Wednesday, 14 March 2012

When Bleach is Good...

Since I'm currently in the middle of a marathon catch-up session for Bleach, it's been pretty much at the forefront of my mind. I soon got to thinking that I've written many a post about why Bleach (in particular it's anime) fails on so many levels. But what I've yet to really do is actually look at the good in the series. It's an incredibly popular series, so it must be doing something right, and frankly, I'm beginning to feel a little bit guilty about ragging on it so much, so here we go with a genuinely positive post on Tite Kubo's hit series.

Warning: Spoilers Ahoy!

Bleach is my first shounen love. And much like that first crush you had at school that never quite goes away, I will always have some lingering affection for this series no matter how many times it disappoints me. Even when I've sat through godawful episodes of Karukarizer or Hitsugaya playing soccer, I can still remember the time when I first discovered it. I distinctly remember sitting in my room marathoning my way through the first seventy odd episodes marvelling at the Soul Society arc, and wondering how I could have lived so long without seeing something so grippingly awesome. It was one of the first anime that I encountered and without any shadow of a doubt in my mind, is a large part of why I became so entranced with anime in the first place.

Undoubtedly, that Soul Society arc was Kubo's strongest moment. The characters were fresh, the world was well built and the intrigue of the plot was brilliant. I remember being semi-distraught when Aizen "died" (only semi since although he seemed nice, we didn't know him much), but then the revelation that he was the mastermind behind everything and was a genuinely evil git hit me and goddamn it was good. For me, that was Bleach's finest moment. That twist gave me such an incredible rush that I was drunk on the pure storytelling. With every twist and turn I was on the edge of my seat, and frankly, when it came to the big battles I could have wet myself with excitement - and that's something that's not changed (the kick-ass fights, I have perfect bladder control, thank you very much). It quickly became something that I immediately recommended to my male friends, and was actually one of the series that properly got my best friend into anime - though he has since fallen out of love with the franchise after the excessively bad filler and would probably rather forget enjoying it at this point.

Bleach may not have been able to live up to the consistently epic nature of its two closest shounen bretheren (Naruto and One Piece) plot wise but when it's good, damn, it's good. I've stated in the past that essentially Kubo is more about style over substance, and while from a narrative point of view that may not be ideal, it makes for some pretty awesome and action-packed battles. Story wise, Hueco Mundo was kind of weak. It was a rehash of the Soul Society arc and Ichigo kept powering up out of basically nowhere. However, the focus was more on the clashes with the espada, and it made for some exciting combat. There are some incredibly engaging fights in that section of the series, especially when it runs into the Fake Karakura Town arc and they DO keep you really engaged and wanting more.

For me, it feels like the Bleach fights are like a night of heavy drinking. You watch them at the time and start dancing on the sofas as you get that incredible buzz from seeing some epic crap go down. But then, in the cold light of day, you look back at it and see the reality: in that when jumping around you fell off the furniture and took half the bookshelf and a precious antique vase with you. Yet, despite all of that, you'd do it all again in a heartbeat because the buzz was just that good.

As Ichigo and Ulquiorra battled it out, I got chills down my spine.
That was one epic battle.

Take the Ichigo vs Ulquiorra fight. It was coming, and we all knew it had been for some time. We'd had the teaser clashes that served as a measuring stick for Ichigo's abilities, and then we finally got to the main bout. Watching Ichigo go all out to the point where he goes into full on berserker mode and destroys his opponent was some epically awesome viewing and gave that rush of pure adrenaline-fuelled awesome that every shounen series should present to its audience. However, looking back now, you can't help but wonder where the hell that power-up came from. Since Kubo currently flat out refuses to explain exactly what is going on with the flame-haired teen, it all seems like little more than a convenient power up requiring zero training, at a time when he suddenly needed it. But despite all of that, if I could watch that fight for the first time again and feel that high, I'd totally take it, plot holes and all!

And that is exactly why I have managed to keep watching and reading Bleach. No matter how many times I look at it, shake my head and tut, that rush, that gorgeous, glorious, shounen rush keeps me coming back for more each and every time.

My name is Cassie, and I am a shounen junkie.

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