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Bleach, vols. 10-20 (Tite Kubo)

With the help of the semi-crazed, ultra-buxom rocketry expert Kukaku Shiba, teenaged novice Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki and his motley crew arrive not-very-subtly in the Soul Reaper city on their quest to rescue Rukia Kuchiki, the Soul Reaper who inadvertently lost all her own powers to Ichigo in the first volume of the series. As you may recall, Rukia's actions in the living world have resulted in her being sentenced to death, and so the story becomes a race against the clock to rescue her.

The party is split up before they hit the ground, and these 11 volumes trace their assorted paths through the city as they attempt to find each other and rescue the young woman who became their friend during her sojourn in our world. Along the way, they win the grudging approval or dire enmity of various members of the Soul Reaper guard companies, and we learn more of the backstories of both the original party and their new acquaintances, as well as a lot about Soul Reaper society, training, and politics. Something is very rotten near the core of the Soul Society, and Rukia's situation is just one move of a sinister power game that some of its members are playing. Volume 20 wraps up the story arc with a dramatic showdown that involves just about all of the most interesting characters we've met thus far in the series.

Bleach, vols. 10-20 (review)

Holy crap, does Kubo bombard us with new characters in these volumes! There are 13 guard companies, each with a captain and assistant captain, and we meet all of them, plus various lesser luminaries - some of whom are extremely vivid personalities to say the least (I think "vivid" barely begins to describe the joyfully narcissistic peacock Yumichika Ayasegawa, for example).

The main frame of the story arc is a series of confrontations in which Ichigo is forced to become stronger - both in combat with Soul Society officers and in training with Yoruichi, who, it turns out, is not actually the kittycat we met in the earlier volumes. But similar story threads follow the development of Soul Reaper Renji Abarai, who showed up to menace Rukia and Ichigo at the end of the previous set of volumes and who turns out to be carrying a torch for Rukia from their earliest days; Ichigo's schoolmate Uryu Ishida, who has a terrifying confrontation with the self-made monstrous head of the Research and Development arm of the Soul Society that leaves Uryu apparently stripped of his Quincy powers; and even mousy Hanataro, a middling member of the utilitarian Fourth Company, who are charged with all the uninteresting, unchallenging Soul Reaper duties, such as healing and supplies - as well as Ichigo's friends Chad and Orihime.

All of this is terrifically entertaining and pitched at breakneck speeds: the flashbacks to the various characters' histories provide the only breaks in the action (and even some of the flashbacks are pretty action-filled!). Some of the aspects of the Soul Society don't make a lot of sense (the noble Soul Reapers are born in this alternative world, an idea which boggles the mind on a metaphysical level ... ), but the momentum of the plot carried me along willy-nilly anyway. I personally would like to know more about some of these characters' histories, but either Kubo will tell us more in the future, or - well, that's why the good Lord let us invent fanfic.

I have to speak specifically about Volume 20, which was amazingly apocalyptic. The discovery that Aizen was alive all along - and Momo's fate at his hands - were a devastating one-two punch. Toshiro's apparent destruction thereafter hardly registered. I was rather gratified by Unohana's confrontation of Aizen and Gin, even though it didn't do much but delay the inevitable - but I guess that was valuable, because it gave Ichigo a chance to arrive. I was also glad that Rangiku was able to stop Gin, at least until outside forces interfered, and was deeply pleased when Byakuya arrived to help save Rukia at the end.

There are plenty of wonderful characters in these 11 volumes ... among my favorites: Yumichika and Ikkaku, Kenpachi and Yachiru, Yoruichi, Renji, Hanataro, Shunsui, Jushiro, Toshiro, Rangiku, and Ganju. I am a little ticked off by the handling of most of the female characters: it seems odd to have women as Assistant Captains and then treat them as frail little things. I love Shunsui Koryaku, but Nanao is basically just his secretary, and he treats her as such. Momo, likewise, is supposed to be basically a powerful sorceress - everyone keeps mentioning her force and skill at Kido - but she's a sweet, delicate, emotionally vulnerable little creature. Rangiku, at least, despite her amazing boobage, seems to be a genuinely tough cookie. But I understand that this is a shonen manga, and I guess that's the way it's going to be.

I really had to do this, because I may be able to get hold of volume 21 this weekend, and I desperately wanted to be blogged up to date on at least one more series!

Comments

( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
telophase
Sep. 29th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
I believe you misspelled Yumichika's name. That should properly be:

Yumichika Ayasegawa
meganbmoore
Sep. 29th, 2007 04:07 am (UTC)
*is blinded by the sparklies*
telophase
Sep. 29th, 2007 04:09 am (UTC)
* And an icon by so_slow to help you learn your Gotei 13 captains. XD

http://userpic.livejournal.com/54658081/2706624
chomiji
Sep. 30th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC)

Hee hee hee! We know who's so_slow's fave!

Yes, I'd heard Jushiro called Captain Tuberculosis before ... sanada was talking about Bleach fanfic pairings and mentioned "Captain Syphilis and Captain Tuberculosis - their love is contagious!" Funny, I don't think of think of Toshiro as grumpy - he's truculent, but it can't be easy being a captain and that young ... however, Captain Freakshow is right on!

And yes, >sigh!<, Captain Mom. You know, I love the idea of cosplay, but there are precious few middle-aged female characters in manga. And she's got those silly braids under her chin ... .

telophase
Sep. 30th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
I was thinking that once I lost enough weight that I'd want to cosplay again (well, it's more when I found a size that I was going to stick to for long enough I could wear the freakin' costume again), I might do Sesshoumaru's mother from the Inu-Yasha manga. It would be a reasonably spectacular costume that wasn't skimpy and wasn't worn by a teenager. I'm assuming that there's been some sort of color image of her published in one of the manga. XD

The only other characters I can think of offhand that are really appropriate for a cosplayer who can't or won't do a young character besides Unohana are all old - Sophie in old-woman form from Howl's Moving Castle and the old shamaness Whatsherface, Kikyo's sister, from Inu-Yasha. And both of them have boring outfits. Technically, Tsunade from Naruto is in her 50s, but she keeps her appearance younger through jutsu.
(about Sesshomaru's mom's get-up) - chomiji - Oct. 3rd, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
chomiji
Sep. 30th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)

XD

Honestly, I can forgive a lot of the more stupid parts of the series because Kubo calmly presents someone like Yumichika and has him be a respected, effective fighter. Although given what Rachel was reporting about how much Japanese guys care about their appearance, Yumichika might not be as bold a concept there as he is here ... .

telophase
Sep. 30th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
Yeah, Yumichika would totally fit in if he were in Tokyo. And nobody would assume he was gay, either, judging by the amount of dolled-up guys I saw hanging on to equally dolled-up girls.

Now, in Nagoya Yumichika would stand out like a peacock in a henhouse. XD
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meganbmoore
Sep. 29th, 2007 04:07 am (UTC)
It was the soul reaper art that made me go from liking bleach to loving it. I know what you mean about the female characters, though. Orihime doesn't bother me as she was never put forth as a warrior chick or as anything really but Ichigo's sweet friend who wants to help, but it was irritating to have Rukias basically do nothing for what, at this point, is half the series. I agree that Rangiku is definately a tough cookie...and I feel that Yoruichi compensates for a lot.

I rather like the relationship between Shunsui and Nanao...yteah, she does basically seem to be his secretary, but she seems to be able to at least impose some sanity and responsibility on him, which has to count for something. And their interactions crack me up.
chomiji
Sep. 30th, 2007 02:56 am (UTC)

Yeah, it's odd - I know there are serious female martial artists in Japan (just for fun, here's judo legend Noriko Anno, for example), so it's not like he doesn't have any models. And for that matter, back in the human world, we have Tatsuki, who's unapologetically tough and spunky. But in the Soul Society, we have precious few tough swordswomen.

Yes, I generally like the Nano-Shunsui dynamic, but he's practically cuddling her when she falls apart in front of the Old Man. I resent it when, in SF&F contexts, people have military superiors (which is what the captains basically are) treating their female subordinates like daughters/girlfriends/sisters. That's the sort of attitude that often goes with sexual exploitation of those same female subordinates (and its the same thing that makes me go ballistic over the idea of relationships between Yukimura and any of the 10 ... I think you've heard me sing this song before: if it's not a relationship between equals, it's almost certainly exploitation!)

Yoruichi is great. But one shouldn't have to be as overwhelmingly surperior as she is to be a respected warrior of the Gotei 13.

(We won't go into Yachiru ... she's a sweet little joke ... .)

meganbmoore
Sep. 30th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)
I think Yoruichi is good enough to warrant her superiority complex, myself. But yeah, it'd be nice to have someone that good without it(on the flipside, there's Soi Fon, who's just as bad but not nearly as good...maybe it comes with the position?)

As far as Nanao/Shunsui, I guess it doesn't bother me because I don't see him responding well to anyone else. He seems to bulldoze over her but doesn't really.

And yeah...I'm extremely closeminded to the idea of Yukimura and any of the 10(though I can't see Yukimura having a healthy romantic relationship at all myself...sadly...) for just that reason.

Have you ever checked out Fullmetal Alchemist? You might be interested in the relationship between Mustang and Hawkeye. While basically the entire fandom (well, the part interested in canon, at least...the rest are the yaoi fans who are into Mustang and the underaged lead-also his subordinate-which is something I avoid thinking about) assumed their interest in each other is romantic, the actual relationship is that of respectful equals, with her often serving as his moral center, but there's no hint whatsoever of coddling or inappropriate interaction, or of his needing to take care of her. In fact, the 2 characters in the series who consistently come across as the most capable and competent and together are Hawkeye and Izumi(the female mentor of the 2 main characters.)

We shall let Yachiro pass as a sweet little darling...besides, it was Kenpachi...the wise do not question him...
telophase
Sep. 30th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC)
Hee, Kenpachi is a law unto himself. XD And two of the reasons that Yachiru works for me is that she was established in that relationship with him before he became a captain, and that I love seeing non-romantic parent/child and brother/sister relationships in manga.

I tell you, searching for Kenpachi-Yachiru doujinshi in Japan was hard. We couldn't look inside them, only at the covers, so I had to judge whether someone was depicting them as parent/child [good] or lovers [BAD. VERY VERY BAD.] by the covers. I rejected anything that had drawn Yachiru in a way that looked like it might be sexualized, and managed to escape getting anything that would traumatize me.*


* In that relationship, I might add. I did manage to pick up other manga that traumatized me in other ways. Some of which I shall scan and share when the box gets here, because I MUST SHARE THE PAIN.
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Sep. 30th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - telophase - Sep. 30th, 2007 04:25 am (UTC) - Expand
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chomiji
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)

It's not just Nanao/Shunsui ... Kubo seems to have a fixed idea that women in those positions are going to be treated more-or-less that way. Shunsui was just the example ... .

No, no more nice romances for Yukimura. Mizuki was it. As with the real historical Yukimura, he'll make a couple of political marriages. He'll seek out teashop girls (and boys!) for romps, and spend his passions on friendship and clan loyalty rather than romance ... it makes me sad, but nothing else is true to the character. I pair him up in my own fantasies, but it's never more than a temporary amusement and/or comfort.

I've breezed through the first 8 vol. or so of FMA - the Young Lady wanted it. But I need to go back through it more seriously. I like Izumi because she's one of the few examples I've found in manga of an older female character who isn't old (and Shihoudou in SDK doesn't count - she still look like a teenybopper).

(no subject) - meganbmoore - Oct. 2nd, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 4th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
sanada
Sep. 29th, 2007 05:10 am (UTC)
Kubo just shouldn't be allowed to write female characters. *laugh* Rangiku is usually okay... but Rukia was awful for so long that when she did eventually return to her original spunky self after the Soul Society arc, I just couldn't see her as a believable character anymore.
chomiji
Sep. 30th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)

I wonder if Rangiku is meant to show that a tough broad doesn't have to be a dog in terms of looks! She really reminds me of a real-life female sergeant from a blue-collar background in the U.S. - tough as nails, unafraid to shoot to kill, goes drinking with the boys, does the minimum needed to get by on the job, and likes to add what feminine touches she can when in uniform ... .

I know - Rukia seemed like such an admirably tough little critter when she first showed up in the story. Of course, really, not a lot of time has passed, and that prison seems to have chi-power stuff to keep the prisoners subdued, doesn't it?

telophase
Sep. 30th, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
I like Rangiku for pretty much the reasons you listed above, but I'd be a lot more comfortable with that if there were a wider range of major female characters. We could stand another couple of women captains, at least!
( 54 comments — Leave a comment )

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