Manga Reviews — Bleach

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Welcome to my Bleach manga review.

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Source: amazon.com

Mangaka: Kubo Tite

Years running: 2001 – 2016

Demographic: Shounen

Genre: Adventure, Action, Supernatural

Cheapest to Buy (Volume 1 New Copy): rightstufanime.com

Cheapest to Buy (74 Volumes Used Copy): ebay.com

I put off doing this review because of the extreme opinions on how this series progressed and how it ended. I don’t want to upset too many people based on what I think about it.

But I have to do this review sooner or later and I think it’s better if I get my thoughts out before people ask me for it.

So here goes.

Kurosaki Ichigo is a high school freshman who can see ghosts. This inevitably leads him to meet Kuchiki Rukia, a shinigami whose job it is to guide souls from the World of the Living to the Soul Society (where she comes from) and fight Hollows (monstrous lost souls that wreck havoc). When Rukia is seriously injured by a Hollow, she transfers her powers to Ichigo who becomes a substitute shinigami and fight Hollows in Rukia’s stead while Rukia recovers her strength in an ordinary body. Ichigo must now balance his shinigami responsibilities while also attending high school with Rukia being his guide.

Spoiler warning for those who don’t want them.

Volume 1-21

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Source: rightstufanime.com

The first stage of Bleach lasted from volume 1-21.

This stage covers Ichigo becoming a Shinigami and starting his adventures as a Substitute Shinigami while juggling his schoolwork.

The adventures are pretty episodic, something like a “monster of the week” sort of thing. Ichigo and Rukia go around doing a Shinigami’s work of eliminating Hollows and sending souls to the Soul Society.

The episodic trend stops forever after 6 volumes when Rukia is arrested for giving her powers to a human and now Ichigo has to train up and rescue her.

The rest of the 21 volumes cover Ichigo’s (and his friend’s) adventures in the Soul Society, battling new foes and gaining new powers, all to get to Rukia and rescue her.

 

 

Volume 22-48

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Source: rightstufanime.com

The next stage of Bleach lasted from volume 22-48.

Ichigo has become an official Substitute Shinigami but the story moves forward almost immediately after he returned from the Soul Society.

The Arrancars have appeared and are serving the rogue Shinigami, Aizen Sousuke. Aizen has grand plans for Ichigo’s hometown, Karakura Town and the Soul Society, and everyone is not letting that happen.

This entire stage covers Ichigo’s adventures with his friends (and new friends) as they work to prevent Aizen’s plans from coming to fruition.

Major battles occur throughout this arc, finally ending with Ichigo defeating Aizen at the cost of his Shinigami powers. He loses his ability to see spirits and the arc ends with Rukia slowly disappearing from view as Ichigo bids farewell to his Shinigami life.

 

 

Volume 49-54

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Source: rightstufanime.com

But this isn’t over! Shock, I know Σ(゜ロ゜;)

17 months after the Arrancar arc, Ichigo is settling nicely with school life and is doing well overall when he meets a mysterious man one fateful day.

He requests Ichigo for his help and the intrigued Ichigo meets the Xcution group in which the mysterious man, Ginjou Kuugo is leading.

Xcution wants to restore Ichigo’s Shinigami powers to rid themselves of their fullbringer abilities. Although reluctant, Ichigo decides to help out when Chad reveals he is also a fullbringer.

However, things are not what they seem as Ichigo is utterly betrayed by Xcution and in the ensuing battle that occurs, Ichigo regains his Shinigami powers and together with his old Shinigami friends (and current friends), they defeat Xcution.

Ichigo reaffirms his role as the Substitute Shinigami after the events are over.

 

Volume 55-74

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Source: rightstufanime.com

This last stage of Bleach lasts from volume 55-74.

The Soul Society is in trouble as a group of masked men approach Head Captain Yamamoto with a chilling prophecy: The Soul Society will be destroyed in five days.

They are the Wandereich who declare war on the Soul Society, vowing to destroy it. The Wandereich are all Quincies, holding various grudges against Shinigami.

The arc starts off incredibly hopeless as the Shinigami are utterly outmatched against the vengeful quincies, leading to higher-ups in the Soul Society to come down and assist, having not interfered with Soul Society affairs until now.

However, not all is lost as Ichigo (and company) once again gain new powers and are finally able to defeat the Wandereich.

The series jumps to 10 years later with Ichigo and friends preparing the next generation of Shinigami to continue their duties.

What’s With the Pacing?!

A lot of people have commented on the odd pacing of Bleach. 

The series started off episodic, then it suddenly stops being episodic and becomes plot-heavy for the rest of the series. Some fans feel the transition was a bit too abrupt and perhaps the episodic trend could last for a bit longer.

I’m actually in the same boat as these fans as I read on wondering, “Where the heck did the hollow slaying go?!” since I don’t see them like ever again, replaced by in-fighting and other external (not hollow) threats.

Of course, we have the Arrancar arc but the basic hollow slaying is kind of gone. It’s so weird that sometimes when I read the series again I just go, “Oh yeah, Shinigami are meant to exterminate hollows and send souls to Soul Society. I totally forgot”.

Some of you may think I’m complaining too much but think about it, manga like Fairy Tail also has external threats and in-fighting but they always go back to the point of wizards-for-hire and that’s what they’re meant to do as a guild. So why didn’t Bleach?

We Have to Discuss the Plot Holes

Many fans of Bleach have had issues with plot holes that the series failed to address — especially during the Thousand Year Blood War arc between the Quincy and the Shinigami.

Kubo Tite has not really fully answered the question that fans have had, especially when the ending was, in many fan’s eyes, so terrible that it puts some of the better arcs to shame.

Some speculate he was ill when the manga was in its final stages, some speculate that his manga became unpopular after the Xcution arc and was forced to rush it, and even a recent interview with Yusei Masui of Assassination Classroom had Kubo said that the reason why the plot was so flighty was that he would write ideas down on paper before serialising but due to his forgetful nature would not remember to put them in.

I cannot guarantee that the interview is accurate but if you want to see the post click here.

As such, what fans usually tell new readers (and what I would say too) is to read the manga until volume 48, then stop. The rest goes downhill. Some fans (the episodic adventure loyalists) would even tell new readers to read until volume 21, then stop.

Regardless of what the fans think though, we cannot deny that these plot holes leave a bad aftertaste upon finishing the series.

Overall Setting

Unlike a lot of manga of the day, this series brings a lot of supernatural lore and original imagination to the table.

I mean, who would think of Shinigami or Death Gods having their own militarised society plus having ordinary residents and a monarchy to boot?!

Plus, the worlds constructed in the manga is just wow…I couldn’t think of another series that put so much imagination and creativity to just how a world looks like.

What drew me to this series is the original setting that Kubo decided to draw and showcase. I’ve heard of magic and whatnot but nothing like what Bleach has to offer.

Culture Boxing

Don’t worry, this is not as bad as you think. I find this part of Bleach highly interesting so I want to mention it.

This is a bit of an add on to the overall setting that I find highly interesting.

The Shinigami and Soul Society are exclusively Japanese — from the names to the abilities, the Arrancar are exclusively Spanish, and the Quincy is exclusively German.

It’s very intriguing that Kubo decided to make different societies loosely based on cultures and “culture boxing” to emphasise the differences, giving the societies their own unique style in the process.

Final Thoughts

4.0 out of 5 mangabooks.

Here is the general review:

Please don’t hate me >< I generally like Bleach despite its plot holes and pacing issues. I absolutely love the idea of Shinigami vs soul-devouring monsters and was thoroughly satisfied with how Kubo created each society in so much detail, representing different cultures (loosely) in the process. The overall setting is enough for me to be invested in the series so I would like it if you gave it a try, regardless of opinions. I would recommend this to a new reader but I will let them decide for themselves if they want to read from volume 48 onwards.

Here is my personal review:

I liked Bleach until the Thousand-Year Blood War arc.

Like many fans of this series, there are just so many plot holes and even the final battle wasn’t anything special. Some have wondered why Kubo decided to just willy-nilly finish this series — from illness to unpopularity.

However, we cannot really truly see what Kubo was really thinking when he decided to go in the direction that he did. We can only have this sour legacy to go by.

In addition, Ichigo as a character was really not great. I didn’t like his meh attitude to everything. It’s like all the events that took place just dragged him to a reluctant conflict and yet he has some sort of justice and wants to save his friends. Incomplete character maybe? If he’s supposed to be meh, then make him meh when he fights. Or keep the current characterisation but make him more wholesome. Either way, Ichigo wasn’t a good protagonist to me. I wasn’t feeling it.

But as a fan of the series, I’d rather not see it go down this way, so despite how it ended, I really encourage you to read the series. In the beginning and in the middle volumes, the series really shone the brightest there. You can read all the way until the end out of pure curiosity if you wish but I’m not responsible for how you feel afterward.

If you are interested in purchasing a Bleach volume for yourself and start a Bleach manga collection, click here to buy the first volume today on rightstufanime.com.

As always, if you want to discuss my review, feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear it 🙂

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Hello, I found your site very cool, I really like Manga and see many of them here and very good. I remember that I used to read a lot. Now I’m a bit busy and the people are losing the good things in life. But seeing this all here, I will start reading again but I will remember what you said: “do not go beyond 48”. lol Thanks for sharing.

    1. Haha yup. Don’t go beyond volume 48 unless you want to have questions afterwards 🙂 Thanks for the support.

  2. Hello Violet,  

    Your passion for Japanese manga comes across well in your writing.  I am a novice when it comes to manga, so I am not able to comment directly on your reviews (my apologies).  I do like to read novels however, and I know that whenever I recommend a book to others it is one that I have read (sometimes several times), and one that I own.  

    I know that with your passion for manga that you will continue to build your following.  I can see that one of the challenges in reviewing manga is not to give too much of the storyline away in your review.  

    Do you read the manga in Japanese, or do you read the English translated versions?  

    I would think that the popularity of Japanese manga is on the rise and will continue to grow.  Is this true?  

    I personally enjoy Miyazaki, Hayao movies.  Do you also follow Japanese “anime” movies?  

    All the best to you.  

    1. Yes, it’s hard to give away spoilers which is why I have the Final Thoughts section that people can jump to 🙂

      I read it in English mostly. I try to read it in Japanese when the series is not officially licensed but it’s harder obviously.

      I love Miyazaki. His films were my childhood. But now my favourite anime film director is Makoto Shinkai. He made a lot of my favourite films. I know quite a lot of anime movies as a result haha 🙂

  3. What a great summary. It’s hard to boil down all the nuances of a series into a short coherent story line, but you did it. 

    I’ve not read the Bleach Manga series, but your review makes me thing I should. I like story lines that go beyond the episodic nature of volumes 1-21, so I may pick it up at the second series, do you think that would be a mistake?

    Thank for providing such a complete summary.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Continuing after volume 21 is definitely not a mistake. I think Kubo’s best work shone from volumes 22 to 48. It’s actually volume 49 and above that is a worrying because that is where the series took a huge downturn and continued with that until the end. So like in my post, I recommend reading to volume 48, then stop. If you do want to continue with 49 and above, you most definitely can but be warned that the writing takes a really odd turn and you may be left with a lot of questions later. Regardless of my opinion, I think it is all up to you whether you like the rest of the series beyond 21 or not  🙂

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