Bleach, by Tite Kubo
Genres: Shonen, Action-Adventure, Paranormal
Favorite Characters: Byakuya Kuchiki, Ichigo Kurosaki, Yoruichi Shihōin, Ulquiorra Schiffer
We fear that which we cannot see.
I think that if this manga were a person and it walked into a crowded room, everyone would stop what they were doing and bow.
Bleach is that manga you’ve heard of even if you’ve been living under a rock. It’s been serializing since 2001, has over 70 volumes in print, and generally just kicks ass.
I remember that, at the beginning, it was really confusing. I couldn’t grasp what a Zanpakutō was, what the hell bankai met, and where the Soul Society was located. It all came at me in a rush, and around volume 13, I stopped reading it for a long time, simply because I thought I would never understand it.
Then one day, I decided to read volume 14. And I realized, yet again, that I’d been an idiot.
So trust me, if it seems confusing at first, it won’t for long.
Ichigo Kurosaki, the main character, has been able to see ghosts for his entire life. When he meets Rukia Kuchiki, a soul reaper, he’s accidentally granted her powers in order to protect his family from a Hollow – a malevolent soul – and ends up becoming a soul reaper himself. Not long after, Rukia is arrested and swept back to the Soul Society to be executed for giving her powers to a human, and Ichigo – along with some of his friends – race to save her. Little do they know the plot that brews behind the scenes, one that will blow up and follow them far into the future – putting not only the Soul Society, but the World of the Living at risk.
When you think about it, 74 volumes seems excessive. Most manga reaches twenty, maybe a little less or more. I once thought, is that really necessary?
Tite Kubo does not cut out the fat. The battles that take place in Bleach last a volume or more. I think this is brilliant. Not only does it pack action on every page, but it also puts us in the point of view of the people that are fighting. From their eyes, every detail counts; they have milliseconds to think fast or die. Prolonging the fight brings out every part of it, allows the reader to be in their shoes. And honestly, there is nothing more that I love in a story than a grisly, heart-pounding battle.
Tite Kubo is also a master storyteller. He takes the littlest details and spins them back in your face eons later, connecting strings that you didn’t think led to anything. He brings out every aspect of a character, or of a setting, until you know them better than your own name. He knows how to make your heart pound – and especially how to make you scream in terror.
Too many of my favorite characters have been fatally wounded, only to rise again and kick some ass.
This is a detailed, complex world, and it includes quite a few characters. There’s everyone in the World of the Living, the members of the Soul Society, the Arrancars in Hueco Mundo…and probably a whole bunch of other places that I’ve forgotten. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love characters so much when most of the time I can’t even remember their names – but Tite Kubo attaches you to them. Even the villains.
(*Sobs.* I’m sorry, it’s still too soon.)
My two favorite characters in this series – Byakuya Kuchiki and the main character, Ichigo Kurosaki – have one thing in common, I noticed, and I’m not sure if it’s relevant, but whatever.
They are both older brothers. And they are also both very protective over their little sisters.
The reason why Byakuya is my favorite, and not Ichigo – or, like the rest of the fandom, Tōshirō Hitsugaya – is because of his evolution. When we first meet him, he’s cold-hearted and is willing to send his own sister to be executed. Later, though, after Aizen lifts his illusion and tries to kill Rukia, Byakuya saves her. After that, we see him become a bit more bendable to the rules of the Soul Society, even though he’d still cut you down without a blink. I’m a sucker for characters who have a cold demeanor, but hide a soft spot – however small. I’ve become really close with my older brother as well, so it brings me warm fuzzies.
Ichigo’s character is another one of my favorites. It’s the kind that others may consider naive, but I treasure. He doesn’t give a shit about laws or orders; he’s going to do what he knows is right. Even if it means he has to do it all by himself. That’s what I treasure the most about him: he is a good person to the very core of who he is. He does not manipulate or lie. He doesn’t want to win if it isn’t fair.
That’s the kind of person I want to be around.
Bleach is not my favorite manga – but it’s damn close. I kick myself all the time for not getting into it sooner. It has one of the best stories I’ve ever seen, and not just in manga: novels, comics, movies, plays, whatever. Bleach is a king sitting in a throne room full of admirers. It is what perfection would look like if it had a face.
It is as beautiful as it is invigorating.
“If I were rain,
That joins sky and earth that otherwise never touch,
Could I join two hearts as well?”