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Cidolfas's Anime Reviews: Bleach

Bleach is an intriguing bit of fluff which doesn't take airs with itself, and doesn't aim to do anything but entertain. Which isn't to say it's a stupid series (far from it), but its focus is on action and comedy rather than anything deep.

The overall story is a cross between Sailor Moon, Men In Black and Buffy, with a twist. Ichigo Kurosaki is your average angry teenager, with one difference: he can see ghosts. To be fair, though, so can quite a few other people. However, all that changes one day when he's visited by a girl named Rukia Kuchiki, who's surprised enough that Ichigo can see her. She tells him that she's a "Death God" - a sort of spiritual policeman whose role is to send Pluses (good souls) to heaven, and dispatch Hollows (bad souls turned into giant monsters).

As if that's not enough, when Ichigo is attacked by a Hollow, Rukia sustains a fatal blow. To save both of them, she gives her Death God powers to Ichigo instead - and later finds out that she's bitten off more than she can chew. For one thing, Rukia is now just your average high school student, despite the fact that she's never been to school in her life - at least not the kind Ichigo goes to. For another, she has to constantly tail Ichigo, because he can't change to a Death God by choice: she's got to break him out of his body.

The first season tends towards "events" of two to four episodes, involving one or more Hollows and Ichigo's overblown attempts to take them down. Some interesting plot twists arise, but not anything mind-numbing. I most enjoyed the chemistry between Rukia and Ichigo and the rest of their high school class (which contains several absolute crazy people) as well as Ichigo's not-quite-average family. I particularly like Rukia's character; she's an interesting mix of childlike and badass.

The best thing about Bleach is its humor - even though the overarching storyline is definitely serious, there's always at least one moment of exaggerated slapstick (often involving deformed drawings) or unexpected levity in every episode. It keeps the tone light and stops it from getting too full of itself. The animation is good enough not to bother you, and the music is what I technically file under "noise" - not because it has a lot of distortion and loud grunge stuff, but because there just aren't many actual tunes. Still, it tends to fit most of the time.

Unfortunately, after about episode 20, Bleach deteriorates into an arc which, while not completely unwatchable, has absolutely no redeeming factors. It turns into what's essentially a bunch of fights. Each fight takes from one to four episodes (often three or more fights are intertwined during that time), and consists of about fifty percent bravado, forty percent people shooting flashy energy at each other, and perhaps ten percent actual fighting. There are too many characters and, while several of them are given some attempt at backstory, almost none of them are remotely interesting. The quirky characters introduced early on are completely smothered and ignored through most of the series, and the humor is almost totally excised. It's a real shame that it squandered what it had, but the end result is simply awful.

This state of affairs lasts until round about episode 60, when the "Soul Society" arc finally finishes. At the moment we're going through a "Bount" arc, with all-new villains and three new allies, which capitalizes on the final events of the previous arc and rarely splices in scenes from Soul Society. While there's still a large emphasis on fighting, the fights are no longer pointless and are quite a bit more interesting, relying less on big energy blasts and more on strategy. The series has found its humor again (largely due to the new characters, who are a lot of fun) and rather than having a single overarching goal, the story twists and turns. It's not quite up to par with the first season, but it's much more watchable now, so give it a look-see if you like.

Favorite Character: Rukia

Overall Rating: 7.5/2.0 (Soul Society arc).

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