In 1996 a 19 year old man by the name of Noriaki Kubo published a story called “Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine” in Weekly Shonen Jump. 3 years later he wrote his first manga entitled “Zombiepowder.” under the pen name “Tite Kubo”. I’ve never read Zombiepowder. and probably never will. From what I’ve heard, it’s a generic unoriginal mess that you’ll probably only like if you’re a fan of crazy violent action. So basically the Superjail! crowd.
When that was killed off after 27 chapters, Kubo went head first into his new manga, “Bleach”. Why’s it called Bleach? Well, here’s the thing: the original title was “Black”. I’m not kidding. It’s named after the color of the Soul Reapers’ clothing. Fortunately, he thought that was too generic and renamed it “White”. He then renamed it to “Bleach” because of its association with the color white. So remember kids: Bleach is named after the color White.
Shonen Jump weren’t too keen on publishing Bleach after Zombiepowder. bombed. After Akira Toriyama wrote a letter of encouragement to the 24 year old writer, Shonen Jump published Bleach and intended it to last for about 5 years. If this were true, Bleach would’ve lasted until the end of the Soul Society arc and become as forgotten as Zombiepowder., but we’ll get to that later.
I will be approaching this review a little differently: I will be going through each and every season (I call them seasons, you call them arcs) explaining the good and the bad in each. Let’s get started then! (And yes, there will be spoilers)
Man that opening has nothing to do with the series AT ALL.
Season 1: The Substitute
Ichigo Kurosaki is a 15 year old boy in High School who just so happens to also see dead people! One day a Shinigami named Rukia Kuchki enters his room to do her duties when a hollow, a spirit monster thing, attacks the family and only Rukia can stop it. She is injured so she gives her powers to Ichigo so that he may slay it. Until she gets her powers back, however, she must live with the humans while Ichigo takes on her job for her (the Shinigami in this show are called Soul Reapers BTW).
That’s Johnny Yong Bosch as Ichigo, best known for playing Kaneda in the 2001 Pioneer Dub of Akira and, well, this. I feel he fits the role well. He SOUNDS like a 15 year old boy anyway.
What do I like about this season? Well, I really liked the premise: a teenager is a secret Ghostbuster that pretty much lives a double life. It’s actually really interesting. May as well go over the main cast while I’m here: Ichigo is a substitute Soul Reaper and is the token Shonen Jump main character. He’s kinda stubborn when things don’t go his way. Then there’s his best friend Chad, who is the most badass character in the entire series bar none. He’s like Brock from The Venture Bros.: whenever he’s kicking ass, he steals the show. He’s awesome. There’s Orihime, the girl. And finally there’s Uryu, the snooty nerd who’s a completely different race of Hollow Hunters known as Quincies. Soul Reapers turn Hollows back into Wholes (basically a ghost) which takes them to the Soul Society, which sounds like Heaven but it’s really just a crowded Purgatory unless you’re a Soul Reaper. Quinicies straight-up MURDER the Hollows and can cause an imbalance in between worlds. Just give him a few more episodes, he’ll be a good guy soon enough. There are obviously more characters (a FUCKTON more characters to be specific) but we’ll get to that later. I liked this style of the series the most compared to the rest of it.
What did I NOT like about it though? Well, simply put, they don’t take advantage of this secret Ghostbuster storytelling. You find out later on that there are many more people in Karakura Town with spiritual pressure. Ichigo could meet up with these people, unless their power, and build up a team. But nope, that’s all but lost 15 episodes into the series. This season also starts some broken promises that you’ll realize about 250+ episodes in that it’s never gonna be this good again.
Two Soul Reapers go to the World of the Living to arrest Rukia. Because apparently she spent a little too much time in her gigai (basically a human cloak for spirits) and will be executed. Harsh. Ichigo tries to stop them, but one of them is a goddamn captain, one of the most powerful Soul Reapers ever. So Kisuke Urahara, an ex-captain, decides to train Ichigo to send him to the Soul Society to perform a breaking and entering to rescue Rukia. Once he, Chad, Uryu, Orihime (now with Medic powers), and a talking cat named Youruichi enter the portal, the season ends.
Overall it was a solid 20 episodes. I definitely recommend it.
Season 2: Soul Society Part 1-The Entry
There are 2 parts that make up the Soul Society (not the arc, even though there are two parts; I’m talking about the actual place): I call them Upper Class (where the Soul Reapers hang) and the Lower Class (where the everyone else hang). Ichigo and the Teen Crew reach the edge of these two classes, landing on the Lower Class end. 4-5 episodes later and now they’ve reached the Upper Class. But the rescue won’t be too easy, as almost EVERY SINGLE SOUL REAPER IS OUT TO KILL THEM!!
If you can compare this to an actual robbery, imagine if the crooks DROVE RIGHT INTO THE BUILDING THEY ARE ROBBING, ALL DURING DAYTIME WORK HOURS. To make this a little simpler, they were not subtle. At all. Anyway, let’s run down the Gotei 13 really fast, or as they’re called in the dub, The Thirteen Court Guard Squads. Dope name, but I’ll go with the shorter one.
Squad One. This squad is pretty much the head honcho squad. It’s led by Yamamoto, an old warrior who is still really fucking strong so he’s pretty much been President of the Soul Society for thousands of years.
Squad Two. The Ninja Squad. Originally taken up by Youruichi (the cat), it’s now led by the former lieutenant.
Squad Three. Led by Gin Ichimaru, a person you never seem to trust ever. It’s later led by some filler captain in Season 9, but we’ll get to that later.
Squad Four. The Bitches. All they do is heal everyone while the cool kids swing swords at each other. They’re led by Retsu Unohana.
Squad Five. Led by Sosuke Aizen. Or at least it WAS until he was killed off about 35 episodes in. Well, that’s life. Let’s move on.
Squad Six. The Kuchiki Squad. They’re very strict and are led by Byakuya Kuchiki, the guy who almost killed Ichigo last time we saw him, as well as the brother of Rukia. Renji is also there, but we’ll get into his and Rukia’s characters later.
Squad Seven. Led by a motherfucking werewolf. That’s all you need to know.
Squad Eight. This squad’s just there to be there really. NEXT.
Squad Nine. This squad is led by a blind black guy. His bankai (talk about that later) is pretty cool, I guess.
Squad Ten. Led by Toshiro Hitsugaya. He has the Edward Elric “Stop making fun of my height” trope with him.
Squad Eleven. The “JUST FUCKING FIGHT” Squad. Led by the coolest Gotei 13 captain Kenpachi Kijango. He’s so powerful he doesn’t even know what his sword is.
Squad Twelve. Led by Mayuri Kurotsuchi. This squad is known FOR SCIENCE!
Squad Thirteen. They’re in charge of protecting the World of the Living. They just send someone over there every now and again basically.
Ok, so there’s more than just the characters I mentioned (I haven’t even gone over the lieutenants). All you need to know about the rest of what happens is two things: One, the season ends with them finding Rukia. Two, remember the talking cat? It’s really A NAKED BLACK CHICK!
I’ll be honest, not a fan of this season. It’s more or less just build up for Season 3. It also unintentionally foreshadows most of the Arrancar arc: spending way too much time on two overall non-important characters battling.
Season 3: Soul Society Part 2-The Rescue
So Rukia’s been rescued, time to go home, right? WRONG! All those captains I just mentioned? They’re all still out for our heroes heads, so since our main 4 are pretty much beaten, Ichigo decides to train to bring out his next level. Let me explain how the swords work in this show: they’re called Zanpakutōs. The Zanpakutō pretty much defines the Soul Reaper. There are three stages. There’s the first stage, where it’s just a sword. There’s the second stage, where it gets “released”. And then finally there’s the final stage, the “Bankai” stage. Think of it as the zanpakutō’s super move, only it lasts way longer than it should (I blame filler for that). If Ichigo is going to save Rukia from spirit crucifixion (yes, crucifixion), then Ichigo must learn Bankai in 3 days. Nevermind make that 2 days, since the Council wants Rukia dead NOW. Ichigo gets over there in the nick of time and sorta says “Fuck every last one of you, I’m going to take this girl and leave. Bye!” While Ichigo performs ex machina on all they’re asses, Toshiro and his lieutenant Big Boobs (I know her name’s Rangiku, but that’s what we all called her before we knew her name) decide to try to figure out what in the living hell is going on with Aizen’s death (yeah, remember him? YOU WILL. TRUST ME ON THAT). They head for the council to find out they’re all dead! Who killed them all? Sosuke Aizen of course! Wait, wuh?
One of the biggest twists in anime history: Not only is Sosuke Aizen alive, not only has he planned EVERYTHING (we’ll get to that several seasons in), but he’s also the main antagonist for this 366 episode series. It turns out HE was the one who killed the council, pretended to be the council, and ordered the execution of Rukia Kuchiki not because of punishment or anything, but because there was a crystal ball in her that he really wanted. He takes it, the ENTIRE UPPER CLASS STARES AT HIM READY TO FIRE, and he says “I’m tired. I’ll take this crystal ball, this guy and that guy and I’ll be back after filler. Look at my hair.”
Doing a standard Google search for the series kinda already spoils the twist, but even when I found out (just about a month before I was actually going to watch it no less) I was still shocked. This season is still pretty enjoyable, mostly when Aizen actually shows up, and I can recommend it all the same.
If Bleach bombed in Japan, this is where it would’ve ended. For some, this is where it did end. I would stop this right here, but let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic to rant upon: FILLER!
Season 4: The Bount
Before I even saw much of Bleach (like, April 2015 when I was 7 episodes in maybe), I expected this season to be about Ichigo training with the Soul Reapers in the Soul Society. After watching Seasons 1-3, I wanted Ichigo and da crew to go back to Karakura Town and just go back to being Ghostbusters. And you know what? For the first 5 episodes, I think it’s good. It’s a bunch of puzzles meant to test out Ichigo’s skills. And the new modsouls are also cool. Kon needs some friends every once in a-aw shit, never explained what these things are. If you avoid the filler altogether, you probably won’t get to see much of these characters. They’re living toy plushies that no one cares for. Kon is a pervert, Lirin is a girl, Kurōdo is a coward with a fancy voice, and Noba is a ninja. They’re cool for what they are. But let’s get into the meat of this arc. You might be asking yourself: what are Bounts? They’re vampires. No, literally, the show even says this. So from this point on they will be known as vampires.
Season 4: The Vampires
The Vampires are attempting to go into the Soul Society and take it over because of course. They need Uryu because he’s a Quincy. Why do they need a Quincy? Because his powers are gone until canon brings them back, so the writers need a reason to not write Uryu out of the story. So they make him more important than Ichigo. Uryu is the worst part of this entire story arc. But we’ll get to that next season. You wanna know what the best episode from this season was? Episode 80. Why? It’s because it’s what, in my opinion, this entire 46 episodes of filler should’ve been: just the cast fucking around. Why would I want that? Because, I’m just going to say this right now, anime filler works best when you just have the characters either do something FUCKING STUPID AS HELL (Episode 298 is a film festival. They are now taking plot lines from Clone High.) or just live life. When they try to be all dramatic and serious and have an actual plot, it comes off as uninteresting, tedious, and overall just boring. And you know you won’t care in the slightest because once the writers have enough canon to make a season or 2, they’ll just write these new characters off and forget they ever happened. So just do nothing. That’s what filler does, so may as well reflect it. So all in all, do I recommend this season? I really like Episode 80, and I personally think you should stick around to see that. If you’re bored of the plot after that episode, just quit and skip to Episode 110.
Season 5: The Vampires 2-The Assault
I loathe this season. I can sum up why in one reason: they go back to the Soul Society. Why. Why! WHHHHYYYY!!! WHHYYYYYYYYYYY WOULD YOU GO BACK TO THE PLACE WHERE YOU JUST SPENT 43 EPISODES IN?!?!?!?!?!?! When we were all done with the Soul Society arc, I was completely sick of that place and wanted to go back to Season 1. I get that for a little bit, and then we go BACK to the place we were just at. I’m sick and fucking tired of the Soul Society. Please just go back to URYU WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
………why. Uryu, you have this immensely powerful arrow you could shoot at this guy and END THIS ALL NOW, but you shoot it up in the sky and waste it.
If you can’t tell, this is one of my least favorite seasons in Bleach. It wasted my time on an uninteresting plot, gave the main villain TOO MUCH backstory, and worst of all it made [animated] vampires boring. And that’s just horrible.
So after Uryu delays the entire season by a full 2 ½ episodes, Ichigo ex machina happens and the big bad vampire villain…dies? Leaves? Leaves, yes. I would go into another rant, but I don’t have to. Why? Because I have something that is everything this arc should’ve been and it’s all done in 8% of the time it took for The Vampires to tell their story. It’s called:
Bleach: Memories of Nobody
After Season 5, this film was a warm-hearted welcome. They focus on what’s important (Ichigo and throwaway character –who-also-is-more-engaging-than-anyone-in-The-Vampires-arc Senna), has great fight sequences, and spend time in Karakura Town and I’m enjoying every last second of it. Sure, the villain is one-note and completely forgettable, but Kariya (the evil vampire) taught us a valuable lesson in that if you’re villain is worthless in the long run you’ll forget them either way. Also after getting the long ass origin of Kariya a bland villain was so welcome. So my general synopsis is this: Watch Season 4 up until Episode 80 and after that watch this movie and head straight to Episode 110.
This is the moment where OG Bleach ends. At 5 seasons and a movie. Join me next time in Part 2 where I cover what I like to call Bleach: Arrancar.