Bleach Manga Review
Starting out as a supernatural manga about ghosts and the afterlife, "Bleach" by Tite Kubo quickly abandons its initial promising setup to become a generic over-the-top fighting manga. While it's a shining example of the Shonen (young boy) genre, there's still plenty to pick out about this series as a disappointment.
Bleach follows Ichigo Kurosaki, a typical high-school punk who, through some twist of fate, is able to see and talk to ghosts. This is a normal, albeit unsettling, thing for him, and he does not question it until one night when a young woman clad in samurai clothes materializes in his house. Brought into a conflict between "hollows" (restless spirits seeking revenge on other ghosts and the living) and "soul reapers" (the supernatural entities that fight them), Ichigo's life quickly changes as he takes on the power of a soul reaper himself and struggles with its responsibility.
While this initial setup may make the series seem focused on the concept of life and death, after a few initial arcs the usual Dragonball-esque power creep makes it all irrelevant. Early on, the hollows are interesting antagonists. In some cases, they're irredeemable villains who were criminals or murderers in life. In other cases, they're jealous but still good-hearted spirits corrupted by their hate or anger. However, they quickly become irrelevant, being used for cannon fodder (if they're seen at all) in later arcs. Instead, Ichigo fights more powerful foes in increasing order, following the usual action-anime setup. This essentially removes any connection to the original "ghost" thing, and turns the series into a generic fighting show. The character becomes so bogged down with characters - almost none of whom actually die, surprisingly enough - that the whole thing feels like an exercise in pointlessness.
Fighting in Bleach revolves primarily around the soul reaper's sword, the "Zanpaku-To". Each Zanpaku-To basically has two powers, meaning that each character essentially has a "low-powered" attack and a "high-powered" attack (if they even have that). Therefore, the fights between two given characters is essentially predictable based on those powers. The fights feel more like two characters in a fighting game rather than characters in a series that's supposed to actually be going somewhere. The environments are boring and simplistic, which means that even that isn't really something that interacts with the fights. To make things worse, these fights are often long and drawn out for huge amounts of time, making it an exercise in frustration just to read through it.
The art starts out really nice in terms of scenery, design, and larger splash panels. However, as the series progresses, the art (while getting nicer) also tends to get more simplistic. All the environments feel kind of underwhelming, but later environments feel even more like "generic arenas" and less like actual locations. This would be lazy for a game, nevermind a comic.
Ultimately, Bleach is disappointing. Shonen fans will like it, but that's not saying much - the fights drag on forever and there's barely any actual plot to justify it. They're not interesting or deep or exciting, it's just the same basic moves ad nauseum. Coupling this with the fact that there was a perfectly reasonable plot established early on, the whole series just feels like a big joke. It's a comic that's somehow almost entirely made up of filler, with ten thousand characters who never die and no dramatic tension to speak of. Still, it's basically a classic for this kind of action, and it's drawn well even if the actual designs are boring.
Purchased at Waldenbooks.
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