[Review] Bleach: The Substitute, The Entry, and The Rescue

Recently I’ve been in the mood to revisit a lot of older content like books and fanfiction so I’m not surprised this also extended into my anime watching habits. Actually, it’s a good thing it did because I haven’t watched nearly enough anime in the last (possibly almost) two years. Now, this all started because my brother came to the living room and announced that his favorite show, the god of all gods, the perfection of orange haired manliness WAS COMING BACK

Admittedly, I’d given up on both Naruto and Bleach because, wow, both series have so many episodes! But more importantly…my favorite couples were reduced to…ships! To think I don’t just have to suffer the fact that Sasuke and Naruto, my cute gay boys, can’t get together because it’s gay but now not even my heterosexual babies Ichigo and Rukia can get together because…Rukia is a shinigami?! THE HORROR. Forget Naruto and Bleach, they both suck!

But…I have to admit that I really did like the bit of Bleach I watched when I was a kid (adultswim anyone?) and maybe I was curious about this apparent comeback, especially after it had ended so abruptly. So I decided to rewatch the series! If Kubo decides to change those ending couples I am all here for it! Of course, then I learned that the “new” anime is only a spinoff and that the bit of “new” anime that does take place with our original cast is only (as of now?) the rest of the manga that wasn’t animated so technically no actual new content…

One of the nice things about having a weeb Gen Z brother is that I’m always reminded that there are now fans who may not have watched some older content and (sadly) Bleach is old – so let’s summarize!

Bleach is a 366 episode (16 seasons) series that follows the life of Ichigo Kurosaki, 15 year old high school student living in Karakura town, who has been able to see ghosts for as long as he could remember. Because of this, and a strong sense of moral duty, Ichigo has always treated ghosts as if they were your everyday normal person, helping them if it was within his power, especially if they were children. One night, after he helped a young ghost escape a strange monster, a girl in black robes with a katana at her hip enters his room mumbling about sensing something close by. Confronting the stranger who just appeared out of thin air, Ichigo comes to learn that the world of the spirits is much more complicated than moving on and going to hell

Rukia tells him she is a shinigami, tasked to help spirits move on by performing konso but also there to protect both spirits and humans from Hollows, monsters that attack anyone with spiritual pressure; however, Rukia confesses, she’s lost track of the Hollow she had been hunting. To her horror, she finds it somehow snuck past her and Ichigo’s family gets hurt. Realizing that he’s the reason that his two younger sisters have been attacked, Ichigo decides to sacrifice himself so that they can live

Realizing his naive intentions but not having enough time to stop it, Rukia becomes another casualty on this fateful night. She offers Ichigo a solution: if he wants to save his family, she must share her shinigami powers with him so that he can slay the Hollow. What they didn’t expect was that Ichigo somehow took ALL of her shinigami powers, leaving Rukia stranded in the human world

After all, while she saved all their lives, she also committed a grave crime

Hoping to remedy the situation, Rukia is supplied a human body called a gigai, transfers into Ichigo’s high school, and convinces him to become a substitute soul reaper. Unfortunately, no matter how many days pass, Rukia’s powers don’t return to her and soon enough, the Soul Society begins to investigate. What they find results in Rukia’s forced retrieval and impending execution

Feeling a debt of gratitude, Ichigo vows to save Rukia

Rating: Pass

I’m not entirely sure how I was hoping to feel after watching this but I have to say I’m really happy and apprehensive. Happy because this really IS a good series full of great music, neat fight scenes, and great character relationships, but also apprehensive because how the heck is this show 366 episodes long?! The thing I always remember about Naruto are the really drawn out fights with constant monologuing and flashbacks. Perhaps it’s because of this that I always remembered Bleach in the same way (they were airing around the same time) but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I got through 63 episodes! I really felt that each episode always brought something new to my experience of the Bleach world and nothing felt repetitive. Honestly, it felt even more refreshing than watching the usual 12 episode shows where I’m always dreading the rushed ending

Of course, there are some episodes and character “arcs” that I could have done without – I’m looking at you Renji – but I have to confess that my dislike for Renji is because he’s…he’s…GOD, I can’t even bring myself to say it (but I must). Because he’s Rukia’s endgame and I refuse to accept it *cries in a corner*

Speaking of endgames, I came out with a new appreciation for Orihime! Again, another character I pushed into my blacklist after I heard Ichigo and Rukia…didn’t happen. I tried to think back on her character and I could only think of her as being an airhead and a good healer but Kubo was nice enough to slap such dismissive thoughts away. For one, I can’t believe Orihime is SMART. She’s number three in her class!! She always comes off as ditzy and I know book smart isn’t the same thing as real world smart but it’s still smart. She was also really perceptive, had attacking powers, knew how to fight thanks to Tatsuki, was very creative and artistic, has a nice body, and is good at sports?! Orihime had so much potential and it wasn’t taken advantage of, I feel so angry for her!! Actually, I might make this into another post

Also, a nice thing I noticed was how her character design changed from the start. In the first few episodes she was drawn like a minor character. She was drawn so thin, making her look like a stick with big boobs, and we often didn’t see her face in detail, but when she came to the forefront as a main character, she began to look older (courtesy of a new hairstyle) and she gained some fat and mass. Of course, this was also when she started to blatantly show her interest in Ichigo, which I fist clenched at but yes, new appreciation

I’m pretty excited to see how her character develops and ranting when it doesn’t when she becomes the main character in the next phase of the Bleach plot

Another character I gained a new appreciation for was Ishida. Honestly, I still think he’s a bit closed off and a bit stuck up (sort of, he’s not as much as I thought he was) but I understand why he’s like that. It’s funny. I’m actually upset that we didn’t get more of him during Rukia’s rescue. He didn’t even have to fight, I just find him cute, especially when he’s interacting with Orihime…if yall catch my drift. YES. While these two didn’t turn into a ship for me, I think it would have been very cute if they did end up liking each other. Actually, I have to wonder if Ishida likes Orihime or if he’s just awkward with girls, particularly her type

If I had to be nitpicky about this whole rescue arc, I would have to point to some of the minor characters like Ganju and Yumichika, especially their “fight”. I think Bleach has a nice balance of serious and comedic content but the Ganju and Yumichika fight was just a drag. Ganju didn’t really fight and Yumichika was just spouting nonsense. That said, Yumichika sounds like he has an interesting ability if a later fight had anything to say. Also, the shiny face is totally after sex glow. My yaoi senses are tingling!

Oh, I would also like to make a complaint about how little Byakuya was featured. I know he was in like ten fights but why not just give me his whole life story. A few PJ shots would go a long way. And his hair loose, oh man, I want to marry him!

I’m debating what to do next after this arc. If I want to follow the main story line, I can skip the next season, which is a full arc of filler, but if it’s a whole story…I kind of want to know what story they’ll tell! But my brother, Bleach’s biggest fan, also said it’s a bad filler arc. But also I’m not ready to continue the main story line because I’ll just experience heartbreak at the death of my husband. But then will I never be able to finish Bleach then? Ah, the dilemma…!

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