*THIS REVIEW DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS*
Like a flutter of a butterfly’s wing, Kubo has created the dynamic of a life after death scenario, twisting people’s minds and imaginations throughout its journey with surprises, questions, and a bold statement of what happens after we leave this world. Invisible forces play into the scenes, grasping a hold of reality and raining out a massive event that not even humans can comprehend. Sparks fly as metal swords clash. Tears fall down pale cheeks. Romances bloom like a soft flower petal in the spring. People think there is nothing after life, but they are wrong. Death is only the beginning.
Taking place in modern Japan and broken into five major arcs, Bleach is unique between the “Big 3” and Shounen itself. It shaped itself in the first few chapters as a typical run of the mill high school themed manga with the characters having special powers. Over that period, the scenes and chapters just repeat itself. Nothing special happens. However, things change, and it was this that made Bleach become over the top famous.
The next arc is what made Bleach what it is. Surprises and twists make the plot shake. The only way to read this is to think about it being opposite day. The many characters introduced help shape this manga and create the new world it was made to be in. There are no cheats into reading this. Every word, every panel of this arc is crucial. Like the stairway to heaven to introduce what will happen in the coming chapters. Expect the unexpected or nobody will figure out what will happen. Pay attention to detail closely in the words spoken, the plot can be easily lost. Easter eggs are a bonus and can lead to mysteries in future chapters.
Now onto the serious bit. Bleach’s plot isn’t the best plot out there. It’s filled with plot holes and unanswered questions that probably will never get answered. The way it was shaped was anti-climactic and it was very, very unorganized. Seriously, pay attention. I found myself getting lost during the mess of the arcs following after the Soul Society. Although it was suspenseful and I found myself excited about what would happen next, I would often find myself disappointed in the result. The symbolism used, like the Hell Butterfly, weren’t explained as fully as I wanted it to be. Chapters also became a repetitive thing. Unnecessary events slowed the pace exponentially. And when something awesome happened, the pace moved quickly, almost as if someone was embarrassed about a performance and needed to get off the stage.
It wasn’t good.
One thing Bleach was very famous for was the artwork. Between the first chapter and the last, the improvements of the drawings were incredible. It was surprising how far Kubo has gone since starting out in this manga. The art is what I would like to call adorable, but not too over the top with the crazy, stereotypical eyes or Japanese character design. The character’s designs seem to make their own form of uniqueness never seen before. Kubo had made it his own and has even inspired many new artists around the world. The detail placed into the characters and the way he brought the fight scenes to life is what saved this manga into going into the trash bin at the beginning. With each panel drawn, there is always a story in them. Some panels are left blank or black to create the atmosphere and effect of the scene drawn ahead. Some are simple and build to what is happening in the chapter. Then there are those with great intense detail and quite strange designs that make the reader question what is happening in the Kubo’s mind during the process of drawing it. Plus, the colour pages that sometimes appear, come out simple with pastel-like colours placed into the page, making the tone of the chapter pop more. Take a moment and just admire the work placed into these pages. It’s something totally rare to find.
Three words: Too many characters!
First, long-running manga, I get it. But there is a limit to how many should be placed into a story. One rule is that characters that have a role in the story should have a backstory on how they got there. They need a purpose and need to be figured out once it ends. One problem with Bleach is that Kubo created these characters without realizing what he would have to do near the end. Many of these characters don’t seem to have a proper fight scene and when they do, it’s either very rushed or off-screened. Plus, many don’t get a backstory and are left under the rubble. Literally. Don’t be surprised if you wonder where someone is for over one hundred chapters. Chances are they are either lying unconscious somewhere or dead. Remember though, Kubo doesn’t forget characters even though it seems that he does.
Second, not enough character deaths. Oh my word, yes, I said it. I wish there were more deaths than there were. Even though I am deeply upset about the loss of my favourite fictional character, Ukitake-taicho, it made sense for his passing. It made the plot move on. There are characters that were supposed to die, ie. Byakuya, that didn’t end up happen due to popularity issues. No! There needs to be a balance. If a character doesn’t die when they’re supposed to, their role in the rest of the plot becomes useless and also can change the original plot drastically.
Lastly, the main cast wasn’t very good. Yup, I said it too, I disliked the main characters. Why? They were useless, over-powered, and plain annoying. Rukia seemed to be the only one I was content with, but the other’s…honestly, I could really do without Orihime and Chad. They were a waste of time. Orihime’s powers weren’t explained and she landed in the typical damsel in destress, and Chad’s were just not over-powered enough to keep up with the other characters. And Ichigo and Ishida…I got strange Naruto vibes from those two. There needed to be a development in these characters and there wasn’t enough of it.
There are things out there that take me awhile to give my opinion. A dark moment in a life where light just doesn’t shine even after a bottle of wine been finished. After Bleach ended, I really didn’t know what to do. I was like a child after all their Halloween candy was gone. I couldn’t grasp the reality that after fifteen years, this huge manga was over. I was waiting, as if some being would come down and say “HAPPY APRIL FOOLS IN AUGUST!” or something. But no.
It was never meant to be.
Even after all of this, I did enjoy Bleach exponentially and it is considered one of my most favourite enjoyed manga, but I needed more. It was a buzz I got every Thursday morning when I woke up. I would freak out in my room whenever something major occurred. But now…that morning will be empty and will be filled with memories of what it used to. Just kidding…I’ve got other things to read now. But all seriousness, this manga was one of the firsts I picked up and will always be special in my heart.
Bleach is an epic journey. Filled with action, suspense and several possible romances, it a roller coaster ride of emotions and amazing fights. Nothing compares to this manga.
I give this manga 50% on the soul cleansing scale.