Seven Coloured Compass

Beneath the starry sky, we'll meet once again.

Bleach: Agent of the Shinigami arc

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The introduction to the Bleach universe begins now…

Bleach logo season 1

Name: Bleach: Agent of the Shinigami arc (season 1)

Japanese Name: ブリーチ: 死神代行篇

Air Date: October 5 2004 – February 22 2005

Studio: Pierrot+

Episodes: 20

PLOT

15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki is not your everyday high school student. He has from as far he can remember always had the ability to see ghosts and spirits. A fateful day arrives as Ichigo encounters the shinigami Rukia Kuchiki, who saves him and his family from a Hollow at the cost of injuring herself. During this encounter, with Rukia unable to defeat the Hollow she transfers her shinigami powers into Ichigo. In the aftermath, unable to continue with her job, Rukia allows Ichigo to take on the role of a shinigami in her place as they together defeat the Hollows plaguing Ichigo’s town.

PHEW! Exams are finally over! Yesterday marked the end of five years at secondary school and it has been an incredible journey filled with plenty of ups and downs. But I’m extremely grateful for the many friends I have made during those long years. They have been with me through this perilous journey and were always the ones who picked me off my feet to push me forward. They made me who I am today. So as the curtains are drawn to a close on secondary school life, preparations for college are underway. Phase four of my life begins in September!

After exams, I fell into a bit of a slump and I frankly had no idea what to watch next. I gave up on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED because I wasn’t motivated enough, plus the amount of depth it goes into put me off… and then I remembered that I always wanted to watch Bleach. It just suddenly occurred to me as if it were the most natural thing in the world. So here I am, watching the first season. And I absolutely love it!

Bleach had a long-running history; it spanned 366 episodes from 2004 until 2012, had four successful movies and the manga is still ongoing. It is one of the most popular shounen series in Japan and worldwide… honestly, I’m not surprised at all. Not at all. The attention Bleach has garnered over the last few years has been increasing and it’s easy to see why. The pure, shounen action. I have to thank my friend for introducing me to Bleach because I had no idea what it was. I thought it was the stuff you use to clean (^_^;) feel free to beat me up.

First Impressions

There’s a lot of terminology that I’m not familiar with since I haven’t read the manga yet. I want to, and then I remember how many volumes there are. FIFTY EIGHT. I can’t afford all that! Plus my shelves are overflowing with manga, so my parents are banning me from buying anymore *pouts* I mean that’s not fair. I pay for all of them myself, no thanks to them. I think the only word I understand is shinigami! Enough about me, I shall enlighten all those who have never watched/read Bleach and have magically stumble across this post:

Soul Society – the afterlife realm where all souls go; in other words, it’s like heaven.

Shinigami – the Japanese word for Death God or soul reaper. They take away souls and bring them to their rightful place (Soul Society).

Hollows – formerly human spirits that were not sent to Soul Society in due time after death. This makes them lose their sense of being and gives them a craving for human souls. Their main characteristics are a white mask completely covering their face and a hole near their heart.

Zanpakuto – this is a shinigami’s Soul Slayer (a weapon which reflects aspects of their soul and personality).

Ichigo Kurosaki is the main protagonist of the series. He’s quite agitated most of the time but he is a kind older brother – as he should be! He’s really reliable and always keeps to his promises but he’s also a bit straightforward. That being said, I wouldn’t mind having Ichigo as an older brother… he can protect me whenever someone picks on me (¬‿¬) that’s a nice thought. When Ichigo recieves shinigami powers from Rukia, he nearly consumes all of it, making him an exceptionally strong shinigami (he hasn’t even received training!). He is very passionate about justice which is shown clearly in episode 5 when he discovers the Hollow’s past crimes (the one that he’s currently fighting). These Hollows are very cruel… and rather disturbing too…

Ichigo KurosakiErm… Ichigo? Are you sure that’s yours?

Rukia is the shinigami who gave Ichigo her powers. She kinda resembles me in some ways, instantly making her one of my favourite characters. She’s level-headed and balances out Ichigo’s recklessness so she has some sort of influence over him. Rukia is actually a cool character and she’s ironically funny; she enrolls at Ichigo’s school and sort of gives him hell! But the one character who REALLY gets on my nerves is Orihime Inoue. I bet she’s the damsel in distress character of the cast… I detest those types. I really detest them.

Midway Impressions

I think it’s become a running gag that Rukia demonstrates or explains complicated things by drawing diagrams… bad ones at that. In fact, the drawings are so bad that even Ichigo is ashamed of them! Making the slightest comment is rewarded with a punch or kick… I love this girl xD I think she deserves the reward for most awesome female! Rukia is such an amazing character though; she’s unfazed by things the majority of the time and when she does get anxious, she’s also calm about it. We are so similar. She may just be my long lost twin… moving on, she really is the perfect deuteragonist for Ichigo. They compliment each other – Ichigo being brash and impulsive while Rukia is calm and collected; the perfect combination!

A new character has been introduced to join the cast! Uryuu Ishida is a classmate of Ichigo’s and also has a high spiritual power – he can see ghosts and spirits. However he is not a soul reaper… he’s a ‘Quincy’. I know it sounds confusing and you may be thinking “what the hell does that mean?!” so I shall make things easier by explaining. Quincies are a clan of humans who are descended from Ywhach (no idea what this is?) who are spiritually aware of the blood running through them, and are able to re-shape spiritual particles into various types of bow and arrows, swords or explosives to defeat Hollows. They were considerably more successful than soul reapers however, they were unable to purify the Hollows unlike soul reapers. Quincies completely destroy the soul and thus create an imbalance between the life and death that would threaten to destroy the world. As a last resort to prevent further imbalance, the soul reapers exterminated most of the Quincies with only a few remaining were allowed to live, hence Uryuu’s hostility and bitterness towards Ichigo.

Uryuu IshidaYou always know you have a pervert when their glasses shine…

I’m not overly fond of the selected theme songs for the opening and ending; the opening I’m not too bothered with, but the ending… I better shut up before I complain too much. I don’t know really, it doesn’t click with my tastes. But what annoys me even more is the fact that it’s STUCK IN MY HEAD. I’m actually walking around the house humming it (-__-) not really the ideal way to spend my afternoons. However, the selected music has a distinctive taste and is rather unique.

Overall Opinion

Bleach is a popular shounen manga written and drawn by Tite Kubo. It is now a worldwide phenomenon alongside other titles such as Naruto, One Piece etc. and is loved by many anime fans for its fast paced action, humorous characters and epic battles. It’s easy to see why Bleach has garnered so much attention and popularity over the last couple of years.

The plot isn’t entirely original. Take a boy in his mid-teens, bestow supernatural abilities upon him and send him off to fight big and mighty monsters. This happens for the majority of episodes through hack and slash methods; sprinkling a bit of comedy here and there for good measure. Boring much? Yeah, it tends to get tedious but that’s when things start to pick up. Introduce the protagonist to potential allies (in the form of classmates) with Hollow exterminating capabilities and voilà! It doesn’t stop there though. The real challenge kicks in, and man does it literally kick. Soul Society infiltrate the human world to stir things up and suddenly, Ichigo embarks on a mission to rescue Rukia. This where most of the action is and it’s left up until the last few episodes; which is the right way to approach this. It hits you full on with the adrenaline pumping battles and that is very effective. The beginning introduces everything while the climax gets serious. Absolute perfection. The fact is, Ichigo is no longer fighting minor Hollows a few blocks away from his house… oh no, he’s facing trained warriors who could kill him with only few friends as allies, in the underworld! This is the real deal.

Byakuya KuchikiOoo… I like you VERY much (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧.

Seems pretty basic, but Bleach manages to set itself apart from other shounen series through its wide variety of characters which could not exist anywhere else. Imagine your usual stereotypes and throw in a few strange traits to give them that extra edge: this is what makes them special and easily recognisable. Ichigo isn’t just an excitable and brash lad – he’s a hero with a smart mouth. Rukia’s equally strong personality compliments that and together, these two exchange some of the most snarkiest dialogues in the show. Ichigo’s allies are just as intriguing: Ishida is cool in everything ranging from his attacks to his demeanour, Orihime discovers her abilities through accessories and Chad proves that the only thing bigger than his muscles is his compassion. I’m not one to forget the supporting characters who help the protagonists on their missions; you have the stuffed toy sidekick Kon, the eccentric shop-keeper Urahara, the thirteen squad leaders of Soul Society, Ichigo’s contrasting sisters and the wonderful example of modern parenting, Ichigo’s dad. All of these characters intertwine to make one of the best casts I’ve ever seen.

Studio Pierrot (or Pierrot+ by me) makes Bleach a visually appealing show with a bold, mainstream style which would make anyone appreciate it. It becomes apparent when the animation picks up, just like the story itself. It takes until the later episodes to notice the transition the animation makes; the fight scenes become more elaborate and dynamic while the second opening sequence is a flurry of shots. The animation is done in a way so that you can tell exactly what is happening, and who’s doing what. If someone swings their sword, then you know who did it – the storytelling is very clear. There are still plenty of shounen clichés like speedlines, special effects and time-dilated multi-episode fights, but the look of the show is one that can’t be reproduced easily. How could one forget the amusing logos on Ichigo’s t-shirts, Rukia’s single bang over her face, Ishida’s rectangular glasses, Orihime’s hair clips (and large bosom), Chad’s scraggly features, Urahara’s green and white striped hat, Renji’s visor that looks like a sleeping mask etc. Studio Pierrot has clearly done the manga justice.

SPOILER: Rukia faces the death penalty for transferring her shinigami powers to Ichigo. Her death sentence has been moved forward and she only has twenty five days left. Ichigo has his powers stripped from him but is determined to save Rukia, thus he trains with Urahara to gain his powers back. During the second stage of his training, Ichigo’s soul is cut from his body and thrown into a pit. He must reclaim his shinigami powers within three days, otherwise he is at risk of becoming a Hollow. In the pit, Ichigo emerges with his shinigami uniform on and a Hollow mask. He breaks off the mask and continues on to the final stage: to fight Urahara. After discovering the name of his zanpakuto, it tranforms into a more powerful version and he defeats Urahara. Ichigo, Chad, Ishida and Orihime then progress through a portal to Soul Society to rescue Rukia.

The unique characters and look of Bleach guarantee that it will, at the very least, rise above the muddle of shounen series and carry on with its own unique vision of the afterlife. There are many plots where Death Gods can be vanquished and spirit worlds to be conquered or explore, but there is only one Ichigo Kurosaki, there is only one Soul Society and there is only one entertaining series that will massively amuse you to no end. If you want a real, adrenaline pumping series with an extraordinary cast of characters, then Bleach is the series for you. I loved it thoroughly and I’m sure that many others will join me with my sudden love of Bleach!

I highly recommend the subbed version rather than the dubbed. Why? Because I think anime should be watched in the language they are originally intended to be. In this case, Japanese. Plus the original seiyuus did an amazing job voicing the characters, I mean most of them are pretty big names in the industry… so watch it with Japanese audio! Not that I have anything against the English dub…

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