now, back to Bleach. The most blatant place you can see this gimmickry at work is with Kurosaki Ichigo, the main character. In the beginning, he's just an almost-normal Japanese student, but we all know that's bound to change. It's a typical shonen device for the protagonist to have some sort of sleeping hidden power that unveils itself when circumstances are dire--typically, the rest of the manga revolves around the protagonist learning to use said power and then learning to be strong in his own right and not dependent on this boost. In Bleach, however, Ichigo (the protagonist) has a seemingly endless supply of power boosts. Whenever things look bad, out pops another uncontrolled boost, super transformation, or awesome upgrade that nobody knew existed. I've honestly lost track. Each time, it moves him wayyyy up on the ladder of power and allows him to defeat another seemingly impossible foe. Then, he coasts on this momentum until he meets the next super-awesome foe, against whom his power seems insignificant untillllll INEXPLICABLE POWAAAA BOOST!!!! This has several unfortunate results that I'll list below.

1) The Bleach Universe's Stability - You have to remember, the Shinigami (police organization of the afterlife to which virtually all characters belong) are basically ageless. For them, it takes decades of hardcore training to advance at all in the power-scheme of the Bleach universe. Ichigo, naturally, can manage more progress while brushing his teeth. Not even an exaggeration. He gets stronger with a few minutes of semi-dedicated effort than any hard-working bloke could manage in a year. Wow. The rate of Ichigo's power inflation, well...post World-War 1 German Mark. Really. It makes power gains/promotions seem absolutely cheap and meaningless. This, in turn, cheapens the whole universe.

2) The Plot - Because Ichigo gets so ridiculously powerful so ridiculously fast so ridiculously often, he outpaces all of his foes. As such, Kubo (the mangaka) keeps running out of enemies to center his plot on. I'm sure everyone here has read manga where this happens, so the writer needs to bring in secret societies or BRAND NEW ENEMIES! This happened in the most pathetic way possible with Dragonball Z. "You are the strongest in the universe now! Except for these ten people that nobody knows about that only reveal themselves to the world now that you've reached this level! And these ten that did the same and are each 135135x times stronger than your last foes! And these twenty that are the exact same, but 13512509183250182365x. What can I say, they're shy."

Kubo needs to constantly introduce secret societies/hidden foes at every turn. And you know how sour that gimmick can turn. Fast. It makes things exciting for a few minutes, but does great damage to the integrity of the overall story and reduces the plot to a series of encounters. A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES. Ichigo, all the while, is left with no ambition of his own. He doesn't HAVE any story going on. He doesn't want to be the very best or find his father or rule the world or...ANYTHING. So instead, he just reacts to everything. As a result, you've got the worst possible combination. A passive story where endless tides of exponentially-more-powerful foes come after our hero, who has no real reason for existence except to react to these enemies. If the protagonist had ANYTHING he cared about, the mangaka could construct a more stable plot. He doesn't, so the incoming foes have to be the center of everything. And Ichigo powers up so fast that they're all quickly disposed of.

3) The Pacing - This is really linked to the story, but it kind of deserves its own mention. Because Bleach is so reliant on tricks and gimmicks to amuse the readers, it spends a LOT of time on ZOMGBADASS panache moments. Remember, a Bleach chapter might only have maybe 18 pages per release. In a chapter, five pages might be given to large explosions/demonstrations of power (occasionally speed-fighting scenes if we're lucky). Another four might be used to show everybody's awed faces and the dust/wind/super-saiyin golden hair billowing following some display of power. Another four or so might be taken up by trash talk with the newest foe, no matter how important they may be. Sacrifice another few to scene transitions and you're left with two or three pages. Yeah, that's right. A normal Bleach chapter might have, in total, about three pages of actual plot progress.

Things weren't nearly as bad very early in the story, but, well, there's a reason the most recent arc occupies over a THIRD of the whole manga (now bloated out to over 350 chapters). And this storyline is nowhere near done. AND it all happened over the course of what, a day? Maybe less.

4) The Cast - The core cast of Bleach initially consists of Ichigo and a few of his school friends. As I've already mentioned, the plot in this story is entirely passive; the heroes just want to be insignificant nobodies, but thems pesky gimmick villains keep dragging them out of their happy apathy. As a result, the core cast starts off rather unremarkable and has very stunted growth. This problem is further compounded by Ichigo's gimmicky growth.

A standard arc in Bleach starts something like this: something bad is happening and Ichigo has to put a stop to it. Several of his friends want to help and tag along. At the beginning of the arc, each friend is a little less powerful than Ichigo, but respectable in their own right. However, they soon get wildly left behind. Ichigo gets a few power boosts, the caliber of the enemies increase, etc... Soon enough, said "supporting cast members", who were perfectly fine fighting minions in the first few chapters of the arc, are wayyyyy out of their depth. By the end, they're always cheerleaders...and they're usually left far behind before the halfway point UNLESS they can manage some gimmicky power boosts of their own.

As a result, you've got a core cast with members that offered to help and should have been involved, but are utterly worthless by the end. They're actually dead weight--less than worthless.

However, the plot doesn't REALLY work with a cast of one (Ichigo). SOOOO, the writer has Ichigo pick up allies and friends as he boosts in power throughout the arcs, usually following the "adopt your defeat rival, whose loss to you has greatly improved their life" model. I've always found that one to be tenuous if it's used even once and Bleach's whole plot depends on it. So yes, you'll have a slew of supporting cast members, varying wildly in strength depending on when they were picked up. The later they join on, the stronger they are...and the more time before they become dead weight.

After the arc ends, all the important characters (core cast+a few additions from the supporters picked up) are magically boosted to Ichigo's level-1 again and a new enemy attacks. Rinse and repeat.

As an end result, you've got a core cast whose job it is to fall by the wayside. The supporting cast, temporary allies, are usually far more interesting because they can actually do something. What's more, they often have motivations of their bloody own (Shinigami have a REASON to get stronger--they get promoted and their lives actually matter).

5) The Victories - I may have mentioned once or twice that this manga is driven by Ichigo getting a series of power boosts as the enemies flock towards him. Well, Ichigo's whole fighting style seems to revolve around trying (and failing) to harness his current boosts...and waiting for the next one to bail him out if he's ever about to lose. So to me, it feels like Ichigo hasn't actually EARNED his victories. Really. He could have no skill whatsoever and still win due to superior genetics/superpower lottery/whatever it is he's got going for him. You know that cliche in martial arts where a determined fighter gets knocked out, but his/her fighting spirit is so strong that he/she keeps fighting unconscious and is actually BETTER? And he/she manages to win it while unconscious, but doesn't remember anything? Or...where Goku looks at the moon and goes ape? Yeah. Every important fight scene (except for one) I can think of is like that. He wins through no virtue of his own. What a TERRIBLE message. And to be honest, that has become perhaps the most moving and overwhelming theme this series: "Why work hard when only genetics matter?"

Bleach may have started off as something more substantial, but now it's all dependent on flash and short-term gratification--gimmicks that feel less and less gratifying as they're overused to the detriment of the manga. The premise was interesting, which makes its current state all the sadder. I cannot honestly give Bleach anything more than a five in plot and I'm rather inclined towards a three. Characters I think are also five-ish, not because they're terrible, but because nothing at all has been done with them. Overall, I'd rate this series roughly a five. It's still plenty fun for a good while, but it's not good. Important note: good and fun are two very different things. I used to really enjoy this series and you can easily enjoy it, right up to when you get sick of it. But in terms of quality, it's...not all it could be.

August 24, 2012, 08:39 PM
Category Ratings:

Art: :super

Great art! The author's an artist. Specifically, a character artist. The art style is focused on characters and expressions, and is very deliberate. But since the series gets repetitive and can be kinda boring, the art style gets irritating. When things get boring, you don't want to look at how effectively the artist used white space. It's more like, "the plot's empty, at least give me a landscape to look at!" It especially sucks when there are only a few pages to a chapter, and we only get mostly big whooshy-type attacks and over-done reaction shots. BUT the art is still top-notch.

And as far as the backgrounds go, the author does a great job at drawing each setting and establishing where you are and what the environment is like (and he can then focus on characters). Each place is unique and has its own feel to it. I find Bleach very atmospheric.

With regard to characters and expressions, the art is also great. This series has detail that you really won't find elsewhere (I mean, just look at the facial detail). After looking at even a mostly-blank page of Bleach, I can't even stand to glance at something like HunterXHunter (Well, I can't stand to, regardless. Hate on me if you will.)

Some people may not like the art style or how it's used in the story, but that's a separate issue. The artistry is great.

Plot: :gwah

Mmmmm... sometimes, it's really hit-and-miss. Sometimes it's really good, engaging, things are building up, mysterious characters, suspense. Sometimes nothing, and lots of nothing. Or sometimes you have a lot of build-up, but then it's like the author just got tired, threw something together, and went on vacation.

Regardless, what makes Bleach refreshing is that the plot *isn't* "I'm going to be the best -something- ever!!" I'm so very sick of that, and thankful that Bleach is at least a little different in that regard. (The *only* series I've read where that sort of plot hasn't gotten annoying is One Piece.)

So, plot? Sometimes, terrible. Sometimes, very good. The current plot, though (as of this writing), is getting pretty good!

Characters: :toilet

This is the problem right here.

Ironically, the characters that, for some reason, people just looooove about Bleach is the very thing that frequently hobbles it. The author did such a great job with character design that people now demand fan service for their OMGFAVORITE characters. This keeps the author having to include all these otherwise irrelevant people, and prevents him from doing what he wants with the story.

As such, the characters are undeveloped, one-dimensional Bankai robots to please fans and editors.

The good thing now is that with the anime stopped, he has more freedom, and is now doing what he wants with the story. Yet many people hate it because their favorite characters die or don't get their obligatory time in the spotlight.

Theme: :deadhorse

Originality: :imslow

Ever seen Yu-Yu-Hakusho? Then you've seen Bleach.

But Bleach is a lot better. "Unoriginal" doesn't mean "bad," and "original" doesn't mean "good." I don't think a lack of originality detracts at all from Bleach.

Overall: :shootme

Does my rating matter? Anyone reading this will most likely:

1) have read Bleach.
2) have a definite opinion on what this rating should be.
3) :cussing at me.

I'll wait until the series is finished before rating it. I think someone who hasn't read it would enjoy it a lot more now (you can read tons of chapters at once). Some of the series is excellent.

August 25, 2012, 02:39 AM
Rating does matter, if anything else, then for just consistency...so yeah...please include some after the smileys...

Also in my opinion, the humans vs gods(heavens), or simple beings vs evolved beings is a theme that is presented really well in bleach and deserves to be mentioned...if my guess is okay then the beating the dead horse goes for the standard shounen cliche themes, but there are some others that are worth mentioning...

February 20, 2013, 06:48 PM
I'm a fan of bleach, since the very beginning of the story I think it has it's own up and downs...and right now I still think it's okay although I haven't read the latest chapter. :^_^