Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bleach (Seasons One & Two)

I suppose it was inevitable that I started watching Bleach again. The show first made its debut on English television in 2006 and I've already stated that that was about when I stopped watching anime for whatever reasons. I don't recall where in the show I left off, either. I just stopped watching it one day although I recall trying to watch it again a year and a half later only to feel so lost that I stopped again.

While it is known for its amount of ill-timed filler, Bleach is also a very action-packed and sometimes humorous story about a society of people that guide the souls of the dead to the afterlife. These people are called Shinigami (or Soul Reapers) and if you know your DeathNote then that name should sound familiar.

The Shinigami in this particular anime live in a spiffy place called Seireitei. The poor souls who aren't Shinigami are relegated to the poorer Rukon district.

Neither of these two places exist in the Land of the Living (where we are) because only the dead may journey into the Soul Society. Or... so you might think. There is a special term for those that are not on the side of the Soul Society and that term is "Ryoka." You'll hear it a lot in the second season when the Soul Reapers refer to Ichigo and company.

Kurosaki Ichigo is a fifteen year old kid with strawberry hair and an attitude of one born with such colored hair. He doesn't seem like the type who would be a hero in an epic shounen anime. Of course, you know he will be because he is on the cover of the first manga issue. That's just the way it works.

One day Ichigo encounters a Soul Reaper named Kuchiki Rukia and his life is changed forever. Although I'm sure he didn't plan on absorbing Rukia's powers and becoming a Soul Reaper himself.

It just happened. His family was endangered of being killed by a hollow and Ichigo and Rukia made decisions that would lead to a few complications later on in the first season and well into the second and third seasons. "Oops," doesn't quite cover it. 

Hollows are what you become
if you can't move on after death.
Now before we dig too deeply into the story (because there is certainly a lot that can be discussed due to the sheer amount of material), I kind of want to take a pause real quick and discuss the pacing. 

The first two seasons combine for a total of 41 episodes, only one of them being filler. Those episodes fly by, too. This won't be the norm, though. The Soul Society arc that begins in season two and continues on into season three is definitely fast-paced, but I couldn't help but think that maybe the creators of the anime intended to end things after the Soul Society arc. Cliffhangers be damned. 

It just feels like it is the be-all, end-all even though it really is just the start. Parts of the manga were a bit compressed for the anime in order to make the pace even faster. Unfortunately, this approach only adds to the filler that would have to pad out the series later on. 

It's a catch-22, really. I love the fast pacing of the first two seasons of the anime, but using as much of the source material as possible and slowing things down a little could have been a big benefit. 

Anyway, the hollows that serve as the bad guys in the initial episodes are your typical monsters of the week. Each week brings a different hollow Ichigo must fight to protect the people he cares about from and while this approach could get tiring quickly it doesn't last for too long. Just long enough for everyone to get an idea of what being a Soul Reaper is all about. The doodles Rukia draws to explain all of the complexities of the series helps, too. 

But once the Soul Reapers learn that Rukia has given her powers to a living human and that she is taking asylum in the living world, she becomes wanted by the Soul Society. Her older brother Byakuya (pronounced: "egotistical badass") and this other red-haired dude named Renji come to get her (as well as to kill Ichigo) and take her back to Soul Society so she could be executed for her crimes. 

Now, in case you didn't know, all Soul Reapers wear black and carry the bigass swords called Zanpak-to. These swords actually contain spirits (or something like that) with real names and they can transform when their wielders are in tune enough with the spirit within their sword. It's pretty cool. 

Anyway, Ichigo gets his ass kicked by Byakuya the first time around and this sets things up nicely for the second season. Because, after getting trained up by some dude wearing a funny hat, he and his friends and their newfound spiritual power are going to invade the Soul Society and rescue Rukia from her death sentence.

What could go wrong, right? Oh, just about everything. 

His friends aren't weaklings, though. Voiced by the same Japanese voice behind Naruto and Naruto Shippuden's Sasuke, Ishida Uryu is a crossbow-wielding ultra-serious goofball who starts out as an enemy and challenges Ichigo to a duel in order to decide who is better at eradicating hollows.

In true shounen fashion, Ichigo wins the battle and Uryu's begrudging respect and friendship in the process.

Uryu is nothing like Sir Douchebag Sasuke so it is nice to hear Sugiyama Noriaki voice someone who is actually kind of likeable. Although there are a few tsundere similarities.

He and Ichigo make for a pretty good team.

Uryu is what is known as a Quincy (no relation to the restaurant bearing the same name) and he typically hates Soul Reapers. He blames Soul Reapers for the death of his mentor so it should come as no surprise as to just why he initially saw Ichigo as an enemy. Unfortunately, there are other Soul Reapers out there who really are not good guys in even the loosest sense of the word.

These Shinigami may guide your soul to the other side, but once you're there they sure don't have to like you. You're left with the choice of either rotting away in the Rukon district or working your ass off and becoming a Soul Reaper yourself.

Ichigo is also accompanied by a guy named Chad, a girl named Orihime, a mysterious cat that can transform into a hot chick, and about two other people he just meets along the way. I'll discuss them in future entries, but for right now you get the idea.

Bleach so far is damn good and the second season cranks it up even further with a series of badass fights in the Soul Society.

Season three sounds promising. After that... who knows?

No comments:

Post a Comment