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The Secret of BLEACH's Success?

Episode #1 -- Retro Review. It's... funny business?!

And now, I’ve officially rounded out my experience with the Holy Shonen Trinity. Again, just as it was NARUTO #1, I feel like I’ve missed a few episodes of back-story, even though this is supposed to be the pilot.

The whole premise of a teenager who can see ghosts and intervene in their affairs is already a solid enough premise for a show (hell, that was pretty much the first arc of BLEACH’s “spiritual predecessor,” YU YU HAKUSHO, wasn’t it?). The fact that it’s treated so matter-of-factly, as if it were just incidental to Ichigo being a normal 15-year-old, is a little… strange? It’s as if the show’s taking for granted that the audience is already familiar with most of its premises. Even the Hollows don’t get that great of explanation.

Again, coming at this with no attachments or nostalgia for what BLEACH is (or what it was), I have to conclude that a shonen series must hit two perquisites from the starting gate to be a juggernaut success. It has to immediately get to the cool stuff, even if doing that is jarring, and it must immediately earn sympathy points for the hero. This is demonstrated quite succinctly in Ichigo’s introduction. What’s he doing when we meet for the first time? He’s beating the shit out of some dumbasses who just disrespected a little ghost girl’s street side memorial. BAM! There you go.

Maybe another requirement is comic relief - - even if it feels shoehorned . Viewing BLEACH from the outside, it really looked like the most dour of the HST. So grim as to be humorless, even. As such, seeing chibi slapstick in this episode was totally unexpected. It doesn't work for me - - it never really works for me - - but I'm not the target audience, am I?

Lastly, I’m quite amused that my observation about the Soul Society essentially being the afterlife version of the Green Lantern Corps continues to fit, even at the very beginning. Rukia getting wounded right after dropping into Ichigo’s life, and her more-or-less promoting him to be a Soul Reaper on the field, is pretty much exactly what happens between Abin Sur and Hal Jordan in the standard GREEN LANTERN origin story. Perhaps these requirements aren't specific to shonen series' success then? Perhaps they're even more archetypal?

This is my take, anyway. I'm sure we've got plenty of mega-fans in the community - - what's your take? What did this show do right from the beginning? What's the secret of BLEACH's success?

Watch, "The Day I Became a Shinigami" and decide for yourself.

About the Author

Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk
Marshal Victoryon March 13, 2014 at 12:53 p.m.

This was for me my 1st shonen in anime. Seen all of it movies etc. It always reminded me of something like I would draw in high school. So kinda apreciated it with a lower standard probably than most.

But some would say the light hearted parts with Kon an parody parts. But really few wil admit to the two reasons Orihime Inoue an Rangiku Matsumoto.

Note: um the Bleach has a random mix of One Piece characters mixed into the see all character pages.

Kino88on March 13, 2014 at 8:56 p.m.
My favorite shonen by far was Ruroni kenshin, mostly for that Kyoto arc, Any way as for Bleach (that title still makes little sense) I stuck with this show Till the hueco Muondo arc, than I got bored.... I liked the early episodes because they were simple, cool, and mildly funny, Then they threw in too many extra characters and too many very drawn out and predictable Battles, Also after the soul society arc the writing just repeats itself, oh no!, now Orihime is being held captive by an army of baddies in a heavily guarded fortress!,
Vapovile is online on March 13, 2014 at 10:45 p.m.

Bleach is currently my favorite among the HST because it offers the high-action fight scenes in almost their entirety without drawn-out flashbacks interrupting the action every 4 moves *cough* Naruto *cough*. I also think that with the entire premise around the show, people are already interested in spiritual fighters after Yu Yu Hakusho aired, so one could almost say that they knew the ropes before going into a show like Bleach. I would even argue that for the majority of the massive cast, Kubo found some way to make each person unique in their own way, and thus the audience would have at least one person that they could identify with and care about when they faced monsters like Aizen. My only major gripe with Bleach, though, is that Ichigo has almost no personality of his own besides being a "good guy who likes to fight." I know that this is mainly to allow the audience to project themselves into Ichigo's shoes easier, but I personally don't like this approach to character development in Anime, especially in a show like Bleach where everyone is interesting in their own way EXCEPT the lead character.

takashichea moderator is online on March 13, 2014 at 11:23 p.m.

Bleach was one strange HST. The anime appeals effectively to teenagers rather than children which One Piece and Naruto aim for. I know a lot of folks said it takes a lot of inspirations from Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z, and D. Gray-Man with its similarities. The things I love about Bleach is its theme songs and its characters. The story arcs are riddled with more fillers that can break a canon story arc unlike the other HST titles. Bleach's character roster is fairly memorable than One Piece and Naruto, personally for me. Magi runs into problems with creating so much characters and not introducing them. Bleach takes time with their massive character cast. I know folks hate Ichigo and find the worst of all HST protagonists. This helps them appeal to their audience. For folks who want dark series, Bleach isn't one because there isn't really a strong fear of death. Most supporting characters went through brutal stuff in battles, but little Orihime or others just patch them up.

Bleach was good until the end of Karakura Invasion arc. Without spoilers, I believe the series should have end there. Bleach's story arcs are too linear and flat for me. The characters are the only things that good about this series besides the theme songs.

What's funny is that this series, I root for the bad guys instead of the good guys. Why? I don't know why, but I find them more interesting than the good guys. I could care less if they kill off Ichigo, Rukia, or his family.

hitsusatsu11on March 13, 2014 at 11:46 p.m.

Whatever the secret may have been it wasn't enough to keep the anime in syndication.

sickVisionz moderator on March 14, 2014 at 8:57 a.m.

I think it's hard to really judge Bleach off of it's early episodes. It abandons that style of story and tone completely after like 20 or so episodes and transforms into the Bleach that really took off.

@hitsusatsu11 said:

Whatever the secret may have been it wasn't enough to keep the anime in syndication.

This is a kinda ridiculous statement considering that it ran for well over 300 episodes. You make it sound like it had some small run or was failing from day one. Will you say the same snarky response when One Piece ends, as if it's massive run was nothing special and because it didn't last for all eternity, "whatever the secret may have been it wasn't enough to keep the anime in syndication?"

hitsusatsu11on March 14, 2014 at 4:07 p.m.

@sickVisionz: Bleach manga sales continue to underachieve compared to its earlier volumes and compared to OP which still sells tremendously in japan (though its not nearly as popular worldwide). The fact that the bleach manga is still running yet they decided to end the anime abruptly is a testament to the fact that those involved in production have come to the conclusion the franchise is not worth their time to animate anymore.

It has been a successful franchise by every measure, however my previous statement is factually correct- Its appeal is no longer great enough to support an anime despite having more unanimated source material.

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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