Saturday, January 15, 2011

review: Bleach

Somehow I got into Bleach. Found the anime somewhere on the web and decided to start watching it - without knowing how insanely many episodes there are.

For those who don't know it: Bleach is a shonen (= for boys) manga series. It started 10 years ago and developed into a huge merchandising, with anime, movies, video games and apparently even several rock musicals. Creator Tite Kubo recently announced that he's about half way through the story, so there's 10 more years to come.

Rating: 5/5
Volumes: 48 (and many more to come)
Mature content: some fights get a little bloody, in the manga more so than in the anime
Genre: Shonen

The story revolves around Ichigo Kurosaki, a teenager who can see ghosts. One day a Hollow (a kind of evil monster ghost) is after him and his family, there's a fight and the Shinigami (or Soul Reaper, a kind of Grim Reaper) who was supposed to kill the Hollow is wounded and transfers her powers to him, so the Hollow can be killed. After that Ichigo, now a "Substitute Shinigami", starts to get to know a whole new world, and gets caught up in a huge Shinigami treachery/Putsch/war.

So what do I like, what do I dislike (warning: this might contain some spoilers).

- It's long. Really long. Really, really long. And not all of it is interesting. Some fights take way too long, stretching over several chapters/episodes. It is shonen, I'm aware, but sometimes it's just too much.
- Speaking of too much: the way certain people gain more power, again and again and again just seems ridiculous. Oh, and please - just kill Aizen already.
- Some of the characters right out annoy me. Mainly Orihime Inoue. She's one of those female manga characters you find everywhere: huge tits, not very bright, naive and more or less useless - but even so greatly liked by all other characters in the story. If you'd cut together the scenes in the anime in which she goes "Kurosaki-kun...", standing on the side, hands clutched together in front of her huge breasts and tears in her wide eyes I bet you'd get several hours of material.
- Since it's so long it's really hard to catch up when you've discovered it later. It took me a few months just to watch the anime episodes.

- Unfortunately in many (most of those I read or seen, maybe with the exception of the josei ones) mangas or animes the female characters seem to belong to one of two groups: they either have huge breasts, are generally stupid and in need of help or they have small breasts, are generally stupid and aggressive. The women in Bleach are different (well, most of them). One of the main female characters, Rukia, while being rather small and sometimes found in a "damsel in distress" situation, is a person to be taken seriously, in battle and outside. Actually some of the strongest fighters are female, Yoruichi being one of them. She's one of my favourites, she really kicks ass. And then there's Unohana: she's never seen fighting, being the Captain of a unit of healers, but everyone (including the strongest warriors, good and bad) shows a great deal of respect to her, sometimes even fear.
- It's not really black and white. The antagonists of the beginning become friends of Ichigo. Some of the "bad guys" are given a back story, and with it sympathy. I'm pretty sure that some of those, like Ulquiorra or Grimmjow, are the most loved among fans (and their deaths much mourned). Some of the "good guys" seem to be rather unpleasant characters. If I had to choose between being a prisoner of Mayuri ("good guy") or Ulquiorra I'm not sure the good side would get my vote... Sometimes it seems like people just happen to be on one side or the other, more by chance than by character.
- In addition to the characters being really well designed also the relationshsips between them are great. Of course the Ichigo/Rukia/Renji trio is awesome with their friendship (or love), trust and humour. There are lots of other deep relationships, like Urahara and Yoruichi (one of my favourite couples), Ikkaku and Yumichika or Kyōraku and Ukitake. Or the relationships the Vice Captains have with their Captain. Not all have been explored to the same amount and much is left in secret or unsaid. For example it is never mentioned that Urahara and Yoruichi are in fact a couple - but it's generally assumed by people. I do like that, in a way. It's very unspectacular and not "in your face". At the same time I know it's very clever, because everyone can interpret things to their liking.
- It's funny (specially the omake/extras).
- The anime has some really good filler arcs.
- I admit there's some nice eye candy and fanservice for the girls.

That's it for my review of Bleach. I will leave you with a few useful links.
And in the comment section I will collect a few fanfiction stories that I like. Yeah, somehow I got into that, too... Most will have mature content, just so you've been warned. Feel free to add your own recommendations.

TV Tropes site on Bleach
Bleach Wiki
Group on deviantART dedicated to the better fanart
Journal with theories and discussions on Bleach


Elenir said...

So here is my first fan fiction recommendation: "The Roots of Heaven" by hallowd.
It follows the manga up until chapter 323. But even though some things turn out differently, the circumstances and events are not unlikely. I think, if you leave out the sex scenes, this one could even be made into a Bleach movie.

The plot:
The war against Aizen is over, but Rukia went missing in action. She is believed to be dead and preperations for her funeral are made, when Ichigo finds traces of her and he an Renji set out on another rescue mission to a foreign world.
The first part is an adventure, road trip, buddy movie kind of story. Though it gets rather dark and angsty in some parts. Especially the torture scenes got to me (though it's still nothing compared to reality, I'm afraid). The second part is more about the emotional consequences of that trip and how people deal with it. This is also the part that contains the "smut" (spoiler: homosexual and a threesome - how awesome is that?).

I really liked this one because it was exciting, had a nice plot, some good fighting scenes and the characters seemed to stay true to themselves.
Maybe one could also read it without knowing Bleach - if someone gives it a try, tell me.

Elenir said...

I just re-read "Insomnia" by SilverKytten since I was in the mood for some Renji. Unfortunately it's not finished and I'm afraid it will never be, since the last chapter was published in 2007.

The story takes place during the Arrancar arrival arc. Ichigo achieved his Hollow mask, but cannot hold on to it for long yet. Hitsugaya, Renji and a few other Shinigami are stationed in the human world. In the course of the story Rukia leaves with Orihime for Soul Society.

Ichigo is suffering from a severe lack of sleep. Fears of nightmares and pondering about having to protect everyone prevent him from falling asleep - and it's obvious to him and others around him that he seriously needs to sleep more. Everyone is rather stressed with the thread of Aizen's Arrancar launching an attack at any moment. By chance Ichigo finds out he can sleep perfectly while lying in Renji's lap... Things are similar for Renji and while the older shinigami settles for it, seeing the mutual benefit (and a chance to tease the younger), Ichigo is highly uncomfortable and confused with the new aspect in their relationship.

The story is generally well written. The most irritating is the lack of seperation within one chapter, so that you sometimes find yourself confused because a seemingly continuous text suddenly changed in setting, time or point of view.

I guess that Renji is slightly acting out of character in this one (or maybe showing a side of his character that got only hinted at in canon), but I like the overall gentle mood of the story. There's enough teasing and bickering between the guys to keep things entertaining and to be able to imagine them together like in the manga or anime. The story is progressing rather slowly, it feels realistic, innocent in the beginning, then increasing the hints and excitement. Only the last chapters are really "smutty". I like the descriptions of the rather unspectacular act of sleeping next to each other. It makes me think that I wouldn't mind my own Renji for helping me fall asleep at night.
Besides the Ren/Ichi and Ichigo's coming to terms with his sexuality, there's also a plot: Urahara is trying to develop a device to fight Arrancar, for which he needs the help of Ichigo's hollow powers. There's also powerful Arrancars turning up that can hide their reitsu and one of them manages to sneak up on Ichigo one night...

As I said: I really enjoyed reading it and I wish it would be finished. Not only to see how things progress between Ichigo and Renji, but also because the last chapter ends with a cliffhanger concerning the action plot.

Elenir said...

I really think Renji is an interesting character, easy to be paired with different people, Ichigo, Rukia - or Byakuya.
Well, actually "Red Duty, Black Honor", though being labeled as such, isn't entirely Byakuya/Renji slash. It has a very broad plot and lots of pairings. And no sex scenes (I can tolerate this ;) - though I'm normally no supporter of the "no sex before marriage" philosophy).

The war against Aizen has ended and it leaves the shinigami to tend to more every-day matters. There are three divisions that need new captains, for example. Kuchiki Byakuya is facing a different kind of trouble when his clan presents him with the ultimatum that either he has to marry again or Rukia will have to be the one to take care of a heir for the noble family.
I have grinned and laughed so much during reading this. It is well written, and I can see the faces in front of me. There are few more serious sections, too, mostly dealing with the mess the three traitors have left behind.

The only problem with the story is that it's... too much. There's a lot of interesting ideas, but there's too many of them stuffed into one story. There's also a bit too many pairings for my taste (in my opinion it could easily have done without the Kyōraku/Ukitake and the Kira/Hisagi). And there's too many surprising blood relations. And maybe the marriages are a bit too easy, too rushed.

There's a collections of "outtakes:
And a sequel that's still ongoing: (I have to say that I don't like this one as much. It has too many weddings, babies and other girly stuff for my liking. There's big jumps in time to make the kids grow up, the mass of pairings really gets out of hand and the humour is mostly gone.)

Elenir said...

Since we're at it already, let's go on with some more Byakuya/Renji.
Washu-M pointed me towards this story when she did two great fanart pictures of it ( and - check out the rest of her gallery, too, she's one of my favourite artists for Bleach fanart on dA). Yes, fanart for a fanfiction story...
Anyway. The title fits perfectly, it is directly taken out of the text. It takes place before the Winter War and Captain Ukitake suggested that the captains needed more knowledge of the human world since the war would take place there. So Captain Kuchiki decides to spend a week in the Human World, with Renji as his guide. One of the first learnings for him is that Long Island Ice Tea isn't actually tea...
Yeah, it might be unlikely for the noble Captain Kuchiki to visit the Human World in that fashion and all that. But if you're able to overlook that, you're in for a well-written, enjoyable fanfiction with the right amount of erotic tension (and smut).

The lack of seperations within one chapter seems to be a current formatting problem at Unfortunately this story suffers from it, too.

Elenir said...

And now to something completely different. Grimmjow. A character that is always out of character in any fanfiction. Because let's face it, that guy is brutal, extremely violent and sadistic. Unfortunately Tite Kubo has put that personality into one hell of a body. ;) And given him a cat theme.
I'm usually not into the bad guys. I don't understand the fascination with Aizen or Light Yagami or Anakin Skywalker. So I'm not going to complain about Grimmjow being out of character, as long as it's not going overboard.

"Seven" is an alternative universe fanfic. Which means no shinigami and hollows and all that. It's a GrimmXIchi fiction - with a couple more pairings added. I noticed this one again because of a related picture on deviantART, this time by blackstorm:
Ichigo works as a barkeeper at a bar called "Benihime's" and Grimmjow is assigned a job to get close and try to get information about what is going on underneath the bar. He decides to try seduce Ichigo but finds himself drawn too deep into the relationship - and with no results for his job.

There's sex, of course. There's romance. There's a plot you won't understand until the end.
Shiro is completely out of character, but I really like Tensa Zangetsu. Yes, the Zanpakutō spirits are characters, too. I like Tensa, he's quiet, seems shy but is confident, too. There are lots of other relationships mentioned, but the focus stays clear, so they're not too distracting.
Actually I can't think of anything negative about the story. Maybe except that married women are not portrayed very favourably. I read it within a week and it cost me a lots of sleep (I had to work). I has just been finished this weekend.

Elenir said...

Another alternative universe story, another Grimmjow story. "Unpredictable" ( is a bit different though. It's about Keigo. Yes, Keigo and Grimmjow - crack pairing.
Keigo is one of those kids. His bike is regularly destroyed, he has no friends, never gets invited to parties, etc. Lonely loser. Per chance he starts chatting online to someone called Jaegerjaques. They chat quite a lot, then call and after finding out that they live in the same town, they meet up. A friendship develops, but Keigo is constantly unsure, awaiting it to shatter any time.

The story has many faults. Its spelling and grammar isn't too good (but not bad enough to totally spoil it), the point of view changes too often, too many flashbacks and it gets side-tracked too much by introducing other characters and sub-plots. The author improves over time though.
I like how Keigo is much the anti-hero. He's unsure and a coward in one sense, brave in another. I like how the friendship is depicted, something very valuable, tender in the beginning but getting stronger. There isn't too much plot, slow progress (though there is a promise of "more" to come when Grimmjow admits to Keigo that he's bisexual), but that's how I like it. I guess I can identify with Keigo and for someone lonely a friendship like this is like a wonder, a dream come true.
I like the change of perspective. You could say the others are mean, always bullying Keigo and I can also see how people could say Rukia was two-timing with Ichigo and Renji. I think Keigo is portrayed very well, Grimmjow - as I mentioned, he's always out of character - is quite a softie in this one and rather cuddly. What I like best however is probably the friendship. The one between Keigo and Grimmjow of course (though that will probably change into something else), but also the friendship between the other characters.
I have to warn you though: it's not updated very often. I actually thought it was abandoned, but then there was a new chapter in May 2011. I do hope it'll continue soon.