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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

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.
meganbmoore
Sep. 30th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
Yup, that's why I love their relationship.

and that I love seeing non-romantic parent/child and brother/sister relationships in manga.

And this is why a very large part of me hates the bulk of the anime/manga community(ok, not really "hates" on a person-to-person level, but...)

It seems you can't have any such relationship without people trying to sexualize it...Yachiro/Kenpachi, Yukimura/Sasuke, Sanzo/Goku, Roy Mustang/Edward Elric(FMA) and Tsume/Toboe(Wolf's Rain) are the ones that immediately come to mind, though there are others...those are just the ones I come across the most frequently. It's like the mass fandom goes "Oh, a relationship where an older character is protective of and cares about a younger character...THEY MUST BE LUVAHS!"

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.

Like a large amount of what comes from your fingers, the idea of this both fascinates and terrifies me...out of curiosity, what fandoms?
telophase
Sep. 30th, 2007 04:25 am (UTC)
rachelmanija and I were dismayed at the WALL of Roy/Ed doujinshi. WALL. Keeping in mind that most of the doujinshi are 64 pages or less, and that the WALL was about 4 bookcases that were over 6 foot high, and about 3 feet wide, with 6 or 7 shelves in each. Packed solid with Roy/Ed.

And we know that, because the doujinshi were organized by pairing.

The fandoms I bought were mostly Death Note and Bleach. Partly because the ones I'm interested in other than those don't have a lot of dj out right now (either too old or too obscure, or lack serious pairing crack, or the dj are so popular that they don't get sold back to the store- we were looking at used djs), and partly because I knew I could easily sell off the ones I didn't want to keep from those series, and partly because the organization in the store was insane and most things could only be found by asking an employee. We bought some other stuff for people who'd requested it - Saiyuki (I don't remember if I kept any or not), HunterxHunter - and Rachel bought some Lord of the Rings dj because the idea horrified her. And she got a couple of Mushishi dj, and I didn't get any because she bought the best ones. :D

We bought some Naruto for octopedingenue, and looking through the Wall o'Naruto Doujinshi was pretty scary. The worst of the covers was one that looked like the inside would be heavy Kakashi/Sasuke bloodplay, which squicked the hell out of both of us.

The one that traumatized me the most, however, I shall scan the scary bits and post. It's an anthology of Bleach stories that contains one with Kenpachi in it.

Wearing a school uniform.

A girl's school uniform.
meganbmoore
Sep. 30th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
Roy/Ed just scars me, period. Probably because it's so massive. Though it is a pairing where imagining the characters' reactions to learning about it makes it ever so much better...it'd be like ep 13 of the anime(if you've seen it) on a massive scale.

Rachel bought some Lord of the Rings dj because the idea horrified her.

It horrified me when I read about it on resprctive LJs, as well.

The worst of the covers was one that looked like the inside would be heavy Kakashi/Sasuke bloodplay, which squicked the hell out of both of us.

*shudders*

It's an anthology of Bleach stories that contains one with Kenpachi in it.

Wearing a school uniform.

A girl's school uniform.


You realize, don't you, that just THINKING about this has scarred me for life?
chomiji
Sep. 30th, 2007 04:39 am (UTC)

(Man-o-Manischewitz, you guys are having a great time here! I branch off to read a fanfic or two and come back to 11 new messages .... my eyes are falling out of my head, so I'm going to bed ... enjoy!)

(no subject) - meganbmoore - Sep. 30th, 2007 04:42 am (UTC) - Expand
telophase
Sep. 30th, 2007 04:47 am (UTC)
You realize, don't you, that just THINKING about this has scarred me for life?

And I came upon it, all unknowing! I think this one scarred me far worse than the Komamura/Iba one we mailed to mscongeniality, because she said she'd dare it (and will soon be reviewing and posting scans XD). That one featured the characters drawn as if they were in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, school uniform and all, and ... well, let's say that the proportions would not be out of place in Japanese shunga art. :)
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Sep. 30th, 2007 04:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - telophase - Sep. 30th, 2007 04:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Sep. 30th, 2007 05:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 1st, 2007 02:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - telophase - Oct. 1st, 2007 03:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 4th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 5th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
chomiji
Oct. 1st, 2007 02:47 am (UTC)

Well, now, be fair - for some of us, some of the friendships strike us as being exactly what we think we'd like in a romantic relationship - hence my own fascination for Gojyo/Hakkai, for example. (And I was creating couples like that from my RPG characters and book characters decades before I discovered manga.)

But of course I know what you're saying, and I've had enough male-female "just friendships" that I also find this stuff excessive at times - even on the part of the mangaka, upon occasion. (The tendency to try to match everyone up in Fruits Basket is pretty tedious.)

meganbmoore
Oct. 1st, 2007 02:59 am (UTC)
See, while Hakkai/Gojyo isn't my thing, I can at least see where it could be drawn logically from canon. Plus, except for the occassional writer who seems to think the dead girlfriend must be demonized, fanfic writers don't seem to feel a need to butcher other characters for the fic.

And (unlike all the ones I listed) they're both ADULTS(ok, Goku is centuries older than most of the rest of the Saiyuki cast, but he's still...what...14-15 in practice?)

And I know what you mean about FB and the pairings...I mean, if it's even half indicated in canon and I like both characters, I tend to automatically ship (a weakness...) and FB tends to be way too much for me...but then, the only ones I really care about consistently are Kyo/Tohru and Haru/Rin (and Ayame and Hatori's pairings, when they're around-I don't think about them much unless they're in front of me or mentioned) I feel that, at some point, she should have stopped...
chomiji
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)

Well, I don't get into the "ax the competition" theory of slashing-up anyway. It's sometimes fun to imagine Onime-no-Kyo with other people, but I don't see that it's necessary to kill of Yuya to do it, for example.

There's only one canon pairing that fills me with the urge to do that, but it's much later in SDK, so I'm not going to spoil it for telophase. (Besides, I think you've heard me on it before.)

Goku is said to be 18 - by Minekura. The thing that bothers me most about most Goku set ups is that he simply doesn't seem interested. His reaction to Gojyo's womanizing is just, "Man, how boring - he has a one-track mind." The whole Sanzo fixation seems purely comfort-based: Sanzo = security and peace of mind. What sensuality he has is still firmly rooted in food and in his own physicality - and his fascination with Gat's physique works right into that. Intriguingly, at the end of Reload 7, he talls Gojyo that he thinks the bossy young youkai girl who's got them running her fruit stand is "good looking," which represents - to my knowledge - the first time Goku has shown any such interest.

So any Goku/anyone fics always seem wildly OOC to me.

There may have been pressure from the publishers regarding the pair-ups in Furuba.

(no subject) - meganbmoore - Oct. 2nd, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 3rd, 2007 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 5th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 5th, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - chomiji - Oct. 6th, 2007 03:18 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).

meganbmoore
Oct. 2nd, 2007 03:49 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 ... .

Sadly, it's a common theme in shonen action manga, not just Bleach, and not just with women in those positions. The only one I've seen to completely avoid(or at lerast try to) the stereotypical shonen roles for women is FMA. It doesn't complete succeed, but it comes close.

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.

Yes, it is a very sad thing, but a fact of the character and true to history. Besides, at least he's pretty enough that we know he'll never be lonely for any variety of companionship he wants in that fashion.

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).

One of the nice things about FMA is that, the 2 main characters and their best friend aside, most of the characters are well grounded adults(which isn't to say they're all perfectly adjusted and aren't issues laden...) and the strongest characters in the series tend to be women, and the "damsel in distress" syndrome is avoided as much as an action manga will allow.

chomiji
Oct. 4th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)

Yes, FMA seems very sane that way.

And yet ... you know, I haven't been inspired in any way by it - private fantasies, fanfic-type speculations ... .

I'll have to re-read it with the intent of blogging it and see whether that changes.

It's funny, even Vagabond, which is historical, floats my boat a bit more creatively. (I mean, Tsujikaze Kohei - wow! - just for example ... .)

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