Well, the Bleach TV series has finally reached 100 episodes, so I figured it was time for me to write a review of the series ^_^ I remember it was a little over a year ago today that I got my new computer and was finally able to download anime fansubs, and Bleach was one of the first I checked out. At first, I didn’t really like it all that much until the episodes hit the late teens or so. 100 episodes later, it still isn’t one of my all-time favorites, but I do like it a lot and will continue to keep watching it.
It’s strange, but I really have mixed feeling about Bleach. I love shounen anime, but after watching 100 episodes of Bleach, though I enjoy the series, I just can’t get as attached to it as I have with other shounen anime I watch, like Naruto, Inuyasha, One Piece, and Konjiki no Gash Bell. I don’t read the Bleach manga, but I doubt reading it would change my opinion about the series significantly. But in order for me to clarify my opinions about the series, I’ll talk about what I think are the good points of the series as well as the bad ones.
I’ll start with the good points of the series, just to reassure any sceptical Bleach fans reading this that I really do like Bleach even if I don’t consider it a personal favorite. First of all, the premise of Bleach is very interesting. The Soul Society, Hollows, shinigamis each with their own unique zanpakuto swords, etc., all of this is great shounen, sci-fi, and fantasy elements with a ton of potential. The character designs are very cool as well; each character looks distinct, considering there are a lot of characters to keep track of. As for the characters themselves, most of the main cast, like Rukia, Chad, and Ishida, are well developed and unique.
One thing I really love about Bleach is the songs. The series has some of the coolest openings and endings I’ve seen; a wide variety of great j-pop songs, plus animation that matches the the flow and mood of the songs perfectly. I can’t ask for anything better in this department =)
Now the bad points. But there’s really only one main problem I have with Bleach that prevents it from being one of my favorites; lack of good character development. Before any of you Bleach fans think I’m crazy for saying that, let me try and explain why I feel this way. First off, as I said before, a lot of characters on Bleach are great. But I feel that too many are lacking in character development, especially the star of the series, Ichigo. It actually took me a while to figure out what it was about Bleach that prevented me from liking it as much as other shounen anime. Then I came across this post from another anime blog, and it helped me figure it out. If you take a moment to read the post(it’s short and to the point), though I don’t agree with everything the author says, I think he makes a good point. And in order to make my point about Bleach clear, I feel like I need to add a bit of a shounen anime rant here too.
First, let me compare Ichigo to other shounen heroes like Luffy and Naruto. Though they all fight strongly for what they believe in, never back down from fights, gain super powers along the way, and all that other great shounen stuff, an important difference I’ve noticed is that, in addition to seeing them kick ass in battle, we also get to see Luffy and Naruto’s fun-loving and appealing sides. When they’re not fighting, they come off as comical, fun, and enjoyable characters. When he’s not facing off with an enemy, Naruto’s happily eating ramen, futilely trying to win Sakura’s heart, making fun of Jiraya’s perverted-ness, duking it out with his friend/rival Sasuke, etc,. All these things make him all the more well developed and interesting. Personality-wise, though he does get full of himself sometimes, he’s basically just a fun-loving and determined kid who only wants to be respected by the people around him, which again makes him more appealing. And like Naruto, when Luffy’s not fighting enemies, he’s happily stuffing his face with food and just downright enjoying the freedom of being a pirate. Outside of battle, he’s a total airhead and doesn’t have a clue most of the time, but he’s always smiling and having a good time. Again, this makes him so much more enjoyable to watch. These different sides to Luffy and Naruto’s personlities is what makes them great characters. Seeing their humorous antics after harsh battles reminds us that there should be more to shounen anime than just a ton of fighting and fantasy.
Other of my favorite shounen heroes, like Gash(from Konjiki no Gash Bell) and Yoh(from Shaman King) are the same way. Gash is a dedicated fighter in battle, but he also loves to have fun and play with friends. When Yoh isn’t fighting, he likes to just take it easy, watch the clouds, and enjoy the tranquility. The fact that Luffy, Naruto, Gash, and Yoh are powerful, determined, and self-sacrificing in battle makes them appealing, but I feel that their development and unique personalities when they’re not fighting is more important. So how does Ichigo compare? I really can’t point out any significantly enjoyable or unique aspect of his personality. We see too much of him in battle and not enough of him doing anything else. I wouldn’t say he’s downright arrogant, but he has that same tough-talking and bad-ass personality all the time. Luffy and Naruto can be tough and hot-tempered in battle, but we get to see a lot more of their endearing and sympathetic sides too.
Ok, so I’ve pointed out how Ichigo compares to the determined yet fun-loving shounen heroes, but what about the other “bad ass” ones. Let me now compare him to the main character of my favorite series, Inuyasha. Like Ichigo, Inuyasha comes off as your basic hot-tempered, tough-as-nails, bad-ass shounen hero. But what does Inuyasha have that Ichigo doesn’t, which makes him a better character? First let me say that there are a lot of tough, arrogant, bad-ass male characters in anime, as any fan probably knows. But what makes these characters appealing isn’t so much their toughness as their less-shown, soft side, as well as character development over the course of the series. Looking at Ichigo, my opinion of him hasn’t changed at all since episode 1. He’s pretty much the same tough bad-ass, just with a ton more super powers bestowed on him. So I can’t really give him many points for character development. Inuyasha on the other hand has developed a whole lot since the beginning of the series. Sure, he’s gotten a lot more powerful too, but he’s obviously become much more caring and sympathetic than he was at the beginning, when he didn’t want anything to do with anyone. His heart steadily becoming more open to friendship, his struggle between his demon and human sides, his conflicted romance relationship with Kagome and Kikyo, his rivalries with Sesshomaru and Koga, etc., all these parts of his character are developed over the course of the series and make Inuyasha an extremely unique and interesting character. Because of these things, he’s not perfect and has vulnerabilities, which again makes him seem more real. As for Ichigo, sure he cares about his friends and family, but there’s nothing really special about that. I really can’t find any significant conflict, relationship, or character attribute he has that makes him stand-out among other shounen heroes.
Alright, so I’ve made it clear how I feel about Ichigo, but what about the other Bleach characters? As I said before, Bleach does have enough good characters to make it worth watching; Rukia, Chad, Orihime, Ishida, and Yoruichi for example are great. But there just seems to be so many characters and not enough time to develop them all. This is the main problem I had with the Soul Society arc and why I liked the Bounto arc better. Each of the 26+ Soul Society captains, lieutenants, etc., that we’re introduced in the Soul Society arc were all begging to be important characters, but there just wasn’t enough room to develop them all and move on with the plot at the same time. The most screen time any of them got was a few battle episodes with Ichigo and co. It was just too many characters to introduce all in one arc. Since there were just a few Bounto, there was more time to develop their personalities, so I felt like the Bountos were more interesting villians, even if the arc is filler.
Also, there just seems to be too many tough bad-ass male characters in Bleach. In addition to Ichigo, there’s also Renji, Ganju, Kenpachi, and other supporting characters. And they all suffer the same flaw as Ichigo that I mentioned before; we pretty much see only their tough-talking kick-ass side in battle and nothing else really interesting or unique in their character development. Renji does have his relationship with Rukia, but other than that he’s that same typical tough-guy shounen character, I can’t really point out anything special about Ganju, and Kenpachi just seems to be a ruthless fighter, with nothing sympathetic about him. And I know fangirls are going to hate me for saying this, but Byakuya just seems like a Sesshomaru clone, without any of Sesshomaru’s interesting qualities. Other minor characters like Ichigo and Orihime’s classmates for example, are about as stereotypical as you can get and don’t seem to serve any other purpose besides adding some hyperbolic humor(Tatsuki’s the only one with any hint of character.) And Ichigo’s dad always kicking him is kind of annoying too. That kind of unnessecary slapstick humor seems out of place in the relative seriousness of the show.
Well, that’s my review of Bleach as of seeing 100 episodes of it. Bleach fans, feel free to disagree with anything I said. My point in writing this was just to make it clear why I personally feel Bleach is overrated. I think the main appeal of Bleach comes from its overwhelming amount of content. The series throws a ton of characters, subplots, fantasy elements, intense violence, and flashy actions scenes left and right, so with all this content to keep track of, people don’t have time to think about how developed and appealing the characters really are. But who knows, maybe the next 100 episodes or even the next arc will show a significant increase in character developement and cause me to rethink my opinions about the series. Again, don’t get me wrong, I still like Bleach enough to keep watching it. But I just feel that there are a lot of better shounen anime out there.