Anime Vice News

BLEACH #1 -- Special Retro Review

Is this seminal shonen show as vibrant as you remember, or is it all washed out?

Warning: characters in title cards may never wear the outfits in the title cards.
Warning: characters in title cards may never wear the outfits in the title cards.

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.

You just met her, Ichigo! Don't you think you're rushing things? What base is being penetrated by a magic soul sword?
You just met her, Ichigo! Don't you think you're rushing things? What base is being penetrated by a magic soul sword?

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.

Marshal Victory is online on Dec. 24, 2013 at 11:04 a.m.

Watched all of Bleach an the movies. For me the apeal was it had the feel of things i drew in high school.Stories were not complex but long arching plots made it feel epic.Some creative character designs an it even had a few homages built in to it.

Bleach defines bad filler sadly.A few were not bad but every so often it felt like it made the main story skip a beat.

Note watched all of it last year so ya it still holds up.

FoxxFireArt moderator on Dec. 24, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.

Out of the Shonen Trilogy series, I believe BLEACH has the best first episode. ONE PIECE takes a long time to really get going, and NARUTO does pull at the heart-strings. BLEACH just does a great job of explaining themes and has the origin story. It's very tight.

It also easily has the best first opening theme of the three. BLEACH has had a lot of good opening themes. You should look them up on You Tube.

Both BLEACH and NARUTO are produced by the same company, and as such have the same issues with filler arcs. They will even go so far as to put filler arcs right into the middle of canon arcs.

Donwunon Dec. 24, 2013 at 6:58 p.m.

Agree with Foxx there

Murphix staff on Dec. 24, 2013 at 11:42 p.m.

@FoxxFireArt: OK, I'll bite: you have BLEACH and NARUTO in your Shonen Trilogy. What's your third?

FoxxFireArt moderator on Dec. 25, 2013 at 5:43 a.m.
@Murphix
.....They aren't 'my' Shonen Trilogy. "Shonen Trilogy" is just the popular name in the manga/anime communities when talking about ONE PIECE, NARUTO, and BLEACH. The three biggest series WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP has been publishing for the last ten years.

That's why many have been discussing what, if anything, will replace BLEACH now that it's entered its final arc.
Murphix staff on Dec. 25, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.

@FoxxFireArt: Ohhhhh, I see. I must have misread something there... didn't get what you meant at first.

I like this Shonen Trilogy concept. Reminds me of the Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman thing DC has.

takashichea moderator is online on Dec. 25, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.

I got in Bleach in my first year of college when I was up late working on HW. I saw on the guide that Adult Swim was playing anime. The first show was Bleach. With one episode, I was interested after falling in love with the characters and how Dragon Ball esque feeling it had. It was like DBZ with swords! I think I got in during the Hueco Mundo arc. I had to backtrack and watch the series from the beginning on Youtube.

Yeah, I agree that the opening of Bleach was very memorable. Better than Naruto and One Piece's first OP. Even though I'm a Fairy Tail fan, the OP theme songs in Fairy Tail aren't memorable for me. Rolling Star was my favorite OP in Bleach. Life is a river was my favorite ED in Bleach. I watched the series in dub. I never saw it subbed until I discovered Crunchyroll which was when I got in Anime Vice 3 years ago.

I enjoy Bleach in dub because it's the mother goose imprint. I can't watch Bleach in subbed. It doesn't click for me.

sickVisionz moderator on Dec. 26, 2013 at 6:52 a.m.

I got into Bleach because someone told me it was cool like Naruto. I really hated the first like 13-26 of the series. It's more of a mystery of the week show focused on the characters, but something like that lives and dies on its writing and this is Tite Kubo we're talking about here so it's fairly contrived and super cheesy. I will give credit to the thing with Orihime's brother being interesting. Sadly, the concepts brought up there are never touched on ever again in canon. I only watched it because I had a college job where there was a ridiculous amount of downtime and my choices were literally to watch this or walk in a loop around the building for hours at a time in the summer.

Bleach is like a completely different series during it's first like 13-26 episodes and the only time it kinda gets back to that is in the first movie that's more like a character drama (not written by Kubo so it actually works) than an action film. Once Rukia is captured though, the series turns into something awesome for me. It has a lot of lows (Bount Arc, practically everything that doesn't involve Aizen, Hollow Ichigo, or isn't a post-Bount filler) but the highs are pretty great.

Kino88on Dec. 26, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.
This was my first anime on the internet, It was also the first show to revive my anime interest post Toonami, I liked it for a short time, but I also dropped out after the soul society arc, It became too routine like a a lot of shonen, however I still remember it fondly as it introduced Me to the wonder full world of online streaming,
YotaruVegetaon Jan. 19, 2014 at 10:50 a.m.

Yep, I gave up on Bleach around the time when Rukia is sentenced to die, and then we learn the truth behind the murder mystery.

It was a case of other things begging for my attention, then not wanting to jump back into a shounen fighter again. There's always time to finish it off.

Dig Deeper into Bleach

The story follows a fifteen year old high-schooler who is forced into an adventure as a Shinigami. He starts off as a weak warrior of honor but progresses to be more than a match for most captains. Now he will face the Soul Society's greatest threat, Sousuke Aizen,Xcution, and Vandereich.

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