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Bleach, vols. 1-9 (Tite Kubo)

Actually, at this point I've read the entire Bleach opus currently available in English. I didn't intend to read through the series so quickly, but the Mr. got into them. Whenever he got stuck on the other side of town because of a lousy rush hour - which is probably half of the time - I'd get these calls: "I'm at the bookstore. Exactly which volume of Bleach are we on?"

So that tells you something right there: Bleach, the manga series that the whole Cho family enjoyed enough to read it in 3 weeks flat.

However, I'm not going to blog them all at once - I started to do that, and the write-up just got too blessed long. So there will be another post for the remaining volumes.

Ichigo Kurosaki is more or less a normal high school student - except that he had orange hair and can see ghosts. (So can his fraternal twin little sisters, although they don't see the spirits so clearly. Their widowed father, a doctor who runs a clinic, is the only one in the family who can't.) Suddenly, one night, Ichigo notices that there's a girl in samurai-style gear in his room. She's Rukia Kuchiki, a "Soul Reaper," and she's hunting a type of evil ghost called a Hollow, which was probably attracted by Ichigo's psychic powers. When she becomes too injured to carry on, Ichigo agrees to take on some of her power to carry out her mission and save his family. Unfortunately, somehow all Rukia's power drains into Ichigo. Now she can't get back to her home - and she can't carry out her remaining missions in our world. If Ichigo's family, friends, and town are to be protected from Hollows, he must learn become a proper Soul Reaper.

Bleach, vols. 1-9 (review)

As previously mentioned, my first manga series was Samurai Deeper Kyo. This is a very long, involved sword-and-sorcery saga with a large ensemble cast, involving themes like loyalty to your friends, becoming stronger for them and for yourself, and choosing your own path while still having a home base of family (often adoptive in SDK) and friends to which to return. Once I started poking around on the Intarwebs to find out about popular manga series, Bleach struck me as the one most likely to appeal on the basis of its similarity to SDK. Bleach, with its huge cast and similar themes, has less angst and family/clan politics (thus far, anyway) than SDK, probably because it's written for a slightly younger audience. But it's still very appealing to somebody like me, who never visualized herself as the hero or heroine, but instead always preferred the role of the best friend who comes through in the nick of time.

The first mini-arc of the story involves Ichigo's learning about his new powers while still in our world. Despite the fact that this is basically a whole series of little ghost stories - some of them pretty scary (the one involving Orihime's brother was the most affecting to me) - there are still lots of laughs. This section serves to introduce us to Ichigo's family and classmates, as well as the mysterious owner of the Urahara Shoten store - supplier of Soul Reaper gadgets and drugs, nicknamed Hat-and-Clogs by Ichigo - and his staff. This comparative idyll ends when Byakuya and Renji - Rukia's adoptive elder brother and her childhood best friend - show up to bring her back to Soul Society for judgment (near the end of vol. 6). It turns out that the transfer of Soul Reaper power to a human is a grave offense, and Rukia has been sentenced to death for it.

Looking back over this section now, I see where this series is weaker than SDK from my viewpoint: this last situation should have been a great source of all sorts of angst for all three participants. We do see some of this on Rukia's part, and eventually on Renji's, but as of vol. 19, there's been hardly any feelings from Byakuya. Potentially, Byakuya is exactly my sort of character - meganbmoore pinpointed this, to my surprise, when I had barely realized it myself - but he's not being tormented by the fact that he's bring his adoptive little sister in to be killed because she betrayed their clan's ideals. Maybe this happens later - but in the meantime, for me, Bleach is fun, but not on the level of SDK, Saiyuki, or even Furuba in terms of emotional involvement. This isn't a judgment of the quality of the series, mind you - just a personal quirk of mine.

Once Ichigo shows up, trying to rescue Rukia, the ensuing sequence - where Ichigo proves surprisingly strong against Renji but is absolutely no match for even a small effort from Byakuya - goes from exhilarating to pathetic (in the old sense, of eliciting pathos). The final scene (in vol. 7), where Hat-and-Clogs (i.e., Kisuke Urahara) shows up with his umbrella, looking silently down at the fallen Ichigo, is really touching. Ichigo's training scenes with Urahara aren't bad either, especially the later ones where the spirit of his zanpakuto, Zangetsu, shows up.

The scenes in Rukongai, the rather scuzzy city surrounding the inner core inhabited by the Soul Reapers, are mostly sketchy and comedic, with some bits just completely throw-away: for instance, why do Ganju and his thugs ride pigs? Presumably, they do it just because it's funny. And it's never mentioned again, IIRC. As for Kukaku ... well, I love the basic concept of the character. And I know that enormous hooters are a shounen manga staple. But the combination here put me off completely, and I couldn't take Kukaku seriously as a character at all.

As for the other characters introduced thus far - most of them are pretty good. Among the minor characters, my favorites are Ichigo's brave, goth-y little sister, Karin, and Orihime's tough friend Tatsuki, the karate champ. I actually came to like Don Kanonji, the blowhard TV show exorcist, too: he hung in there really well even after discovering how truly dangerous things were. As far as the important folks go: I've actually known people whose brains were as much on another wavelength as Orihime's - and she won me over completely when she cartooned her "future self" as a battlebot with rocket-propelled boobs. Uryu badly needs a chill transplant - he's so tightly wound, he makes me look like a surfer chick in comparison - but he's a tough little obsessive-compulsive nutjob, and he understands loyalty. And Urahara is just way cool.

We've had a lot of fun with these!


In related news, telophase has created a nifty little online toy that lets you create your own zanpakuto - these are the nifty spirit-powered weapons used by the Soul Reapers:

Chomiji's Zanpakutō:

Chomiji carries Ecstatic Stinger, Shadowed Spider sealed into the form of a fountain pen. At the command "Scatter, Ecstatic Stinger, Shadowed Spider!" it transforms into a light, segmented surujin with an oversize weight. It produces small insects that the wielder can direct and can see and hear all that the insects do.

What's Your Zanpakutō?

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
telophase
Jul. 7th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
Someone just friended me who has the awesomest Uryu icon evar. XD I keep trying not to friend as many poeple back, because I'm running out of time to read everyone's LJs, but I may have to friend her back solely on the basis of that icon. XD

I haven't read any farther than the English releases also, but I think Byakuya gets more focus later, if the vague spoilery hints I've picked up from fanfics here and there are canon and not just fanon (it's awful hard to tell the two apart sometimes).
chomiji
Jul. 10th, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)

That is a pretty damn awesome Uryu icon! I know what you mean about the LJs ... whenever I'm offline for a few days, it's scary how they build up. And I don't have as many to track as you do.

Yeah, I'd like to see that tension between Byakuya's duty and his filial love get a little workout ... and it doesn't!

(I'm making some more icons ... I've got a more smiley Kenpachi one that you can have if you like it when it's done - I'm still messing with the caption. I probably ought to just make a dozen or so that I don't feel attached to and do an icon post. )

telophase
Jul. 10th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)
(Ooh, cool, sure. XD Thanks!)
chomiji
Jul. 10th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)

Eh, I'm still not 100% satisfied, but part of it is the business about how to handle his crazy hair ... but he's yours if you wish ... .

telophase
Jul. 11th, 2007 03:43 pm (UTC)
:D Th
telophase
Jul. 11th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
I swear I typed the "anks!"
chomiji
Jul. 11th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)

[D]e [n]ada!

(Maybe your keyboard input buffer has the hiccups ... mine seems to get that sometimes too ... .)

telophase
Jul. 11th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
And looking back at that, I'm pretty sure I used the new icon, too. LJ WHY DO YOU TEASE ME SO?
chomiji
Jul. 11th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)

Ahhr, it's a sly and vicious service, that LJ ... .

(On the other hand, the icon caption is really appropriate now!)

fmanalyst
Jul. 7th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
Yay! Bleach!

I think I like Bleach better than SDK at this point for a few reasons. First is that I like the art better. Kubo has these wonderfully expressive faces on his characters and his action scenes are easier for me to read. I'm also a sucker for series with complicated politics, which both SDK and Bleach have. In Bleach, once you get into Soul Society, you really start to get a sense of competing interests and agendas being played out by the various captains. As interested in university politics as I am, I recognize the power plays in Bleach a little more than I do in SDK, where I sometimes have trouble figuring out which Mibu is which. I also like that Bleach has a nice range of female characters in terms of personality. Yeah, the boobage quotient gets pretty high after awhile (Do any of the shinigami women wear bras?), but they're still kick ass.

Lastly, I have a crush on Kisuke Urahara. Just so damned cool and I want to know what he's really up to. As for Byakuya, his picture is next to repression and denial in the psychoanalytic dictionary. :-) Plus Byakuya has this one line to Ukitake which is such a slap in the face.
chomiji
Jul. 10th, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)

Oh, Kamijyo can be pretty expressive ... I'm thinking, for example, of Bontenmaru's face when he's saying goodbye to Muramasa for what he knows is the last time, and then later on when he's talking about Muramasa to the crowd of Mibu townsmen who confront them when they first get to the city (after the fight with Kitsunebi), and also Hotaru's face after the big fight with Kyo, first when he concedes the fight and then when he tells Kyo to "end it." (There are lots of other examples too, but I actually turn to those pages just to look at the faces, sometimes.)

They're not the wildly expressive faces that Kubo uses in Bleach, though. I'll fully admit that Kubo is more graphically bold. And yes, the fight scenes can get a little dense in SDK. I guess reading ahead in the scanlations has helped with "which Mibu is which!" Also, if you've been reading the English tankoubon volumes only, you're only just starting to get into what's really going on with the Mibu. It's very complex and tangled.

The boobs biz is pretty funny, especially when you consider that kimono were designed with a more-or-less tubular figure in mind! Of course, Okuni and Mahiro in SDK would fit right in with the Bleach assistant captains ... . I've been fussing about the fact that there are no nice middle-aged looking women in Bleach, either, and there could have easily been some, at least in the university scenes, and among the 4th division healers. I guess Unohana is supposed to look older, but she doesn't really ... .

Oh, yeah, Urahara is one of my favorites too! The rebellious types are always fun (I'll talk about him some more when I do the remaining volumes). Ukitake is the nice-looking guy with the long, light-colored hair, right? See, Byakuya would be more my type if he was acting more tortured. I have a soft spot for Shinrei in SDK, and that should tell you something right there - he is so painfully sincere. (Of course we all know who my real favorite is, though.)

fmanalyst
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
Yes, it's the density of the art in SDK that tends to get me lost. I'm usually more attuned to story and dialogue, but I'm finding that in terms of art, my favorite manga are those that use empty space effectively. Kamijyo's faces are expressive, but they're generally not the only thing in the frame as they might be in Bleach or Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Kamijyo packs so much into a given frame that I sometimes have trouble figuring out what should be the dominant image.

That's an interesting comment about kimonos assuming a less boobtastic figure. It just started me thinking about traditional European dress of various countries (I'm having a vision of the German barmaid dress), and so many of them are meant to emphasize the breasts. The only western fashions I can think of that deliberately flattened the figure are the flapper era dresses and 60s Twiggy baby doll dresses.

Yes, Ukitake is the sickly one with white hair. I really like him too. He comes across as a really kind person. As for Byakuya, he would consider emo and angst to be unfitting of a man in his position. :-)
chomiji
Jul. 11th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)

Yes ... if SDK hadn't been my first manga series, I might be more disturbed by the density. As it is, I've now realized that I made a tactical error in trying to introduce my sister to manga by showing her a scene in SDK. Almost any of the series I'm now reading (except Hoshin Engi, which is worse in some ways) would have been easier. (As it is, I later gave her husband the first 4 volumes of Vagabond for his birthday, and that worked out well.)

I have a feeling that tube-lady figure was the result of a long period of increased stylization in upperclass Japanese dress. But it's what people tend to think of now when they think of traditional dress for Japanese women. Still, the bountiful bosom never seems to have been that much of a focus in Japan.

sanada
Jul. 7th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC)
I think Bleach struggles too much between being lighthearted and serious, and it just doesn't have the mix down right yet so there's a lot of throwaway scenes and characters and plotlines that end up not going anywhere. But for all of the stuff that falls short, there are many things that are very cool...

I don't think Byakuya is ever really tormented... maybe resigned, but at least he does get fleshed out a bit later on. Arrghh, Bleach squanders good opportunities for angst and tries to wedge angst in places where it doesn't fit! It's a strangely appealing jumble...
chomiji
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:00 am (UTC)

Heh - is that from the scene where Yumichika is so thrilled that he beat a tough guy without marking himself up at all? That was pretty funny. I like that the 11th isn't all conventional baboon types ... of course Kyo and Yuan would both probably be in the 11th ... .

It is pretty appealing - I'm enjoying it. It just hasn't wormed its way into my heart very much at all. I'll know if it does, at some point, because I'll start imagining fic-type things for it. The Young Lady and I were both agreeing that guys who are facing off against the general - the skirt-chasing guy (who looks like he'd have a great time hanging out with Yukimura) and the other two-sword guy - are pretty hot, though.   ;-)

Didja roll yourself up a zanpakuto with the script toy? (Gee, I still say "roll up" like it's with game dice ... .)

sanada
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's from where he beats Mr. I-Swear-I-Was-Drunk-When-I-Got-That-Tattoo~ Hehe, oh yeah, Kyo and Yuan would fit in the 11th pretty well! I like how the 11th feels like a (bizarre, dysfunctional, violent but loving) family.

Hehe, well, I've written fic and roleplayed extensively for it so I guess it's wormed its way in somehow... I tend to like really oddball pairings that no one writes, though. And oh my, you've picked up on one of my pet pairings! Captain Syphillis + Captain Tuberculosis, their love is so contagious!

You're a dork~~ But yes, I did! I got a silly-looking one, how fitting!

Sanada's Zanpakutō:

Sanada carries Vortex of Misery sealed into the form of an umbrella. At the command "Snap, Vortex of Misery!" it transforms into a square surujin with a deceptively small weight. It drains an opponent's spiritual energy.

What's Your Zanpakutō?

chomiji
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:39 am (UTC)

>> Captain Syphillis + Captain Tuberculosis, their love is so contagious! <<

You are so-o-o-o naughty!!! I'm snickering out loud. And you're contagious too - now I'm considering oracular significance of the fact that they both have double zapakuto ... well, that wouldn't explain Yumichika and Ikkaku, and that would be easy to see too. I've liked my sister's husband for so long that I'm capable of considering a well-shaped bald head sexy.

Yeah, I'm a dork, but I fly the flag proudly!   XD    That's a good name for a zanpakuto that drains energy, though. (Speaking of dorky, some of those powers are my fault - I went home Friday and dug out my game books and sent her a huge list of ideas .)

sanada
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
Come on, guys who are close friends and share some significant, singular bond like having double zanpakutou? It's like a perfect setup for fangirling!! I'm a fan of Ikkaku and Yumichika too - there's a scene later on where Ikkaku is nearly killed by a much stronger opponent, and Yumichika watches with what seems like absolute, almost creepily detached calm... and you can tell that it's the hardest thing he's ever done. ^^

LOL I should have known you had something to do with it~
chomiji
Jul. 13th, 2007 02:39 am (UTC)

And with marvellous timing, I have just discovered a nice bit of naughty stuff about Ikkaku and Yumichika ... .

I don't know enough about anyone's background in Bleach to do the sort of fangirling I prefer, though!

meganbmoore
Jul. 7th, 2007 06:03 am (UTC)
I went through what was available(I believe it was at 12 or 14 then) in about 2 weeks, so we tore through them at the same rate.

*cuddles her tightly wound archer*

I agree that Byakuya isn't exactly tormented...he has an extreme sense of duty and puts it before everything else.

Hmm...I called both your Bleach favorite and I guessed your Fruits Basket favorite...I am calling Anotsu as your Blade of the Immortal favorite(once you get into the volumes that deal more with him...if you're still at vol 3, you haven't seen much of him yet)

chomiji
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)

Wrongo! Unless Anotsu does some major acts of penitence, he's off the list permanently because of what he let - nay, encouraged - his guys to do to Rin's mom.

Sorry for the vehemence, but I've actually got BotI 4 and 5 now, and so I feel even more strongly about that. (But let's wait to get into that until I blog those.)

Bleach is just fun, but I'm not feeling so attached to any of the characters as I have in my "big 3." There's certainly nothing like the intense affection I feel for Yukimura and Shigure, and the partial identification I feel with Gojyo and Hakkai.

meganbmoore
Jul. 10th, 2007 06:27 am (UTC)
Vehement? Pft. You should have heard me circa vol 4-5 when everyone I knew who was reading it and was around vol 10-12 was telling me how interesting Anotsu was. It is possible that extremely unpleasant things were being plotted to be done to him. And hey, he didn't encourage it, he effectively ordered it(which, to me, is what makes him beyond redemption) But there's a lot in store for him that kinda changes your perception of him. Vols 6-7 starts it, but it's not until he gets a solo story, and then a road trip with Rin(yes, you read that right) that I started to understand what the big deal was about him, He is clearly a character who absolutely must die(actually, I figure only Rin with a side chance of Magatsu and Hyakurin-who you'll meet in 6 and 7-will make it out alive) but he's definately one of the most interesting. The Anotsu of now, though, is a very, very different person from who he was then, as is Magatsu(course, Magatsu wasn't anything resembling as bad as Anotsu)

Actually, Vols 6-7 are what took the book from something I really like to something I was psychotic about. The first 5 volumes are essentially Manji facing random Itto Ryu guys, usually because Rin went and got herself kidnapped. After this(likely when the series was solidified as sticking around for a good while) is when the real story kicks off.

Ditto on Bleach characters(well...except maybe Renji...but that's because he makes me think of a less screwed up and borderline suicidal Magatsu) I love it, but unlike some series, you won't see me go psycho over a character death or torture.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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