Keeping these retro reviews a rollin', today I'm going to tackle another shonen sensation: BLEACH. Can you believe this show has been around for ten years now? And the manga even longer than that? While that doesn't seem too long ago, a lot has changed in the world of anime and broadcasting since then. This was before the advent of HDTV, for instance, so you may have trouble finding versions of it that meet your current standards of video quality.
But anime is more than just compression specs. Sure it may not be as pretty as some of the current stuff out there or the digitally remastered DRAGONBALL Z, but does it stand up on it's own in terms of story, characters, setting, and all that wonderful jazz? Let's just say that upon returning to this after nearly a decade, I found some things wanting—but I think I also know why so many enjoy the franchise.
When you think about it, BLEACH is basically YU YU HAKUSHO Redux. You've got your mortals gifted with powers to fight off evil spirits and protect the weak, and even an cutesy incarnation of death (yes, I am saying Rukia is Botan). This isn't necessarily a bad thing: art recycles and reuses art all the time. It is unfortunate, though, when you don't get far enough away from your inspirations to make something truly original, and that's where BLEACH falls short; other shows do these same sorts of stories and characters, but better. We've been down this path before.
It's the opener.
BLEACH has one of the most badass openings of all time, to the point where it reframes the entire show in a much more badass light. The amount of things your brain infers from the visuals is astounding—stuff that won't come up for dozens of episodes, if ever. It yanks you in and makes amazing promises, and it's that anticipation of awesome that keeps you engaged while you watch the show.
In the interest of disclosure, I never made it through BLEACH. I stopped around the episode 60 mark I think, or whenever Rukia gets kidnapped and put into a tower. I kept waiting for traction on inter-character relationships, but they came too slowly... and then filler creep set in.
So maybe I wasn't wowed by revisiting BLEACH, but what about you? Watch the first episode again—maybe without the opener to test my theory—and see if you have to same draw as you did a decade ago. Or maybe you've never seen the show before? Any which way, let us know your thoughts on BLEACH in the talkback below!
Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.