It's been awhile now since my descent into anime. It pretty much coincided with a transition point of my life, and has had massive effect in shaping how the last four or so years of my life have played out. Not that the material itself was in anyway enlightening or taught me anything: I'd go so far as to say that out of all the particular media I've consumed, manga has the lowest average quality of story-telling and depth. Nonetheless I used to enjoy it a great deal, and still do, albeit less frequently. More, it effected the kind of people I found myself spending a lot of time with and the crowds that I'd end up with.
And they were even less inclined to be complimentary of shows like Bleach and Naruto than myself. These, really, were two of the big three alongside One Piece, a manga I never quite acquired the taste for. I enjoyed both Naruto and Bleach for a good deal longer than I should have, and since I find myself catching up with Bleach at the moment, rather inexplicably, I feel inclined to reflect on it.
Bleach is the story of Ichigo Kurosaki who can see ghosts. He encounters a giant monster ghost - a Hollow - and then not long after, a warrior sent to track down the Hollow, Rukia. Rukia explains that she is a Shinigami (can't remember what that translates as at the moment) and tells Ichigo that normal humans can see neither her nor the Hollow. As if it resented them talking about it behind it's back, the hollow then turns up and a fight ensues. Ichigo saves Rukia's life and allows her to kill it, but he is mortally wounded in the process. In order to save his life, Rukia then makes Ichigo a Shinigami.
The series continues in an episodic style, with Hollow after Hollow turning up to threaten this Japanese town, and Ichigo and Rukia fighting them off. It's typical shonen (popular manga/anime aimed at younger boys: Dragon Ball Z being the eponymous example) and it's fun. Before long, Kubo Tite, the writer and artist, decides to change the game and introduces the city of the Shinigami. At the time it was very much a welcome change, and an escalation that was always going to happen, and it sets the status quo of Bleach, laying down an overarching storyline as opposed to episodic stories.
Not the most welcome status quo however; it's packed with ill-developed characters and repetitive and convoluted plot points. The dialogue spends much of the time hammering home the same concepts and Tite's pretentions early on of subverting traditional manga is left behind and forgotten. The pacing is sloooow, power structures weird, and it has one of the most boring protagonists I've ever come across.
But you know what? I still enjoy Bleach, even after giving up Naruto, which had always been a far better written affair. There is still at least one epic character, it has an enjoyably feel to it and there have been moments of incredible hilarity. Really, the crowning moment of Bleach was one of the latter. On a forum I frequent, there had been a running joke that one of the characters who, really, was nothing more than a comedy relief was actually the most powerful enemy. Then, what a twist!, that happened in the manga. It was one of the best moments of unintentional hilarity I've come across. He was then beaten comprehensibly and easily off-panel. It was something of an incomprehendible turn of events.
Bleach is just good fun. I could bitch about it's problems all day, and struggle for hours to come up with positives poitns about the series, but all of this is ultimately immaterial. So long as it continues to entertain, I'll continue to read.