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Bleach anime will return in an awful glory

Bleach anime will return in an awful glory

Bleach anime will return in an awful glory
April 30
21:41 2020

Cancellation. The nail in the coffin for any prospering anime/manga property. A grim and inescapable fate for so many series. Yet somehow, in an unprecedented event in the anime industry, the famous “Bleach” anime will be revived in 2021 after its cancellation eight years ago. It’s been ridiculed as one of the worst in the Shonen genre and yet I couldn’t be happier for it to return. 

“Bleach” is a series by Shonen Jump manga author Tite Kubo. The story follows Ichigo Kurosaki, a Japanese youth who becomes a “Substitute Soul Reaper,” a warrior who sends tortured human souls turned into monsters, called “hollows,” to the afterlife. The series was famous within western anime culture alongside “One Piece” and “Naruto.” Its anime and manga were hailed as some of the best Shonen had to offer…at least in its early years.

On March 27, 2012, “Bleach” aired its final episode and was officially canceled without a proper conclusion. The reason for the cancellation was never officially given, but many fans have attributed it to multiple reasons. The most prominent theory is simply a drop in “Bleach’s” popularity. Fans cite the drop in sales for the manga as evidence. Its reputation went from the “dark and mature” show to the “edgy teenager” type as fans continued to have problems with Kubo’s writing style.

So what are “Bleach’s” writing problems exactly? For one, “Bleach” was one of the worst offenders of the Shonen issue of “escalation.” “Shonen” as a genre typically refers to action-oriented shows, and they often raise the stakes of situations to world-ending catastrophes or god-level enemies. However, these “save the world” plots are very impersonal and less compelling compared to smaller stakes. “Bleach’s” escalation issues can be seen in all of its other issues.

Fan’s accuse Kubo of recycling ideas for his arcs. “Bleach’s” fan-favorite arc is the “Soul-Society” arc that follows a small personal challenge where Ichigo and his crew have to save one of their friends from execution in another dimension. The following “Arrancar”arc starts off by Ichigo and his crew going to save one of his friends in another dimension but this time against a “world-ending” threat. The story repeated itself and the stakes rose to impersonal heights, but that’s not the end of its flaws.

Kubo introduces way too many characters. Every arc features an entire group of 20+ characters entering the story, many of which serve little to no purpose. Plus, with the escalation of power, many of the earlier characters become irrelevant and are overshadowed by newer ones. Kubo’s world leaves more to be desired, as real-world Japan is the most fleshed-out setting, with the other dimension ranging from a mirror of feudal Japan to a literal flat desert. And although Ichigo might seem relatable as a growing adolescent, he suffers from being a “passive protagonist.” While protagonists in shows like “Naruto” and “One Piece” have goals and dreams that cause them to push the story forward and initiate conflict, Ichigo only ever reacts to the actions of other characters. The world revolves around him and without an active drive, he becomes quite boring.

In spite of all this, “Bleach” has intriguing aspects of coping with death and mourning, especially in the early story. While it’s drowned in characters, there are many spectacular character moments and relationships that tug at the heart. And while writers like me typically prioritize storytelling, I forget that one major selling point was Kubo’s artwork. I think in modern entertainment, we get too engrossed in judging a work by what world-shattering themes and suggestions it has to offer, but Kubo used his story more so as a vehicle for his artwork and for drawing stuff he thought looked cool. The simplistic enjoyment of spectacle can be just as entertaining and fulfilling as an intensive narrative.

We can insult “Bleach” by calling it edgy and flashy all we want, but I think Kubo prides this series on those aspects. I grew up with this show, and I’m not gonna deprive 13-year-old me of his excitement by calling it a failure. No, it’s nowhere near the best anime out there, but if any show deserved to be revived from the dead, I can’t think of a more deserving title than “Bleach.”

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Matthew Payne

Matthew Payne

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