Ichigo was a high school student with the unusual ability to see spirits who haven't yet passed on. One day he encounters a girl named Rukia fighting a monster. As she lay injured, her power transfers to him to continue the fight. Rukia is known as a Soul Reaper. Her job is to send monsters (lost souls known as hollows) to the after life. However after transferring her powers to Ichigo she can't get them back. Now he has to act as a soul reaper in her place.
Ichigo has a knack for the job. In fact he has a power level few have seen before in a soul reaper. He'll need it too, as each of the trials he faces will be challenging than the last.
Bleach is yet another shounen fighting "power up" series which fails to differentiate itself much, but fair for what it is. Well kinda. Having seen over 100 episodes (with plenty of fast forwarding through filler), it's hard to say where it will end up. By the time I stopped watching, it had stretched itself thin and worn me out, so I doubt the rest improves the situation.
Ichigo is a typical spiky haired shounen protagonist and oddly weak character due to one dimensional presentation. After many episodes I couldn't tell you even the simplest details about him. Favorite foods, hobbies, etc. He's focused on fighting, and talks tough, but I find it hard to believe he'd be so indifferent about girl with a bust spanning multiple zip codes; especially when she's clearly interested in him. And no 15 year old has boobs as big as Orihime. Hell, most 15 year olds aren't as big as her boobs.
An annoying part about Bleach is making mistakes, then repeating them over and over. Many many characters are introduced, but remain undeveloped past their basic back story. Which is too bad because some of them seem very cool. Stranger still, when given the chance to dig deeper, Bleach instead regurgitates stuff we've already know, as if THAT were development. Ugh!
Bleach starts with a monster of the week formula in the first season. Then Rukia is kidnapped and held in the Soul Society for execution. Ichigo and his crew break into Soul Society to spring her out of jail. Should take 2-3 episodes right? Nope. They run around lost for 20, then spend another 20 trying to break her out. While it gets tiresome, Bleach switches between multiple battles happening simultaneously, keeping it a tad more engaging. This chapter ends at episode 63. Then entire SEASONS of filler.
As the anime caught up with the Bleach manga, the anime diverged inventing it's own story arc for the next season. The Bount series unfortunately exposes how the creators are too chicken to deviate from the manga, thus let the anime spin its wheels to be safe. New characters introduced hardly differ from one another, and are as generic as they come. Existing characters aren't developed any farther either. Battles lack tension, and for good measure it throws in vampires because... well why not. Really the only redeeming part of this part of Bleach was the cute ending sequence featuring stuffed animals, so much so it's almost hypnotic.
• Rukia - I loved her character. Her Japanese voice performance is seriously awesome and worth subtitles for her alone. Rukia's problem is that she rarely does anything. Worse still she's reduced to a damsel in distress for so long. Even after her rescue, she never "fully recovers her powers" and is mostly ineffective. Character squandered.
• Yoruichi vs Soi Fon battle. Soi Fon appears unremarkable until she battles her former master Yoruichi. This back story of adoration and abandonment really drew me in. At the crescendo of the fight, the show cuts away. Next time it shows everything magically patched up between them. Lame.
• The commander of Soul Society division 1, Shigekuni; said to be the most powerful of all the captains. At one point this old dude gets pissed. Flames envelop the surrounding sections of Soul Society, and his huge muscles are bulging. His spiritual pressure is so strong, he can crush a subordinates being just by looking at them. A dude so epic he could have come strait from of Fist of the North Star. And we never see him fight. I'm like... seriously? Screw Ichigo, I want to see this old dude kick everyone's ass!
• Over the top violence where no one actually dies. It talks up a big deal with the "intent to kill", and people get cut to hell, cough up blood, get crushed by large objects and spurt fountains of red all over the place... Despite this happening on a regular basis in Bleach, no one ever dies. There are perhaps 2 deaths in the 100+ episodes I watched. This softens the impact of fighting as combatants will be patched up an episode or two later, even if it implies they're dead.
• Annoying narration which states the blatantly obvious. I have eyes in my head and I can see what just happened. Do they need to re-state EVERYTHING? This could be a great anime for blind people.
So after 100 episodes here's my take. Bleach has a fair setup, and a passable story even if the plot never goes very deep. It took 12 episodes for me to warm up to the series, and even then it felt like I was slogging through most of it. In the end the show is too watered down. By endless padding and filler, the show dilutes itself to the point where it lacks flavor. I watched 100 episodes and that's a lot. And it's not even over! That could be between 5-8 full anime shows worth of time spent. As such it's hard to justify the time investment. Even if I didn't hate Bleach, too long for what it is.
Rukia: We shall not shed tears. For tears mean the defeat of their body to the heart. And to us, that simply proves that the existence of a heart is a burden.
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