Bleach 37

April 19, 2012

Tite Kubo – Viz – 2011 – 54+ volumes

This is the last volume I preordered, and things did not improve. I am done with Bleach. I’m sorry. I am simply not interested in the plethora of minor characters that seem to be the focus of the story now.

The volume does start out promising. We get the second half of the flashback story that started last volume, and as I said, it was very good. Last time the plot was interrupted frequently by peeks into the past lives of all your favorite characters that were completely unrelated to the storyline. With that out of the way, there was a more interesting story to tell here. We learn about Aizen’s earlier deception, and how he brought down Urahara and Tessai in his place. It was a pretty fantastic story.

And when that was over with, we got to hear a little of Orihime’s thoughts on the present situation. Admittedly, I thought these parts were triumphant. But I had to stop a minute to wonder if maybe they had more impact because Orihime has been seen so little, despite being one of the causes of all the fighting.

And then… we begin the start of four fights with four new characters from Aizen’s army and four characters that I don’t remember and don’t care about. To be fair, they are defending Karakura Town, which is pretty awesome. On the other hand, it would be more awesome if their fight had anything to do with the town. Like, maybe the villains menace the residents, or maybe they get away and the takeover becomes more apparent. There are some scenes of things falling apart, but most likely, these battles will go on for at least one more volume, and be simply about the characters and their powers. None of them are Ichigo, Chad, Rukia, Ishida, or hell, even Renji, Byakuya or any main character or someone connected directly to them. When I have to pull up the wikipedia article every time I review this series to find the name of the characters featured, because they change every time and have nothing to do with the plot, then there’s a problem, and I have to stop.

And I’m done. I am intrigued by the fact the series will be ending soon, and perhaps I’ll check back in periodically to see if the plot winds up anywhere, or what the outcome of all this is. But… really. I’m done.

Bleach 36

November 24, 2011

Tite Kubo – Viz – 2011 – 52+ volumes

So, I’ve said before I’m giving up on this after I finish with the volumes I’ve preordered. Bleach may have officially kicked me out of the club this volume, because in the character popularity poll in the back, Hitsugaya finished first. Not just that, Rukia finished second. Ichigo was third in his own series. Rukia… I can kind of see. She is, in theory, the main female character, and she only beat Ichigo by a little over 50 votes. Then again, she hasn’t really been in it much for the last 30 volumes. But… Hitsugaya won by a large margin. He’s a side character. I don’t understand.

Anyway. Setting that aside, predictably, Bleach caught my interest again in this volume, as it always does when I think of quitting. Nothing short of a volume with both Mayuri and Urahara in it would do the trick for me, and that’s incredibly unlikely. Mayuri’s only been in the story twice, and we haven’t seen Urahara for ten volumes. Lo and behold, flashback! They were in the same company! They’re friends! I love it. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot between them here, so it’s not much of a victory.

The entire volume is a flashback, telling of Urahara’s time as a captain of one of the Companies, and what happened between himself, Aizen, and the other captains 100 years ago. It’s a great little bit of story, and I enjoyed it immensely. But again, Bleach’s reliance on about 200 characters cripples my enjoyment. Instead of focusing on Urahara, Aizen, Shinji, Yoruichi, any of the other major players, or the situation at hand, much time is spent inserting as many cameos as possible so that you can see the younger version of your favorite character. The story is secondary to this, and it makes me angry since it’s still a good story. There’s a lot to tell. We start to get some details about why it’s so unusual that Urahara and Yoruichi live how they currently do, we get a glimpse at the beginning of Aizen’s plans, and any insight into Urahara’s character and what drives him to act as he does in the present is much appreciated. But instead, we shift around and see where everyone is and what their rank is, and a fight breaks out at the end.

Bleach, why?

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Bleach 35

October 3, 2011

Tite Kubo – Viz – 2011 – 52+ volumes

This volume hasn’t really dissuaded me from my vow to stop reading this series once I’ve received my preorders. This was another extended fight scene, this time between Kenpachi and Nnoitora. At least I knew the names of both characters this time.

And… you know what? I don’t really have anything to say about the fight. It fills most of the chapters. The first chapter concludes the Mayuri fight. It ends… exactly how you think it will. I will admit Mayuri is still awesome, though, since he finishes up his appearance by committing an unseemly act to revive his assistant. We aren’t shown this, but it grosses the other characters out, and the rare moment of humor made me laugh.

Kenpachi fights hard. He loses his eyepatch at one point, so we learn about that. Nnoitora’s released form looks pretty cool, I’ll admit. But there’s not even any alternate fighting techniques in this fight. They simply just slash at each other, and fight with swords. Unusually, I think Zaraki’s victory is absolute, which is a little surprising. Also, we learn that Kenpachi really loses it when opponents go after Yachiru.

At the end of the volume, the plot moves forward, which really surprised me. Aizen decided, randomly, that he was bored of watching the Soul Reapers fight (seriously, there’s no catalyst for this, and the one that was suggested was shot down), so he seals them in Hueco Mundo and moves in on Karakura Town. Luckily, the rest of the Soul Reaper leaders are there to fight. If we’re lucky, the next eight volumes will feature long fight scenes with each of them, all of whom I’ve forgotten at this point.

I’m bored, Bleach.

Bleach 34

July 16, 2011

Tite Kubo – Viz – 2011 – 50+ volumes

Ugh. Every volume I read of this series just makes me want to throw it in the trash. But let’s start with the good things first.

Mayuri. He’s awesome. Creepy and not quite a good guy, but on their side anyway. Everything out of his mouth is amazing. His fight is almost straight from the pages of Saint Seiya, where he actually seems to enjoy topping his opponent in increasingly outlandish ways.

Now, I’m going to complain.

So, in case you weren’t having enough trouble keeping track of who was fighting what Espada or dredging up any interest in these boring fights that drag on for ten chapters, the Soul Society shows up.

Yup. Turns out that there’s a portal over to Las Noches now. So the captains and various characters from the Soul Society show up. I couldn’t be bothered to care about them during the actual Soul Society storyline, but I was in the minority then. I complained then that there were too many characters, and in a show of everything I hate about Shounen Jump, any minor character that anyone may have liked from back then shows up to fight Espadas.

What’s worse is that they don’t give their names, in a macho show of “that’s not necessary since I’m going to kill you.” If you don’t know or remember who these people are, the story isn’t about to help you. To be fair, some of them are major characters. I remembered two of them. The other… I think there were six or seven running around, I didn’t remember or care about, really. Except for Mayuri. But I have no recollection of him from the Soul Society story at all. I guess he fought Uryuu?

Bleach also has a bad habit of not killing any of its four dozen characters. What happens if someone liked them? Then they won’t be able to show up and have another boring fight ten volumes from now. It means that nobody, good or bad, is going to die in these long, meaningless fights.

And could Bleach really have a more abstract plot right now? I think we’ve literally been sitting through nothing but fighting for at least three or four volumes. Different groups of characters fighting. Over and over again. Why? I guess they’re trying to save Orihime? And Aizen’s going to do something bad? In order to stop Aizen from doing something bad, I guess all the minor characters we can muster will have to do battle for an utterly interminable number of pages. It’s not just the Soul Society, either. Arguably, characters like Uryuu and Chad are main characters, but their only function in the story is to engage bad guys in fights. Why should I care about anything but Ichigo, or anybody at this point, saving Orihime?

The beginning of this volume was also bad about cutting between three different areas where fights were going on in the same chapter. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a volume of this, and to be fair, it is written to be read on a weekly basis. But I couldn’t tell who was with who and fighting what. Not that it matters.

The other thing that Bleach is terrible about is the battle language it uses. This is a by-product of reading it in English, but when a manga that has untranslated phrases (with handy translations underneath!) for all its fights begins sliding into yet another language to describe the action in the fights, it become problematic. In one passage, a character’s technique is explained to us: “Gemelos Sonidos. I have the fastest sonido of all the espadas. It’s a quasi-doppelganger-type technique. I created it by modifying the sonido with steps.” The only English nouns in those sentences are “I” and “it.” We are not told what a “sonido” is, but perhaps it was mentioned at some point in the past.

You have to really, really want to like Bleach to be able to follow it right now. And with nothing in this volume except fights between minor characters (Ichigo only appears on a few pages), it makes it hard for me to pick up a volume every few months and see how the story’s going. To be fair, it’s been fight after fight after looooong fight, leading to more ultimate battles, since the volumes in the teens. The plot and destination stopped meaning something a long time ago. And yet, with the interesting set-up for this story arc, I really had hope. Even with a thousand characters running around, I still had hope that the plot would eventually dominate and we would get to read a story. Well… not yet.

And the fights… they’re just so boring. Minor characters are fighting with ill-defined powers. My favorite quote from this volume, really, is this: “Are you going to cut me?! Are you going to execute me?! Don’t you see how arrogant that is? You soul reapers slay us as if we were vermin! Who do you think you are, a god? […] You soul reapers call us evil and slay us because you think you have the power of justice on your side. But you’re just…” “What makes you think I’m acting as a soul reaper? I’m going to slay you because you aimed your blade at my pride.”

What’s great about this is that the last line is part of a double-page illustrated spread, as if that is the coolest thing he could’ve said in that situation. Not as a soul reaper, but because his pride was hurt. There’s a difference, guys. Also, don’t worry, I’m sure that arrancar isn’t really dead. After all, what if he had fans?

It’s awful. I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to read it. I have another volume, and maybe one more coming, but I’m not going to order any more after that. I’ve had enough. I can’t do it anymore.

Bleach 33

December 29, 2010

Tite Kubo – Viz – 2010 – 48+ volumes

Okay, yes. This volume was marginally more interesting due to the big Nel reveal. I… thought there would be something about Nel and her friends later in the story, and I’m happy to see it work out in Ichigo’s favor. I was a little worried she was in disguise. She’s a pretty cute girl, and plenty noble too, both in the present and in the lengthy flashback we get to see.

Her friends, Pesche and Dondochakka, look like they have a story to tell coming up, too. Their faces weren’t shown, but whether that was because they will revert later on or because it doesn’t matter what they used to look like, I’m not sure. They are good guys though, and their devotion to Nel is touching.

Honestly, Nel’s devotion to Ichigo, and vice versa, is also pretty cool, especially when the chips are down. It’s great to have someone like that on your side, especially when a powerful new opponent with a gigantic spear shows up to kick you when you’re down. Enough with the endless parade of bad guys, already.

Elsewhere, bad guys continue to beat up on Renji and Uryu. Nothing much to say there. His techniques are pretty cool, and a little different than the usual powerful slashes and energy blasts, but not much comes from them. I’m… not sure if that fight’s over due to the interference of Dondochakka, or whether Dondochakka and Pesche just left and Uryu and Renji are still there.

Bleach won me back. Tentatively. The next volume preview shows me that a whole bunch of characters are about to join the fray, though, and I am NOT liking that. Hooray for more abstract energy blasts and big slashes for volume after volume!

Bleach 32

December 27, 2010

Tite Kubo – Viz – 2010 – 48+ volumes

There are very few manga that can divide my opinion as much as Bleach. I like this current storyline a lot. I like the basic plot. I even like some of the new enemy characters, the ally characters, the setting, and maybe some of the fights. But man, Bleach is really bad at these long fights. They just drag on forever. And there are so many characters to engage in them. The plot has really slowed to a crawl, and fear of these long and irrelevant fights makes it hard for me to pick up new volumes of Bleach, even while I like everything else that’s going on.

But whenever those fights happen, there’s always something to like. And no matter how long and boring, I can always think “Well, at least these aren’t the main characters. The Ichigo fights will always be cool, at least.”

This entire volume was an Ichigo fight. With Grimmjow. They both changed forms. And fought.

I think it was supposed to be elegant, symbolic of a change that Ichigo was going through. Or maybe that he wasn’t changing. Orihime watched from the sidelines, scared, and more characters were introduced mid-fight that commented on the power being used. And there was a distinction between human and soul reaper.

Grimmjow turned into some sort of animal thing, and we got his backstory.

It was still… just… so long. And not cool. Even though it involved Orihime and Ichigo.

I don’t even know what I want from Bleach anymore, if not this.

I do like Nel. I’m hoping she’ll turn out to be someone interesting sometime soon.

Bleach 31

October 2, 2010

Tite Kubo – Viz – 2010 – 46+ volumes

So. I haven’t read Bleach in a long time. I wasn’t worried, though, since I knew they’d just be fighting in this volume. And I was right. The plot didn’t really move forward save for a few cryptic movements on Orihime and Grimmjow’s part. Mostly it was just fighting. Ichigo versus Ulquiorra, and Renji and Uryu versus Szayelaporro. The fact that the Arrancar’s seem to be mopping the floor with the Shinigami was a little surprising since they usually put up more of a fight. Uryu seems to be doing the best, or the combination of Uryu and Renji, but even they fail miserably in the face of an enemy who cannibalizes its minions. To be fair, most people would fail.

Ichigo is doing very poorly indeed. He moves from Ulquiorra to Grimmjow late in the volume, so next time we can look forward to… Ichigo vs. Grimmjow, and more Szayelaporro vs. Renji and Uryu. Because it will be very different from what happened here. Well, not really, but maybe they’ll be slightly more successful in their fights and we can at least move on to a different set of Arrancars, if not further forward in the plot.

As completely underwhelming as this volume was for me, I did dig a scene that flashed back and forth between Ulquiorra and Grimmjow in different places with parallel dialogue. That’s the coolest thing Bleach has done in a long, long time. Well, that and the cannibal thing. That was a little unexpected, too.

I know it is in the nature of shounen series to have fight after fight like this, but in Bleach’s case, I really don’t care about any of these characters anymore. The Arrancars aren’t that interesting, and the rescue of Orihime isn’t that gratifying because… well, she isn’t in any immediate danger, really. They aren’t penetrating an awesome city full of guards with dozens of people like they were when they rescued Rukia from her execution. They are just in this vaguely-defined Hollow world, ruled in an ill-defined way by Aizen. There are strong people in the way, and the group has to fight them. That’s it. It’s really boiled down to the nuts and bolts here, and it’s just not that interesting anymore.

As awesome as the plot was at the beginning of this story arc, I’m sad to see it degenerate to this. I’ll keep reading, hoping that the plot will get good after all the fighting is over. Wake me up then.