Bleach: Not the Detergent (The Soul Society Arc)

I’ve known about Bleach for quite a while but it wasn’t until the first season began airing on a local cable channel that I got truly interested in this shounen (boy’s manga). I like anime but mostly, the ones I watch are shoujo, or girl’s anime, which usually deals with love stories and less violent content. I initially became interested in Bleach because I liked the dynamics of the lead characters, 15 year-old Ichigo Kurosaki and the Shinigami (death god) Rukia Kuchiki. They had a love-hate relationship from the onset which always makes for a rather promising plot.

Bleach (the anime) is the brainchild of animator Tite Kubo who initially started the series as a manga. With the success of the manga, the series was picked up and developed into an animated series with over 300 episodes (yes, that is not a typo) and fans immediately supported this story which started simply with the accidental meeting of Ichigo and Rukia, a shinigami and lieutenant of the Gotei 13 of Soul Society, an elite group of death gods whose mission is to rid the world of  Hollows, dangerous lost souls who seek to cause pain and misery to the living. During a mission, Rukia, believing that she is totally invisible to the living, encounters Ichigo, an orange haired 15 year old student who has very unique spiritual powers and whose family was being targeted by one of the Hollows. In order to save Ichigo, Rukia is severely wounded in battle and had no choice but to transfer part of her reiatsu (spiritual powers) to Ichigo to fight off the Hollow. Due to Ichigo’s strength however, he almost saps all of Rukia’s powers and the two are left with no choice but to work together temporarily until Rukia recovers and is able to return to Soul Society.

The Soul Society arc of the series is one of the most interesting parts of the series because it establishes the formation of Ichigo’s group of friends who also have spiritual abilities. The beginning sets the tone for many storylines that will follow but I like the Soul Society arc (when Rukia was arrested by the leaders of the Gotei 13 for passing on her powers to a mortal and is sentenced to die) because it shows the development of the main character Ichigo from a temporary or substitute shinigami into a powerful death god/hollow who achieves his own power after Rukia’s reiatsu was taken from him. While the main star is still Ichigo, who embarks on a dangerous mission to save Rukia against her death sentence, his friends Ishida (the Quincy), Inoue Orihime (the well endowed goody two shoes in love with Ichigo), and Chad/Sado, Ichigo’s best friend, Ganju, Hanatarou, and other members of Soul Society (Renji — what’s with his weird eyebrows?, Byakuya, etc.)  also have moments in the spotlight, their backstories threshed out while they are embroiled in various battle scenes.

What I like about this series is that there is an emotional depth to the characters , making them rootable to the audience. They have flaws but they develop consistently as the story progresses. Viewers can also look forward to the characters’ great backstories that are intertwined seamlessly with each other, which serves up one surprise after the other, making it hard to pass judgement on their actions and the series gets more interesting to watch as layers and layers are peeled off to reveal the general outcome. I like that they showed Ichigo having difficulty fighting off the lieutenants and the captains who are more advanced and experienced than him when it comes to combat as the series illustrates him learning and playing smartly instead of simply attacking without thinking of how to defeat his opponent.

The story is also not a typical shounen where the main goal is simply to eliminate enemies and villains but rather, despite the constant battles, there is an underlying message of respect, compassion  and honor among the fighters and as much as possible, the victors do not finish their enemies which is a rather good message to temper the violent content of the anime. One thing of note of course,  is the friends’ unconditional loyalty to each other despite their youth and their short span of friendship.

What’s great about Bleach is that viewers get emotionally invested in the series because they take the journey with the characters from the get go. While it deals with fiction, there is an element of truth with each scene because the story is well crafted and thought of,  with parallelisms to real life that fans can absolutely relate to. Bleach is awesome… that I can assure even though I haven’t finished the entire series yet.