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Bleach sucks.

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Yeah, I said it. Fanboys, watch this and calm down.

I actually still like this opening.

Now, certainly I can’t just go around saying that an extremely popular anime like Bleach sucks can I? Especially not if I’ve watched it myself and even gone so far as to BUY volumes of manga with real American dollars? OH YES, I CAN! In fact, I can say it with the only true voice of authority, that of an ENRAGED FAN. I used to like Bleach quite a bit. I thought it was extremely sleek and stylish. The characters were passable, if a little flat and the setup seemed interesting enough. If people don’t move on after death they become monsters. Those monsters hunt down people that don’t move on after death. Either you save them, they get eaten or they eat other people. It worked. It was like ghostbusters only it was more setting souls free than entrapping them. Solid. Add in a few teenage superhero “must go save the day” sort of moments (as if his grades weren’t bad enough) and you have a formula for weekly enjoyment.

You know what point it all started to fall away? That was the point where Kubo tried to introduce a PLOT. You see, up to this point, we had been running with a PREMISE. Premises and plots are two entirely different beasts. What we had was the basic elements of a story brought together in episodic form. It feels natural to us westerners because almost ALL of our TV is like that. House shows up, there is a sick person, they try 9 times to cure them, the 10th one works, long-term plot elements come in and out in the meantime, roll previews for next week. We are used to Batman dealing with new and unrelated stuff each week while acknowledging that last week still happened. Bleach started off like that and it built momentum as it went. Ichigo fought evil, his friends started getting superpowers too (because they were spending time near the main character… seriously). Little by little he was building a sort of ghost-busting squad, equipped with Vegeta-quality rival/friend!

Then the plot came. “O hai, Rukia! Bee Tee Dubayu, HQ is a little bit miffed about you heading off on a mission and not coming back. WE WANT YOU TO DIE FOR IT. Oh, glad to see you are still alive and killing hollows, by the by. We probably could have traced your little hollow tracker, or noticed that hollows are still dying around the area you are in… but nah. So anyways, come back here and die for us, will you?”

So suddenly, the story was about heading off to save a princess from a tower. It was all building for this. Ichigo and the important 70% of his friends will now bust into the closest thing to heaven in this cosmology, punch the closest thing to god in the face and steal back their buddy… so she can keep working for the people trying to kill her… or go to high school… or whatever. Their long-term plan isn’t particularly clear here.

Ah, but first we have to TRAIN. Going right now would be stupid and foolhardy. We need to have training sequences to add new special moves, plot twists and to make it so you arrive JUST TOO LATE. So, everyone of relevance (Whats that? You liked Tatsuki and wanted her to develop some of the super powers they keep showing you she has potential for? Yeah, fuck that.) heads off to Heaven… and they arrive in the ghetto.

First of all, why does Soul Society have a ghetto in the first place? I mean, the economy of soul society is never made clear… but with all those retarded Bankai powers that are about to show up NOONE has a Hammer bankai that can build things… or a Kitchen Knife bankai that turns stuff into food… I mean, there is a LOT of wasted space inside that shinigami compound. Why the hell do we have 98% poverty in the afterlife?! So then Ichigo and the relevant friends (Kon sits at home crying, I guess) start fighting all the shinigami… raising all sorts of questions about death in the Bleach universe. If they kill anyone in this process… seeing as everyone is already dead… where do they go? (I seem to recall at some point later you find out that people who die in the afterlife reincarnate in the living world… which further confuses the 98% poverty rating… why suffer in a world that sucks when you KNOW you could just go LIVE again?)

So, while we are wondering this, that very death happens! Captain Aizen has been murdered, HARDCORE! Holy Screaming Subordinates, Batman! EVERYONE IS FREAKING OUT! We are introduced to roughly 9759 characters at once, all with long names and short introduction clips. There are exactly eleventy billion captains and seventy zillion sub-vice-rear-port-vanguard secondary captain elects. They all seem to be under the command of Ramuh from Final Fantasy, who has gotten tired of lightning and moved on to fire. Sweet. Cosplayers take a few moments to replace their underwear and the series keeps pumping out episodes.

Meanwhile, our heroes are fighting their way through the ranks of elite trained soldiers. They do great against the nameless ones… but once a guy clips on a nametag, only Ichigo seems to have much luck. The Quincy takes off his gauntlet, which causes him to lose his powers forever… (makes you wonder if he was going to wear it forever before then?) but at least he kills his oppo-… wait… no… that guy is fine. Sucks to be you man. Oh and Chad has an entire episode where hes running at a guy only to get his head cut off struck in his non-vital spots! (We saw blood splatter and his necklace fly off still in one piece! That only happens if the NECK ISN’T THERE ANYMORE!) I’m getting a horrible tingling feeling in my gut as I’m watching this… Chad was my favorite character… that was clearly a death episode. He just spent 25 minutes explaining to us how he can’t die here and then gets swatted down in 5 seconds. Why is he comically  bandaged? … wait has ANYONE died yet? Oh… that’s right. Aizen died. Thank goodness, I was afraid for a second that this was one of those stories where the universe is violent but harmless and no one with a name need worry. Phew.

… I seriously never got over Chad’s lack of death though… I mean, the guy was in the right place at the right time… they built up the appropriate atmosphere, they went through all the motions, you THOUGHT you saw the ending and then the next episode you found out they just tricked you into THINKING it happened. That is the type of deception that sends couples into therapy! The worst part? If ever there were an anime where its okay to kill main characters, it would be an anime WHERE THERE ARE GHOSTS AND SHIT! You don’t even have to lose the character! Suddenly, you have an excuse for them to get all dark and broody like the fangirls love and a GOOD excuse for them to keep missing school! Sorry, teach, kinda dead today!

But then we pick back up. Things are going great. Ichigo is… getting his butt kicked? What a twist! Oh, wait… saiyans get stronger when they recover from getting their butts kicked. He just learned a new move! Wow! He just fought a guy in a visually appealing manner! Wow! He just went through… more training… wow… he just fought a guy in a visually appealing manner… He just powered up and got a glowing aura… he just released moves of unrealistic devastation that destroyed solid stone but left his opponent unharmed…

WHAT IS THIS DRAGONBALL Z BULLSHIT?!

Now we have only five minutes until Namek explodes one hour until Rukia’s execution! Ichigo and his new rival/friend (seeing as the old one broke) are gonna SAVE her! Yeah! This is the shit we’ve been waiting for! BUT WAIT! It turns out Aizen wasn’t dead! He was only pretending with his super special illusion sword in order to avoid suspicion and make puppets dance like the chessmaster he is! He has thrown away his “goodguy glasses” and pulled out his “badass hairgel”. What’s that Ichigo? You’ve found an awesome power that makes you so fast we have to slow down relative time to show you fighting in the anime DBZ style? Fuck that. One finger. He is going to stop your sword with a finger. Then you are going to bleed suddenly for no discernible reason.

… seriously, HOW is this guy get to be such a badass and have no one notice? Is it the glasses? Is he Clark Kent?

“Who would you say the strongest Captain is, sub-vice-rear-port-etc Captain?”

“hmmm… I would say it is Bishonen McPrettyboy. After all, he has plastic tubing in his hair and an imperious aloof attitude. If you throw in a cherry blossom based power, he can’t lose to anyone but a passionate main character!”

“What about Captain Aizen? I think he is strong enough to stop a sword with a finger and fast enough to dissect a cheetah between heartbeats! I think he had sex with me once, but I blinked so I can’t be sure!”

“No, it couldn’t be Aizen. He wears glasses.”

So now Aizen is back alive, bringing the body count to zero. It turns out he wants a magical orb thingy that is inside Rukia. Rukia didn’t know it was there, yet somehow HE did. That’s why he sent guys to capture her. That’s why he pretended to be dead. Now hes gonna take the orb thingy and become something between Hollow and Sinigami, just like Ichigo is doing WITHOUT IT. So he does. Then, he goes away.

I see people holding PICKET SIGNS at A-Kon talking about how shit is part of Aizen’s master plan! Aizen doesn’t have a masterplan! He is evil for the sake of having a villain! He went through a massive conspiracy involving the deaths of hundreds breaking up a fox-eyed guy and his girlfriend, all for a ball that does the thing the main character is just DOING. Ah, but now he is out for a bit. We need new badguys to fight in the meantime. Why don’t we have Orihime get kidnapped… her name has the word “princess” in it. This is, after all, a series about rescuing princesses with stylized fight scenes involving magical shapechanging swords… right?

But wait… what sort of opponent can we have Ichigo fight? Maybe some vampires? How about an entire freaking platoon of half-hollow half-shinigami people! We’ve shown that it can happen with Ichigo! Surely, this thing can happen all over the place! (Meanwhile, Aizen is off with his magical suppository… doing something.)

I’m tired of summarizing events. I can’t even call it summarizing plot! This shit is all over the place! What happened to busting ghosts? Hell, I think part of the explanation got missed in the first few episodes!

“Stamp them on the forehead with the seal on the end of your sword. That will turn them into a butterfly and they will go off to live in a slum outside a military fort.”

“Wait, what?”

“Also, your sword can transform into a giant kitchen knife with a scarf. Everyone can do a transformation but me… that’s why I’m the only person you will ever see using my special shinigami magic outside a flashback.”

“Oh… that’s odd.”

“Not nearly as odd as the fact that your father is an extremely powerful and influential retired shinigami. Surely, I would recognize him the many times I’ve seen him, so I guess I just didn’t tell you because I’m either stupid or inept.”

“Oh wow, really? All this time I thought he was just a pedophile.”

“They aren’t mutually exclusive traits.”

So, we are now back on Earth. School has gone OUT THE FREAKING WINDOW, because forget Earth, we have to fight GREENJOWL and his cosplay-riffic villain squad! Also, we need new mascot characters! Kon hasn’t been doing it for us anymore. And we need to phase out some characters… lets saaaaay… all of them. Just Ichigo, a cardboard cut-out of Orihime that says “Kurosaki-san” when it detects the camera on it, and the badguy of the week.

Oh. Somewhere in the middle there, Vegeta Ishida got the powers he would never get back in his life back. Sweet. Does it matter? Not really. Chad and Ishida go and sit sadly in a corner with Tatsuki. (Who?)

Ah, but there is more to Bleach than simply a random string of extremely visually appealing fights! … right?

Oh, but at least Bleach isn’t trying to stuff some sort of moral down our throats like that “People need to chase their dreams and stay true to their friends” One Piece crap! Bleach is just PURE RAW BADASSERY! I tune in EVERY week, just to see how Ichigo is going to HIT ANOTHER MAN WITH A SWORD! It’s like Kenshin without the interesting parts! (I’m just kidding. Bleach fans don’t know what Kenshin is.)

Bleach is bad anime, folks. I’ve got a word count over 2000 and I’ve only JUST reached the point where I feel I’ve mocked it enough to talk about it seriously. Bleach is the anime that didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up. It is an anime by and for those with ADHD. The background characters are meaningless one-shotters that get punted into the shadows between plot arcs and then dragged out in meaningless sequences just to remind you that Kubo drew them at one point. “You remember that red-headed lesbian girl from the first season… umm… Whats-her-name-chan?”

I’ve been digging through Bleach for meaning and I’ve found nothing. I’m not saying that every anime needs a moral or a catchy line… but at least your story needs something greater than “Darn Ichigo is a badass.” Theme is something that your audience will walk away with at the end of the day. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was a recent anime that focused on visually appealing fights and style. Yet, Gurren Lagann’s world was full of danger. I lost multiple my favorite characters on that one, all of them dying FOR something, not just TO something. We had a running theme throughout the anime and then it ran us by… and we were left on a somber note to ponder it all. Like Bleach, it got subtly more and more ridiculous with its plot twists and fancy toys… but unlike Bleach there were CHARACTERS attached to that. I felt their joy and pain because they HAD those emotions. I felt the weight of their journey because when THEIR princess got kidnapped, it wasn’t just “oh, well lets go save our friend”… this was some Kantian shit! This was a categorical imperative! This wasn’t a story just about humans, this was a HUMAN STORY.

There are those who say that Bleach is one of the “Greatest Animes Evar!”… I bet those people have never seen Spike Spiegel say “… bang.” They’ve never felt Nicolas D. Wolfwood collapse under the weight of his cross. They’ve never cried with Ryoko over a bloodied headband. But you know what? I bet they haven’t felt the true high points either, the simple life-humor of Lucky Star. Kyon’s pragmatic internal monologue, Kintaro’s journey to study life and get laid! There are so many other animes out there that have emotional geography with low valleys or high peaks LEAGUES beyond the sand-flats of Bleach…. Bleach isn’t even a better DBZ than DBZ.

I often find myself at A-Kon in an increasingly large crowd of younger anime viewers that claim their generation’s anime is the best ever. Each year, I think to myself “No, Bleach fanboy, you just haven’t experienced enough to make a proper judgment. You are the DBZ fanboy of your generation. There is more out there, both contemporary and classic, you just have to go look for it.”

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4 Comments

  1. Yes! For the love of god, YES! I have a handy dandy list of the top 50 animes of the past decade right here:

    http://www.japanator.com/elephant/index-short.phtml?t=Anime%20of%20the%20Decade

    Bleach fanboys, watch the fuck up.

    Oh and here’s extra credit:

    http://www.japanator.com/10-anime-of-the-decade-my-honorable-mentions-12954.phtml

    • I’ve got my own gripe with Soul Eater, but that’s a rant for another day. I want Bleach fanboys to all watch Champloo. THERE is an anime that is both stylish and meaningful.

  2. I completely agree with your Bleach analysis. I haven’t read it in over a year or so and don’t miss it in the slightest. I’ve recently talked with some friends recently that gave me a brief overview of what happened lately: Aizen shows more power, Ichigo reveals that being emo makes people more powerful, and no real plot. They even agree that they’re tired of keeping up with it. And the worst part of it all is the fact that Kubo the Mangaka of Bleach says that there are TWO more arcs of story to go! God help us all.
    Another thing that makes me sick is Aizen’s powers. I have defined his special ability as retroactive power leveling. Every time someone seems to maybe, feasibly be on par with him to make his jacket dirty, he reveals that the true 100% of his full power has actually always been 3 times that amount and RETCONS his damn power to reflect that. And it happens all the time. He is almost like a parody of Bond villian with the way he has everything planned out.

    • It is what happens when you can’t write David Xanatos properly. You end up with Captain Aizen or N from Death Note.


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