The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 15 – Bleach

Bleach 1

While I was not planning on covering this series until a later point, now seems an appropriate time following the news that the digital Sony Movie Channel (Sky Channel 323) is given a late night broadcast of the film versions of this series, the first of which airs at 1.05am on 5th August.

The series in question, Bleach, is one of the most popular anime around. It originally began as a manga in August 2001 and is still going today in the most popular manga magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump. An anime adaptation was broadcast between 2004 and 2012 lasting over 350 episodes and it resulted in four fore-mentioned films. In terms of similarities, a good work to compare it to is Death Note (see column No. 8) as both these focus on the folklore beings known as shinigami (death gods, akin to our grim reaper). However, while in Death Note the shinigami are villains, in Bleach they are heroic. But in terms of records and things of note, perhaps the oddest is that the series features anime’s most famous ginger.

The red-head in question is called Ichigo “Strawberry” Kurosaki, a teenager who since he was a kid has had the ability to see ghosts. One day he meets a girl called Rukia Kuchiki, who claims to be a shinigami, which is translated into English as “Soul Reaper”. Her job is to control the flow of souls between the human world and her own world, the “Soul Society”. This main involves going after dangerous lost souls called “Hollows”, defeating them in battle and sending their souls to the afterlife. This is done using a special sword called a “zanpakuto”, which becomes more powerful when you call it by a special name, unique to each one.

During their first encounter, Ruika is wounded by a Hollow, so in a fit of desperation she transfers some of her power to Ichigo, but he ends up taking nearly all of Ruika’s energy and transforms him into a Soul Reaper. Ichigo has so much energy in him that his zanpakuto is enormous in size and he can defeat the attacking Hollow with ease.

The story then follows Ichigo as he takes of Ruika’s job as she recovers her lost energy. However, as the series begins to progress, Ichigo soon has to battle against other more violent Hollows, other Soul Reapers and various other groups who have their own ideas on what the living and the dead should be.

In terms of plus points, the action in the series is pretty fast-paced. If you like blood, swords and lots of fighting then this is a series for you. The story itself however is slow. In terms of the manga the story arcs can span many, many volumes, and this in turn spans across many, many episodes in the anime. When reading the manga this is not too bad because you can enjoy it at your own pace. There is relatively little dialogue so a single volume is a quick read and you can spend as much time as you like looking at the art. However, because the anime episodes are always around 22-23 minutes long, things can seem to drag on a bit when watching the series. A single duel between Ichigo and his foe can last several episodes.

One other point worth noting is the in-series jargon. As you can tell from watch you have read already there are plenty of terms and phrases to get your head around: Soul Reaper, Soul Society, Hollow, zanpakuto and so on. There is a fair bit to get your head around and it can be a bit of hard work trying to remember watch everything means, from “Quincy” (rivals to the Soul Repears who believe Hollows should be killed outright) to “Espada” (the strongest of all the Hollows).

However, if you can get your head around the language and do not mind the plot being a bit slow at times, you can still enjoy the action and battles. Bleach is a series which has its moments and is worth plenty of attention. Just a shame the Sony is showing the films so late at night.

The original manga is published in English by Viz Media. The TV anime is released on DVD by Manga Entertainment with Kaze. The films are released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Manga Entertainment with Kaze.