Somehow I got into Bleach. Found the anime somewhere on the web and decided to start watching it - without knowing how insanely many episodes there are.
For those who don't know it: Bleach is a shonen (= for boys) manga series. It started 10 years ago and developed into a huge merchandising, with anime, movies, video games and apparently even several rock musicals. Creator Tite Kubo recently announced that he's about half way through the story, so there's 10 more years to come.
Volumes: 48 (and many more to come)
Mature content: some fights get a little bloody, in the manga more so than in the anime
The story revolves around Ichigo Kurosaki, a teenager who can see ghosts. One day a Hollow (a kind of evil monster ghost) is after him and his family, there's a fight and the Shinigami (or Soul Reaper, a kind of Grim Reaper) who was supposed to kill the Hollow is wounded and transfers her powers to him, so the Hollow can be killed. After that Ichigo, now a "Substitute Shinigami", starts to get to know a whole new world, and gets caught up in a huge Shinigami treachery/Putsch/war.
So what do I like, what do I dislike (warning: this might contain some spoilers).
- It's long. Really long. Really, really long. And not all of it is interesting. Some fights take way too long, stretching over several chapters/episodes. It is shonen, I'm aware, but sometimes it's just too much.
- Speaking of too much: the way certain people gain more power, again and again and again just seems ridiculous. Oh, and please - just kill Aizen already.
- Some of the characters right out annoy me. Mainly Orihime Inoue. She's one of those female manga characters you find everywhere: huge tits, not very bright, naive and more or less useless - but even so greatly liked by all other characters in the story. If you'd cut together the scenes in the anime in which she goes "Kurosaki-kun...", standing on the side, hands clutched together in front of her huge breasts and tears in her wide eyes I bet you'd get several hours of material.
- Since it's so long it's really hard to catch up when you've discovered it later. It took me a few months just to watch the anime episodes.
- Unfortunately in many (most of those I read or seen, maybe with the exception of the josei ones) mangas or animes the female characters seem to belong to one of two groups: they either have huge breasts, are generally stupid and in need of help or they have small breasts, are generally stupid and aggressive. The women in Bleach are different (well, most of them). One of the main female characters, Rukia, while being rather small and sometimes found in a "damsel in distress" situation, is a person to be taken seriously, in battle and outside. Actually some of the strongest fighters are female, Yoruichi being one of them. She's one of my favourites, she really kicks ass. And then there's Unohana: she's never seen fighting, being the Captain of a unit of healers, but everyone (including the strongest warriors, good and bad) shows a great deal of respect to her, sometimes even fear.
- It's not really black and white. The antagonists of the beginning become friends of Ichigo. Some of the "bad guys" are given a back story, and with it sympathy. I'm pretty sure that some of those, like Ulquiorra or Grimmjow, are the most loved among fans (and their deaths much mourned). Some of the "good guys" seem to be rather unpleasant characters. If I had to choose between being a prisoner of Mayuri ("good guy") or Ulquiorra I'm not sure the good side would get my vote... Sometimes it seems like people just happen to be on one side or the other, more by chance than by character.
- In addition to the characters being really well designed also the relationshsips between them are great. Of course the Ichigo/Rukia/Renji trio is awesome with their friendship (or love), trust and humour. There are lots of other deep relationships, like Urahara and Yoruichi (one of my favourite couples), Ikkaku and Yumichika or Kyōraku and Ukitake. Or the relationships the Vice Captains have with their Captain. Not all have been explored to the same amount and much is left in secret or unsaid. For example it is never mentioned that Urahara and Yoruichi are in fact a couple - but it's generally assumed by people. I do like that, in a way. It's very unspectacular and not "in your face". At the same time I know it's very clever, because everyone can interpret things to their liking.
- It's funny (specially the omake/extras).
- The anime has some really good filler arcs.
- I admit there's some nice eye candy and fanservice for the girls.
That's it for my review of Bleach. I will leave you with a few useful links.
And in the comment section I will collect a few fanfiction stories that I like. Yeah, somehow I got into that, too... Most will have mature content, just so you've been warned. Feel free to add your own recommendations.
TV Tropes site on Bleach
Group on deviantART dedicated to the better fanart
Journal with theories and discussions on Bleach