Problematic Populars – Manga Reviews: Bleach

Okay, seriously. Who here doesn’t know Bleach? It was, though I still consider is, one of the big three of Shounen Jump Weekly. Created by Tite Kubo, it was published in Jump in 2001 and has received a large following, back in the day. It’s still popular today, but it seems to have lost the similar impact of Naruto and One Piece. Regardless of that fact, I honestly still like Bleach over Naruto and One Piece, for personal reasons.

Now, let’s get to the good points. I have constantly been mentioning this in the other manga, but I really enjoy looking at the manga’s aesthetics. In my opinion, the art is the best of the big three and still is. The thick tones and lines make the characters really stand out and the designs are spectacular. The designs themselves look as if they’re ready to pass into seinen territory. I swear to you, the art design is probably one of the most serious designs in a shounen manga, similar to Death Note.

Very rarely do you see someone's spine in a SWJ manga.
Very rarely do you see someone’s spine in a SWJ manga.

Another thing personally, would be the characters. The characters themselves are actually a bottle of fun, even the enemies. Personal favorites would have to be Mayuri Kurosutchi, Unohana Retsu and Ulquiorra Ciffer. These three are my main favorites of the series.

I love this freak.
I love this freak.
Prettiest creature in the series.
Prettiest creature in the series.
Coolest character and best love interest for Orihime.
Coolest character and best love interest for Orihime.

Alright, now for the weak parts of the series. You all probably know this, but it honestly has to be the story. Many people have complained that it went downhill, after the captain arc and when the Espadas were introduced. To be honest, I don’t have any problem with the arcs. I liked them all and faithfully followed. No, what really is the problem is the pacing of the story. Each week, Kubo puts up amazing looking images, but drags out the story way, WAY too long. Look at this week’s chapter, we get like a few memories of Bazz’s memories, three hits and then BAM, it’s over. It works at times and can get people curious, but there are many times when it feels like a waste and that most of the panels could be filled with more story.

Another thing, ironically, would have to be the art panel. There’s nothing wrong with his art, but it’s the paneling of the story that ruins it. There are panels that are either too big or empty for one page. When I say that, I mean, there are times when the pages would either have only three or just one large panel. It’s not always like this, but when Kubo’s trying to sound deep or put up an action scene, you can see this happen a whole lot. Also by empty, I mean he often makes very large background shapes,effects or closeups. It can be pretty to look at, but it takes too much space, easily filling up 17 pages, making each chapter feel short. Kubo is clearly trying to excite the readers and there’s nothing wrong with that. Go ahead, get the readers’ attention, but don’t freaking do that all the time. Too much excitement isn’t a good thing. Readers need to be given moments to calm down and relax, but Kubo often dedicates one chapter to either calm or action. Back in the old chapters, he would actually do a mix of both. But lately, it’s been one or the other.

Nothing wrong with a bit of this, but this happens way too often, more than you think.
Nothing wrong with a bit of this, but this happens way too often, more than you think.

Now, one last thing to address. I don’t necessarily agree with this part, but I understand why a lot of people dislike it. One of the biggest aspects of the series that people tend to pick on are two of the main characters: Ichigo Kurosaki and Orihime Inoue. People complain about Ichigo because of his ridiculous powers. He’s part human, part shinigami, part hollow, part vizard, part fullbringer and part quincy. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous. However, after reading the later chapters, I’m simply going to assume that he’s a quincy, who received the powers that his mom got from Aizen.

The many versions of Ichigo
The many versions of Ichigo

I can understand how his different bloodtypes could piss people off, but I’m just going to take it that everyone simply assumed what he was, because they didn’t really know what he was. For example, the Soul Society thought he was just human, because Rukia voluntarily gave him his powers. Then readers thought he was part hollow, because of the mask. Then the vizard thought he was one of them, because of the mask. Later, the Fullbringer had the same notion. Then finally, Juha activated the blue vein in Ichigo, confirming he’s part Quincy. However, with Isshin’s backstory, I’m concluding that he’s really a Quincy and everything else was on Aizen.

To be honest, I still like Ichigo. Once you get past all the ridiculous powers, you’d be surprised to find him as a more mature character. Yes, his talent growth is ridiculously quick, but that could easily be overlooked and explained because of the powers thrown into him. Also, I actually like his character. He’s different from most shounen jump protagonists. He may be silly at times, but he’s mainly serious and isn’t a wimp. He doesn’t go around yelling how he’s going to be the best and he doesn’t have some sort of favorite food that he can’t live without, or eat like ten tons a day. Personally, I like the character.

Then we have Orihime Inoue. It is pretty much obvious why many people dislike her. Some would consider her the Sakura of Bleach (Sakura’s not useless, I know). Orihime actually does little in the series, besides become the emotional trigger for Ichigo during the Espada arc. She barely fights and is mostly repeating Ichigo’s name in the series. However, I’m perfectly fine with her. Some might complain about her being a damsel in distress who needs a hero to rescue her, but I’m perfectly okay with it. Look, in this growing world, there are already a lot and I mean a LOT of female characters that play the strong role model. There are so many that it has gotten a bit of tedious. Some times it’s good to have these kinds of roles returned, just for a breath of fresh air. By the way, I ship Ulquiorra and Orihime.

Kurosaki kun, Kurosaki kun, Kurosaki kun.
Kurosaki kun, Kurosaki kun, Kurosaki kun.

With all the said, Bleach can be considered a shadow of its former self. It still is quite good and I personally prefer it over most of the SWJ manga, but it is clear that Bleach’s popularity isn’t what it used to be.

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